Saturday, March 6th, 2010
In 2006, the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg found that 220 pieces worth up to $5 million from its enormous collection had been stolen and sold by a former curator. One of the lost items was a silver pendant of Peter the Great, part of a collection of 1,200 Peter the Great artifacts donated to the museum by the surviving family of Czar Nicholas II in 1947.
In May 2009, Russian authorities contacted the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement unit to report a Seattle antiquities dealer who was selling a suspiciously familiar Peter the Great medallion online. ICE Agents confiscated the pendant and forensic investigation by Kremlin Museum specialists determined that it was indeed the missing item.
Leigh Winchell, special agent in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Seattle, was in Moscow on Thursday for a repatriation ceremony. His agency, which recovered the pendant, declined to name the antiques dealer who bought and was attempting to resell the piece of art.
“Artifacts of historical or cultural significance allow the public to experience a nation’s heritage, and these items shouldn’t be offered as souvenirs for sale to the highest bidder,” Winchell said in a statement.
Apparently the unnamed dealer is still under investigation, which is why the ICE is refusing to comment.