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New York returns nearly 200 looted antiquities to Pakistan

<i>Manhattan District Attorney</i><br/>The Manhattan district attorney's office returned 192 stolen antiquities to Pakistan after a decade-long investigation.
Manhattan District Attorney
Manhattan District Attorney
The Manhattan district attorney's office returned 192 stolen antiquities to Pakistan after a decade-long investigation.

Zoe Sottile, CNN

The Manhattan district attorney’s office has returned 192 looted antiquities with a value of nearly $3.4 million to Pakistan.

District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr. announced the repatriation in a press release on Thursday.

The return is the culmination of a years-long investigation into the sale of artifacts looted from countries all over the world. According to the release, 187 of the items are linked to the Indian American antiquities dealer Subhash Kapoor, who stands accused of running a multi-million-dollar trafficking network via his Manhattan gallery, Art of the Past.

The district attorney’s office returned the antiquities during a repatriation ceremony on Thursday at the Pakistan Consulate in New York, according to the release.

“These remarkable works of art were ruthlessly removed from their rightful home and trafficked without regard for their immense cultural and spiritual value,” said Ivan J. Arvelo, New York special agent in charge at Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Earlier this month, Kapoor was sentenced by an Indian court to 10 years in prison for smuggling offenses. He has also been indicted alongside seven co-defendants in the US, where investigators say he helped traffic thousands of treasures stolen from temples, ruins and archaeological sites across Asia.

The Manhattan district attorney’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit has seized more than 2,500 artifacts, worth an estimated $143 million, as part of its investigations into Kapoor. Speaking to CNN earlier this month, the disgraced dealer’s lawyer said he intends to challenge attempts to extradite his client to the US.

According to Consul General Ayesha Ali, Thursday’s repatriation ceremony follows an earlier return of 45 stolen artifacts, linked to another convicted smuggler, to Pakistan.

“We began this journey with the DA’s Office and (the Department of Homeland Security) in November 2020, 45 pieces of stolen Gandhara artifacts were returned and today we are very fortunate that another batch of 192 antiquities valued at $3.4 million are being returned,” Ali said in the release.

The objects returned on Thursday include “Mehrgarh dolls,” which are some of the oldest known human-crafted figurines in the world. The ancient statues were looted from a Neolithic archaeological site in Pakistan, according to the release.

This article has been updated with further information about the investigation and legal proceedings against Subhash Kapoor.

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