Thursday 24 July 2014

US Seizures of Indian Statues

The US good guys stop the movement of looted item where
so many (Ind, HK, Thai, UK) had failed
I do not seem to have covered this story earlier, and should have done as it shows something about the movement of recently looted material through many countries to obscure the non-existence of licit origins. A recent article about a case in Canada mentions part of this story (Douglas Quan, 'Canada balks at returning statue believed stolen from world heritage site in India',, July 22, 2014).
Earlier this year, a sandstone sculpture from the 11th or 12th century that had been on Interpol’s list of top 10 most wanted stolen pieces of art was returned to India. The 350-pound sculpture representing the deities Vishnu and Lakshmi had been stolen in 2009 from the Gadgach Temple in India. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents learned that the sculpture had been transported to Hong Kong from India. From there, it was sold to a dealer in Thailand and then re-sold to a buyer in London, officials said. The London buyer shipped the sculpture to New York City for an exhibition in March 2010. Officials intercepted it before it could be shipped back to London.
The London owner is not named. There are more details here:
The investigation that led to this repatriation began on April 13, 2010, when HSI New York special agents received information that the Indian sandstone sculptures recently looted from India were being offered for sale in the US. HSI special agents discovered that the 'Vishnu and Lakshmi' sculpture was transported from India to Hong Kong. From there, it was sold to a dealer in Thailand, and then resold to a buyer in London. The London buyer shipped the sculpture to New York City for an exhibition in March 2010. On April 15, 2010, HSI special agents recovered the piece while it was being shipped back to London. On July 12, 2010, as a direct result of the 'Vishnu and Lakshmi' seizure, a sister piece, the 'Vishnu and Parvati', was seized. It was transported to Hong Kong, sold to a buyer in New York and then sold and shipped to a buyer in Basel, Switzerland. On July 7, 2011, the Indian black stone Bodhisattva figure was discovered being smuggled into America at Newark Airport by US Customs and Border Protection officers. HSI special agents seized it after discovering that its accompanying paperwork declared Great Britain as a false country of origin. In addition, the item was grossly undervalued.
Again, the dealers are not named. The case is not discussed by "Cultural Property Observer' who prefers to keep quiet about cases like this which call into doubt his own lobbying activities trying to get stuff 'laundered' through being taken to other countries from where they are then imported into the US freed from scrutiny. This is precisely why we should be talking about these cases and seeing how we can combat this problem.  If the dealers have any propositions, let us hear them.

ICE returns recovered, 'most wanted' stolen antiquities to India, January 14, 2014
US returns three ancient stolen sculptures worth $1.5 million to India: January 15, 2014

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