The U.S. has returned 307 looted treasures to India as half of a 15-year investigation into worldwide trafficking networks, the Manhattan District Attorney’s workplace introduced Monday.
More than three-quarters of the repatriated objects, which have an estimated worth of over US$4 million, are linked to the disgraced New York art dealer Subhash Kapoor, who’s at the moment on trial for smuggling offenses in India.
According to U.S. prosecutors, Kapoor and his co-conspirators trafficked hundreds of artifacts plundered from temples, ruins and archaeological websites. The looting ring then falsified authentication paperwork and bought the antiquities by means of the dealer’s New York gallery, Art of the Past.
In 2011, the Indian American dealer was arrested in Germany and despatched to face prices in India. The subsequent yr, 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 half of investigations into Kapoor.
Among them is an elaborately carved marble archway, known 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 pictures of numerous treasures “misleading 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 personal assortment. The arch was later donated to the Yale University Art Gallery, which stated in March that it had delivered objects from its collections to investigators after being “introduced with info indicating that … (they) had been stolen from their international locations of origin.”
A ‘WORLDWIDE FRAUD’
Kapoor’s trial in India’s Tamil Nadu state started final yr, with the dealer now having already served over a decade in jail. Though he pleaded not responsible, and continues to be awaiting a verdict, governments and art establishments have already returned a whole bunch of objects linked to his gallery to their international locations of origin.
In 2016 the U.S. repatriated greater than 200 Indian artifacts, half of a cargo imported by Kapoor and valued at greater than $100 million, together with non secular statues, bronzes and terracotta items. Earlier this yr, the DA’s workplace returned 24 looted treasures to Cambodia. Kapoor additionally stands accused of dealing with objects plundered from international locations throughout Asia, together with Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nepal.
The National Gallery of Australia has in the meantime returned objects obtained from Kapoor on a number of events, most not too long ago in 2021 when it repatriated greater than a dozen objects bought straight from his gallery. At 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 through his New York-based lawyer Georges Lederman, who stated he expects a verdict from the Indian courtroom within the coming weeks. Speaking to CNN final yr, 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.”
Also among the many objects returned on Monday had been 5 artifacts linked to Nancy Wiener, who final yr pleaded responsible to prices of conspiracy and possession of stolen property. Another one of the objects was seized throughout investigations into the New York art dealer Nayef Homsi, whereas the remaining 66 had been linked to numerous smaller trafficking networks.
In a press assertion, Manhattan District Attorney 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 complicated trafficking rings — the leaders of which confirmed no regard for the cultural or historic significance of these objects.”
The DA workplace’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit, a activity pressure comprising legal professionals, investigators and art specialists, has overseen the return of practically 2,200 antiquities since its formation in December 2017. So far, 22 international locations have benefited from repatriations price an estimated US$160 million, together with — within the final yr alone — Egypt, Italy, Greece and Israel.