More than two dozen looted artifacts were returned to Cambodia on Friday by Manhattan’s District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. in an effort to restore the country’s cultural heritage. The 27 artifacts repatriated are valued at $ 3.8 million.
Items returned included statues of Shiva and Buddha, as well as artifacts from the Cambodian Angkor era, which lasted from the 9th to the 15th centuries.
In a statement, Vance said: “The return of these 27 breathtaking relics to the people of Cambodia reestablishes an important link between the nation’s classic Angkor era and its modern customs and beliefs that have long been driven by greed for stolen antique dealers.”
24 of the artifacts were obtained in connection with an investigation into the disgraced trader Subhash Kapoor and his network. Kapoor, who ran the New York gallery Art of the Past, was charged with looting by US authorities in 2019. He and seven others were accused of running a smuggling ring that looted $ 145 million worth of art over 30 years. UNESCO, the United Nations-run agency, estimated that Kapoor had stolen 50,000 objects from Sri Lanka, Cambodia, India, Pakistan and elsewhere.
Kapoor is currently awaiting trial in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. This is not the first time this year that Manhattan prosecutors have returned objects that Kapoor looted: in April they also sent 33 objects back to Afghanistan.
The remaining three items returned on Friday were found during an investigation into dealer Nancy Wiener, who was accused of selling items stolen from her New York gallery over a period of nearly two decades. Until then, Wiener was considered one of the top dealers in Southeast Asian artifacts in the city.
Phoeurng Sackona, Cambodia’s Minister of Culture and Fine Arts, said in a statement: “The repatriation provides evidence that, even in the difficult circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cambodia is determined to find and bring back the souls of our ancestors, who are you Leaving motherland for several years, even during wartime. “