New York justice returns 30 works of art looted from Cambodia and Indonesia

A prosecutor in New York, home to a major antiquities trade, has returned works sold or transferred illegally by networks of American dealers and traders, including one convicted and jailed in India.

The New York Justice Department announced on Friday that it had returned 30 looted works of art to Cambodia and Indonesia. Three million dollars’ worth were illegally sold or transferred by networks of American traders and traffickers, including one convicted and imprisoned in India.

New York Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a press release that he returned 27 pieces in Phnom Penh and three in Jakarta during two ceremonies a few days ago. Among them is a bronze of the Hindu deity Shiva (“The Shiva Triad”) looted from Cambodia and a stone bas-relief from the 13th–16th empire. century stolen from Indonesia. Cambodian Ambassador Keo Chhea and Indonesian Consul General Adi praised the cooperation of the United States with their countries. “protect the soul of our common heritage”.

Prosecutor Bragg pointed the finger at art dealers Subhash Kapoor, an Indian-American, and Nancy Wiener, an American. Subhash Kapoor, accused of running a ring trafficking in stolen works in Southeast Asia to sell in his Manhattan gallery, has been the target of a “Hidden Idol” investigation by the US justice system for more than a decade.

Arrested in 2011 in Germany, returned to India, where he has been imprisoned since then, he was tried and sentenced to 13 years in prison in November 2022. Indicted in absentia in the United States in 2019 and wanted in New Delhi by the New York justice system with others for “conspiracy to traffic in stolen works of art”the merchant denies the charges against him. “Mr. Kapoor’s Release Suspended”assured Mr. Bragg, whose services found about 2,500 works from his network worth $143 million between 2011 and 2023. “We are continuing to investigate large-scale smuggling networks targeting Southeast Asian antiquities. While we have made progress and dismantled the networks, there is clearly still a lot of work to do., the prosecutor admitted. Nancy Wiener, convicted in 2021 of trafficking in stolen works of art, ended up donating a Shiva bronze to the Denver Art Museum (Colorado) in 2007, which was seized by New York justice in 2023.


Since 2017, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has been leading an international campaign to return the artworks. Under Attorney Bragg’s auspices, over two years, nearly 1,200 coins worth $250 million were returned to 25 countries, including Cambodia, China, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq, Greece, Turkey, and Italy. New York is a center for the trade, and several works have been seized from museums, including the prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET), and from collectors in recent years.

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