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In December 2000, Thomas Hoving saw Robert Hecht at the opening of the Hermitage Rooms in London’s Somerset House, an exhibition space the Russian museum used to show highlights of its collection. Hoving had a hunch and decided to confront his former supplier directly. Bob, he asked, was the paperwork you gave the Met to show that the Euphronios krater had come from a Lebanese collector real after all? Had Hecht simply taken the paperwork from another, less-valuable Euphronios pot—perhaps the fragmentary krater from the Hunt collection now owned by Levy and White—and given that to the Met as proof of the krater’s origins?

According to Hoving, Hecht turned his face to the side and said, “Of course.”

For Hoving, all the conflicting evidence from the Italian investigation and the Met’s in-house probe finally could be reconciled with the existence of both the Sarpedon krater and the less complete vase from Sarrafian in Beirut. Hecht really did get a Euphronios from Sarrafian and the Swiss photographer hadn’t been lying when he said that he took pictures of a Euphronios vase in September 1971—before the Christmastime Cerveteri dig turned up the Met’s pot.

But what good was Hecht’s private confession to Hoving in proving the Sarpedon krater and kylix had been looted from Cerveteri? Hecht denied he ever told Hoving about the paperwork switch. “That’s a figment of his imagination or a construction of his evil mind,” Hecht said when asked about Hoving’s story. “That is a lie, and I never switched any document on any krater.”

Hecht’s own words were necessary to make a convincing case. Italian investigators got their break on February 16, 2001, when they, along with the French police, raided Hecht’s Paris apartment.

Led by Marshal Salvatore Morando from the Carabinieri art squad, and armed with cross-border authorization to poke around, they knocked on the door of Hecht’s home. Hecht’s wife answered the door. Once inside, the men found some paperwork relevant to the antiquities trade and various ancient-looking vases and other antiquities—but nothing special. This was not a big haul like the one they had gotten from Medici’s Swiss warehouse. However, in the study, sitting atop the desk, Morando found a sheaf of papers with line after line written in Hecht’s hand. He had found Hecht’s memoir. Here was the evidence the Carabinieri had been seeking for three decades.

The diary revealed the story behind the Sarpedon krater’s illicit origin. It told how Giacomo Medici came by the Hecht home in Rome with photos of the vase, and how the two men traveled to Switzerland so that Medici could retrieve the krater from a safe-deposit box to sell to Hecht.

Hecht had also made notations indicating how he had been the source of the Sarpedon chalice. Hecht had written about how the Met’s Dietrich von Bothmer had exposed the cup’s existence during his Philadelphia lecture in December 1972. “This indiscretion wasn’t even as damaging as the betrayal by Hoving, who gave a recorded interview to Walter” (the reporter from London’s Observer to whom the Met director blabbed) “in which he affirmed that the kylix was the property of the same man who had sold the krater.” In another section of the memoir, where Hecht had sketched a simple outline of his tale, he wrote: “Story of the Euphronios cup: 50–75 then Hunt, etc.,” a reference to a price that he had paid for the cup or the range at which he had tried to sell it, with the 75 perhaps matching Hoving’s story that Hecht wanted $70,000 for the kylix in 1973.

Hecht also quoted from secret Carabinieri reports made to the investigating magistrates, one of which shed light on the Sarpedon chalice’s murky archaeological history.

“From a confidential source in Cerveteri we understand that a) Two important archaeological objects signed by Euphronios, one of which is at the Met and the other yet to be located, come from the same tomb of a person of great importance, a tomb that was excavated in 1971 in an area known as S. Antonio above Cerveteri,” the report said, going on to name some of the tombaroli and saying they tipped off the Guardia di Finanza after finishing the dig to throw off investigators. The tomb robbers “kept the most important pieces, about which the GdF were left in the dark, and among these pieces were two objects of exceptional value, signed by Euphronios.”

If the account were correct, the Sarpedon chalice, or another Euphronios, had indeed come from the exact same tomb as the matching krater, a theory that had never been proved with solid evidence. And if Hecht’s memoir were to be believed, he had admitted in his own handwriting that he was the one who trafficked the chalice to Bunker Hunt—a secret of the trade that was rarely disputed but something he would not voluntarily admit.

The major breakthrough, of course, was Hecht’s detailed account of buying the krater from Medici. But elsewhere in the eighty-nine-page manuscript, Hecht had an entirely different version of events—the Sarrafian version, in which Hecht bought the Met’s vase from a Lebanese collector whose family had owned it since the early twentieth century. Although this was a much shorter, less detailed section, it conveniently contradicted Hecht’s admission made elsewhere in the memoir. Which version was the truth? Hecht immediately proclaimed the Medici story as a work of fiction, a thriller he was working on, while the Sarrafian version was the one the police should believe.

To sort out everything, Hecht and the prosecutor, Paolo Ferri, arranged to meet in Paris on March 10, 2001.

They gathered in the morning—Hecht; his lawyer, Alessandro Vannucci; Ferri; Morando from the Carabinieri art squad; and Daniela Rizzo from the Villa Giulia museum, a colleague of the archaeologist Maria Antonietta Rizzo, who happened to have the same surname. The court provided Hecht with an English language interpreter, but he declined the services and then used the language difference to sow confusion into his already slippery testimony.

Ferri began, somewhat optimistically. “I would like to know what you have to tell me, seeing as you have come to me spontaneously, and then we will go into some smaller details, when possible, if you agree. So, do you want to make a report of your activities?”

“You want a report?” Hecht asked.

“A report, yes. Or, yes, your story.”

“To tell my…?”

“Your life. Your fascinating life,” Ferri said. The sarcasm was already thick in the room.

“I was born…”

“Before anything, you’re named Robert Hecht?”

“Roberto Hecht.”

“Junior Hecht,” Ferri said, being lawyerly for the record.

“Junior, yes, because my father had the same name,” Hecht said, continuing with the details of his birth, schooling, and eventual move to Italy after World War II. And then Ferri dove into the subject that interested him most: Euphronios.

“We would like to talk about the famous Euphronios vase,” the prosecutor began.

“Which Euphronios vase?”

“That is for you to say,” Ferri said, leaving an open door for any admissions Hecht might slip up and make. “There are several vases.”

“No, there are many?” Hecht replied, not taking the bait.

“Yes, yes, the one at the Metropolitan. Go.”

“Yes. What should I say?”

“Say a bit about your real version of the facts.”

Hecht just went ahead and retold his original Sarrafian story, frustrating the prosecutor, who responded: “Yes, but I repeat, my goodness, I have read your memoir on this point and it is plainly clear, detailed, your memoir, but your memoir also contains another version of the same facts, there are two versions.”


“Two versions, one is that in December 1971, Giacomo Medici knocked on your door. Do you recall this part of the memoir?”

“No…Ah, yes, the Italians’ version?”

“Yes. You remember that part about Giacomo Medici knocking on your door in December 1971?”

“No,” Hecht said, and then dragged Ferri into a discussion of the initials he had used to identify different people in his manuscript. As Hecht wriggled out of more questions, Ferri encouraged him to make use of the translator and to speak English, even pointing out that Hecht was nearly eighty-two years old and could use the help. Hecht declined. Ferri started to show his frustration.

“If we have to play cat and mouse, we can be here for three days, and I will buy you three lunches, shrimp three times, three spaghettis with clams, and in the end you’ll get sick of this. I want something spontaneous, if that’s possible. I repeat, I’ve got nothing against you, nothing against Medici—I just want to put an end to this trafficking,” Ferri said. “It would be useful to me to clarify the routes by which the American museums make acquisitions, and also the European ones.”

After discussing Marion True and the Getty, Ferri eventually asked about the role of Hollywood producer Bruce McNall and the formation of the Hunt collection. “There were some of those pieces you gave to him,” the prosecutor said.

“Some things, yes.”

“To form the Hunt collection.”

“Yes,” Hecht said.

“And some things that Medici gave them.”

“Could be…”

“What do you mean, could be? Certainly yes,” the prosecutor shot back.

“It seems to me Medici bought some things from Hunt,” Hecht said, turning the whole line of questioning around.

Ferri tried to put him back on track: “He re-bought his things from Hunt, right?”

Daniela Rizzo, who had sat silently, couldn’t hold back any longer. She wanted to know about the Sarpedon chalice. Given the chance to meet Hecht face-to-face after all the years she had spent trying to track his wares, she seemed to need answers urgently. Rizzo interrupted Ferri’s interrogation.

“There’s a Hunt kylix, that from Medici went to Hunt, right? This is the beautiful Euphronios kylix that has the same subject as the krater, Sarpedon and Hypnos, Sleep and Death transporting the body of Sarpedon, and this kylix went on sale at Sotheby’s and was bought by Medici,” Rizzo said.

“By Giacomo Medici, yes,” Hecht responded.

“You spoke of this kylix in your memoir,” Rizzo said.


“It’s true, this here, I’ll give you the page, wait,” Rizzo said, leafing through Hecht’s manuscript.

Hecht read aloud the part where he mentioned the Observer’s report. “That journalist Walter said I would be the owner of that kylix, yes.”

“But you had seen that Euphronios kylix?” Rizzo asked.

“I saw it. I saw it in the New York collections.”

“But before it ended up in…” Rizzo started before the prosecutor interrupted.

“In the Hunt collection, you never saw it before it ended up in the Hunt collection?” he asked.

“Yes, I saw it at McNall’s. Or is it, I had seen it at McNall’s?” Hecht said, playing with his Italian and creating a distraction.

“In California, then?” Ferri asked.


“And you offered it to Hoving? You offered it to the director of the Metropolitan Museum this here, this kylix, you offered it, you remember this?” Ferri said.

“No,” Hecht said, brazenly denying the story.

“You said: you had the nerve to say, ‘I also have a kylix that comes from the same tomb furnishings, you want it?’” Ferri said. “You remember saying this to Hoving?”


“Then there are two Euphronios vases, right? There are two Euphronios vases, from the same tomb. Right?” Ferri said, fishing for an admission he didn’t have nailed down.

Again Rizzo interrupted. “There’s the one that went to the Metropolitan,” she said.

Si,” Hecht agreed.

“Then a second krater by Euphronios with Kyknos, that’s in the Levy-White collection?” Rizzo said. She’d muddied the waters a bit in Hecht’s favor by veering away from the kylix to the Levy-White fragmentary krater.

“Ah, yes, that they bought at the Hunt sale,” Hecht said.

“From the Hunt sale,” Rizzo said. “And this krater is now on loan to the Metropolitan.”


Ferri steered back to the kylix, linking it to the Levy-White fragmentary Euphronios at the Met. “All that’s missing to complete the tomb contents are the kylix,” Ferri said, referring to the Sarpedon chalice, “and the sphinx, the two sphinx. In the same tomb there was…”

After an exchange with Rizzo about whether a sphinx had been at the tomb, Ferri switched to the most famous find from the Cerveteri site. “This Euphronios vase that later was sold to the Metropolitan Museum, where did you see it for the first time?”

“Which?” Hecht asked

“The Euphronios vase. The Metropolitan’s.”

“When did I see it the first time? It was…I saw it in Switzerland, when it came from Beirut,” Hecht said, sticking to his cover story about the krater coming from Sarrafian. Ferri let him expand on this version—and in the process finally scored some damning testimony. If Hecht wasn’t going to admit that Medici had been the source of the krater—or even admit he had even tried to sell the Sarpedon chalice to the Met—he could always trip up when telling the alternate version of the krater affair. Ferri asked him particulars about the first time he saw the krater. Hecht said it came in a box.

“A box of what dimensions? A cardboard box or a wooden box?” Ferri asked.


“How big?” Ferri asked.

“I didn’t measure it,” said Hecht, who used his hands to motion the rough dimensions of the box.

“Let the record show that he has indicated a box 20 cm by 40 cm and 20 cm high,” Ferri said. That’s eight inches by sixteen inches by eight inches—or about the size of a shoe box.

“I don’t know how many centimeters,” Hecht said.

“You seem to have indicated this, right? More or less. But the Euphronios vase is big and heavy. It would be hard to fit a Euphronios vase as big as this in a cardboard box so little. Eh?”

“It was in a cardboard…” Hecht started to respond.

Ferri recognized a moment to take advantage of Hecht’s defensiveness. “Maybe it was the kylix that was inside?” Ferri suggested.

“No, I didn’t get the kylix from Lebanon. You can ask Mr. Hoving.”

Ferri seemed satisfied with his progress. He’d blown a hole in the Sarrafian story by getting Hecht to testify to dimensions of a box that couldn’t possibly hold the krater, even if broken into pieces. And finally Hecht had practically admitted that he had had the kylix.

At this point, Ferri noticed that Hecht’s resolve, or at least his concentration, was flagging, and he offered Hecht the opportunity to write down the true version of the Euphronios tales, in a sworn statement.

“I have to ask my lawyer if we’ll write anything,” Hecht said.

Ferri seemed flabbergasted that Hecht couldn’t recount such ancient history without first getting legal advice. “I ask, I ask, for the love of God, I don’t…this conversation you can have with your lawyer. For the love of God, these are old facts, going back to 1971.”

Si,” Hecht’s lawyer said, “but I need to talk with him about this with a clear head.”

Hecht had an even better idea: “We could also take a lunch break.”

It was 12:20 P.M., so Ferri agreed. They would continue at 3:00 P.M. For now, it seemed Ferri had Hecht where he wanted him: not as focused as he had been at the start of the questioning and slipping up. Getting Hecht’s testimony in writing would seal the day as a success.

When they sat back down at 2:58 P.M., Hecht had regained his composure.

“Lunch brought you good advice?” Ferri asked Hecht. “Tell us about the Euphronios vase. Let’s pick up the old plot of the book, of the Metropolitan Museum. Now, what’s the vera storia, the true story?” he said in English.

Hecht was prepared. “Mr. Vannucci has suggested that perhaps there was a misunderstanding about the measurements of the box, because the box I was talking about was for a fragmented vase, a vase in pieces, and seeing that the vase is 50 centimeters by 52, or whatever it was, the box couldn’t be like that,” Hecht said. Whether he could be believed or not, Hecht had his correction on the record.

“So then Sarrafian is still the story? The true story is the Sarrafian version?” Ferri asked. His attempt at getting an admission was fading.

Si. Si,” Hecht said.

And the other version from Hecht’s memoir about Medici selling Hecht the Euphronios krater, Ferri asked, “That’s the same one as the Metropolitan’s, that vase?”

“That is a vase that doesn’t exist,” Hecht responded.

Va bene,” Ferri said. Fine.

“Which is to say, it’s a fantasy story, based on that vase,” Hecht said of the allegedly incriminating passages of his manuscript.

“I get it, an imaginary reconstruction, very close to the truth,” Ferri said. “According to the accused.”

Marion True was next on Ferri’s list, and her deposition was conducted, at her convenience, at the Getty Center in Los Angeles on June 20, 2001. The room was filled with lawyers for all sides, including a prosecutor from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Daniel S. Goodman, but there were also a number of Italians who had been building a case against True, Medici, Hecht, and the rest: archaeologist Daniela Rizzo from the Villa Giulia museum; her technician, Maurizio Pellegrini, who was processing the photos and documents from the raid on Medici’s Geneva warehouse; and representatives from the Carabinieri art squad. An interpreter would allow the Italians and Americans to speak in their own languages. A transcript would be made in Italian.

Also seated in the room was Giuseppe Proietti, no longer the young archaeologist from his days in Cerveteri during the tomb-robbing heyday that yielded the trafficked treasures by Euphronios. He had since risen to the head of archaeology at Italy’s Ministry of Culture, and he was out to undo the damage that had occurred on his watch three decades earlier.

The prosecutor, Ferri, began questioning True at 2:18 P.M. that Wednesday afternoon. He started with the easy stuff—name, date of birth—and then became more pointed.

“The first question is the following,” Ferri said. “Do you know Mr. Giacomo Medici, and if so when—how many times have you met and for which reasons have you met?”

“Yes, I know Giacomo Medici,” True began. “I believe the first time I met Giacomo was in 19—by 1984 at the sale of the Bolla collection, a collection of Greek amphoras that took place in Basel, Switzerland.”

From the start, True messed up—the sale was actually two years later, on November 14, 1986—but the error would be of little consequence in light of the broader picture she painted of her relations with “Giacomo.”

“After that meeting,” True continued, neglecting to mention the details of a dinner she and Medici had out together in Basel with Robert Hecht and the Met’s Dietrich von Bothmer, “I probably saw Medici, if I recall correctly, about five times. The meetings were in Geneva, Switzerland; in Rome; and in Malibu, California. For the most part, when I saw him in Geneva, the scope of our meeting was to offer objects for sale to the museum.”

When the matter of Medici and Hecht’s road trip to Los Angeles came up, True curiously underplayed the event. “Then there was a trip that he made to Malibu, California. He came to find me at a certain point with Robert Hecht. But that was only a courtesy visit. They were there on vacation.”

The details of who else was present at her first meeting with Medici, in Basel, only came out five minutes later under follow-up questions by Ferri, who wanted to know if it was the former Getty antiquities chief, Jiri Frel, who had introduced her to Medici.

“Frel knew Medici,” True answered. “Frel didn’t introduce me to Medici. When I met Medici it was in Basel, Switzerland, and it was Bob Hecht, or Dietrich von Bothmer or someone who was at the Bolla sale who introduced me to him.”

The line of questioning triggered by the mention of Hecht and von Bothmer’s names was nearly as important as the discovery of Hecht’s manuscript at his Paris apartment. First Ferri sorted out the relationship between Hecht and Bruce McNall, the Los Angeles coin dealer who’d supplied the Sarpedon chalice by Euphronios to Bunker Hunt, and the relationship between Hecht and the vase restorer Fritz Bürki.

“Hecht and von Bothmer, according to you, you believe were good friends?” Ferri asked.

“Yes, I believe so.”

“You know von Bothmer?” Ferri asked.

“Yes,” True replied. It seemed like an odd question. Was the prosecutor playing dumb?

“Did von Bothmer ever confide in you?” Ferri continued. There was a pause, as True didn’t respond. Maybe he’d hit on something. “Why are you perplexed?” he asked her.

“No, I only want to say, yes, that he was my—he was my professor.”

“Did he ever confide—did he ever confide in you?” Ferri pressed on. “I insist on this particular point.”

“Yes, I think it’s fair to say he did.”


“In terms of important confidences, near the end of his term when he was about to retire, say, it had to be 1990, around then,” True said. She was clearly thinking of something specific, and Ferri responded as if he knew exactly what it was.

“He openly confided in you, I have the same information—I have information about a major—about which he openly confided in you. Can you tell me what this is?”

“Only to put this in perspective, Mr.—Professor von Bothmer wanted me to be his successor at the Met. One time I was in his office, and he had a photograph, an aerial photograph, that showed the necropolises of Cerveteri. And looking at the necropolises, he pointed to a certain spot on the photo and said: This is the place where the Euphronios krater was found.”

Marion True had dropped a bomb, and it landed directly on von Bothmer and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ferri didn’t let go.

“Where was that tomb, was it Sant’Angelo?”

“I don’t know. Honestly—it was only this photograph and I…”

“Did he tell you why he was in a position to indicate which tomb it was?”

“No,” True said, winding down this line of interrogation. “He just said that he had been given the information that that was the place where the krater came from.”

On June 25, 2001, the action switched back to Rome, and the beginning of the trial of Medici and Perticarari for Lot 540—the Sotheby’s vase sale that started Medici’s legal troubles when von Bothmer tipped off the auction house that the amphora had been published in a magazine story about a tomb robber. The case was complex, involving dozens of objects the police had uncovered at Medici’s Santa Marinella and Rome homes, and for which he was charged with failing to register with the authorities. But the charge for Lot 540—receiving stolen antiquities—was the most serious and also carried the most symbolic weight, for it represented the core of Medici’s old system of dealing through Sotheby’s.

The prosecution’s task was to prove that the vase in the photos printed in Epoca was the same vase whose picture was published in the Sotheby’s catalog. Among the problems facing the prosecution was that Sotheby’s response to von Bothmer’s tip was simply to return the vase to Medici’s company, and now it had vanished, at least as a piece of evidence. It was Medici’s luck, too, that the magazine photos and catalog photos were hard to compare, because they were shot at different angles. Crucially, the Sotheby’s photo was a head-on picture of the vase’s front, whereas the magazine’s was taken from above.

In October 2001, the Carabinieri, having already searched Hecht’s and Medici’s homes, got around to searching the Zurich home of Fritz Bürki, the man who had restored at least three of the newly surfaced Euphronios vases, including the Sarpedon chalice and krater. Working with their Swiss counterparts, the Italian art squad found evidence that made the link between Bürki and Hecht crystal clear. On a bookshelf they found Hecht’s expired passport, and on Bürki’s desk, a photograph of the Euphronios krater he had restored for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Among the thousands of ancient objects the Italians were investigating, the works of Euphronios came into focus as the nexus of the underground trade and the criminal charges they were prepared to bring.

The case of Lot 540 was finally decided on February 26, 2003. Judge Enrico Gallucci of the Rome Tribunal found Medici innocent of receiving stolen artifacts under the 1939 antiquities law, saying there wasn’t enough evidence to prove that the vase Medici had offered for sale in the 1985 Sotheby’s catalog was the same one the admitted tomb robber claimed to have sold. Vases of that type were often made in series, and it was impossible to be sure they were exactly the same pots. Medici had benefited from having the photos in the auction catalog and the ones in the incriminating Epoca story taken from different angles.

The verdict was a coup for Medici, but in a way the damage had already been done, because this case led to much bigger legal troubles. On March 4, 2004, Judge Guglielmo Muntoni of the Rome Tribunal indicted Medici in the broader case that Ferri and the art police had been building, much of it based on the analysis of Medici’s photo collection by the Villa Giulia museum technician, Pellegrini. Medici now faced trial not just for one vase, but for smuggling and receiving hundreds of artifacts that had ended up in the world’s best-known museums, including the Met, the Getty, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, Princeton University Art Museum, and a string of others in Germany, Norway, and Japan. Among the objects the indictment accused him of smuggling and trafficking were Euphronios’s matching Sarpedon krater and chalice.

Most of the charges, dating to the 1970s and 1980s, should have expired long before under statute of limitations rules. But Medici faced an additional charge of conspiracy—a crime committed over a span of time—which made the actions of his early career part of one single act that had continued up through the present. Conspiracy also required acting with others, and his alleged coconspirators included Robert Hecht, Marion True, Fritz Bürki, and competitors such as Robin Symes and Gianfranco Becchina. Medici was the only one of the bunch being charged, for now.

Unfortunately for Medici, the prosecutor was uncovering more and more evidence that showed Hecht’s manuscript was not a work of fiction. London dealer Symes said under questioning in 2003 that in 1971 or 1972 he had bought a large, bronze eagle from Robert Hecht. That exactly matched what Hecht had written to explain how he raised the cash to pay Medici for the Sarpedon krater.

With each new bit of evidence, the Met’s ownership of the vase seemed more and more precarious. And while nobody involved in Medici’s case realized it at the time, another seemingly unrelated smuggling investigation was becoming equally important in determining the fate of the Euphronios krater and many other ancient masterpieces. It was the case of a pharaonic statue disguised as a cheap tchotchke, and it would change everything.

The story had begun in 1991, at an unguarded archaeological site in Egypt, where tomb robbers took a saw and separated the face on a 3,375-year-old statue of King Amenhotep III, the pharaoh presumed to be the grandfather of King Tutankhamun, from its torso just above the neck. In 1991, the robbers sold the statue to a British art restorer, Jonathan Tokeley Parry, who sneaked the pharaoh’s head past Egyptian customs by coating the gray sculpture with plastic and painting it in gaudy colors—gold for its face and shiny black stripes for its hair—making it look like a cheap souvenir. Once the head was safely smuggled to England, Parry soaked away the plastic layer in the chemical equivalent of nail polish remover.

Later that year, hoping to sell the artifact, Parry showed a photo of the Amenhotep head to a Princeton-educated, New York antiquities dealer named Frederick Schultz. Among the highlights of Schultz’s career, he served as president of the National Association of Dealers in Ancient, Oriental and Primitive Art. To sell the bust, he and Parry claimed that a relative of Parry’s had exported the sculpture from Egypt in the 1920s. The date was conveniently decades earlier than Egypt’s Law 117. Passed in 1983, the law, like Italy’s, declared that all artifacts in the ground were the property of the state.

Despite the cover story, Schultz couldn’t find a buyer, and he instead bought the king’s head himself for $800,000. A year later he resold it to a private collector for $1.2 million. The British police eventually caught Parry, arresting him in June 1994 for dealing in stolen antiquities. Parry, who was convicted, agreed to testify against Schultz, who went on trial in federal court in New York in January 2002. The jury in United States District Court heard all about the painted bust of King Amenhotep III, and in February 2002 convicted Schultz of the one charge against him: conspiracy to receive stolen property in violation of the National Stolen Property Act. The court sentenced him to thirty-three months in prison.

The verdict posed a mortal threat to the antiquities trade—and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for archaeologists—because the National Stolen Property Act said that anything deemed stolen property by a foreign country would also be considered stolen under U.S. law. Additionally, the jury decided that this also applied to looted antiquities.

If the verdict stood up under appeal, all that Italy—or any other country with similar cultural property statutes—needed to do now was demonstrate that under their own laws, the object in question was considered stolen. The untested but logical extension of the Schultz decision was that to properly enforce the National Stolen Property Act, federal agents and prosecutors would treat any antiquities theft conviction handed down in Italy or Greece or Turkey or Egypt as if it were a verdict from an American court.

When Schultz appealed, the Archaeological Institute of America organized the opposing amicus brief. This was the same group whose members had rebuked the Met’s von Bothmer thirty years earlier after he told them about the existence of the Sarpedon chalice. “The A.I.A. amici believe that it is in the interest of the United States and, indeed, all humankind that a comprehensive regime of national and state laws work to encourage the preservation of archaeological sites and the artifacts found therein,” the brief said. Because the United States is one of the world’s largest markets for ancient art, “This Court’s decision is thus likely to have a direct and real effect on the looting of archaeological sites overseas.”

The judges sided with the archaeologists. On June 25, 2003, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, upheld the Schultz conviction, giving new weight to the National Stolen Property Act. “[W]e conclude that the NSPA applies to property that is stolen in violation of a foreign patrimony law,” the court wrote. “We see no reason that property stolen from a foreign sovereign should be treated any differently from property stolen from a foreign museum or private home.”

When the Supreme Court refused in 2004 to hear Schultz’s appeal seeking to overturn his conviction, the appeals court ruling became the law of the land—potentially sealing the fate of the Met’s Sarpedon krater and dozens upon dozens of antiquities in American museums and private collections. As far as the international artifacts trade was concerned, the ancient lands ringing the Mediterranean were no longer legal backwaters. If Egypt’s Law 117 had been the law of the land to the United States Supreme Court, then surely the same could be true for Italy’s 1939 antiquities legislation. Very soon the Metropolitan Museum of Art would care what cases were winding their way through the Rome Tribunal.

Medici went on trial at the start of 2004, essentially on charges that his entire career as an antiquities dealer had been a crime. At the beginning he made a strategic move to limit the time he might have to serve in prison if convicted, choosing what is called the abbreviated rite, under which a trial is conducted quickly, mostly handled on paper via court filings, and with limits to the witnesses and evidence that each side can present. Just one judge, rather than the customary panel of three, would decide the verdict. In return, any jail time would automatically be reduced by one-third. Medici thought he had a good deal.

The trial lasted nearly a year, spread over just a dozen hearings at the modern Rome Tribunal complex. At 10:30 A.M. on December 13, 2004, Judge Muntoni read the sentence aloud. Medici sat in the front of the courtroom to the right, facing the judge. Ferri the prosecutor sat to the left.

“In the name of the Italian people, The Judge, in view of articles 533, 535, 538, 539, 540, 541 of the penal code, declares Medici Giacomo guilty of conspiracy, continued and aggravated receiving,” and a third count of smuggling, “in relation to the archaeological artifacts described in appendix ‘a’,” a list including hundreds of objects seized in Geneva, only a dozen of which the judge said Medici had been acquitted for.

Judge Muntoni read the names of other objects for which he had found Medici guilty: “Archaeological works that had arrived at the J. P. Getty Museum in Los Angeles through Medici Giacomo and third persons, with the exception of artifact number 9, Caeretan hydria,” he said. According to Judge Muntoni, dozens of works at the Getty were now declared “smuggled”—the one exception being the hydria pot that Medici had used as the name of his Geneva gallery. The judge also said Medici was guilty of trafficking hundreds and hundreds of antiquities, including one that started it all—the marble sarcophagus fragment depicting sea monsters, burglarized from the de Marchi home and matching one of the three lots Editions Services had put up for sale at Sotheby’s in 1987.

And then the judge came to the crucial line, adding to the guilty verdict the “Artifacts handled by Medici Giacomo that had arrived at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art through third persons,” Muntoni said.

Muntoni did not read the list of objects itself, but it contained seven vases. Images of six of them could be found in Medici’s photo archive. The seventh was the “Euphronios krater with the scene of Sarpedon dying.”

That was it. In a garble of legalese, the judge had pronounced Medici guilty of smuggling the Met’s Sarpedon krater—and declared that the vase was stolen goods. Muntoni sentenced Medici to ten years in prison and slapped him with a 10-million-euro fine.

The entire process lasted little more than fifteen minutes. Afterward Medici, who was free pending his appeal of the conviction, went home to Santa Marinella. But he wasn’t completely free. Just after midnight the police arrived at Medici’s door and told him to surrender his passport. His days as an international dealer were over, at least for now.

Judge Muntoni later submitted a written sentence in Medici’s case, which he filed to the Rome court’s clerk on May 12, 2005. In the 659-page document, the judge took aim at the Met and Dietrich von Bothmer, even though the curator had not been charged with any crime and had not even been formally under investigation. Muntoni said von Bothmer was at the center of a web of buying, donating, and authenticating loot that involved the Met, dealers, Getty curators, and private collectors. “The Metropolitan Museum gave Medici and his band their beginnings in the American traffic through Dietrich von Bothmer,” he wrote. While working as a curator, von Bothmer purchased smuggled Greek pottery for his private collection, including the piece of the huge Onesimos-Euphronios kylix that the Getty had already returned to Italy.

The phonebook-sized conviction went far beyond the scope of Medici’s business dealings and into the galleries of the world’s biggest museums. Judge Muntoni had just begun to expose the web of connections that enmesh the antiquities world. Just three months after convicting Medici, the judge indicted Robert Hecht and the Getty’s Marion True, ordering them to stand trial for receiving stolen antiquities and for conspiracy in the artifact trade. Hecht, like Medici, faced an additional charge of smuggling.

“It is clear that Robert Hecht and Marion True were purchasing and dealing with Italian artifacts in Rome. They made their criminal plans together,” said the indictment, which also outlined the broader scope of an alleged conspiracy Hecht had founded and that involved restorers and other art dealers. “Medici and Hecht organized this entire illicit trade.” Both Hecht and True, who eventually resigned from the museum, have denied the charges.

The indictment of Hecht and True contained long lists of artifacts for which they would stand trial, many of which graced the world’s top museums. Taken together with similar lists from Medici’s conviction, the tally of alleged loot was astounding. In all, at least fifty-two items the Getty had acquired or handled were looted or came from smugglers, twenty-two were in Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, and one each were in the Princeton University Art Museum and the Cleveland Museum of Art.

The Metropolitan held twenty-two such objects, including a fifteen-piece set of Hellenistic silver, known as the Morgantina Silver, which Hecht was charged with illicitly selling to the Met after looters dug it up at Morgantina in Sicily. The star among the Met’s suspect objects, of course, was the Sarpedon krater by Euphronios. Judge Muntoni had already convicted Medici for smuggling it, and now Hecht would face the same charges.

For Italy, Judge Muntoni’s written conviction of Medici and the indictment of Hecht and True would become the ultimate weapon for demanding the return of antiquities from abroad.

On July 6, 2005—Medici’s sixty-seventh birthday—his lawyers, Fabrizio Lemme and Susanna Spafford, filed the appeal of his conviction. The seventy-eight-page document outlined thirteen different reasons that the Appeals Court of Rome should overturn Judge Muntoni’s sentence. Some of them were technical, procedural reasons that the case should be thrown out for errors made by the judge. They argued that the evidence collected at the Free Port in Geneva shouldn’t have been admitted in an Italian court from a foreign jurisdiction—for several reasons, including that Medici wasn’t present at the raid and no inventory was conducted for three years, putting the proper chain of custody of the evidence in doubt.

But the heart of the appeal was that prosecutors hadn’t proved that Medici committed the crimes. They pointed out that Judge Muntoni, in pronouncing Medici’s sentence, drew upon the case of Lot 540 when he wrote, “Already the tale of this single vase shows the cooperation, complicity and modus operandi of the conspirators”—even though Medici had been absolved of any crime involving Lot 540.

Medici’s lawyers attacked the judge’s logic when he concluded that Medici’s possession of photos of fragmented objects proved that Medici had bought or handled recently dug material in Italy. “The possession of photographs does not necessarily imply the possession of the object,” they wrote.

And they pointed out an often overlooked fact of the case presented against Medici: “With the exception of Hecht’s memoir, which merits its own discussion, none of the evidence has indicated even a single acquisition in Italy by Medici that was subsequently exported from the country.” And they added, “None of the pieces mentioned by Hecht are found in Medici’s photo archive.”

They were right on all points. For example, nobody had ever turned up the Polaroid of the Euphronios krater that Hecht had written about in his memoir. Maybe the prosecution hadn’t proved its case. But was Medici innocent? One of his assertions stuck out as a potential litmus test of his truth telling: that he hadn’t met Hecht until 1974, and therefore couldn’t have committed the crimes, including smuggling the krater.

Medici eventually revealed the truth about that date, casting a whole new light on his not-guilty plea.

By the summer of 2005, the Culture Ministry’s Giuseppe Proietti had come a long way since his first dig, the one in 1974 at the Sarpedon krater site in Cerveteri. After serving as director general for all Italian archaeology from 2001 through 2004, the ministry promoted him to head of the department of research, innovation, and organization, one of the top nonpolitical posts.

He had most recently made his name leading the Italian efforts at preserving Iraq’s archaeological sites after the March 2003 American-led invasion. The Italian military had sent Carabinieri to help protect the sites, which tomb robbers targeted in the lawlessness that followed the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. And while the United States took over such key government agencies as the Central Bank of Iraq and the Finance Ministry, the Italians took over the Culture Ministry as the advisers to the new government that the foreign forces were setting up. Proietti had spent much of the previous two years flying between Rome and Baghdad, where he dealt with issues ranging from the recovery of thousands of artifacts famously stolen from the national museum there, to visiting the monuments and archaeological areas around the country that were vulnerable to looting, aiming to set up security and conservation efforts.

Now sixty years old, he was spending more time on looting issues closer to home. As Marion True’s trial approached, he said he hoped the case would pressure the Getty and the Metropolitan Museum of Art to return objects that had been illegally taken from Italy.

“The ministry’s objective is to reduce the damage done by clandestine digs and cease the illegitimate commerce,” Proietti said. Baghdad behind him, he prepared for a new war.

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