FILE - In this April 27, 2016 file photo, Homeland Security Investigations New York Special Agent in Charge Angel Melendez, left, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.,, center, and Pakistan's U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission Rizwan Saeed Sheikh, pose with an ancient Buddhist sculpture during a news conference in New York. Prosecutors returned the sculpture to the government of Pakistan after a Japanese antiquities dealer pleaded guilty to smuggling it into the U.S. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

Prosecutors become treasure hunters in repatriation campaign

December 17, 2017 - 10:17 am

NEW YORK (AP) — The lawmen who barged into a New York City apartment this fall weren't hunting for a fugitive or a stash of drugs.

They were after a coffee table.

The small table was topped with a colorful marble mosaic that was once part of an ornate ship built by the Roman emperor Caligula.

Its seizure was part of an aggressive campaign by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. to repatriate antiquities believed to have been illegally looted from the countries where they were found.

At a news conference, Friday, Vance announced he was forming a new antiquities trafficking unit.

Already this year New York prosecutors have seized numerous objects from city museums, auction houses, art fairs and private residences that it said were looted decades ago from ruins mostly in the Middle East.

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