Germany set to return 25 stolen artefacts to Italy

  ROME -- Italy’s Minister of Culture, Gennaro Sangiuliano and the German Commissioner for Culture and the Media, Claudia Roth, signed a protocol to return 25 artefacts, stolen by a well-known art trafficker, that were housed in the Altes Museum in Berlin, according to Il Mattino. 

  The valued objects will be returned by the German government after the protocol was signed on Thursday in Berlin, according to Italian authorities. The artefacts returning to Italy are funerary objects of Appula origin, including 14 vases and 10 decorated plates as well as a piece of a fresco from a Roman villa in Boscoreale.

  The artefacts were part of the Foundation for the Cultural Heritage of Prussia (Spk) chaired by Herman Parzinger and were being exhibited at the Altes Museum in the classical antiquities section. 

  Sangiuliano met with Roth and the Italian ambassador of Berlin, Armando Varricchio. An agreement was formed about the process of cultural assets coming from illegal excavations or robberies to their discovery and then their return to museum exhibitions. The agreement came from the close collaboration of the Italian and German Ministries of Culture, the Foundation, and the Berlin Museum.

  “I would like to highlight the work of Ambassador Varricchio, the true soul of this agreement,” Sangiuliano said, thanking Varricchio for his help. 

  The funerary objects were listed among the artefacts stolen by art trafficker, Giacomo Medici, who was convicted in 2009. According to the investigations, the artefacts were acquired by a Swiss family and then resold by an antiquities dealer, Christopher Leon, at the Altes Museum for almost 2 million euros in 1984. 

  Judicial authorities opened legal proceedings and confiscation orders for 21 out of the 25 artefacts, following investigations led by the Carabinieri for the protection of cultural heritage. 

  At first, the German judicial authority refused to execute the decrees issued by Rome's Public Prosecutors Office for failure to respect the Altes Museum’s right to defence. The museum was not given the opportunity to participate in the hearing. However, the Prussian Museum Foundation was willing to return the finds and an agreement was reached. It was decided that Italy would loan artefacts to the German museum for four years in exchange for the stolen artefacts being returned to Italy.

 Italian authorities have decided to exchange two artefacts from the National Archaeological Museum of Naples and two from the archaeological park of Paestum Velia.

  “These are archaeological finds I consider to be of great importance,” Sangiuliano explained, after the agreement was reached, “I thank the German government for respecting the rules. We will continue to work to bring back to the country what was illicitly found abroad.”

  There have also been seven Greek and Roman artifacts found in the Louvre, which the museum was willing to create an agreement on but still has not been followed through by the French government.