Kim Kardashian Denies Buying Ancient Roman Statue That Officials Believe Was 'Smuggled' Out of Italy
Kim Kardashian has denied buying a Roman statue Italian officials believe was "smuggled illegally" into the United States after the federal government filed a forfeiture claim for its return.
The statue, identified as "Fragment of Myron Samian Athena - limestone - 1st -2nd century A.D," was seized at the Port of Los Angeles in June 2016 after a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer reported a shipment of "possibly protected cultural property from Italy" to Homeland Security, according to court documents obtained by PEOPLE.
The statue was a part of a shipment described in customs forms as 40 pieces of "Antiques & Modern Furniture & Decorations Objects" valued at $745,882, with an importer listed as "Kim Kardashian dba [doing business as] Noel Roberts Trust," the filing read.
A representative for Kardashian did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment, though they told NBC News that the KKW Beauty mogul "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 authorization and because it was never received, she was unaware of the transaction," the spokesperson said. "We encourage an investigation and hope that it gets returned to the rightful owners."
Per the complaint, officials investigating the origins of the statue obtained a sale invoice of the statue by Belgian interior designer Axel Vervoordt, whom Kardashian had worked with to design her Hidden Hills home, to Noel Robert Trust dated on March 11, 2016.
During the investigation, U.S. customs agents found an unsworn affidavit signed by Robert Lauwers, the director of Vervoordt's art-historical department, stating that the statue "does not originate from Italy" — which allegedly contradicted an invoice from Masterpiece International, the broker of the sale, indicating that the artwork is from Italy.
Vervoodt did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment. A representative for Vervoodt 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."
According to the complaint, the statue has since been examined by an archaeologist from Italy's Ministry of Cultural Heritage, who concluded that it's of classical Peplophoros style from the early to mid-Roman Empire period.
As the statue "had not been reported as a fortuitous find nor the subject of a request for an export license, which both are compulsory by law in Italy since 1909," the archaeologist believes it was "looted, smuggled and illegally exported from Italy," the filing read.
In the forfeiture claim, federal officials said that Italy's Carabinieri for the Protection of Cultural Heritage has "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."