More than two dozen looted artifacts were returned to Cambodia by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr., on Friday in an measure that authorities said was intended to restore the country’s cultural heritage. The 27 repatriated artifacts are estimated at $ 3.8 million.
Among the objects returned were statues of Shiva and Buddha, as well as artefacts dating from the Angkor era in Cambodia, which lasted from the 9th to the 15th centuries.
In a statement, Vance said: “The repatriation of these 27 superb relics to the Cambodian people reestablishes an important connection between the classical era of Angkor and its modern customs and beliefs which, for too long, have been disturbed by the greed of the people. stolen items. antique dealers.
Twenty-four of the artifacts were obtained as part of an investigation into disgraced dealer Subhash Kapoor and his network. Kapoor, who operated New York City gallery Art of the Past, was charged with looting by U.S. authorities in 2019. He and seven others were accused of running a smuggling ring that looted $ 145 million in works of art over a period of 30 years. UNESCO, the agency run by the United Nations, estimated that Kapoor had stolen 50,000 objects in Sri Lanka, Cambodia, India, Pakistan and elsewhere.
Kapoor is currently awaiting trial in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. This isn’t the first time this year that the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has returned items looted by Kapoor: in April, it also returned 33 items to Afghanistan.
The three remaining items returned on Friday were located during an investigation of merchant Nancy Wiener, accused of selling items looted from her New York gallery over a period of nearly two decades. Until then, Wiener was considered one of the best Southeast Asian artifact dealers in the city.
Cambodian Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona said in a statement: “The repatriation proves that even in the difficult circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cambodia remains committed to finding and bringing back the souls of our ancestors who left their homeland. over several years, including during times of war.