Disgraced British dealer returns 750 looted antiques to Italy
According to the Carabinieri art police, infamous British antiquities trader Robin Symes returned 750 stolen artifacts to Italy.
After a decades-long battle, the Carabinieri art police revealed on Wednesday that 750 stolen historical relics had been captured from the renowned British antiquities broker Robin Symes and restored to Italy.
The artifacts, estimated to be worth more than €12 million ($12.9 million) by the Italian culture ministry, will be shown at Rome's Castel Sant'Angelo museum as part of a collection of stolen art that has returned home.
In a statement from the Ministry of Culture, the objects “offer a cross-section of the many productions of ancient Italy and the islands,” including “numerous and diversified archaeological contexts (funerary, cultural, residential and public) … concentrated in particular in Etruria and Magna Graecia."
According to the ministry, the recovered items include a bronze tripod table from an aristocratic Etruscan family, two parade headgear for horses, two funerary paintings, male busts in marble, various portions of statues and bronzes, and a wall painting depicting a small temple, probable from a Vesuvian residence.
Weapons, sarcophagi, burial urns, ritual artifacts, bronze and marble furniture, mosaic and painted embellishments, along with precious stones are included in the stolen relics.
The ministry explained how the items came from "clandestine excavations on Italian territory" and were unlawfully seized by Symes Ltd, the firm controlled by Symes, a prominent trafficker of cultural assets.
During the press conference, Italian Attorney General Lorenzo d'Ascia explained how “The company, which had always opposed the repeated recovery attempts by the Italian Judicial Authority, (and) subject to bankruptcy proceedings in the United Kingdom, was also sued in Italy, through the Attorney General of the State, for the return of the goods or civil compensation for damages."
Symes has denied trafficking illegal art and claims his collaborators have ensured him all pieces were legally obtained. He was ousted in 2016 when a Swiss warehouse he rented was searched.
Commander of the Carabinieri Art Squad, General Vincenzo Molinese, also revealed that an additional 71 artifacts would be recovered from the US in the coming days.
The repatriation of these 750 artifacts is a significant step forward in Italy's attempts to recover stolen antiques. At the press conference, Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano declared, "The recovery of illicitly stolen cultural heritage is one of my program's priorities; protecting it also means preventing our heritage from being plundered by unscrupulous traffickers."