Kim Kardashian was named in court filings alleging that she was involved in importing an ancient Roman statue, which officials said was stolen from Italy — but the reality star has denied any involvement in the matter.
In court documents filed on Friday, April 30, the U.S. government is seeking the forfeit of a "looted, smuggled and illegally exported" antique that was believed to be being delivered to the 40-year-old.
In a statement to CNN, a spokesperson for Kardashian said, "We believe that it may have been purchased using her name without authorization and because it was never received (and) she was unaware of the transaction," adding that the SKIMS founder "never purchased this piece" and it was "the first that she has learned of its existence."
"We encourage an investigation and hope that it gets returned to the rightful owners," the spokesperson concluded.
The statue, identified as "Fragment of Myron's Samian Athena" and believed to date back to the first or second century AD, had reportedly been displayed at Axel Vervoordt's gallery at the 2011 TEFAF art fair. When the statue was seized by US Customs and Border Protection in 2016 in Los Angeles, the importer's name was allegedly listed as "Kim Kardashian dba (doing business as) Noel Roberts Trust."
The Noel Roberts Trust is reportedly tied to Kardashian and West's real estate purchases, and Vervoordt — who was identified in court documents as one of the item's shippers — has apparently worked with Kardashian and soon-to-be ex-husband Kanye West in the past.
A representative for Vervoodt told CNN that they were "informed only yesterday that the U.S. government has filed for forfeiture" of the statue and "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 government reportedly had "two professors with training in archaeology and materials" and an archaeologist from Italy’s Ministry of Cultural Heritage examine the statue. They determined that the fragment sculpture is made out of marble, and it may be a copy of an ancient Greek statue. They dated the statue to the 6th century B.C.E. to 4th century C.E., and the archaeologist "opined that the defendant statute was looted, smuggled and illegally exported from Italy," according to the suit.
Documentation provided after its confiscation claimed that Vervoordt purchased it in 2012 from Galerie Chenel, which listed the work as having come from an "Old German collection, bought before 1980," according to the suit. However, the suit claimed that the statue on the 2012 Chenel invoice was a whole work and not a fragment, like the one in question, according to Robb Report.
The Italian police force reportedly "requested that all efforts be made for the return of the defendant statue to Italy in accordance with the bilateral agreement between Italy and the United States."
The Noel Roberts Trust, Kardashian and Vervoordt are not listed as defendants, but the filing noted that their interests may be "adversely affected by these proceedings."
The statue is currently being held by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.