New York Returns Ancient Shiva Statue, Relics Seized From Indian-American Smuggler To Cambodia, Indonesia

New York Returns Ancient Shiva Statue, Relics Seized From Indian-American Smuggler To Cambodia, Indonesia

Subhash Kapoor, an Indian-American art dealer, smuggled the Shiva triad, a bronze statue of the Hindu deity Shiva, into the US.

Restoring Cultural Heritage: Prosecution’s Efforts Against Antiquities Trafficking

On Friday, New York prosecutors announced they had given back 30 antiquities to Cambodia and Indonesia. These artifacts were taken, sold, or transferred unlawfully by American dealers and traffickers. The total value of these antiquities was $3 million, according to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

Bragg stated he returned 27 items to Phnom Penh and three to Jakarta in two recent ceremonies. Among these were a bronze sculpture of the Hindu god Shiva (“Shiva Triad”), taken from Cambodia, and a stone bas-relief of two royal figures from the Majapahit empire (13th-16th century) taken from Indonesia. Bragg accused art dealers Subhash Kapoor, an Indian-American, and Nancy Wiener, an American, of illegally trafficking these antiquities.

Kapoor, accused of trafficking stolen items from Southeast Asia to sell in his gallery in Manhattan, has been under investigation by US authorities for over ten years in a case called “Hidden Idol.” He was arrested in Germany in 2011 and extradited to India, where he was convicted and sentenced to 13 years in prison in November 2022. Kapoor has denied the charges of conspiring to traffic stolen art in response to a US indictment. Bragg stated in a press release that they are still investigating the trafficking networks that target Southeast Asian antiquities.

“More work remains to be done.” Wiener, convicted in 2021 for trafficking stolen art, initially tried to sell the bronze Shiva but later donated it to the Denver Museum of Art in 2007. The artifact was confiscated by New York courts in 2023.

Bragg’s leadership saw the Antiquities Trafficking Unit reclaiming close to 1,200 stolen items worth over $250 million from 25 countries. New York, a significant trafficking center, has had works seized from places like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and private collections in recent years.

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