D.A. Bragg Announces Return of 30 Antiquities To The People of Greece

December 15, 2023

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr., today announced the return of 30 antiquities to Greece collectively valued at $3.7 million. 19 of the pieces were voluntarily surrendered from New York gallery owner Michael Ward. Three of the pieces were seized from British art dealer Robin Symes. The pieces were returned during a repatriation ceremony attended by Consul General Konstantinos Konstantinou, Secretary General of Culture Georgios Didaskalou, and U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) Assistant Special Agent in Charge Thomas Acocella.

“This is an exquisite set of 30 antiquities that represents the extraordinary depth and beauty of Greece’s cultural heritage. These cases are a team effort and I am extremely grateful to each of the analysts and prosecutors in my Office who put in tireless work to bring these pieces home. We will continue to aggressively investigate those who are using Manhattan as a base to traffic stolen antiquities,” said District Attorney Bragg.

“Cultural heritage is an integral part of our identity as people and nations. It is therefore essential and nowadays crucial to protect and preserve cultural heritage for future generations. I express my gratitude for the ongoing and fruitful cooperation with the New York District Attorney’s Office, and for the return of the 30 antiquities to Greece,” said Minister of Culture, Dr. Lina Mendoni.

“I am truly grateful for the efforts undertaken by the Manhattan District Attorney Office and all those who have worked to make possible the return of these fabulous artifacts back to where they rightfully belong! Thanks to the superb efforts of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, 30 stunningly preserved artifacts are finally being repatriated. Their monetary value amounts to millions of dollars but their actual value goes far beyond that. They are priceless for the Greek people. I would like to take this opportunity to especially thank Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos for his tireless dedication. His contribution to this joyful outcome is invaluable and highly appreciated by our country. Investigating the trafficking of art and archeological artifacts is no easy task. Cracking down on smuggling cultural property across the globe requires thorough investigations and efficient cooperation between law enforcement authorities. The return of these artifacts to our country is a testimony to his steadfast commitment to combating illegal trade of antiquities,” said Consul General of Greece in New York, Ambassador Dinos Konstantinou.

“These 30 artifacts represent some of the most significant remnants from the past, playing a crucial role in shaping the vibrant Greek culture we see today. A nation’s cherished history should never be pilfered, peddled, or marketed for sale, yet for years these antiquities were kept in collectors’ homes, prestigious institutions, and even storage lockers,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Erin Keegan of Homeland Security Investigations, New York. “I would like to thank the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the Government of Greece for their continued collaboration in ensuring their heritage is no longer put up for sale.”


Some of the key pieces being returned include:

  • Marble Aphrodite: this marble statue is based on the famous Aphrodite of Knidos and was recovered from a storage unit that belonged to the convicted trafficker Robin Symes, where it had been hidden since at least 1999.
  • Cycladic Marble Figure: originally illegally excavated from the Cycladic Islands in the Aegean Sea, this four-thousand-year-old marble figurine was seized from a storage unit belonging to a New York-based private collector by the ATU earlier this year.
  • Corinthian Helmet: this bronze Corinthian helmet is an example of popular helmet style for Ancient Greek warriors, particularly in the Archaic and Classical periods (c. 700 B.C.E-350 B.C.E). It was smuggled out of Greece, given false provenance in Germany, and put on consignment with the New York-based art dealer Michael Ward who pled guilty to Criminal Facilitation in the Fourth Degree and admitted to purchasing stolen antiquities on consignment through his gallery as part of money-laundering scheme allegedly orchestrated by Eugene Alexander.

During District Attorney Bragg’s tenure, the ATU has recovered more than 1,000 antiquities stolen from more than two dozen countries and valued at nearly $225 million. Since its creation, the ATU has recovered more than 4,700 antiquities valued at nearly $450 million and has returned more than 4,250 of them so far to 25 countries.

Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos, Chief of the Antiquities Trafficking Unit and Senior Trial Counsel, supervised the investigations, which were conducted by Assistant District Attorneys Christine DiDomenico and Yuval Simchi-Levi; Supervising Investigative Analyst Apsara Iyer, Investigative Analysts Giuditta Giardini and Hilary Chassé; and Special Agents Robert Mancene, John Paul Labbat, and Robert Fromkin of Homeland Security Investigations. Investigative support was provided by Elena Vlachogianni and Vasiliki Papageorgiou of the Department of Documentation and Protection of Cultural Goods of Greece’s Ministry of Culture. The District Attorney’s Office would like to thank Michael Ward and Joan Weberman for their assistance and cooperation with our investigation.