The Manhattan District Attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, Jr., announced the return of two valuable antiquities to Libya.
The artifacts, "Marble Face of a Ptolemaic Queen" and "Female Bust," were smuggled out of the ancient city of Cyrene by British art trafficker Robin Symes and were stored in a New York storage unit for over two decades.
This announcement coincides with recent archaeological discoveries in Libya, where the torso of the Female Bust was found in its original tomb.
The artifacts were returned during a ceremony attended by Khaled Daief, the Charge d’Affaires of the Embassy of Libya, and Thomas Acocella, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge.
District Attorney Bragg criticized the long-term storage of the pieces and expressed his commitment to returning stolen Libyan artifacts.
He acknowledged the significant looting that Cyrene has faced, but praised the efforts of the Antiquities Trafficking Unit and Homeland Security in returning the pieces. He also mentioned ongoing investigations into other stolen Libyan artifacts and his anticipation of future repatriation ceremonies.
Libyan Chargé d’Affaires Khaled Daief expressed gratitude for the repatriation of the artifacts. He lauded the investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and extended his appreciation to all parties involved in ensuring the artifacts' return to Libya.
The antiquities first appeared on the international art market following widespread looting in Cyrene during the late 1980s and 1990s. The Female Bust was part of a significant funerary relief that decorated Cyrene's ancient cemetery. Recent excavations led to the discovery of the lower half of the looted Female Bust still in a tomb at the archaeological site.
The return of these two pieces adds to the five antiquities repatriated to Libya by the Office since 2022, collectively valued at nearly $3 million.
During District Attorney Bragg’s tenure, the Antiquities Trafficking Unit (ATU) has recovered nearly 850 antiquities stolen from 27 countries, valued at over $165 million. Since its creation, the ATU has recovered over 4,500 antiquities stolen from 30 countries, valued at nearly $390 million, and has returned more than 2,475 antiquities to 24 countries, valued at over $235 million.
The investigation leading to the repatriation was supervised by Matthew Bogdanos, Chief of the Antiquities Trafficking Unit and Senior Trial Counsel.