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Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg returns Quarter Shekel to Israel

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Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg
File Photo by Dean Moses

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr., recently announced the return of the Year Four Quarter Shekel, the second such coin known to exist from “The Great Jewish Revolt” that began in 66 C.E.

The Quarter Shekel, which was minted in 69 C.E., signaled independence from Rome during the revolt that ended with the siege and mass suicide at Masada in C.E. 73. It is valued at more than $1,000,000 and was returned at a repatriation ceremony attended by Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan, Director General of the Israel Antiquities Authority Eli Eskozido, Israel’s Consul General in New York, Assaf Zamir and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York Acting Special Agent in Charge Ricky J. Patel.

“We are honored to return the Quarter Shekel, an exceedingly rare coin that has immense cultural value. Despite the complexity of this investigation, our team of prosecutors, analysts and agents working with Israeli authorities, were able to track down this antiquity in just a matter of months,” said District Attorney Bragg. “In just this year alone we have repatriated nearly 400 antiquities to countries all over the world, and look forward to many more of these ceremonies in the future.”

“Today we join our partners to return an incredibly rare piece of Israel’s history, the Quarter Shekel Coin, a symbol of independence from the time of Roman presence in what is now modern Israel. This gem was looted and smuggled through several countries and sold with false provenance to unwitting buyers,” said Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York Acting Special Agent in Charge Ricky J. Patel. “This recovery was only possible through the expertise and investigative work of HSI agents across the world, working together with antiquities experts and our partners at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and in Israel, to ensure we could reclaim and return this important artifact to the people of Israel.”

“This singular artifact is a stark reminder of the Jewish people’s millennia-old connection to the land of Israel. We thank the IAA, HSI, and the DA’s office for restoring this priceless coin to its rightful home,” said Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan. 

The Israel Antiquities Authority learned through multiple informants that the Quarter Shekel had been looted in the Ella Valley, Israel, in 2002. The Israel Antiquities Authority spent the next two decades attempting to locate the coin. During this time, the Quarter Shekel circulated within the illicit antiquities market in and around Israel until it was smuggled from Israel through Jordan to the United Kingdom. In London, false provenance papers were prepared to export the Quarter Shekel from the United Kingdom to the United States, where it was offered for sale at the Heritage Auction’s World Coins & Ancient Coins Signature Auction scheduled for Aug. 3, 2017, in Denver, Colorado.
 
The antiquity was administratively seized by HSI Denver in 2017, and the investigation was taken over by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit (ATU) in 2022. The ATU’s investigation utilized informants in five different countries while working with long-standing law-enforcement partners throughout the Middle East and Europe to develop the information necessary to seize and repatriate the piece.
 
The investigation was conducted by Supervising Investigative Analyst Apsara Iyer and Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos, Chief of the Antiquities Trafficking Unit, along with Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Megan Buckley. Investigative support was provided by Ilan Hadad and Eitan Klein of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Shaaban Abdel Gawad of Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities, Aktham Oweidi of Jordan’s Department of Antiquities, Detective Constable Sophie Hayes of the U.K.’s New Scotland Yard, Zeynep Boz of Turkiye’s Ministry of Tourism and Culture, and Homeland Security Investigations in both Tel Aviv and Denver. We also thank Afeef Herzalla for his cooperation with this investigation.

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