MANHATTAN – An estimated $15 million in stolen art and antiquities was finally returned to India Thursday— most of the 248 artifacts were seized as part of an investigation into an Upper East Side art gallery that prosecutors say was at the center of an international smuggling ring.
“Today’s event also serves as a potent reminder that individuals who maraud sacred temples in pursuit of individual profit are committing crimes not only against a country’s heritage but also its present and future,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.
The DA’s Office says the permanently-closed ‘Art of the Past’ at the corner of East 89th Street and Madison Avenue was a hub for trafficking thousands of antiquities looted from countries around the world.
Today, 235 artifacts retrieved from the ‘Art of the Past,’ along with thirteen others from different cases, were repatriated to India in a ceremony with the Indian Consul General.
“We profusely thank the Manhattan DA’s Office for their support and cooperation in the return of antiquities to India,” said India’s Consul General Randhir Jaiswal.
“We look forward to our continued engagement to strengthen cultural ties between India and the United States.”
For nearly a decade, the ‘Art of the Past’ gallery and its owner, Subash Kapoor, had been under investigation, prosecutors say, for the illegal looting, exportation and sale of ancient art from Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Thailand, Nepal, Indonesia, Myanmar and other countries.
Currently, Kapoor is in prison in India awaiting extradition to the United States.