Reports wrongly claim billionaire gave antiquities worth $70 million to Pakistan

Steinhardt’s collection included stolen antiquities from multiple countries but not Pakistan

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Claim: Pakistan received $70 million in stolen antiquities after US billionaire Michael Steinhardt surrendered his collection.

Fact: None of Steinhardt’s stolen antiquities are of Pakistani origin and the country and no artifacts were returned to Pakistan in December 2021.

On 10 December 2021, Soch Fact Check received the link to an Instagram post stating that Pakistan received “$70 million in stolen antiquities after US billionaire return[ed] them”. The post was shared by Parhlo (@parhlo_official) and included an image of American hedge fund manager, 81 year old Michael Steinhardt.

Multiple other news outlets — including 24 News HD, Startup Pakistan, Technologistan, and ProPakistani — picked up the story, running headlines that either said Pakistan was the recipient of these returned antiquities or stating that Pakistan was among the countries to which Steinhardt had returned the stolen relics.

Other outlets — which seem to only have a social media presence and no independent websites, such as ‘House of Pakistan,’ ‘Pak Positive,’ ‘People Magazine,’ ‘Knowledge Hub,’ ‘NewsBox,’ ‘FRK Magazine Pakistan,’ ‘Vision Pakistan,’ and ‘The Rising Pakistan’ — also posted the same claims.

A CrowdTangle analysis conducted by Soch Fact Check revealed that the search term “billionaire antiquities pakistan” received 6,132 interactions across five posts on Instagram and 4,673 interactions across nine posts on Facebook over the past 30 days.

However, Soch Fact Check found the claims contained in these articles and posts to be false..

Earlier this month, on 6 December 2021, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office announced that Steinhardt, an American hedge fund manager and entrepreneur, had agreed to relinquishing, “180 stolen antiquities valued at $70 million and received a first-of-its-kind lifetime ban on acquiring antiquities”. The inquiry into the stolen relic buyer’s collections was initiated by the Manhattan DA’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit and was built into a criminal investigation. As part of a deal made with the DA’s office, Steinhardt avoided any charges.

According to a statement by the District Attorney’s office, the artifacts were “looted and illegally smuggled out of 11 countries, trafficked by 12 criminal smuggling networks, and lacked verifiable provenance prior to appearing on the international art market, according to the Statement of Facts summarizing the investigation”.

The billionaire’s collection included relics from 11 countries, including Bulgaria, Egypt, Greece, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, and Turkey. None of the relics were of Pakistani origin, nor was any antiquity returned to Pakistan.

Interestingly, however, on 24 August 2021, in a completely separate case, the Manhattan DA’s Office had returned 104 antiquities valued at approximately $3.3 million to Pakistan. The move came following an investigation into Subhash Kapoor, an Indian-American art thief who is in prison on charges of art theft, grand larceny, and possession of stolen property.

“The items repatriated to Pakistan today included a schist reliquary casket, circa 3rd-4th century, valued at $175,000, a gilded schist head of a Bodhisattva, circa 2nd-3rd century, valued at $250,000, and a stucco Bodhisattva, circa 3rd-6th century, valued at $750,000,” the DA’s Office had said in a statement at the time.

In addition, a year prior to that, the Manhattan DA’s Office had announced the repatriation of 45 antiquities worth approximately $250,000 to Pakistan. Those relics “were recovered in 2015 from Nayef Homsi, a known trafficker involved in the illegal looting, exportation, and sale of ancient art from Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, and other nations,” the statement by the DA’s office read.

Conclusion: Pakistan has not received any relic or collection of relics worth $70 million from artefacts recovered from Michael Steinhardt. However, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has previously repatriated items to Pakistan on at least two occasions.

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