A U.S. attorney in Manhattan Wednesday said stolen dinnerware and china belonging to Saddam Hussein and the former royal family of Iraq were returned after the plates ended up in the possession of a New York City art group and used in a tony Upper East Side restaurant as part of an exhibition.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in the Southern District of New York said a group called Creative Time had bought the stolen Iraqi plates on eBay and used them to serve venison with date syrup at Park Avenue Autumn, a restaurant whose name and menu changes with the season.
The U.S. attorney's office became aware of the illegally imported dishware in November, but the New York Post got wind of the Saddam dining experience in October.
Following the fall of Hussein's government in 2003, Iraqis have taken ownership of the symbols of his regime, the restaurant had said in a statement to the Post. Many of the opulent artifacts found in his fallen palaces are now sold openly in the markets alongside monuments and state buildings.
Several pieces of the stolen dinner and salad plates belonged to Hussein, while the china was once the property of the King Faisal II, the last king of Iraq who died in 1958 during a successful attempt to overthrow the monarchy.
The restaurant had said using Saddam's old plates was legal, but the U.S. attorney's office disagreed.
When told about the illegally imported goods, Creative Time forked over 19 Iraqi plates, which were delivered to the Permanent Mission of the Republican of Iraq to the United Nations on Tuesday. Bharara thanked Creative Time and the restaurant, Park Avenue Autumn, for cooperating with the U.S. attorney's office and immediately handing over the stolen dinnerware, some of which featured the Iraqi seal.
Creative Time nor Park Avenue Autumn returned requests for comment.