The USA returned over 200 cultural artefacts estimated at $100 million to India during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ongoing visit to USA.
Items returned included religious statues, bronzes and terra cotta pieces, some dating back 2,000 years, looted from some of the country’s most treasured religious sites.
Among the pieces returned is a statue of Saint Manikkavichavakar, a Hindu mystic and poet from the Chola period (circa 850 AD to 1250 AD) stolen from the Sivan Temple in Chennai, which is valued at $1.5 million.
Also included in the collection is a bronze sculpture of Ganesh estimated to be 1,000 years old.
The artefacts that speak to India’s astounding history and beautiful culture are beginning their journey home.
The majority of the pieces repatriated in the ceremony were seized during Operation Hidden Idol, an investigation that began in 2007 after Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) special agents received a tip about a shipment of seven crates destined for the US manifested as “marble garden table sets”.
Examination of the shipment in question revealed numerous antiquities. This shipment was imported by Subhash Kapoor, owner of Art of the Past Gallery, who awaits trial in India.
HSI’s Operation Hidden Idol focused on the activities of former New York-based art dealer Kapoor, currently in custody in India awaiting trial for allegedly looting tens of millions of dollars worth of rare antiquities from several nations.
Artefacts were also found in the Honolulu Museum and Peabody Essex, who promptly partnered with HSI to surrender illicit cultural property stemming from Kapoor.
HSI special agents have executed a series of search warrants targeting Kapoor’s New York City gallery, along with warehouses and storage facilities linked to the dealer.
Additionally, five individuals have been arrested in the US for their role in the scheme.