iNDICA NEWS BUREAU-
American antiquities dealer Subhash Kapoor along with five accomplices who operated a multi-million-dollar looting network via his New York gallery has been sentenced by an Indian court to 10 years in prison for smuggling offenses.
Kapoor and his partners in crime were found guilty of criminal conspiracy, burglary, and the illegal export of 19 artifacts worth over $11.4 million. The conviction is the culmination of a year-long investigation into Kapoor, who is accused of trafficking thousands of treasures plundered from temples, ruins, and archaeological sites across Asia. The Indian American dealer’s looting network is suspected to have forged false authentication documents for the ancient artifacts before selling them through his Manhattan gallery, Art of the Past.
In 2011 Kapoor was arrested in Germany and was then sent to Tamil Nadu to face charges for his crimes. By the time trial commenced in 2021, Kapoor has already spent 11 years in jail but even after that, he will not walk free after judgment is delivered because he has been indicted in the US on a number of charges that include grand larceny, conspiracy, scheme to defraud and criminal possession of the stolen property.
As part of the investigation, more than 2,500 looted artifacts, worth an estimated $143 million, that are linked to Kapoor were seized by a task force of lawyers, investigators, and art experts who were part of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit’s operation titled “Operation Hidden Idol”. Kapoor has been convicted of smuggling 19 antiquities and has also been accused of handling thousands of other items from countries like Nepal, Cambodia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
In October 2022 Bragg returned 307 antiquities valued at nearly $4 million to India. Of these antiquities, 235 were seized during investigations into Kapoor’s antiquities smuggling network. Bragg had then said: “These antiquities were stolen by multiple complex and sophisticated trafficking rings – the leaders of which showed no regard for the cultural or historical significance of these objects. Tracking down these antiquities would not be possible without the collaboration of our law enforcement partners at HSI and the outstanding work of our world-class investigators.”
“This repatriation is the result of a globe-spanning, fifteen-year investigation where the investigative team chased leads, followed the money, and ultimately seized these pieces, ensuring their return to the people of India,” said Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York Acting Special Agent in Charge Michael Alfonso. “HSI will continue to investigate artifacts with little or no provenance, or of questionable origin, and work with our domestic and international partners to return these priceless pieces of history to their rightful homes.”
For over a decade, the District Attorney’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit, along with law enforcement partners at Homeland Security Investigations, have investigated Kapoor and his co-conspirators for the illegal looting, exportation, and sale of artifacts from numerous countries all over the world. From 2011 to 2022, the D.A.’s Office and HSI recovered more than 2,500 items trafficked by Kapoor and his network. The total value of the pieces recovered exceeds $143 million.
The D.A.’s Office issued an arrest warrant for Kapoor in 2012. In November 2019, Kapoor and his seven co-defendants were indicted for their conspiracy to traffic stolen antiquities. In July 2020, the DA’s Office filed extradition paperwork for Kapoor.
One of Kapoor’s pieces that were returned is the Arch Parikara. Crafted from marble, the Arch Parikara dates to the 12-13th century and is valued at approximately $85,000. The Arch Parikara first surfaced in photographs depicting antiquity in a dirty, pre-restoration condition. These photographs—along with dozens of others depicting antiquities lying in the grass or on the ground—were sent to Kapoor by a supplier of illicit in India. The piece was smuggled out of India and into New York in May 2002. Thereafter, Kapoor laundered the Arch Parikara to the Nathan Rubin – Ida Ladd Family Foundation, who donated the piece to the Yale University Art Gallery in 2007.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office was in contact with the US Department of Justice and Indian authorities about the case. “In 2020 the office filed extradition paperwork for Kapoor and we intend to prosecute him in the United States pursuant to our ongoing investigation,” the DA Bragg’s spokesperson has told CNN in an email communication.
Kapoor’s New York-based lawyer Georges Lederman confirmed that the dealer will remain in custody in India due to the extradition request. Last year, Lederman told CNN that his client intends to contest the US charges on double jeopardy grounds, as “the underlying conduct he is being charged for in New York is the same for which he has already served in India.”