The Manhattan District Attorney’s office said on Thursday that it had returned 248 objects to India. These items, collectively valued at $15 million, were uncovered after a decade of five different criminal investigations. Of the 248 items repatriated yesterday, 235 had been brought in to the country by Subhash Kapoor.
Once a respected dealer of antiquities in New York, Kapoor is accused of leading a network of international traders to procure and sell looted antiquities from Afghanistan, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. He is currently awaiting trial in India and in the U.S., where he is also a citizen. In the latter country, he has been charged with 86 criminal counts of grand larceny, possession of stolen property, and conspiracy to defraud.
Works that passed through Kapoor’s hands have ended up at renowned institutions like the Met, the National Gallery of Australia, the Peabody Essex Museum, and others. Since these investigative units first started looking into Kapoor’s network, they have uncovered more than 2,000 stolen items connected to the disgraced dealer.
Among the works returned on Thursday was a bronze sculpture of the Hindu god Shiva dancing. She is shown encircled by flames, a depiction that is typically called Shiva Nataraja. The ancient work, dated to the 12th century and valued at $4 million, was stolen from an Indian temple in the 1960s. It was sold to Doris Weiner, whose gallery specialized in antiquities and allegedly got its wares from Kapoor and fellow trafficker Douglas Latchford. Earlier this month, Weiner’s daughter Nancy, who took over the gallery and is also accused of having sold looted works, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy.
“Today’s event also serves as a potent reminder that individuals who maraud sacred temples in pursuit of individual profit are committing crimes not only against a country’s heritage but also its present and future,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr. at the repatriation ceremony yesterday.