December 26, 2016

Some analysis of the Criminal Complaint against New York art dealer Nancy Wiener


In ARCA's December 25th blog post ARCA published the criminal complaint filed in Manhattan Criminal Court, signed by Special Agent Brenton Easter of the Department of Homeland Security, which indicated the charges presented against New York art dealer Nancy Wiener through her gallery Nancy Wiener Gallery.

Today we have thought to publish the sentencing guidelines should this defendant be convicted of the charges as well as a bit of distilled information about the individuals mentioned in the body of  the New York criminal complaint. 

In New York State, Criminal Conspiracy is punishable by law when one acts, agrees or performs with intent to commit a crime. Depending on the crime committed, a conspiracy charge could be prosecuted either as a NY State crime or as a United States Federal crime.  In this case a criminal complaint has been brought against Nancy Wiener for:

Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in First Degree – NY Panel Law 165.54

A person is found guilty of criminal possession of stolen property in the first degree when he knowingly possesses stolen property, with intent to benefit himself or a person other than an owner thereof or to impede the recovery by an owner, and when the value of the value of the stolen property exceeds $1,000,000. 

The pending case against New York art dealer Nancy Wiener the New York Penal Law 165.54  would be classified as a “B” non violent felony.  As a potential first time offender Wiener faces a minimum of one to three years in prison and a maximum of eight and one third to twenty five years. Probation and community service are not options.

Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in Second Degree – NY Penal Law 165.52

A person is found guilty of criminal possession of stolen property in the first degree when he knowingly possesses stolen property, with intent to benefit himself or a person other than an owner thereof or to impede the recovery by an owner, and when the value of the value of the stolen property exceeds $50,000.

The pending case against New York art dealer Nancy Wiener the New York Penal Law 165.52 would be classified as a “C” non violent felony. As a potential first time offender Wiener faces no minimum sentence but faces as much as five to fifteen years in prison. Alternate sentences include probation, probation coupled with jail, community service, fines and a conditional discharge.

There are four legal presumptions associated with New York Penal Law 165.55, the following are the two relevant ones in this case:
  1. A person who knowingly possesses stolen property is presumed to possess it with intent to benefit himself or a person other than an owner thereof or to impede the recovery by an owner thereof. This presumption is often referred to as recent exclusive possession.” There has been a tremendous body of case law addressing this presumption which argues for the position that if an accused has had the exclusive possession of stolen property after a theft crime has been perpetrated and there is evidence or circumstances which show an inability to explain where the property came from, a negative inference may in fact be drawn. That inference being that there is a strong likelihood that the accused knew that the property he or she possessed was stolen.
  2. A collateral loan broker or a person in the business of buying, selling or otherwise dealing in property who possesses stolen property is presumed to know that such property was stolen if he obtained it without having ascertained by reasonable inquiry that the person from whom he obtained it had a legal right to possess it.
Conspiracy in the fourth degree – NY Penal Law 105.10(1)

A person is guilty of conspiracy in the fourth degree when, with intent that conduct constituting:
  1. a class B or class C felony be performed, he or she agrees with one or more persons to engage in or cause the performance of such conduct; 

The pending case against New York art dealer Nancy Wiener the New York Penal Law 105.10(1) would be classified as a “E” non violent felony.  Punishment ranges for this offence range from no jail with probation to up to fu years in state prison.

Conspiracy is relatively easy for prosecutors to prove because New York law does not require exact proof of language used in an agreement to commit a crime, and only requires the testimony of one party.  As seen in the complaint we published yesterday, there appears to be sufficient testimony to make this conspiracy charge stick.

Difference between a Criminal Complaint and a Criminal Indictment

A criminal complaint lists the charges that the prosecuting attorney will file against a person. It typically describes the nature of the offence and consists simply of a signed affidavit by the accuser.

A criminal indictment would be a written document, usually presented before a grand jury who decides if the charges warrant further action.  Criminal complaints require sworn testimony given under oath for the courts to move forward with the case.

UPDATE: Checking records at the New York State Unified Court System for this case, it now appears that this defendant has been indicted on Conspiracy in the fourth degree.    The defendant has entered a "Not Guilty" plea and has been released on her own recognisance.  Her next court appearance has been scheduled for February 28, 2017.

Who are the players mentioned in the antiquities looting network outlined in the criminal complaint?

From the content of the criminal complaint issued by New York prosecutors we get a preliminary outline of the pertinent facts alleged in the case that will then be presented in court should Ms. Wiener's case move on to trial.   The portrait painted by prosecutors illustrates what looks to be a complex network of looters, middlemen, and antiquities dealers that suggests the mentioned players have benefited financially from the trade in illicit antiquities for a number of years.

Here is a distilled summary of the key persons mentioned within the criminal complaint

Informant #1 - According to the criminal complaint this cooperating individual is a dealer in illegal antiquities known to the District Attorney. In the complaint Informant #1

  • allegedly implicated Co-Conspirator #1 in the purchase and sale of the Baphuon Shiva from Cambodia.
  • allegedly reported that Nancy Wiener had removed all records of where, when, from whom, and for how much each antiquity was acquired
  • allegedly reported that Nancy Wiener later told informant #1 that the records no longer existed. 
  • allegedly provided information on the Sharod Singh connection with the looted red sandstone relief (“Red Sandstone Couple”), from India, dated to the 1st–2nd Century C.E., 
  • allegedly provided information on the Vaman Ghiya connection with the a stolen mottled red sandstone relief depicting a Bacchanalian scene, dated to the 2nd Century C.E., 
  • allegedly implicated Co-Conspirator #5 in the sale to Doris Wiener of a silver-inlaid gilt bronze figure of Avalokiteshvara from Northeastern India or Western Tibet (China), dated to 10th-11th C.E.,
  • allegedly reported seeing objects procured by Co-Conspirator #6 the purchased by Nancy Wiener in New York unrestored, unmounted and/or without bases - classic signs of looting. 

Informant #2 - According to the criminal complaint this cooperating individual is another dealer in looted antiquities known to the District Attorney.  In the complaint Informant #2

  • allegedly provided information on the Naga Buddha
  • allegedly implicated Nancy Wiener in the purchase of Seated Buddha #1 from trafficker Vaman Ghiya
  • allegedly implicated Nancy Wiener in the purchase of Seated Buddha #2 from trafficker Vaman Ghiya
  • allegedly implicated Subpash Kapoor in the purchase and smuggling of the stolen Krishna Dancing on Kaliya (cobra) from Tamil Nadu, India, dating from the Chola Period (11th-12th Century)
  • allegedly implicated Co-Conspirator #4 in the handling and restoration of the stolen Krishna Dancing on Kaliya (cobra) from Tamil Nadu, India, dating from the Chola Period (11th-12th Century)
  • allegedly implicated Co-Conspirator #1 in the purchase of the stolen Krishna Dancing on Kaliya (cobra) from Tamil Nadu, India, dating from the Chola Period (11th-12th Century)
  • allegedly implicated Co-Conspirator #5 as being an antiquities smuggler of Tibetan descent based in Nepal and Hong Kong who was in frequent email contact with Defendant about illicit pieces from Nepal. 
  • allegedly implicated Co-Conspirator #6 and his father as being suppliers of illicit cultural property from primarily Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • allegedly provided information on false provenance provided for Christie's sale created for pieces that passed between Nancy Wiener and Co-Conspirator #6 

Informant #3 - According to the criminal complaint this cooperating individual is another dealer in looted antiquities known to the District Attorney.  In the complaint Informant #3
  • allegedly provided information on false provenance provided by Nancy Wiener for the Red Sandstone Couple
Co-conspirator #1 - According to the criminal complaint co-conspirator #1
  • allegedly is an antiquities dealer based in London and Bangkok
  • allegedly entered into an agreement with Nancy Wiener to purchase and sell a looted Baphuon Shiva from Cambodia, dated to the 11th Century C.E
  • allegedly shipped the Baphuon Shiva to London to be “cleaned, put together, and mounted.”
  • allegedly sold Nancy Wiener a bronze Buddha sitting on a throne of Naga stolen from Thailand or Cambodia, dated to the 10th Century C.E.
  • allegedly falsified provenance along with Nancy Wiener and Co-conspirator 2 for the bronze Buddha sitting on a throne of Naga stolen from Thailand or Cambodia, dated to the 10th Century C.E.
  • allegedly is a male 
  • allegedly admitted in email that he gave Co-Conspirator #2 bronze statues in exchange for false letters of provenance
  • allegedly purchased the Krishna Dancing on Kaliya from Subhash Kapoor
  • allegedly colluded with Nancy Wiener to create appraisal report for the Krishna Dancing on Kaliya 
Co-conspirator #2 - According to the criminal complaint co-conspirator #2
  • allegedly is a female research consultant for an American museum 
  • allegedly falsified provenance along with Nancy Wiener and Co-conspirator 1 for the bronze Buddha sitting on a throne of Naga stolen from Thailand or Cambodia, dated to the 10th Century C.E.
  • allegedly implicated by Co-conspirator #1 who stated he gave Co-Conspirator #2 bronze statues in exchange for false letters of provenance.
Co-conspirator #3 - According to the criminal complaint co-conspirator #3
  • allegedly is a New York-based restorer, 
  • allegedly restored the bronze Buddha sitting on a throne of Naga stolen from Thailand or Cambodia, dated to the 10th Century C.E. despite it having been struck by an agricultural tool, resulting in a jagged break - a sign of looting. 
  • allegedly restored the stolen marble Apsara ceiling panel.
Co-conspirator #4, - According to the criminal complaint co-conspirator #4
  • allegedly is a U.K.-based restorer used by Subhash Kapoor and Co-conspirator #1
  • allegedly restored the Krishna Dancing on Kaliya (cobra) stolen from Tamil Nadu, India, dating from the Chola Period (11th-12th Century).
Co-conspirator #5 - According to the criminal complaint co-conspirator #5
  • allegedly is an antiquities smuggler of Tibetan descent based in Nepal and Hong Kong. 
  • allegedly sold Doris Wiener a silver-inlaid gilt bronze figure of Avalokiteshvara.
  • allegedly incriminated Doris Wiener for providing false provenance on the silver-inlaid gilt bronze figure of Avalokiteshvara.
Co-conspirator #6 - According to the criminal complaint co-conspirator #6
  • allegedly is a male
  • and his father are allegedly suppliers of illicit cultural property from primarily Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • allegedly grew up in Pakistan and England. 
  • allegedly was implicated in several recorded conversations for shipping large quantities of newly dug-up, stolen antiquities from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Thailand, often via Hong Kong, and then to dealers from around the world.  
  • allegedly was implicated in selling Doris Wiener 14 stolen antiquities
Other individuals who are mentioned in the complaint

Vaman Ghiya - According to the criminal complaint, seized documents and statements made by informant #2 implicate Weiner in the purchase of the Seated Buddha #1 from Vaman Ghiya, someone who was listed as a long-time supplier from India who often used "Shantoo" to sell his looted antiquities. According to seized documents and informant #1, Doris Wiener was allegedly implicated in buying a stolen mottled red sandstone relief depicting a Bacchanalian scene from Ghiya that Wiener then allegedly falsely claiming that her mother had acquired from a private collection in London.

Ghiya is a known antiquities smuggler who allegedly confessed to selling 10,000 objects of Indian art via Sotheby’s—subject of a BBC sting operation.  Convicted in 2008 and sentenced to life imprisonment, the conviction was quashed on appeal because of procedural irregularities during the police prosecution.


Ranjeet Kanwar - According to the criminal complaint and statements by a former employee of Kapoor, “Shantoo” is the alleged nickname of Ranjeet Kanwar, one of Subhash Kapoor's alleged main suppliers of stolen antiquities from India.  His name appears on a computer disk file folder that contained three pictures of looted Seated Buddha #1 found at the Sofia Bros. Storage, in New York County, a storage facility rented by Subhash Kapoor.

Om Sharma - According to the criminal complaint, seized emails and statements by informants #1 and #2, it is alleged that Om Sharma is a supplier of illicit antiquities from India.  Wiener allegedly bought the stolen red sandstone figure depicting a Jain goddess from Sharma in 2009. The complaint also states that in August 2010, “Victor” had allegedly emailed Doris and Nancy Wiener separately to offer one of the Apsara Marbles, attaching pictures of the dirty, unrestored sculpture on the ground with what appeared to be cut marks. According to statements from informants #1 and #2, “Victor” is the alleged email pseudonym for Om and Badal Sharma.

Sharod Singh - According to the criminal complaint, informants #1 and #2, it is alleged that Sharod Singh is a supplier of illicit antiquities from India. According to emails and records provided by informant #1, Doris Wiener allegedly purchased a looted red sandstone relief (“Red Sandstone Couple”) from this individual in 2002 and the allegedly smuggled it into the US via via Kurt Anderson, Inc., a corporation owned by her.

The authorities have stated that they executed more than 50 search warrants as part of this investigation.




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