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Bringing Back Our Gods: US Returns 307 Smuggled Antiquities Worth $4 Million

In a repatriation ceremony at the Indian consulate in Newyork, US authorities returned antiquities worth $4 million i.e. nearly Rs 33 crore to India.

A total of 307 antiquities, most of which were from those smuggled by noted looter Subhash Kapoor, who is currently serving prison term in Trichy in an ongoing trial.

“We are proud to return hundreds of stunning pieces back to the people of India,” said District Attorney Bragg, as quoted by the press release by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

“Today we are proud to join our partners from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office to return an incredible 307 stolen works of art and antiquities to their rightful home in India“ said Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York Acting Special Agent in Charge Michael Alfonso.

He added that this repatriation is the result of a globe spanning, fifteen-year investigation and that HSI will continue to investigate artifacts with ”little or no provenance, or of questionable origin“ to ensure the return of “these priceless pieces of history to their rightful homes.”

As per the release, the District Attorney’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit, along with law enforcement partners at Homeland Security Investigations, have investigated KAPOOR and his co-conspirators for over a decade. They have been probing them for the illegal looting, exportation, and 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 $143 million, said the release.

Five of the antiquities were seized in an investigation into Nancy Wiener and one into Nayef Homsi, while the remaining 66 were said to be stolen by various small trafficking networks.

One of the pieces being returned today is the Arch Parikara, which is crafted from marble and is dated to the 12-13th century. This is valued at approximately $85,000 and was smuggled out of India by Kapoor in 2002.

Of the ones returning home is a Vishnu and Lakshmi with Garuda dating to the 11th century C.E., which was looted from a temple in Central India and smuggled into New York County.

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