Preet Bharara, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and James T. Hayes, Jr., the Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (“ICE”) Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”), announced today the return to the Polish Government of the Johann Conrad Seekatz painting, “St. Philip Baptizing a Servant of Queen Kandaki” (the “Seekatz Painting”), that was stolen from the National Museum of the City of Warsaw by Nazi forces during World War II.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Decades ago, during World War II, this Johann Conrad Seekatz painting was removed from its home in a national Polish museum by Nazi forces. Since then it has crisscrossed the globe, but today, we are very pleased to finally be able to return this Polish national treasure to the country and its people.”
HSI New York Special Agent-in-Charge James T. Hayes, Jr. said: “We are deeply grateful to return this cherished painting to our partners from the Republic of Poland. Homeland Security Investigations will continue to work tirelessly to track down objects stolen during World War II and return them to their rightful owners.”
During World War II, Nazi forces invaded and occupied Poland and removed from the National Museum of the City of Warsaw numerous works of art, including the Seekatz Painting. The Seekatz Painting was never returned to the City of Warsaw following its removal by the Nazis during World War II. In 2006, the Seekatz Painting, erroneously labeled with another title, was sold to a gallery in London, England. In 2012, an evaluation of the Seekatz Painting was conducted and it was determined that it was, in fact, the painting stolen by the German Army from the National Museum of the City of Warsaw during World War II. On July 12, 2012, the U.S. Attorney’s Office submitted, and the U.S. District Court for the Southern District entered, a stipulation and order (the “Order”) providing for the seizure and return of the Seekatz Painting to the Republic of Poland. Subsequent to the entry of the Order, ICE HSI took possession of the painting in London, with the voluntary cooperation of the gallery in London, and returned the Seekatz Painting to New York.
The Seekatz Painting was returned to the Minister of Culture and National Heritage of Poland, Bogdan Zdrojewski, and the Polish Ambassador to the United States, Ryszard Schnepf, today at a repatriation ceremony at the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in New York, New York. Its return to the Government of Poland marks the seventh time that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, in conjunction with ICE HSI, has returned important historical and cultural property and art work stolen during either World War I or World War II to its rightful owner.
Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of ICE HSI in this matter, and its ongoing efforts to find and repatriate stolen and looted art and cultural property.
The case is being handled by the Office’s Money Laundering and Asset Forfeiture Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason H. Cowley is in charge of the case.