US returns antiquities to India in stolen art investigation

NEW YORK , The U.S. authorities have returned approximately 250 antiquities from India to complete a long-running investigation into a scheme to steal art.

US returns antiquities to India in stolen art investigation

NEW YORK , The U.S. authorities have returned approximately 250 antiquities from India to complete a long-running investigation into a scheme to steal art.

These items, estimated to be worth $15 million, were given over at a ceremony held at the Indian Consulate of New York City. Authorities said that the centerpiece is a $4 million bronze Shiva Nataraja.

This ceremony is the result of a lengthy investigation by the Manhattan district attorney's Office and the Homeland Security Investigations arm U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The investigation focused on the alleged smuggling of antiquities into the United States by Subhash Kaoor, who denies the allegations.

District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. stated that the case "serves to remind individuals who maraud sacred shrines in pursuit of personal profit are committing crimes against a country’s heritage, as well as its present and future."

Authorities claim that Kapoor, who is currently in India on charges pending an extradition request from the United States, used his Arts of the Past gallery to traffic stolen treasures from India and other countries in Southeast Asia. Vance stated that the investigation led to the discovery of more than 2,500 artifacts worth $143 million, and six Kapoor conspirators being convicted.

According to authorities, the Shiva Nataraja bronze sold by Nancy Wiener's mother, who was a gallery operator. She pleaded guilty this month to conspiracy and possession with stolen property. They claimed Nancy Wiener was a looter who sold stolen items to major museums in Australia, Singapore and elsewhere.

As part of the investigation, more than 20 artifacts valued at $3.8 million were returned to Cambodia by the district attorney's office in June. In April, 33 additional objects were returned to Afghanistan.

New York court papers state that Kapoor went to great lengths to obtain the artifacts. Many of them were statues of Hindu gods. Then, he falsified their provenance using forged documents. According to them, Kapoor traveled around the globe looking for antiquities that were looted from temples and homes as well as archaeological sites. Some artifacts were found in Kapoor's New York storage units.

According to U.S. Prosecutors, Kapoor had the items cleaned and repaired in order to remove any damage caused by illegal excavation. Then, he illegally exported the items to the United States from the countries where they were originally found.

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