Honolulu Museum Returns Indian Antiquities Looted by Disgraced Dealer Subhash Kapoor

Museums from Toledo to Australia have returned Kapoor's stolen goods.

Looted items from the Honolulu Museum of Art.
Looted items from the Honolulu Museum of Art.

Homeland Security Investigations has taken hold of seven artifacts from the Honolulu Museum of Art that it believes were looted from India by New York art dealer Subhash Kapoor.

Kapoor was extradited to India in 2011 to stand trial on charges of organizing a $100 million smuggling ring. For decades, he ran the New York gallery Art of the Past.

“This is definitely one of the biggest [art smuggling rings], I think, that we’ve seen in the world,” James Dinkins of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) told CNBC in 2014. New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art told CNBC at that time that was researching the histories of numerous gifts from Kapoor.

Kapoor also sold Indian antiquities to the National Gallery of Australia, several of which were repatriated last year. That haul included a $5.6 million sculpture of the god Shiva.

Also last year, Ohio’s Toledo Museum of Art repatriated a nearly 1,000-year-old bronze statue of the Hindu god Ganesh to India. That museum did not wait for the results of the government’s investigation, but rather followed its own policy of returning objects for which it cannot provide clear title.

The current repatriation results from an investigation known as Operation Hidden Idol, and started when New York City agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which oversees HSI, identified a 2,000-year-old terra cotta rattle in the Honolulu Museum’s holdings as looted property.

The museum, collaborating with HSI, found six other looted Indian objects among the museum’s holdings. These include figurines, architectural fragments and tiles, stolen from religious sites in India, many of them from the region of Chandraketugarh.

The seven objects were turned over Wednesday for shipping to New York, where they will serve as evidence in Operation Hidden Idol.


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