Billionaire hedge fund manager, philanthropist, and notable collector Michael Steinhardt has been banned for life from acquiring antiquities, a punishment designed specifically for a man who is so addicted to purchasing stolen artifacts that he had $70 million worth to surrender in a criminal probe carried out by the Manhattan district attorney’s office.
The investigation, which began in February 2017, found evidence that Steinhardt had a hoard of 180 relics that were smuggled from 11 countries, with the majority of them having passed through traffickers to get into his hands.
“For decades, Michael Steinhardt displayed a rapacious appetite for plundered artifacts without concern for the legality of his actions, the legitimacy of the pieces he bought and sold, or the grievous cultural damage he wrought across the globe,” District Attorney Cy Vance said in a statement. “His pursuit of ‘new’ additions to showcase and sell knew no geographic or moral boundaries, as reflected in the sprawling underworld of antiquities traffickers, crime bosses, money launderers, and tomb raiders he relied upon to expand his collection.”
Steinhardt, who turned 81 on Tuesday (happy birthday!), agreed to the first-of-its-kind lifetime ban to avoid prosecution. The DA’s office explained that this arrangement would allow for the plundered objects to be “returned expeditiously to their rightful owners” rather than held for years as evidence.
“Mr. Steinhardt is pleased that the District Attorney’s yearslong investigation has concluded without any charges, and that items wrongfully taken by others will be returned to their native countries,” the billionaire’s lawyer said in a statement, per the New York Times. He suggested that Steinhardt had been duped by dealers and reserved the right to “seek recompense from the dealers involved.” Sure thing, birthday boy.
The surrendered relics will be returned to Bulgaria, Egypt, Greece, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Turkey, and Israel (the latter of which he has called “the most moral state on this planet,” so I’m not sure why he would steal from it). According to the DA’s office, they include:
- A $3.5 million stag’s head rhyton, or ceremonial libations vessel, dating back to 400 B.C. that was probably looted from Turkey (on loan to the Met until the DA got a warrant to seize it)
- A $1 million larnax, or small box for human remains, from Crete dating between 1400 and 1200 B.C.
- A $1 million fresco depicting a baby Hercules strangling a snake, looted from the ancient ruins of Herculaneum
- Three stone death masks from Israel circa 6000 to 7000 B.C., worth $650,000
- A $200,000 gold bowl with a scalloped flower design, looted from Iraq
Now that Steinhardt can no longer occupy himself illegally amassing culturally significant ancient treasures, what will he do with his newfound abundance of time, you may ask? Hopefully not falling back on old habits of allegedly sexually harassing women.