Metro

$15M in relics looted by NYC art dealer returned to India: prosecutors

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Millions of dollars worth of looted Indian treasures seized as a part of a long-running probe into a crooked Manhattan antiquities dealer were finally returned to their home country on Thursday, prosecutors announced.

The 248 relics — valued at $15 million — were repatriated during a ceremony attended by India Consul General Randhir Jaiswal, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office said.

Of those, 235 were linked to “temple raider” Subhash Kapoor, who has been under investigation by the DA’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit and US Homeland Security since at least 2011.

Among the items returned Thursday was a $4 million bronze statue of the Hindu deity Shiva dating back to the 12th Century.

The disgraced dealer was busted in 2012 while traveling through Germany and hauled to India, where he remains jailed, accused of trafficking in sacred idols stolen from religious sites.

There were 235 relics that were connected to Subhash Kapoor (above).
There were 235 relics that were connected to Subhash Kapoor (above).

A few weeks after his arrest, federal agents seized more than $100 million dollars worth of rare sculptures from Kapoor’s since-shuttered Upper East Side gallery Arts of the Past and four Manhattan storage sites.

Authorities say Kapoor — who is the subject of a US extradition request — was a key player in an art smuggling ring that looted and exported precious items from various countries in Southeast Asia.

Kapoor allegedly traveled the world searching for antiquities stolen from temples, homes and archaeological dig sites and illegally smuggled them into the US.

He then created fake ownership histories for the ancient pieces and peddled them through his Madison Avenue gallery, according to court documents.

The more than decade-long investigation into Kapoor has turned up 2,500 antiques valued at $143 million, prosecutors said.

Some of the stolen objects being returned to India are displayed during a ceremony at the Indian consulate in New York, Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021. U.S. authorities have returned about 250 antiquities to India in a long-running investigation of a stolen art scheme. The items, worth an estimated $15 million, were handed over on Thursday during a ceremony at the Indian consulate in New York City.
The 248 relics in total were worth about $15 million.
Seth Wenig/AP
Some of the stolen objects being returned to India are displayed during a ceremony at the Indian consulate in New York, Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021.
Subhash Kapoor, who had been connected to most of the valuables, was arrested nine years ago.
Seth Wenig/AP
This bronze Shiva Nataraja is valued at $4 million.
This bronze Shiva Nataraja is valued at $4 million.
Seth Wenig/AP

“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,” Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance said in a statement.

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