Manhattan D.A. Bragg Announces Return of 30 Antiquities to Cambodia and Indonesia

Friday, April 26, 2024
Manhattan D.A. Bragg Announces Return of 30 Antiquities to Cambodia and Indonesia

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr, today announced the return of 27 antiquities to the people of Cambodia and 3 antiquities to the people of Indonesia. The pieces, collectively valued at nearly $3 million, were recovered pursuant to multiple ongoing investigations into trafficking networks targeting Southeast Asian antiquities, including those of alleged trafficker Subash Kapoor and convicted trafficker Nancy Wiener.

The pieces were returned during two recent repatriation ceremonies. The first, in honor of the return to Cambodia, was attended by Michael Alfonso, Deputy Special Agent-in-Charge, Homeland Security Investigations, New York and H.E. Ambassador Keo Chhea of the Royal Embassy of Cambodia to the United States. The second, in honor of the return to Indonesia, was attended by Thomas Acocella, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Homeland Security Investigations, New York and Consul General Winanto Adi of the Consulate General of the Republic of Indonesia in New York.

“We are continuing to investigate the wide-ranging trafficking networks that continue to target Southeast Asian antiquities. While we have made significant progress and have dismantled several prominent networks, there is clearly still much more work to do. These repatriation ceremonies show our continued commitment to protecting cultural heritage and returning stolen antiquities back home,” said District Attorney Bragg.

“Today’s ceremony isn’t just about returning lost treasures; it’s a renewal of commitment between nations to safeguard the soul of our shared heritage. This commitment, built on robust cooperation, is what makes today significant. Cambodia and the United States are setting a global standard for protecting and repatriating cultural heritage. Through this united effort, we ensure the preservation of our collective past for future generations,” said Ambassador Keo Chhea.

“My sincerest appreciation towards New York District Attorney’s office and all related parties for their tireless effort to recover the antiquities. Not only it reflects the closeness of Indonesia and the United States, the repatriation of the antiquities also serves precious gift for the celebration of 75th anniversary of diplomatic relation between Indonesia and the US.” said Consul General Adi.

“In the past week, HSI New York has proudly reunited the People of Cambodia and Indonesia with 30 artifacts that represent each country’s uniquely robust cultural heritage. For years, these pieces were in the hands of people who saw nothing beyond the profit and status of their illicit possession. HSI New York’s Cultural Property, Art, and Antiquities Group has worked tirelessly with international partners to take these small steps in seeking justice against some of the world’s most prolific traffickers. I thank the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the Governments of Cambodia and Indonesia for standing side by side with us in doing so,” said HSI New York Special Agent in Charge Ivan J. Arvelo.

Pictured: “Stone Relief”

For over a decade, the District Attorney’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit, along with law enforcement partners at Homeland Security Investigations, have investigated Kapoor and his co-conspirators for the alleged illegal looting, exportation, and sale of artifacts from numerous countries in South and Southeast Asia, including Nepal. As alleged, 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 2023 the D.A.’s Office and HSI recovered more than 2,500 items allegedly trafficked by Kapoor and his network. The total value of the pieces recovered exceeds $143 million.

The D.A.’s Office obtained an arrest warrant for Kapoor in 2012. In November 2019, Kapoor and seven of his co-defendants were indicted for their conspiracy to traffic stolen antiquities. Kapoor’s extradition from India is pending. Five of his co-defendants have already been convicted. This includes two of his indicted co-defendants as well as three other traffickers who had been charged separately.

During District Attorney Bragg’s tenure, the ATU has recovered almost 1,200 antiquities stolen from more than 25 countries and valued at over $250 million. Since its creation, the ATU has recovered almost 4,900 antiquities valued at over $450 million and has returned more than 4,500 of them so far to more than 25 countries.

Main Image :Manhattan D.A. Bragg

Stephanie Cime

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Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.

Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.


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