US returns 250 antiques to India after investigation into stolen art

Tens of thousands of antiquities were allegedly smuggled into the United States by merchant Subhash Kapoor, who has denied the allegations.

The United States authorities have returned around 250 antiquities to India in a long-running investigation into a stolen art scheme.

The items, worth an estimated $ 15 million, were delivered Thursday during a ceremony at the Indian Consulate in New York City.

The centerpiece is a bronze Shiva Nataraja valued at $ 4 million, authorities said.

The ceremony follows an extensive investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which focused on tens of thousands of antiquities allegedly smuggled into the U.S. by merchant Subhash Kapoor, who has denied the allegations.

The case “serves as a powerful reminder that people who prowl holy temples for individual gain are committing crimes not only against a country’s heritage but also against its present and future,” said District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. it’s a statement.

Some of the stolen items that are returned to India are displayed during a ceremony at the Indian consulate in New York. [Seth Wenig/AP]

Authorities say Kapoor, jailed in India and facing charges there pending an extradition request from the United States, used his Art of the Past gallery in New York to smuggle looted treasures from India and several Southeast Asian countries.

The investigation has resulted in the recovery of 2,500 artifacts valued at $ 143 million and the conviction of six Kapoor co-conspirators, Vance said.

Shiva Nataraja’s bronze was sold by the mother of Nancy Wiener, a gallery operator who pleaded guilty in the case earlier this month to charges of conspiracy and possession of stolen property, authorities said.

Nancy Wiener sold looted items to major museums in Australia and Singapore, they said.

The US authorities have returned some 250 antiquities to India in a long-running investigation into a stolen art scheme. [Seth Wenig/AP]

In June, the district attorney’s office returned more than two dozen artifacts worth $ 3.8 million to Cambodia as part of the investigation. Another 33 objects were sent back to Afghanistan in April.

Court documents filed in New York say that Kapoor went to great lengths to acquire the artifacts, many of them statues of Hindu deities, and then falsified their provenance with forged documents.

They say that Kapoor traveled the world in search of antiquities that had been looted from temples, houses and archaeological sites. Some of the artifacts were recovered from Kapoor’s storage units in New York.

Kapoor had the items cleaned and repaired to remove any damage from illegal excavations, then illegally exported them to the United States from their home countries, according to US prosecutors.



Reference-www.aljazeera.com

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