U.S. returns stolen Buddha figurine housed in Los Angeles museum

iNDICA News Bureau-

A stolen ancient Indian statuette of the Buddha in Dhamma Chakra mudra (pose) was handed over to Dr TV Nagendra Prasad, India’s consul general in San Francisco, by officials of the U.S. Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security April 21.

The U.S. team, led by Supervisory Special Agent Chad Fredrickson of the Justice Department, handed over to Indian officials the 10th century bronze figurine at a solemn ceremony at the historic Gadar Memorial in San Francisco.

The Buddha figurine returned by LACMA

The statuette is believed to have been stolen from the museum of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) at Nalanda, site of an ancient Buddhist university in Bihar, India, in Feb 1967 and spirited out of the country.

It was acquired by intermediaries and eventually donated to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) where it was exhibited as an artifact.

Some media reports in India claimed the artifact dates back to the 8th century and was part of a bigger theft that took place at the museum in Nalanda in 1961. They said it was a ‘sister’ idol of a Buddha figurine returned to India by the London police in 2018 and the LACMA held on to it for want of conclusive evidence that it was stolen property.

Upon a request from the ASI for investigation of the artifact and provision of old documentation relating to the theft at Nalanda, the U.S. prosecutor’s office later acquired it and initiated in Nov 2021 the process of repatriating it to India.

India’s consulate general in San Francisco expressed deep appreciation and gave special thanks to the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security led by Fredrickson, Supervisory Special Agent Raffi Guluzian, Special Agent David Keller, Public Affairs Specialist Marie Ferguson and Assistant Attorney Amanda Bettinelli for their contribution toward the process of repatriating the figurine back to its rightful place in India.