NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. authorities returned about 250 antiquities to India on Thursday in a long-running investigation of a stolen art scheme.
These items were worth $15 million and were given to the Indian Consulate of New York City during an event. Authorities said that the centerpiece was a $4 million bronze Shiva Nataraja.
The ceremony stems from a sprawling probe by the Manhattan district attorney’s office and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Tens of thousands of antiquities were allegedly illegally imported into the United States through dealers. Subhash Kapoor,The allegations were denied by the other party.
The case “serves as a potent reminder that individuals who maraud sacred temples in pursuit of individual profit are committing crimes not only against a country’s heritage but also its present and future,” District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said in a statement.
Authorities say Kapoor — jailed in India and facing charges there pending a U.S. extradition request — used his Arts of the Past gallery in New York to traffic looted treasures from India and various 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 owner, and pleaded guilty this month in court to conspiracy and possessing stolen property. They claimed Nancy Wiener was a looter who sold stolen items to prominent museums in Australia, Singapore and elsewhere.
In June, the district attorney’s office returned more than two dozen artifacts worth $3.8 million to Cambodia as part of the investigation. Additional 33 artifacts were also sent to Afghanistan in April.
New York Court documents state that Kapoor went to great lengths to secure the artifacts. Many were Hindu statues and then he falsified their provenance by using fake documents. The papers state that Kapoor went around looking for ancient antiquities from archaeological and temple sites, as well as homes. Some of the artifacts were recovered from Kapoor’s storage units in New York.
According to U.S. Prosecutors, Kapoor cleaned and repaired the objects to eliminate any damage caused by illegal excavation. Then, he illegally exported the items to the United States.