Manhattan DA Cy Vance returns three ancient statues to Lebanon
Three ancient Lebanese statues, stolen and missing for decades, were returned to their rightful owners Friday by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.
The irreplaceable artifacts, dating as far back as the 6th century BCE, were happily accepted by Lebanese Consul General Majdi Ramadan at a repatriation ceremony.
“This is indeed a very special day for us,” said Ramadan. “This will mark the end of a long trial of theft and illicit trading that started back in 1981.”
The three pieces, with a combined value of close to $6 million, were all excavated from the Temple of Eshmun during the 1960s and ‘70s — and disappeared during the Lebanese Civil War.
Returned were The Calf Bearer, a marble torso worth roughly $4.5 million; the marble Bull’s Head, worth $1.2 million; and the marble Torso E1912.
“We talk about the value of these objects,” Vance said before surrendering the statues. “But when you put a price tag on something like this, it’s all too easy to forget they are priceless.
“These aren’t just valuable collector’s items for show and display. These are actual celebrated remnants of an entire civilization’s culture and history.”
According to authorities, all three of the stolen pieces were in the hands of private collectors when recovered by Vance’s office.
The Bull’s Head was on loan for display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art when located.
The marble Bull’s Head, worth $1.2 million.
(Byron Smith )
“These three pieces have traveled through the underworld of art, being recovered right here in New York,” said Angel Melendez, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New York.
“Now it is time that they are returned to Lebanon, their rightful home … The cultural significance and worth of these returned treasures is beyond any monetary value.”
Since 2012, the DA’s office has recovered several thousand missing antiquities worth more than $150 million.
Ramadan hailed Vance’s commitment to “enforce the rule of law, to eliminate the illicit trafficking on antiquities, and to repatriate the three pieces to Lebanon.”
In 2017, investigators teamed with partners in both local and international law enforcement as they sought to locate more stolen art.
Vance said his office has launched a first-of-its-kind Antiquities Trafficking Unit to track stolen art.
“We are one world, one community, responsible for protecting the treasured objects of history in all of the countries of the world,” said Vance.