New York: Some ancient coins were returned to the government of Greece after the New York prosecution of a prominent American collector.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R Vance Jr and Greek officials held a ceremony yesterday marking the repatriation of coins dating to 500 BC.
"The coins being returned to us by the New York County district attorney are exquisite ancient artefacts that reflect Greece`s culture, history and enduring strength," said Ambassador Christos Panagopoulos.
"Back home, where they belong, they will be displayed with the gratitude of the Greek people to the DA for all to admire, our citizens and visitors to Greece alike."
The coins "will be of greater public benefit in an open place of study and scholarship than locked away in a safe," Vance said.
The coins were part of a case against hand surgeon and coin aficionado Dr Arnold-Peter Weiss of Rhode Island, whose January 2012 arrest during a coin auction at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel roiled the numismatic world.
An orthopaedics professor at Brown University`s Alpert Medical School and author of a hand-surgery textbook, Weiss also had been on a coin collector and investor for 35 years and had served as on the board of the American Numismatic Society.
He later pleaded guilty to attempted criminal possession of stolen property.
Those charges involved three coins he thought were fourth century BC Greek pieces that had been illegally taken from Italy but were actually forgeries, prosecutors said. Weiss was aiming to sell one of them for about USD 350,000 and two others for about USD 1.2 million apiece, prosecutors said.
Weiss also forfeited his interest in about 20 other coins as part of his plea agreement, which also required him to do 70 hours of community service and write an article about the problem of trading in coins of uncertain origin.
His prosecution furthered a series of court cases and disputes over collecting and trading in objects that Italy and other countries consider looted pieces of their cultural patrimony.
Institutions including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles have agreed to return various items to Italy. A former Getty assistant curator was criminally prosecuted in Rome, but the trial ended in 2010 with a judge saying the statute of limitations had expired.
Other countries, including Turkey and Greece, also have taken action in recent years to reclaim antiquities.