World’s largest collection of stolen art, artifacts from WWII to Hitler’s Nazi regime owned by New York billionaire

Michael Steinhardt, the 78-year-old New York billionaire and a philanthropist, has surrendered 200 items from his extensive collection to the federal government as part of a court-authorized forfeiture, his foundation announced Thursday.

Some of the items acquired by Steinhardt dating back decades are said to have been stolen and are either hidden or stolen in tax haven countries, the foundation said.

“The items here contained in this forfeiture are many and important and represent an attempt to return stolen or missing items,” the foundation said in a statement announcing the decision by U.S. Magistrate Judge Nan Nolan.

The largest number of pieces of seized goods includes items purchased by the foundation from donations; Steinhardt’s personal, as well as personal donations from family and friends; and the sale of Steinhardt’s own merchandise purchased by the foundation, it said.

Steinhardt’s collection was originally valued at $90 million.

“After the loss of his second wife around 1990, he devoted his time to strengthening his family and establishing his foundation,” the statement said. “Although he was familiar with philanthology, he did not begin collecting history and art until he and his third wife, Lisa, founded his foundation, and he never bought more than 200 pieces of art or historical artifacts.”

Several objects in the collection are classified as antiques, some for the first time, and could have been appraised at more than $5 million each when bought privately by Steinhardt, the statement said. “Some items by the Met Museum are also included in the trial list.”

Steinhardt established the Steinhardt Philanthropic Foundation in 2007 to support educational, literary and cultural initiatives. Since 2010, the foundation has spent more than $15 million on planned and operational expenses, including paying Steinhardt’s salary, travel expenses and rent and utility costs.

Some of the items seized by the government include artworks by Fernando Botero and Victor Mathieu, stained glass and stained glass windows from the Visitation Church in Paris, Spanish bullfighting and a royal silver cabinet from Egypt.

The items will be disposed of under “extraordinary measures” supervised by federal marshals, a law enforcement official told CNN.

If the judge determines the value of the seized items is less than the net asset value of Steinhardt’s estates, he’ll order a balance of restitution, the official said.

Another federal judge has already frozen more than $500 million in Steinhardt’s estate assets, including the donation of the collection to the Jewish Museum in New York.

Steinhardt was a banker, economist and real estate developer before founding his foundation.

He is reported to have served as a bridge to Nixon and Kissinger when they were in power.

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