US authorities file criminal charges against antiquities dealer Subhash Kapoor and seven others

Among the objects seized by US authorities from storage facilities in New York were two stucco Gandharan Buddha heads that were excavated from Afghanistan after paying off a Mujahedeen commander who controlled the area

In a criminal complaint filed this week by the Manhattan District Attorneys office, US authorities have charged the Indian antiquities dealer Subhash Kapoor with 86 criminal counts of grand larceny, possession of stolen property and conspiracy to defraud. The charges stem from a massive smuggling ring that Kapoor allegedly ran through his gallery Art of the Past from 1986 to 2016, that brought thousands of looted artefacts from Afghanistan, Cambodia, India, Pakistan, and other nations, worth more than $145m combined, into the US for sale.

Seven other individuals, including dealers in Hong Kong and Singapore who helped bring the objects into the US, and art restorers in Brooklyn and London who cleaned and repaired the antiquities in preparation for sale, face related charges.

The court filing paints a vivid portrait of the rings alleged theft, smuggling and resale strategies, even providing details on how objects were looted in other countries, with an associate negotiating in 1995 with a mujahedeen commander in Afghanistan, then riven by civil war, to assume control of an excavation of antiquities. It depicts Kapoor in 2011 showing off a giant looted Buddha head to a government informant in a Manhattan storage facility and offering to help the informant create a false provenance for it. The evidence attached includes some of these allegedly forged documents, including certificates and letters printed on antique paper. “Kapoor would also loan stolen antiquities to major museums and institutions creating yet another false veneer of legitimacy by its mere presence in otherwise reputable museums and institutions,” the complaint states. It also delves into the digital filing system used at Kapoors gallery, collating photographs of looted and chipped antiquities with descriptions of the restoration work executed to make them ready for sale. And it describes how, even after his arrest in Germany in 2011, Kapoor was still allegedly engaged in the conspiracy, directing Art of the Past employees to turn over antiquities to the care of his family members.

While the US Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement have seized more than 2,600 artefacts from storage locations rented throughout New York, many other valuable antiquities were removed and hidden by Kapoors family members and their whereabout remain unknown, according to the complaint. Some of the still-missing works, which include a stunning bronze sculpture of Shiva Nataraja (Lord of the Dance) valued at $5m, a grey schist statue of Garuda Seizing a Nagini, valued at $650,000, and a bronze statue of a Standing Jina valued at $750,000, can be seen in a slideshow compRead More – Source