After the 15 years of investigation, the US authorities returned 307 antiquities that were stolen by multiple smaller trafficking networks to India, valued at nearly 4 million Dollars, according to a press statement released on Monday.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L Bragg Jr on Monday announced that they are returning 307 antiquities valued at nearly USD 4 million to the people of India and the majority of them were seized from disgraced art dealer Subhash Kapoor.
Subhas Kapoor is a looter, who had helped to traffic the items from Afghanistan, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and other countries.
According to the statement, “Five of the antiquities were seized according to the Office’s investigation into Nancy Wiener, and one according to an investigation into Nayef Homsi.”
All the antiquities were returned during a repatriation ceremony at the Indian Consulate in New York attended by India’s Consul General Randhir Jaiswal, and US Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) Acting Deputy Special Agent-in-Charge, Tom Lau.
“We are proud to return hundreds of stunning pieces to the people of India,” the press statement quoted District Attorney Bragg as saying.
“These antiquities were stolen by multiple complex and sophisticated trafficking rings the leaders of which showed no regard for the cultural or historical significance of these objects. Tracking down these antiquities would not be possible without the collaboration of our law enforcement partners at HSI and the outstanding work of our world-class investigators,” he added.
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York Acting Special Agent in Charge Michael Alfonso said, “Today we are proud to join our partners from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office to return an incredible 307 stolen works of art and antiquities to their rightful home in India. This repatriation is the result of a globe-spanning, fifteen-year investigation whereas the investigative team chased leads, followed the money and ultimately seized these pieces, ensuring their return to the people of India,”
He further added that HSI will continue to investigate artefacts with little or no provenance, or of questionable origin, and work with domestic and international partners to return these priceless pieces of history to their rightful homes, the stement reads.
The District Attorney’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit, along with law enforcement partners at Homeland Security Investigations, have investigated Kapoor and his co-conspirators for the illegal looting, exportation, and sale of artefacts from numerous countries all over the world, for over a decade.
Among the pieces being returned is the Arch Parikara, crafted from marble and valued at approximately USD 85,000.
The Arch Parikara first surfaced in photographs depicting antiquity in a dirty, pre-restoration condition. These photographs, along with dozens of others depicting antiquities lying in the grass or on the ground, were sent to Kapoor by a supplier of illicit in India. The piece was smuggled out of India and into New York in May 2002, the statement reads.
Thereafter, Kapoor laundered the Arch Parikara to the Nathan Rubin – Ida Ladd Family Foundation, who donated the piece to the Yale University Art Gallery in 2007, the statement added.
In 2022 alone, the Office has returned 682 antiquities, valued at over USD 84 million to 13 countries. Since its founding, the Antiquities Trafficking Unit has returned nearly 2,200 antiquities, valued at over USD 160 million, to 22 countries.