$100 Million in Smuggled Antiquities Seized

Published: 12 June 2013


An Indian-American art dealer who operated a gallery in New York City actually was running a smuggling ring hauling in global antiquities from Asia, to Europe, North America, and Australia, according to US and Indian authorities, the LA Times reports.

Subhash Kapoor is in custody in India pending trial. Investigators allege that he organized the theft of cultural artifacts from Indian temples, then sold them to buyers with fake ownership records. US authorities have also issued a warrant for Kapoor, claiming he stocked major museums around the world with stolen goods, the LA Times reported.

A 1970 UNESCO Convention bans the export of cultural artifacts that have been illegally removed.

US federal agents seized about $100 million in antiquities from Kapoor over the last year. US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement confiscated artifacts from his gallery and warehouses, including a sculpture valued at $18 million. Agents also collected his business records and called the Kapoor inquiry one of the agency’s “most significant antiquities and artifacts investigations,” the newspaper reported.

The National Gallery of Australia bought some two dozen pieces from Kapoor, including a  bronze statue of a dancing Shiva worth between $2 million and $5 million, according to ChasingAphrodite, a website dedicated to news on antiquities theft and smuggling.

The National Gallery is not the only institution that’s done business with Kapoor. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago also bought artifacts from him.. The extent to which any of the institutions was aware of the origins of the artifacts, or whether they questioned the documents Kapoor provided is not known. No museum officials have been charged in the scheme, however.