Arrest warrant issued against Indian antique dealer in US
By Yoshita Singh|PTI - NEW YORK
27th July 2012 02:57 PM
The US authorities have issued an arrest warrant against an Indian antique dealer, who is currently in prison in Tamil Nadu, after they seized statues and artifacts stolen from Indian temples and valued at over USD 20 million from his Manhattan store.
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division of the Homeland Security Department executed a search warrant at the storage units owned by Subhash Chandra Kapoor, 63.
Among the artifacts seized were bronze and stone statues of Indian deities Shiva and Parvati and those from the 10th Century Chola period, an ICE statement said.
Kapoor was arrested in Germany in October last year following an Interpol Red Corner notice for smuggling antique idols allegedly stolen from temples in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
He was extradited to India two weeks ago and is currently in custody in Chennai.
Investigators said Kapoor, who has done business in the city since 1976, had been importing into the US stolen Indian antiquities for several years.
The Manhattan District Attorney's office issued an arrest warrant for Kapoor on charges of possessing stolen property.
Kapoor owns a gallery known as Art of the Past and is understood to have sold Indian art to prestigious museums like New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institute in Washington and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
ICE said some of the artifacts previously seized in the probe had been displayed in "major international museums worldwide," and that other pieces that match those listed as stolen "are still openly on display in some museums."
Items seized from his unit included a bronze sculpture dating from the Chola Period valued at nearly USD 2.5 million, a Shiva statue worth over USD 3.5 million and an idol of Parvati valued at nearly USD 2.5 million.
"The statues and sculptures recovered today are worth millions in the antiquities business, but they are priceless to the nations that they were robbed from," special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New York James Hayes said.
"These seizures send a clear message to looters, smugglers and dealers to think twice before trying to profit from illicit cultural property in the United States."
The authorities described the statues as "absolutely stunning" and "worth tens of millions of dollars together."
ICE said the Indian Consulate in New York had contacted Homeland Security investigators in 2007 seeking help in an investigation into smuggling of Indian antiquities into the city.
"The Indian Consulate advised [investigators] that an import and export company was expecting the arrival of a shipment of several crates manifested as 'marble gardens tables sets,'" the press statement said.
"The consulate believed these crates contained stolen antiquities. This [merchandise] was allegedly imported by Kapoor."
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