UK police returns stolen Buddha statue to India after 57 years

Police handed over the bronze statue with silver inlay during a ceremony Wednesday in London marking India’s Independence Day.

india Updated: Aug 16, 2018 00:33 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Buddha statue,Independence Day,Stolen statue
Indian high commissioner YK Sinha with a team of Scotland Yard when the 12th century Buddha statue was handed over in the Indian high commission on Wednesday.(HT Photo)

A 12th century Buddha statue stolen from the Archaeological Survey of India’s museum in Nalanda, Bihar, in August 1961 was returned to the Indian high commission by Scotland Yard on the occasion of Independence Day.

Sheila Stewart, detective chief inspector, handed over the bronze statue to high commissioner, YK Sinha, after a flag hoisting ceremony in the Gandhi Hall of India House. The statue was one of 14 stolen from the museum.

It changed hands several times before being delivered to a London dealer for sale. Once the dealer and the owner were made aware that the statue was the same one that had been stolen, they cooperated with the Yard’s Art and Antiques Unit and agreed for it to be returned to India.

The statue was identified at a trade fair in March 2018 by Lynda Albertson of the Association for Research into Crimes Against Art and Vijay Kumar from the India Pride Project, who then alerted police.

An undated picture of a 12th century Buddha statue stolen from India 57 years ago that was returned to the Indian High Commissioner in London. (AFP Photo)

Detective constable, Sophie Hayes, of the Art and Antique Unit, said:“We are delighted to be able to facilitate the return of this important piece of cultural heritage to India. We have established there was no criminality by the current owner or the dealer who was offering it for sale”.

“This case has been a true example of cooperation between law enforcement, the trade and scholars. Particular credit must go to the eagle-eyed informants who made us aware that the missing piece had been located after so many years.”

Michael Ellis, minister for arts, heritage and tourism, said:“As we celebrate India’s Independence Day, I am proud to highlight the latest example of the UK’s cultural diplomacy in action”.

“We are one of the first countries to recover one of the 14 elusive Buddha statues stolen from Nalanda nearly 60 years ago. This underlines how law enforcement and the London art market are working hand in hand to deliver positive cultural diplomacy to the world.”

First Published: Aug 15, 2018 17:07 IST