Gandharan statues will soon be returned to the place where it belongs- Pakistan. The antiquities’ repatriation to Pakistan involves a long route that was covered in three long decades.
These antiques were found in New York City, US. The return route involves theft, conspiracy, and an Indian American art dealer. Subhash Kapoor smuggled the looted antiquities into Manhattan and sold the pieces through Kapoor’s Madison Avenue-based gallery, Art of the Past.
Involvement Of Indian American Art Dealer
The Manhattan District Authority’s office in New York recently announced that the US has returned 192 stolen ancient articles to Pakistan, worth $3.4 million, following the investigation into art dealer Subhash Kapoor.
Subhash Kapoor is known as one of the most notorious traffickers of antique artifacts. He along with eight others has been charged with the conspiration and trafficking of stolen relics. According to The Print, the Gandharan statues were stored in a storage unit rented by agents of ‘Art of the Past’ — Kapoor’s art gallery in New York—before the Antiquities Trafficking Unit’s seizure in 2022 earlier this year.
In 2012, the Office issued an arrest warrant for Kapoor and arrested him for charges, concerning the selling of stolen Indian antiquities. Kapoor was also convicted of receiving stolen property, habitually dealing in stolen property, and conspiracy, and fined and sentenced to thirteen years in prison by Kumbakonam Special Court, India.
Since 2011, the Department of Homeland Security and the District Attorney’s office recovered at least 2500 items smuggled by Kapoor and his aides that have a value of more than $143 million.
Smuggling Of The Artifacts From Pakistan To the US
The Gandharan statues that depict the enlightened form of Buddha were stolen from Pakistan. The articles were smuggled to New York in the 1990s. Zahid Parvez and Zeeshan Butt, under the garb of their businesses in Islamabad, Hong Kong, Dubai, and Bangkok, supplied stolen antiquities to the international art market.
Mehrgarh was discovered in 1974 and subsequently faced looting. Mehrgarh dolls, which represent cultic figures of worship of mother goddess, were also stolen from the neolithic archaeological sites in Pakistan and smuggled to New York County.
These dolls date back to 3500- 2600 B.C.E. They were stored in a storage unit rented by agents of ‘Art of the Past’ until the Antiquities Trafficking Unit’s seizure in 2022.
The Return Of The Relics
According to official sources, “In 2022, the office has returned 876 antiquities, valued at over $89 million to 15 countries. Since its founding, the Antiquities Trafficking Unit has returned nearly 2,300 antiquities, valued at over $200 million, to 22 countries.”
The Homeland Security Investigation, New York, made it possible to return the ancient statues to their rightful place, where they belong.
District Attorney’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit, along with law enforcement partners at Homeland Security Investigations, for the last 10 years, have investigated Kapoor and his partners, for illegal looting and exportation, along with their sale to different countries across the world.
The relics were returned to Pakistan during a ceremony of repatriation that was attended by the Consul General of Pakistan in New York, Ayesha Ali, and U.S. Homeland Security Investigations Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge, Thomas Acocella. In 2022, the Attorney’s office returned 876 antiquities worth $89 million to 15 countries.
After all the action that has been taking place, in the last few months, regarding the artifacts, the question arises- Is there any belongingness of the artifact to the site where it originated, and who decides this origin? Does this matter when there are hundreds of humans asking for recognition?
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This post is tagged under: Pakistan, District Attorney, New York County, Madrid, Art Of The Past, Subhash Kapoor, Antiquities Trafficking Unit, artifacts, relics, buddha, mother goddess, smuggling, exportation, conspiracy, illegal, journey, Gandharan, international art market, Mehrgarh dolls
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