Two artifacts, stolen from India several years ago and linked to an Indian American art dealer whom authorities called one of the most prolific smugglers in the world, were returned to India Aug. 15.
Following an extensive joint investigation by American and British teams, the Indian artifacts, a limestone carved relief and Navaneetha Krishna Bronze figure, were finally handed over to the Indian High Commissioner to the U.K., Ruchi Ghanashyam, on the occasion of India’s 73rd Independence Day.
Art dealer Subhash Kapoor and seven others were recently charged in Manhattan, New York, with trafficking more than $140 million in stolen antiquities. (Read earlier India-West story here: https://bit.ly/2JFK82m)
An individual in the U.K. who possessed the items came forward to Homeland Security Investigations expressing a desire to surrender the pieces, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a news release. “In June 2019, working with the MPS (Metropolitan Police Service), the individual cooperated and turned over the artifacts to authorities,” it said.
The limestone relief is estimated to date from 1st Century BC to 1st Century AD, originating from Andhra Pradesh. The bronze figure is estimated to date from 17th Century AD, originating from Tamil Nadu, ICE stated. Both items will be physically examined by domain experts at a later date to establish their exact period and original location.
“The cultural significance of artifacts looted from regions around the world extends beyond a monetary value. The pieces, like those recovered through this operation, are stolen fragments of history; and it is an honor to return them to their rightful home country,” said Peter C. Fitzhugh, special agent in charge for HSI New York. “HSI recognizes the importance of both international and local partnerships in locating pilfered antiquities and cultural property, and it is through these repatriations that new generations are able to experience a part of their nation’s story.”
According to ICE, the repatriated artifacts are just two of more than 2,600 antiquities that have been recovered around the world. The investigation remains ongoing, it said.
“The Metropolitan Police’s Art and Antiques Unit values the opportunity to work closely with international law enforcement to combat cultural heritage crime. The return of these two items to India is an example of the good results that can be achieved by working together,” said Tim Wright, Detective Chief Inspector, Central Specialist Economic Crime for the MPS.