Civil Forfeiture Complaint Filed Against World War I-Era Documents Stolen From An American University

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today the filing of a civil complaint seeking forfeiture of various World War I-era documents, letters, and photographs relating to Russian military personnel, including the diary of a Russian general, for the purpose of returning the antiquities to the American university from which they were stolen. 

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “Antiquities allow us to see and study pieces of history from, in this case, more than one hundred years ago.  The University’s important historical research was undercut by the alleged theft and illegal smuggling of these antiquities abroad.  Thanks to the hard work and dedication of the FBI’s Art Crime Team, these records have been recovered and will be returned to their rightful owner.”

According to the allegations in the Complaint filed in Manhattan federal court today:[1]

The United States seeks the forfeiture of documentary materials, relating primarily to the 1917 Russian Revolution and World War I Russian military personnel, that were stolen from a university located in New York, New York (the “University”).  The stolen materials included the 1919 diary of General Nikolai Iudenitch, a commander of the Russian Imperial Army during World War I, along with other documents, correspondence, and photographs that had been sent to an auction house located in Paris, France, (the “Auction House”) for inclusion in an April 2018 auction of Russian documents and books.  The Auction House was not provided with any certificate of authenticity or proof as to the provenance of the materials.  After a curator employed by the University recognized the items in a catalog published by the Auction House, the stolen materials were seized by law enforcement.     

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Mr. Williams praised the investigative work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation/New York City Police Department Joint Major Theft Task Force/Art Crime Team.  In addition, Mr. Williams thanked authorities in France for their assistance.

This matter is being handled by the Office’s Money Laundering and Transnational Criminal Enterprises Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Emily Deininger and Benet Kearney are in charge of the case.

The allegations contained in the Complaint are merely accusations.   

[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the Complaint and the description of the Complaint set forth herein constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

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originally published at Law - NORLY NEWS