Friday 23 April 2021

Manhattan D.A.’s Office Returns Lots of Stolen Artefacts from New York Gallery

The Manhattan District Attorney's Office wants us to know that together with the Department of Homeland Security: Press Release, 'Manhattan D.A.’s Office Returns 13 Antiquities to Thailand' April 22, 2021)
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr. today announced the return of 13 antiquities valued at approximately $500,000 to the people of Thailand during a repatriation ceremony attended by Thai Ambassador to the United States [...] For many years, the Manhattan D.A.’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit, along with law enforcement partners at HSI, has been investigating KAPOOR and his co-conspirators for the illegal looting, exportation, and sale of ancient art from Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Thailand, Nepal, Indonesia, Myanmar, and other nations. KAPOOR and his co-defendants generally smuggled looted antiquities into Manhattan and sold the pieces through KAPOOR’S Madison Avenue-based gallery, Art of the Past. From 2011 to 2020, the D.A.’s Office and HSI recovered more than 2,500 items trafficked by KAPOOR and his network. The total value of the pieces recovered exceeds $143 million. The D.A.’s Office first issued an arrest warrant for KAPOOR in 2012. In July 2019, a complaint and series of arrest warrants for KAPOOR and seven co-defendants were filed and an indictment was filed in October 2019. In July 2020, the DA’s Office filed extradition paperwork for KAPOOR, who is currently in prison in India pending the completion of his ongoing trial in Tamil Nadu.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. We know. The fact is that Mr Kapoor did not begin his activities in 2012, but may years before. For a long while a whole load of Asian (mainly) pieces had been passing quite openly through his gallery, and Manhattan D.A.'s office did nothing at all... until the Indians arrested him. Only then did they act.

Just a few days earlier the same DA office returned some stuff to Afghanistan (Tom Mashberg 'Looted Objects From Afghanistan Are Returned' New York Times April 19, 2021). Thirty-three antiquities, many of them delicate lopped-off heads made from stucco, clay and schist, valued at $1.8 million, were handed over to the Afghan ambassador.
The artifacts were part of a hoard of 2,500 objects valued at $143 million seized in a dozen raids between 2012 and 2014 from Subhash Kapoor, a disgraced Manhattan art dealer currently jailed in India on smuggling and theft charges.
(but not yet tried in the US).

An interesting observation from ATHAR:
ATHAR Project @ATHARProject 17 g.
Antiquities market lobbyists are noticeably silent on returns like these.
Saying anything would mean acknowledging that one man—Subhash Kapoor—was responsible for $143 million in trafficked artifacts over just 2 years.
Just 7 Kapoors make this a billion dollar illicit market.
How many high end antiquities dealers are there in the US, Canada and Europe put together?

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