National treasure reclaimed: US efforts secure the return of 12 stolen Lebanese artifacts worth millions

News Bulletin Reports
2023-09-08 | 08:28
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National treasure reclaimed: US efforts secure the return of 12 stolen Lebanese artifacts worth millions
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3min
National treasure reclaimed: US efforts secure the return of 12 stolen Lebanese artifacts worth millions

Twelve stolen artifacts from Lebanon are on their way back to their rightful home. While their material value is estimated at nearly nine million dollars, their true worth is immeasurable as they constitute a national treasure.

These artifacts, dating back approximately two thousand years, belong to both the Roman and Greek eras and consist of nine mosaic panels:

- Two depicting autumn and summer from the 5th century AD.
- The gods Neptune and Amphitrite from the 3rd century AD.
- Several panels depicting the god Dionysus.
- King Lycurgus killing Ambrosia.
- Additionally, two marble statues from the 4th century of the legendary twins Castor and Pollux stolen from Aabbasiyyeh in southern Lebanon.
- Lastly, a 1st-century AD bronze statue of a praying Roman athlete stolen from the city of Baalbek.

These pieces were looted from Lebanon over the years, beginning during the war. They were found in New York, either on display in apartments and museums or hidden in warehouses. 

Before reaching art dealers, a Lebanese man was accused of smuggling them from Lebanon and displaying some in his residence in New York. 

The accused is Georges Lotfi, a former pharmacist turned smuggler, who is now wanted by the Interpol.

The Lebanese state did not uncover, pursue, or recover this national treasure. It's an achievement offered to Lebanon by the United States.

This achievement is credited to Assistant District Attorney Colonel Matthew Bogdanos, who headed the antiquities trafficking unit. He led a criminal investigation with a professional team from the New York Public Prosecution investigators, US Homeland Security, and archaeological experts.

Bogdanos is a hero; he is the Indiana Jones of New York, as described by Ambassador Abir Taha Audi, who closely monitored his investigations through extensive correspondence with the Lebanese Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Culture.

Bogdanos will soon be in Lebanon, responding to an invitation from the Minister of Culture, Mohammad Wissam al-Mortada, to honor him alongside Abir Taha, who, on behalf of Lebanon, signed the list of recovered antiquities with the New York District Attorney.

Twelve of these treasures were not all displayed during the ceremony due to their size but were prepared for immediate shipment to Lebanon. They will not return to their archaeological sites but will be exhibited in Beirut's National Museum, as stipulated in the agreement signed in New York.
 

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