New York returns Indian-American smuggler's stolen Shiva statue to Cambodia - Hindustan Times
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New York returns Indian-American smuggler's stolen Shiva statue to Cambodia

May 02, 2024 02:33 PM IST

US authorities hand over $3 million worth of stolen artifacts to Cambodia, Indonesia.

New York authorities have successfully repatriated 30 stolen antiquities to Cambodia and Indonesia.

The smuggled Shiva Triad(Manhattan District Attorney)
The smuggled Shiva Triad(Manhattan District Attorney)

The artefacts, worth around $3 million, were involved in illicit trade facilitated by a network of American dealers and traffickers.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg announced the return of these cultural treasures.

“We are continuing to investigate the wide-ranging trafficking networks that continue to target Southeast Asian antiquities. While we have made significant progress and have dismantled several prominent networks, there is clearly still much more work to do. These repatriation ceremonies show our continued commitment to protecting cultural heritage and returning stolen antiquities back home,” Bragg said.

The returned collection includes 27 artefacts from Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, and three from Indonesia’s Jakarta.

Among these are a bronze idol of the Hindu god Shiva, known as the ‘Shiva Triad,’ which was illicitly removed from Cambodia, and a stone bas-relief depicting two royal figures from the Majapahit empire, dating back to the 13th-16th century, which was stolen from Indonesia.

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Cambodia royal ambassador Keo Chhea said, “Today’s ceremony isn’t just about returning lost treasures; it’s a renewal of commitment between nations to safeguard the soul of our shared heritage. This commitment, built on robust cooperation, is what makes today significant.”

“Cambodia and the United States are setting a global standard for protecting and repatriating cultural heritage. Through this united effort, we ensure the preservation of our collective past for future generations.”

Who is the Indian-American smuggler?

Subhash Kapoor, an Indian-American art dealer, and Nancy Wiener, an American dealer, were specifically named by Bragg for their roles in the trafficking of these items.

Kapoor, who has been under investigation by U.S. justice authorities for over a decade in an operation named “Hidden Idol,” was arrested in Germany in 2011. He was extradited to India, where he faced trial and was sentenced in November 2022 to 13 years in prison for his crimes.

Despite Kapoor’s denial of the charges against him, the investigation into the broader network of antiquities trafficking continues.

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Wiener, who was sentenced in 2021 for her involvement in the trafficking of stolen art, had attempted to sell the bronze Shiva. However, she later donated it to the Denver Museum of Art in Colorado in 2007. This piece was among those seized by New York courts in 2023.

Under Bragg’s watch, to date, nearly 1,200 items from over 25 countries, valued at more than $250 million, have been retrieved.

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