On Monday, the Indian government received 307 stolen antiques from the US authorities in a formal transfer valued at close to $4 million. These were seized from the gallery run by international smuggler, Subash Kapoor. Authorities also implicated other art galleries and trafficking organisations in the crime. An inquiry into Subash Kapoor led to the seizure of 235 antiquities. Kapoor assisted in the trafficking of these artifacts. Numerous minor trafficking rings stole the remaining 66.
All the antiquities were returned during a repatriation ceremony on Monday evening at the Indian Consulate in New York. India’s Consul General Randir Jaiswal attended the ceremony, as well as U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Acting Deputy Special Agent-in-Charge, Tom Lau.
As quoted by The Hindu, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg said in a statement, “We are proud to return hundreds of stunning pieces back to the people of India. These antiquities were stolen by multiple complex and sophisticated trafficking rings – the leaders of which showed no regard for the cultural or historical significance of these objects.”
The District Attorney’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit and Homeland Security Investigations have been looking into Kapoor and his accomplices for the unlawful looting and sale of artefacts for more than ten years. Kapoor and his co-defendants transported them into Manhattan and sold them through Kapoor’s gallery, Art of the Past, on Madison Avenue. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and HSI retrieved more than 2,500 goods that Kapoor and his network trafficked between 2011 and 2022. The retrieved items are worth more than $143 million in total.
A few of the antiquities returned are the idols of Vishnu and Lakshmi with Garuda. The idols date back to the 11th Century BCE. Among the other items were a Chola-era Sambandar bronze idol and a Chola-era Devi idol in stone.
*Note: Note: The feature image is not an image of the actual antiques that were stolen and returned.