Manhattan D.A.’s Office Returns Ancient Artifact to Egypt

November 18, 2020

Stolen Piece was Trafficked by the Same International Smuggling Network as the Gold Coffin of Nedjemankh, which was Repatriated to Egypt in September 2019

Pictured: Stele of Pa-di-Sena, which features hieroglyphs depicting the Pa-di-Séna beside the gods Horus and Hathor

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr. today announced the return of Stele of Pa-di-Sena, an ancient limestone artifact valued at approximately $180,000, to the people of Egypt during a repatriation ceremony attended by Consul General of Egypt in New York Dr. Hesham ElNakib and U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) Deputy Special Agent-in-Charge Erik Rosenblatt.

“As is typical in these cases, an investigation into one stolen piece often unspools a dark web of countless other trafficked items,” said District Attorney Vance. “I am proud that our investigation into these stolen Egyptian artifacts has resulted in six arrests in Europe, and the investigation continues here and abroad. I am honored to return this beautiful piece to its rightful owners, the people of Egypt, today. I would like to thank my Office’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit, HSI New York, and our law enforcement partners across the globe for working collaboratively to diligently track stolen artifacts and ensure their safe return.”

“Preserving the world’s cultural heritage is and will continue to be a priority for Homeland Security Investigations,” said Homeland Security Investigations New York Special Agent-in-Charge Peter C. Fitzhugh. “It is an honor for HSI and our law enforcement partners to collaborate with our fellow nations to return artifacts to their rightful homes. It is truly gratifying to see this artifact returned to its rightful home in Egypt.”

“Our cooperation with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and Homeland Security Investigations has been eventful and fruitful to say the least during the last few years,” said Consul General of Egypt in New York Dr. Hesham ElNakib. “We were able to repatriate multiple Egyptian treasures that are an integral part of our Egyptian and human heritage. I would like to thank Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, his team, and all the members of the Antiquities Trafficking Unit led by Matthew Bogdanos for all their tireless efforts throughout the process. I am confident that that our future harmonious cooperation will result in the repatriation of other national treasures that have been smuggled out of Egypt.”

In December 2019, the D.A.’s Office and HSI New York seized Stele of Pa-di-Sena, circa 664 B.C.E, from Cybele Gallery. Once the gallery was made aware of the evidence, they cooperated fully. The artifact is incised with hieroglyphs depicting the Pa-di-Séna beside the gods Horus and Hathor. It is rendered in limestone and measures approximately 43 inches long by 13 inches wide.

Stele of Pa-di-Sena came to the attention of the D.A.’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit in 2015 during the investigation into the looted Gold Coffin of Nedjemankh, which was trafficked by the same international smuggling network. Since the return of the coffin to Egypt in September 2019, the D.A.’s Office has worked closely with law enforcement in France and Germany. As a result, five individuals were arrested in Paris and one in Hamburg. The investigation continues in Manhattan and abroad.

Manhattan D.A.’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit

To date, the D.A.’s first-of-its-kind Antiquities Trafficking Unit has recovered several thousand stolen antiquities collectively valued at more than $150 million.  Many hundreds of these priceless artifacts have been returned to their rightful owners and repatriated to their countries of origin. Many hundreds more are ready to be repatriated as soon as the relevant countries are able to receive them amid the pandemic. But more than a thousand must be held awaiting criminal proceedings against the traffickers. The items already returned include 45 antiquities dating back to the 2nd Century to Pakistan; a gold coffin stolen from Egypt in the aftermath of the Egyptian Revolution in 2011; three marble Lebanese statues; a Roman mosaic excavated from the Ships of Nemi; an Etruscan relic stolen from the site of a historic necropolis known as the “City of the Dead”; a marble sarcophagus fragment; a Buddhist sculpture stolen from an archaeological dig site; a pair of 12th century Indian statues; a collection of 8th Century B.C.E. bronze statues; and a set of ancient Greek coins, among others.

Assistant D.A. Matthew Bogdanos, Senior Trial Counsel and Chief of the Antiquities Trafficking Unit, handled the recovery of the artifact with Investigative Analysts Mallory O’Donoghue and Apsara Iyer, and Special Agents Christopher Rommeney, Brent Easter, John Paul Labbat, and Robert Mancene.

District Attorney Vance thanked HSI New York and the Consul General of Egypt for their assistance with the matter.