Manhattan DA to Arrest Upper East Side Dealer Over $500,000 of Stolen Artifacts
Did the dealer sell works despite their having the "black spot of theft"?
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is planning to arrest an Upper East Side dealer for selling nearly $500,000 worth of ancient religious artifacts that were stolen from temples in Nepal and India.
Nayef Homsi, whose website says he specializes in “ancient art of Asia,” is expected to “be arrested in the near future for selling three sculptures of Hindu and Buddhist deities–despite knowing the artifacts were stolen,” according to a report in DNA Info, which cites civil court papers filed by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.
The illegal deals reportedly took place between June 2012 and March 2013. The largest of the transactions was a 13th-century gilt bronze statue of Buddhist deity Samvara for $370,000. The DA’s office partnered with the Department of Homeland Security and, on March 25, asked a judge to freeze a bank account held in the name of Homsi’s company, Maitreya. (See: Real Estate Dealer Caught Up in $11 Million Fraud and Knoedler Art Forgers Charged By US Attorney In Long Awaited Indictment)
In June 2012, Homsi received the Samvara statue as a consignment from an unidentified individual, according to court papers. Days later, an expert hired to investigate the ownership of the piece informed Homsi that it was “almost assuredly” the same Samvara statue stolen in 1983 from a temple in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Homsi then emailed another dealer about the statue stating that the piece had “the black spot of theft,” the court papers say. He was too apprehensive about searching the Art Loss Register, a stolen art database, for fear of what it would turn up, according to court papers. He also informed another individual that the provenance might have been falsified, the court papers say. Despite his concern, Homsi allegedly sold the piece to a client in Beijing in February 2013.
Homsi is reportedly also accused of selling an 11th century statue of the Hindu deity Narasimha that came from the Bihari region of India. (See: 7 Year Legal Battle Returns $10 Million Seized Botticelli and Top 13 Art World Jailbirds)
Homsi lives in Greenpoint Brooklyn, but has offices on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. According to his website, he deals in “antiquities, works on paper, and fine decorative objects from India, Southeast Asia, and the Himalayas.”
Homsi founded his company in 2011 and began exhibiting privately in 2012, according to his site, and organizing major exhibitions for Asia Week New York and Asian Art in Brussels.
Homsi did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He claims he did not know of any criminal investigation and denied selling stolen artifacts. “It’s incorrect,” he told DNA Info. “I’m very surprised by all of this. It’s a little shocking.”
A law enforcement official said Homsi is a minor player in a much larger investigation.
The Manhattan DA’s office did not respond to our request for comment.
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