Kim Kardashian has denied knowing about an Ancient Roman statue which was part of a $750,000 shipment in her name that was seized by customs officials in 2016 because the sculpture was ‘looted, smuggled and illegally exported from Italy’.
The limestone statue, which dates back to the first century, shows the lower half of a woman from the waist down and is entitled Fragment of Myron Samian Athena.
It was imported to Los Angeles in 2016, while Kardashian and Kanye West were renovating their home in Calabasas, but was seized by customs officials.
The US government filed a civil forfeiture claim in an LA court last week.
Axel Vervoordt, a celebrated Belgian interior designer and antique and art dealer, was overseeing the design of Kardashian’s home and is named in court documents, alongside the reality star.
Kardashian’s spokesman told DailyMail.com she had no idea that the statue was imported in her name.
‘Kim never purchased this piece and this is the first that she has learned of its existence,’ the spokesman said.
‘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.’
Kim Kardashian and then-husband Kanye West bought the statue for their Calabasas home
The Ancient Roman statue was described as Fragment of Myron Samian Athena
The court documents name several people and businesses as being involved.
‘The interests of Axel Vervoordt (‘Vervoordt’), Axel Vervoordt NV/SA, Meys & Zonen, NV, Noel Roberts Trust, Freeman Group, Inc. and Kim Kardashian, also known as Kimberly Noel Kardashian West, may be adversely affected by these proceedings,’ they state.
‘Noel Roberts Trust, Freeman Group, Inc. and Kim Kardashian will be collectively referred to as the ‘Noel Roberts Trust’.’
The Noel Roberts Trust was the entity through which Kardashian and West bought their home, in 2014.
Vervoordt, who has worked alongside Sting and Trudie Styler, Robert de Niro and Bill Gates on their properties, bought a statue in November 2012 from Galerie Chenel in Paris – a place which specializes in Roman antiquities.
They said that the statue was part of an ‘Old German Collection, bought before 1980.’
The sculpture’s precise value is unknown, but it arrived as part of a 5.5-ton shipment described as containing 40 antiques, modern furniture, and decorative objects, valued at $745,882.
It was being imported under a U.S. tariff schedule for ‘antiques of an age exceeding 100 years,’ as opposed to archeological material.
When customs agents inspected Kardashian’s statue in Los Angeles, they were provided a receipt for the purchase from Galerie Chenel.
Kim Kardashian and Kanye West inside their Calabasas home, designed by Vervoordt
The minimalist home was described by West as being like ‘a futuristic Belgian monastery’
Kardashian inside the home, which was featured in Architectural Digest
But US government officials told an Los Angeles court that Kardashian’s statue is not the one bought in 2012, but another one, obtained illicitly.
‘The November 2012 Galerie Chenel invoice did not appear to be for the defendant statute because the term ‘a large draped statue’ would refer to an entire/whole draped natural sized statue and a ‘fragment of Myron Samian Athena’ would refer to only a portion of a statue, which is what defendant statue is,’ court documents state.
‘In addition, the invoice that Masterpiece International provided to CBP contained handwritten notations indicating that the defendant statue originated from Italy.’
In June 2016, customs seized the statue, having concluded that ‘the evidence showed that the defendant statue was designated archeological or ethnological material,’ and they were unconvinced by the 2012 invoice.
A month later, Italian authorities confirmed that they believed Kardashian’s statue had appeared at Vervoordt’s stand at the The European Fine Art Fair in March 2011 in Maastricht, Netherlands – a year before Vervoordt’s claimed to have bought it.
In February 2018, an archaeologist from Italy’s Ministry of Cultural Heritage examined Kardashian’s statue.
Kardashian poses for Vogue inside the home
The sculpture was part of a crate of items shipped from Europe for their house
Vervoordt, a Belgian interior designer and art curator, worked on West and Kardashian’s house
According to the court documents: ‘The archaeologist stated that the defendant statue is of classical Peplophoros style (early to mid-Roman Empire), which represents a copy of an original Greek sculpture.’
They concluded that it was the same statue as that which appeared at the 2011 art fair, rather than the one purchased from the Paris art gallery.
Kardashian’s statue was not registered and issued with the correct permits for sale and export, and therefore ‘the archaeologist opined that the defendant statute was looted, smuggled and illegally exported from Italy.’
Italian authorities have requested its repatriation.
Yet the Paris antiques dealer said that the officials had made a mistake, and there were not two statues.
They blamed the error on a mix up of paperwork.
Ollivier Chenel, a director of Galerie Chenel, told Artnet News that Vervoordt had the statue on loan before it was officially acquired – which would explain why it was on Vervoordt’s stand in 2011, and then sold to him the year later.
Chenel said that the gallery purchased the sculpture from an auction house in Germany in 2010, and that it had previously come from an English estate.
‘It is very strange that [the complaint does not mention] the German auction house as the information was given to them at the time,’ Chenel said.
‘I can guarantee you that this sculpture was acquired legally at Hampel Auction house in 2010.’
Vervoordt has not responded to DailyMail.com’s request for comment.
Vervoordt was recruited to work on Kardashian and West’s Californian home by West, who had a blossoming interest in architecture and design.
He had met Vervoordt at design fairs in Maastricht and Venice.
‘When I saw the kind of work he was doing, I thought, This man could design Batman’s house. I had to work with him,’ West told Architectural Digest in February 2020, when the magazine featured their ‘futuristic Belgian monastery’ on the cover.
‘It was a coup to get Axel to come to Calabasas to redo a McMansion, which is essentially what the house was.’
West had interviewed Vervoordt for a 2018 feature in The Hollywood Reporter.
‘You always say, ‘Think globally, act locally.’ So even now one of the requests I have for you is: How do we build our furniture in L.A. and not have it be stopped at customs, coming from Belgium?’ West asked.
Vervoort replied: ‘I think we’re searching for something that belongs to it, that was always there, and that’s gonna make it timeless more in the future, but it’s also connected to the origin.
‘That’s always the search that’s going very far in the past and that way you go far in the future as well.’