NEW YORK (AP) – U.S. authorities on Thursday returned around 250 antiques to India as part of a lengthy investigation into a stolen art project.
The items, estimated to be worth $ 15 million, were handed over in a ceremony at the Indian Consulate in New York. The centerpiece is a bronze Shiva Nataraja worth $ 4 million, authorities said.
The ceremony stems from a broad investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the Homeland Security Investigations branch of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The investigation focused on tens of thousands of antiques allegedly smuggled into the United States by dealer Subhash Kapoor, who denied the allegations.
The case “serves as a powerful reminder that individuals who roam sacred temples in search of individual profit commit crimes not only against a country’s heritage, but also against its present and future,” said the Minister. District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. in a statement.
Authorities say Kapoor – jailed in India and charged while awaiting a US extradition request – used his Arts of the Past gallery in New York to traffic looted treasures from India and various countries in it. South East Asia. The investigation 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 owner who pleaded guilty in the case 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.
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 items were returned to Afghanistan in April.
Court documents filed in New York indicate that Kapoor went to extraordinary efforts to acquire the artifacts, many of which are statues of Hindu deities, and then falsified their provenance with forged documents. They say Kapoor traveled the world in search of antiques that had been looted from temples, homes 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 caused by illegal digs, then illegally exported them to the United States from their home country, according to U.S. prosecutors.