US Museum To Return Around 100 Artefacts Stolen From India By Subhash Kapoor

It is quite distressing to know that despite being one of the world’s ancient cultures, India is least concerned about artefacts stolen from the country. So a gesture by the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio is indeed worth applauding.

According to a TOI report, the museum will return around 100 stolen Indian artefacts donated to it by disgraced collector Subhash Kapoor.

Kapoor is being investigated by US Departments of Justice and Homeland Security in connection with smuggling of art and artefacts into the country.

Kapoor donated over 115 objects between 2006 and 2007. Some of them are from Gupta period. Most of the artefacts are from Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and western India.


Artefact stolen

This tile is believed to have been looted from a religious temple or ancient Buddhist site in India. AP

An official of the museum said:

“The museum purchased a total of eight objects from Kapoor between 2001 and 2010. The purchased items have been on public display at the museum in the past. Between 2006 and 2007 Kapoor donated 54 small ceramic objects and his art gallery manager Aaron Freedman donated 64 works on paper to the museum.”

The museum had declared returning of four items in September. More might follow.

In April this year, authorities in New York sought custody of the largest seizure of antiquities in American history — 2,622 artefacts worth $108 million looted from India and other places in south Asia and smuggled into US by Kapoor.

The United States has been conducting raids from 2012 to 2014, confiscating many stolen art and artefacts.

The case, named Operation Hidden Idol, now extends to four continents and is being pursued in conjunction with Indian officials.


Honolulu Museum

Chief preparator at the Honolulu Museum of Art, holds one of seven stolen artefacts.
AP Photo/Caleb Jones

In January 2014, the US had returned smuggled antique sculptures worth $1.5 million to India in a diplomatic overture post the Devyani Khobragade incident.

The 11th and 12th century artefacts included two sandstone sculptures weighing 159 kg and 272 kg of Hindu deities Vishnu and Lakshmi and the third of a black stone sculpture of Buddhist icon Bodhisattava.

Toldeo is not the only US museum to have agreed to return stolen artefacts in the possession. Museums in Hawaii and Massachusetts have also done the same.

But a New York Times report says that many of the 15 American museums identified as holding items obtained from Kapoor said in the interviews that they had researched their holdings and were satisfied that their items were not stolen.

They also wanted to see proof of illegality before returning the 500 or so objects in question.

Kapoor, 65, is awaiting trial in India on charges of plundering archaeological sites and conspiring with black market traders to send illicit artefacts overseas.

The US is looking to extradite him and charge him under US laws once his trial in India is over since he is an American citizen.


Subhash Kapoor. Daily Mail

Subhash Kapoor. Daily Mail

His manager, Aaron M. Freedman, and his sister, Sushma Sareen, have pleaded guilty to different charges related to the stolen artefacts.

It was Freedman who helped authorities in tracking down artefacts Kapoor had hidden in different places.

It is not US alone where Kapoor’s stolen antiquities landed up. Two Australian museums removed Indian artefacts from display upon the Indian government’s request. India said that the artefacts were part of Kapoor’s illegal stash.

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