D.A. Bragg Announces Return of 41 Antiquities To The People of Türkiye

December 5, 2023

Pictured: “Bust of a Lady”

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr., today announced the return of 41 antiquities valued at more than $8 million to the people of Türkiye. Eight of the pieces were recovered pursuant to an ongoing and far-reaching criminal investigation into a well-organized antiquities-smuggling network that systematically looted Bubon, a magnificent Roman-era site in southwestern Türkiye that experienced widespread looting in the 1960’s. The pieces were returned at a ceremony with Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Türkiye Gökhan Yazgi and U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) Assistant Special Agent in Charge Tom Acocella. 

“These are exquisite pieces that represent the breadth of Türkiye’s cultural heritage, said District Attorney Bragg. “I am proud that during my administration we have returned 90 antiquities to Türkiye, valued at more than $60 million and I thank our partners for their continued collaboration.” 

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York Special Agent in Charge Ivan J. Arvelo said, “HSI is proud to be a part of this grand repatriation. Today, 41 artifacts will be returned to their rightful home so their history can be shared with future generations. The relentless efforts of HSI New York’s Cultural Property, Art, and Antiquities Group and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is vital to disrupting the illegal trafficking of antiquities and ensuring these priceless artifacts find their way home.” 

“Over the past 5 years, our strong and growing collaboration with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and Homeland Security Investigations has been a visionary model of successful teamwork — not just for us, but for all countries. Together I believe we can put an end to the blows dealt to the identity and history of nations,” said Deputy Minister Gökhan Yazgi of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Türkiye.


The pieces being returned today include: 

  • Two Heads of the Roman emperor Caracalla: both heads—that of a Younger Caracalla that had been at the Fordham Museum of Art and that of an older Caracalla that had been at the Metropolitan Museum of Art—were seized by this Office on the same day in March 2023. 
  • Bust of a Lady: dates to approximately 160-180 C.E. and was looted from Bubon. The piece was trafficked into Switzerland by Robert Hecht, who sold it to the Worcester Art Museum, where it remained on display until it was seized by the Office in June 2023. 
  • Silver statuette of Cybele: dates to approximately the 1st century C.E. and depicts the Anatolian mother goddess Cybele wearing a mural crown. It was smuggled out of Türkiye in pieces until it was restored and given false provenance in Germany. It was then put on consignment with the New York-based art dealer Michael Ward until it was seized by the Office in 2023. 

During District Attorney Bragg’s tenure, the ATU has recovered more than 1000 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 and returned more than 4,000 of them so far to 25 countries and valued at more than $400 million. 

Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos, Chief of the Antiquities Trafficking Unit and Senior Trial Counsel, supervised the investigations, along with Assistant District Attorneys Taylor Holland and Yuval Simchi-Levi; Supervising Investigative Analyst Apsara Iyer, Investigative Analysts Daniel Healey, 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 Zeynep Boz (Head of the Combatting Illicit Trafficking Department), Burcu Özdemir, Nimet Bal, Egemen Batu Varol, and Utku Yurtsever of the Combatting Illicit Trafficking Department at Türkiye’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Additional investigative support was provided by Elizabeth Marlowe, Associate Professor of Art & Art History at Colgate University. The District Attorney’s Office would like to also thank the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Fordham Museum of Greek, Etruscan and Roman Art; Michael Ward; and Joan Weberman for their assistance and cooperation with our investigations.