New York returns 30 pillaged relics to Cambodia, Indonesia

By AFP   April 26, 2024 | 11:58 pm PT
New York returns 30 pillaged relics to Cambodia, Indonesia
A 10th century Koh Ker-style sandstone sculpture of a Yaksha is prepared ahead of an announcement of the repatriation and return to Cambodia of 30 Cambodian antiquities sold to U.S. collectors and institutions by Douglas Latchford and seized by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., Aug. 8, 2022. Photo by Reuters/Andrew Kelly
New York prosecutors said Friday they had returned to Cambodia and Indonesia 30 antiquities that were looted, sold or illegally transferred by networks of American dealers and traffickers.

The antiquities were valued at a total of $3 million, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said.

Bragg said in a statement that he had returned 27 pieces to Phnom Penh and three to Jakarta in two recent repatriation ceremonies, including a bronze of the Hindu deity Shiva ("Shiva Triad") looted from Cambodia and a stone bas-relief of two royal figures from the Majapahit empire (13th-16th century) stolen from Indonesia.

Bragg accused art dealers Subhash Kapoor, an Indian-American, and American Nancy Wiener in the illegal trafficking of the antiquities.

Kapoor, accused of running a network trafficking in items stolen in Southeast Asia for sale in his Manhattan gallery, has been the target of a U.S. justice investigation dubbed "Hidden Idol" for more than a decade.

Arrested in 2011 in Germany, Kapoor was sent back to India where he was tried and sentenced in November 2022 to 13 years in prison.

Responding to a U.S. indictment for conspiracy to traffic in stolen works of art, Kapoor denied the charges.

"We are continuing to investigate the wide-ranging trafficking networks that... target Southeast Asian antiquities," Bragg said in the statement.

"There is clearly still much more work to do."

Wiener, sentenced in 2021 for trafficking in stolen works of art, sought to sell the bronze Shiva but eventually donated the piece to the Denver (Colorado) Museum of Art in 2007.

The antiquity was seized by the New York courts in 2023.

During Bragg's tenure, the Antiquities Trafficking Unit has recovered nearly 1,200 items stolen from more than 25 countries and valued at more than $250 million.

New York is a major trafficking hub, and several works have been seized in recent years from museums, including the prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Art, and from collectors.

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