The limestone statue, called "Fragment of Myron's Samian Athena" and made sometime between 1st and 2nd century A.D., was seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the Port of Los Angeles in June 2016. According to a federal civil forfeiture action filed on April 30, an officer reportedly flagged it as possibly protected cultural property from Italy. Documents state that the statue was part of a 40-piece, 5-ton shipment described as "Antiques & Modern Furniture & Decorations Objects" and was valued at $745,882. It was described as "a large draped statue" from an "Old German Collection" bought before 1980, originating in Italy. According to court documents obtained by PEOPLE, the importer was listed as "Kim Kardashian dba [doing business as] Noel Roberts Trust." Noel Roberts Trust is a Woodland Hills, California entity linked to Kardashian and Kanye West's U.S. real estate purchases.
A representative for Kardashian told NBC News that she "never purchased this piece and this is the first that she has learned of its existence."
"We believe it may have been purchased using her name without authorisation and because it was never received, she was unaware of the transaction," they added. "We encourage an investigation and hope that it gets returned to the rightful owners."
The documents noted that the statue, which depicts the lower half of a human figure, was examined by an archaeologist from Italy’s Ministry of Cultural Heritage after it was seized in 2016. He concluded that not only is the statue real and of the early to mid-Roman Empire period, but he also believes that since it appears to be the same statue photographed and flagged by Italy’s Carabinieri police in March 2011 at an art fair in the Netherlands, it was likely “looted, smuggled and illegally exported from Italy."
As officials investigated the transaction further, they reportedly found a sale invoice of the statue from Belgian interior designer Axel Vervoordt — the very same man who Kardashian and West had commissioned to redesign and renovate their famous $20 (£14.38) million Calabasas mansion. The invoice was sent to Noel Robert Trust on March 11, 2016. They also found that U.S. customs agents found an unsworn affidavit by the director of Vervoordt's art-historical department stating that the statue "does not originate from Italy." However, the actual broker of the sale allegedly wrote in its invoice that the artwork is indeed from Italy.
A representative for Vervoordt told CNN in a statement that "there is no evidence that this piece was illegally imported from Italy. Our client, as well as our gallery and the gallery from whom we've bought the piece, have always acted in good faith when dealing with the work."
The United States has been cracking down on imports of archeological material originating from Italy in order to discourage the illegal practice pillaging of cultural heritage. The statue is currently in federal custody and the case is awaiting a judge's decision.
Refinery29 reached out to Kardashian and Vervoordt for additional comment.