Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr. revealed on Monday that 33 objects valued at $1.8 million will be returned to Afghanistan. The news was announced at a repatriation ceremony attended by Roya Rahmani, Afghan ambassador to the United States, and Eric Silverman, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations acting assistant special agent-in-charge.
According to a release on the Manhattan D.A.’s website, the repatriated objects were recovered from the collection of Subhash Kapoor, who for years has been under investigation from the Manhattan D.A.’s antiquities trafficking unit and HSI “for the illegal looting, exportation, and sale of ancient art from Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Thailand, Nepal, Indonesia, Myanmar, and other nations.”
The news release states that Kapoor and his associates sold stolen antiquities through the Madison Avenue gallery Art of the Past. Last year, the Manhattan D.A. filed extradition paper work for Kapoor, who is currently incarcerated in India. Between 2011 and 2020, the D.A.’s office and HSI recovered over 2,500 objects valued at a total of $143 million trafficked by Kapoor and his colleagues.
Among the objects repatriated to Afghanistan are a schist statue dating to the 3rd century, a bronze mask of Silenus from the 2nd century, and a bronze standing Buddha dating to the 3rd or 4th century. The New York Times reports that the artifacts will be stewarded by the National Museum in Kabul.
“These recovered works are irreplaceable pieces of Afghanistan’s diverse culture and rich history,” Rahmani said in a statement. “It is my greatest honor to help facilitate their return home.”