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Feds seek forfeiture of 'smuggled' ancient statue intended for Kim Kardashian

Federal authorities are seeking the forfeiture of a 2,000-year-old Italian statue that was intended for Kim Kardashian West’s home.
/ Source: TODAY

A 2,000-year-old Roman sculpture that authorities said in a court filing was being imported by Kim Kardashian West is the subject of a forfeiture request by the federal government.

The statue has been deemed Italian cultural property that was illegally removed from the country, and officials want it returned, according to a filing by prosecutors in federal court in Los Angeles.

An Italian statue ordered for Kim Kardashian West's California home is the subject of a forfeiture request by the federal government. Eduardo Munoz / Reuters

Depicting the lower half of a human figure, the statue is identified as "Fragment of Myron Samian Athena - limestone - 1st -2nd century A.D." by broker Masterpiece International.

The item was seized in 2016 at the Port of Los Angeles after drawing the attention of U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials, who determined documentation supplied by Masterpiece International was "insufficient to satisfy the CPIA's requirements" in reference to the Cultural Property Implementation Act, according to the filing.

The importer of the statue was listed as "Kim Kardashian dba Noel Roberts Trust," but Kardashian West has not been accused of any wrongdoing. The filing also does not allege that she had any knowledge that the artwork was possibly protected Italian property.

A spokesperson for Kardashian West denied ownership of the disputed statue.

"Kim never purchased this piece and this is the first that she has learned of its existence," the spokesperson told NBC News. "We believe it may have been purchased using her name without authorization and because it was never received, she was unaware of the transaction. We encourage an investigation and hope that it gets returned to the rightful owners."

The sculpture was part of a shipment of 40 pieces of "antiques and modern furniture and decorations objects" valued at $745,882, according to the filing.

Authorities were concerned the statue was "possibly protected cultural property from Italy," according to the filing. Italy's Carabinieri for the Protection of Cultural Heritage requested to Homeland Security Investigations in 2016 that the statue be returned to Italy.

The statue, which consists of the lower half of a human figure, is believed to be from the early to mid-Roman Empire period.Justice Department

An investigation found that Masterpiece International provided an invoice that said the statue originated in Italy and a contradictory, unsworn affidavit that said the statue "does not originate from Italy," according to the filing.

Italy's Ministry of Cultural Heritage had an archaeologist examine the statue in 2018, determining that it's of classical Peplophoros style from the early to mid-Roman Empire period.

"Based on the information and scientific aspects the archaeologist provided, the archaeologist opined that the defendant statute was looted, smuggled and illegally exported from Italy," according to the filing.