Returned artifacts include 11th century Vishnu and Lakshmi with Garuda and 12-13th century Arch Parikara
The United States has returned 307 antiquities valued at nearly $4 million stolen from India by Subhash Kapoor, a prolific looter, including a 12-13th century artifact, and multiple smaller trafficking networks.
Kapoor and his co-defendants generally smuggled looted antiquities into Manhattan and sold the pieces through Kapoorâ€™s Madison Avenue-based gallery, Art of the Past, according to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr.
From 2011 to 2022, the DAâ€™s Office and US Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) recovered more than 2,500 items trafficked by Kapoor and his network. The total value of the pieces recovered exceeds $143 million, Bragg announced Oct 18 in a press release.
One of Kapoorâ€™s pieces being returned is the Arch Parikara, which dates to the 12-13th century and is valued at approximately $85,000. The Arch Parikara first surfaced in photographs depicting the antiquity in a dirty, pre-restoration condition.
These photographsâ€”along with dozens of others depicting antiquities lying in the grass or on the groundâ€”were sent to Kapoor by a supplier of illicit antiquities in India.
The piece was smuggled out of India and into New York in May 2002. Thereafter, Kapoor laundered the Arch Parikara to the Nathan Rubin â€“ Ida Ladd Family Foundation, who donated the piece to the Yale University Art Gallery in 2007.
Another antiquity being returned from another smuggler is the Vishnu and Lakshmi with Garuda dating to the 11th century CE, which was looted from a temple in Central India and smuggled into New York County.
As many as 235 of the antiquities were seized pursuant to the Officeâ€™s investigation into Kapoor, who helped traffic items from Afghanistan, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and other countries, according to the press release.
Five of the antiquities were seized pursuant to the Officeâ€™s investigation into Nancy Wiener, and one pursuant to an investigation into Nayef Homsi. The remaining 66 antiquities were stolen from India by multiple smaller trafficking networks.
All the antiquities were returned during a repatriation ceremony at the Indian Consulate in New York attended by Indiaâ€™s Consul General Randir Jaiswal, and HSI Acting Deputy Special Agent-in-Charge, Tom Lau.
â€œWe are proud to return hundreds of stunning pieces back to the people of India,â€ said Bragg. â€œThese antiquities were stolen by multiple complex and sophisticated trafficking rings â€“ the leaders of which showed no regard for the cultural or historical significance of these objects.â€
Tracking down these antiquities would not be possible without the collaboration of our law enforcement partners at HSI and the outstanding work of our world-class investigators.â€
After a decade long investigation, an arrest warrant was issued for Kapoor in 2012, and in November 2019, Kapoor and his seven co-defendants were indicted for their conspiracy to traffic stolen antiquities.
In July 2020, the DAâ€™s Office filed extradition paperwork for Kapoor, who has been in prison in India since 2012 pending the completion of his ongoing trial. Five of Kapoorâ€™s co-defendants have already been convicted.
Beginning in the 1960s, Doris Wiener dealt and trafficked in South Asian antiquities through her gallery in New York County.
Known for taking â€œshopping trips,â€ where she would travel through South Asia to select stolen antiquities that would later be smuggled into New York, Doris Wiener also sold antiquities with her daughter, Nancy, until Dorisâ€™s death in 2011. Nancy Wiener was arrested in 2016 by the DAâ€™s Office and convicted and sentenced in 2021.
â€œToday we are proud to join our partners from the Manhattan District Attorneyâ€™s Office to return an incredible 307 stolen works of art and antiquities to their rightful home in India,â€ said Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York Acting Special Agent in Charge Michael Alfonso.
â€œThis repatriation is the result of a globe spanning, fifteen-year investigation whereas the investigative team chased leads, followed the money and ultimately seized these pieces, ensuring their return to the people of India,â€ he said.