In Stolen Art Investigation, The United States Returns 250 Antiques to India

NEW YORK — In a long-running probe into a stolen art enterprise, US officials returned roughly 250 antiques to India on Thursday.

The goods, believed to be worth $15 million, were presented to the Indian Consulate in New York City at a ceremony. Authorities said the centerpiece is a $4 million bronze Shiva Nataraja.

The event is the result of a lengthy investigation by the Manhattan district attorney’s office and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Thousands of artifacts were reportedly smuggled into the United States by trader Subhash Kapoor, who has rejected the charges.

In a statement, District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. stated the case “serves as a strong warning that those who maraud hallowed sanctuaries in pursuit of selfish profit are committing crimes not only against a country’s legacy but also against its present and future.”

Authorities claim Kapoor, who is now imprisoned in India and faces charges there pending a request for extradition to the United States, used his Arts of the Past Museum in New York to export plundered antiquities from India and other Southeast Asian nations. According to Vance, the inquiry resulted in the seizure of 2,500 antiquities worth $143 million and the conviction of six Kapoor co-conspirators.

Authorities claimed the Shiva Nataraja statue was sold by the mother of Nancy Wiener, a gallery owner who pleaded guilty to conspiracy and possession of stolen goods earlier this month. According to them, Nancy Wiener sold plundered pieces to prominent institutions in Australia and Singapore.

As part of the inquiry, the district attorney’s office returned more than two dozen antiquities worth $3.8 million to Cambodia in June. In April, another 33 artifacts were returned to Afghanistan.

According to court filings filed in New York, Kapoor went to great pains to get the antiques, many of which were Hindu deity sculptures, and then faked their origin using fraudulent documentation. According to reports, Kapoor scoured the globe for antiques plundered from temples, residences, and archaeological sites. Some of the antiquities were discovered in Kapoor’s New York storage lockers.

According to US authorities, Kapoor had the objects washed and restored to remove any damage caused by unlawful excavation before illegally exporting them to the United States.

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