More than 300 looted artifacts – mostly linked with disgraced art dealer Subhash Kapoor – have been returned to India.
On Monday, Alvin L. Bragg, Jr. (District Attorney, Manhattan) announced that 307 art commodities were handed over to a representative of the Indian government. Collectively, they were worth over $4 million. Of these, 235 artifacts were linked directly to Subhash Kapoor. Five objects belonged to Nancy Weiner, an antiquities dealer who pled guilty to smuggling stolen objects in 2021. One object belonged to Nayef Homsi, who was charged in 2015 for smuggling stolen artifacts from Nepal.
Subhash Kapoor is perhaps the most notorious art smuggler of the 21st century. Until a decade ago, Kapoor was well-regarded in art circuits for procuring “museum-quality” artifacts from South and South-East Asia. However, this changed when he was first arrested in 2011 on the charges of smuggling. Manhattan District Attorney’s office then launched a full-scale investigation into Subhash Kapoor to know the full depth of his crimes. Between 2011-2022, investigations revealed that Kapoor had smuggled more than 2600 antiquities and artifacts from across the globe. While India remained the most common source of these artifacts, other countries included Afghanistan, Cambodia, Pakistan, Nepal, and Thailand. Collectively, the confiscated artifacts were valued at $143 million.
There has been an outstanding arrest warrant for Kapoor in Manhattan since 2012; in 2019, he and his associates were indicted. While he is currently serving time in India since 2012, the US authorities are trying to extradite him. It must be noted that experts estimate thousands of stolen artifacts by him that could still be missing.
One of the returned artifacts is the Arch Parikara – a 12th-century marble sculpture. Sold in 2002, the work had been in the Yale University collection since 2007 until March this year when it was confiscated. Speaking of the return of antiquities, Bragg said: “We are proud to return hundreds of stunning pieces back to the people of India. These antiquities were stolen by multiple complex and sophisticated trafficking rings – the leaders of which showed no regard for the cultural or historical significance of these objects.”