Kim Kardashian was involved in an unlikely foreign art smuggling case involving an ancient Roman sculpture that was brought to California under her name on Tuesday. Last week, US prosecutors demanded that the statue fragment, which was discovered in a Los Angeles port in 2016, be forfeited and returned to Italy, with an Italian archaeologist claiming the piece had been “looted, smuggled, and illegally exported,” according to an Italian archaeologist who discovered it.
The consignee and importer was identified as “‘Kim Kardashian dba Noel Roberts Trust’ in Woodland Hills, California,” according to court records, and an invoice “for the selling of the defendant statue by Vervoordt to Noel Robert Trust, dated March 11, 2016” was referred to.
The Noel Roberts Trust is a legal organisation related to Kardashian and her estranged husband Kanye West’s real estate acquisitions and sales in the United States.
According to the Artnet News website, Axel Vervoordt, a Belgian art dealer, was in charge of the decoration of Kardashian’s mansion near Los Angeles.
However, a Kardashian spokeswoman dismissed US media reports linking the reality star to the statue on Tuesday, telling AFP that the reports did not contain “accurate facts.”
The “Fragment of Myron Samian Athena” statue, which portrays a person’s lower half, is thought to date from the early to mid-Roman Empire.
The statue was described as “of classical Peplophoros type… which represents a copy of an original Greek sculpture” by the Italian archaeologist who examined it.
It was confiscated in May 2016 at the Los Angeles port as part of a larger $745,000 5.5-ton (5,000 kg) shipment on suspicion of being “protected cultural property from Italy,” in breach of a law requiring adequate documentation for importing rare archaeological objects.
Prosecutors said the customs broker’s invoice for the fragment’s previous 2012 sale to Vervoordt by a gallery in Paris seemed to refer to a different statue entirely, adding to the mystery.