US returns 192 stolen artefacts worth USD 3.4 million to Pakistan
Some of the objects being returned today include a Gandharan statute depicting a maitreya, or an enlightened form of the Buddha, which was looted from Pakistan, and smuggled by the trafficking network into New York County during the 1990s.
- United States
The United States has returned 192 stolen antiquities worth USD 3.4 million to Pakistan, the Manhattan District Attorney's (MDA) office in New York has said. "Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr., today announced the return of 192 antiquities collectively valued at nearly USD 3.4 million to the people of Pakistan. Of the antiquities, 187 were seized pursuant to the Office's investigation into smuggler Subhash Kapoor, while the remaining were recovered pursuant to other ongoing criminal investigations," the MDA office said in a statement.
Some of the objects being returned today include a Gandharan statute depicting a Maitreya, or an enlightened form of the Buddha, which was looted from Pakistan, and smuggled by the trafficking network into New York County during the 1990s. In 2012, the Office issued an arrest warrant for Kapoor. In November 2019, the Office indicted Kapoor and his seven co-defendants for their conspiracy to traffic stolen antiquities. In July 2020, the Office filed extradition paperwork with India for the five India-based codefendants and Kapoor, who had been held in prison since 2012 for charges relating to his role in selling stolen Indian antiquities.
Last week, Kapoor and a co-defendant indicted by the office, Sanjeev Asokan, were convicted and sentenced by a Special Court in Kumbakonam, India. Kapoor was convicted for receiving stolen property, habitually dealing in stolen property, and conspiracy, and fined and sentenced to thirteen years in prison. "The Office is continuing to pursue prosecution in the United States. Two of the co-defendants on the recent indictment have already been convicted by the Office, including Richard Salmon in 2020 and Neil Perry in 2021. Three other co-conspirators were also convicted, including Selina Mohamed and Aaron Freedman in 2013 and Sushma Sareen in 2014," the district attorney's office said.
The antiquities were returned during a repatriation ceremony at the Pakistan Consulate that was attended by Ayesha Ali, Consul General of Pakistan in New York, and US Homeland Security Investigations ("HSI") Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge, Thomas Acocella. "Subhash Kapoor was one of the world's most prolific antiquities traffickers, yet thanks to the work of our dedicated investigators and analysts, we have been able to recover thousands of pieces looted by his network. We will continue to pursue full accountability against Mr Kapoor and his co-conspirators, who showed a blatant disregard for the cultural and historic significance of these antiquities," said District Attorney Bragg.
"These remarkable works of art were ruthlessly removed from their rightful home and trafficked without regard for their immense cultural and spiritual value. Homeland Security Investigations New York is proud to stand with our colleagues at the Manhattan District Attorney's Office and our partners from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to ensure these 191 pieces can finally be returned to the people of Pakistan," said Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York Special Agent in Charge Ivan J. Arvelo. The District Attorney's office said it has investigated Kapoor and his co-conspirators for the sale of artifacts from numerous countries all over the world.
Kapoor and his co-defendants generally smuggled looted antiquities into Manhattan and sold the pieces through Kapoor's Madison Avenue-based gallery, Art of the Past. From 2011 to 2022, the D.A.'s Office and HSI recovered more than 2,500 items trafficked by Kapoor and his network. The total value of the pieces recovered exceeds USD 143 million. (ANI)
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