Around 1,000-Year-Old Shiva Nataraja Murti Among 248 Stolen Antiquities Returned To India By US
A 12th century bronze Shiva Nataraj Murti is among the 248 stolen antiquities handed over to India by the United States authorities during a repatriation ceremony at the Indian consulate in New York.
The return of the 248 antiquities, which are valued at $15 million, was announced by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance at the ceremony attended by India Consul General Randhir Jaiswal and US Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Deputy Special Agent in Charge Erik Rosenblatt.
"This extraordinary assemblage of artifacts, recovered from five different criminal investigations over the past decade, embodies the timeless cultural and cosmic bridge between ancient and modern-day India," Manhattan District Attorney (DA) Cy Vance, Jr said in a statement on Thursday (28 October).
The huge haul of antiquities were traced as part of the long-running investigation of a stolen art scheme.
Vance said the event also serves as a potent reminder that individuals who "maraud sacred temples" in pursuit isof individual profit are committing crimes not only against a country's heritage but also its present and future. He said the 248 pieces is the "largest such transfer of antiquities" to India.
Among the items returned, 235 were seized following the investigation of Jailed art dealer Subhash Kapoor.
The District Attorney's office said that for many years, the Manhattan DA's Antiquities Trafficking Unit, along with law enforcement partners at HSI, investigated Kapoor and his co-conspirators for the illegal looting, exportation, and sale of ancient art from Afghanistan, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and other nations.
Kapoor and his co-defendants generally smuggled looted antiquities into Manhattan and sold the pieces through his Madison Avenue-based gallery, Art of the Past. From 2011 to 2020, the DA's Office and HSI recovered more than 2,500 items trafficked by Kapoor and his network.
HSI New York Acting Special Agent in Charge Ricky Patel said these artifacts are part of India's rich cultural heritage and they are going back to the people of India.
"When items like these are stolen and looted, we are determined to make things right, and ultimately return them home where they belong," Patel said.
The remaining items returned included 10 pieces seized from Matreiya, the former gallery of known trafficker Nayef Homsi who was convicted by the District Attorney's Office in 2015.
Other items from the same seizure were repatriated to India in August 2020. A bronze Shiva Nataraja, circa 12th century, valued at USD 4 million, that was stolen in the 1960s from a temple and smuggled into New York before being sold by Doris Wiener, whose daughter, Nancy Wiener, was convicted by the Office in 2021.
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