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Artifacts seized from U.S. art dealer among 307 treasures returned to India


The U.S. has returned 307 looted treasures to India as a part of a 15-year investigation into worldwide trafficking networks, the Manhattan District Lawyer’s workplace introduced Monday.

Greater than three-quarters of the repatriated gadgets, which have an estimated worth of over US$4 million, are linked to the disgraced New York artwork seller Subhash Kapoor, who’s at present on trial for smuggling offenses in India.

In keeping with U.S. prosecutors, Kapoor and his co-conspirators trafficked 1000’s of artifacts plundered from temples, ruins and archaeological websites. The looting ring then falsified authentication paperwork and offered the antiquities by means of the seller’s New York gallery, Artwork of the Previous.

In 2011, the Indian American seller was arrested in Germany and despatched to face prices in India. The subsequent 12 months, the U.S. issued him with an arrest warrant on counts together with grand larceny, conspiracy, scheme to defraud and legal possession of stolen property.

In an investigation dubbed “Operation Hidden Idol,” U.S. authorities seized greater than 2,500 artifacts — price an estimated $143 million — with hyperlinks to Kapoor. He was indicted in 2019, and officers have since utilized to have him extradited after his trial concludes.

Of the 307 artifacts handed again at Monday’s ceremony, which was held on the Indian Consulate in New York, some 235 had been seized as a part of investigations into Kapoor.

Amongst them is an elaborately carved marble archway, referred to as the “Arch Parikara,” which dates to the twelfth or thirteenth centuries and is price an estimated $85,000. Investigators say Kapoor had seen pictures of the arch, alongside photos of varied treasures “mendacity within the grass or on the bottom,” and had helped smuggle it out of India to the U.S. in 2002.

He then allegedly laundered the artifact into a non-public assortment. The arch was later donated to the Yale College Artwork Gallery, which stated in March that it had delivered gadgets from its collections to investigators after being “introduced with data indicating that … (they) had been stolen from their nations of origin.”


Kapoor’s trial in India’s Tamil Nadu state started final 12 months, with the seller now having already served over a decade in jail. Although he pleaded not responsible, and remains to be awaiting a verdict, governments and artwork establishments have already returned a whole bunch of things linked to his gallery to their nations of origin.

In 2016 the U.S. repatriated greater than 200 Indian artifacts, a part of a cargo imported by Kapoor and valued at greater than $100 million, together with spiritual statues, bronzes and terracotta items. Earlier this 12 months, the DA’s workplace returned 24 looted treasures to Cambodia. Kapoor additionally stands accused of dealing with gadgets plundered from nations throughout Asia, together with Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nepal.

The Nationwide Gallery of Australia has in the meantime returned gadgets obtained from Kapoor on a number of events, most lately in 2021 when it repatriated greater than a dozen gadgets bought instantly from his gallery. On the time, the museum’s director, Nick Mitzevich, instructed CNN that Kapoor had “initiated a worldwide fraud that affected many galleries world wide.”

Seven years earlier, Australia’s then-prime minister, Tony Abbott, oversaw the return of two 900-year-old artworks to his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi.

Kapoor declined CNN’s request for remark by way of his New York-based lawyer Georges Lederman, who stated he expects a verdict from the Indian courtroom within the coming weeks. Talking to CNN final 12 months, Lederman had stated that Kapoor intends to contest US prices on double jeopardy grounds, as “the underlying conduct he’s being charged for in New York is similar for which he has already served in India.”

Additionally among the many gadgets returned on Monday had been 5 artifacts linked to Nancy Wiener, who final 12 months pleaded responsible to prices of conspiracy and possession of stolen property. One other one of many gadgets was seized throughout investigations into the New York artwork seller Nayef Homsi, whereas the remaining 66 had been linked to varied smaller trafficking networks.

In a press assertion, Manhattan District Lawyer Alvin L. Bragg, Jr. stated he was “proud” to return the artifacts “to the individuals of India,” including: “These antiquities had been stolen by a number of complicated and complex trafficking rings — the leaders of which confirmed no regard for the cultural or historic significance of those objects.”

The DA workplace’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit, a job pressure comprising legal professionals, investigators and artwork consultants, has overseen the return of practically 2,200 antiquities since its formation in December 2017. Up to now, 22 nations have benefited from repatriations price an estimated US$160 million, together with — within the final 12 months alone — Egypt, Italy, Greece and Israel.


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