Nearly 200 pieces of art and artifacts tied to an investigation into notorious art dealer Subhash Kapoor have been returned to Pakistan, including a Gandharan statute depicting a maitreya, or an enlightened form of the Buddha, which was smuggled into New York during the 1990s. Photo courtesy of Manhattan District Attorney's Office
Nov. 11 (UPI) -- Nearly 200 pieces of art and artifacts tied to an investigation into notorious art dealer Subhash Kapoor have been returned to Pakistan, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg announced Friday.
Bragg said in a statement that his office has returned 192 antiquities to Pakistan, collectively worth nearly $3.4 million.
Of those, 187 had been seized as part of the investigation into Kapoor and included a Gandharan statute depicting a maitreya, or an enlightened form of the Buddha, which was looted from Pakistan and smuggled into New York during the 1990s.
Kapoor had owned an art gallery in New York called Art of the Past and a side business that specialized in selling antiquities from southeast Asia when he was accused of smuggling and selling stolen artifacts.
He was arrested in October 2011 at Frankfurt International Airport in Germany and extradited the following year to India on charges of having received stolen artifacts from temples in southern India, which he then sold to museums around the world.
Kapoor has been held in an Indian jail ever since and was convicted of receiving stolen property, habitually dealing in stolen property, and conspiracy by a special court in Kumbakonam, India, last week. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison and ordered to pay a fine.
In the United States, the office of former Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. obtained a warrant for Kapoor's arrest in 2012 and he was formally indicted with seven co-defendants in a conspiracy to traffic the stolen antiquities in 2019.
Snjeeve Asokan, a co-defendant in the New York case against Kapoor, was also convicted and sentenced by the Indian court.
Prosecutors in the U.S. also previously sought to have Kapoor extradited and said they are "continuing to pursue prosecution."
Two other co-defendants in the New York case have already been convicted, including Richard Salmon in 2020 and Neil Perry in 2021. Three other co-conspirators were also convicted.
"Subhash Kapoor was one of the world's most prolific antiquities traffickers, yet thanks to the work of our dedicated investigators and analysts, we have been able to recover thousands of pieces looted by his network," Bragg said.
"We will continue to pursue full accountability against Mr. Kapoor and his co-conspirators, who showed a blatant disregard for the cultural and historic significant of these antiquities."
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said in 2015 that an Asian antiquities collector voluntarily surrendered a religious statue from India with an estimated value of $1 million that had been purchased with false provenance documents from Kapoor.
ICE's Homeland Security Investigations at the time were conducting a probe called Operation Hidden Idol to recover and trace items back to Kapoor.
Officials said at the time that the value of the items seized in the Operation Hidden Idol case was estimated to be worth more than $100 million.