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April 20, 2021

Restitution: Manhattan and US authorities hand over three 13 - 16th century CE artefacts stolen from the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal.

One week after its last restitution, on the first of April, the Consulate General of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal in New York received three more Kapoor-handled artefacts at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. Those artefacts were: 

  • a 13th century CE wooden beam depicting a colored Apsara
  • a 14th-15th century CE gold seated Buddha in Bhumisparsa Mudra, 
  • a 15th-16th century CE seated Ganesha 
All three of these ancient objects were seized pursuant to the Manhattan DA's investigation of antiquities dealer Subhash Kapoor.  In furtherance of the occasion, Consulate General Mr. Bishnu Prasad Gautam, and District Attorney of New York County Mr. Cyrus Vance Jr. signed an agreement establishing the recovery, hand over, and repatriation of the antiquities to the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal.  

Mr. Gautam expressed his thanks to the United States Department of Homeland Security and Acting Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge Eric Silverman, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr., and Assistant D.A. Matthew Bogdanos, Senior Trial Counsel and Chief of the Antiquities Trafficking Unit, who handled the recovery of the Nepali artefacts along with Special Agents Brenton Easter and John Paul Labbat and Investigative Analyst Apsara Iyer of the Manhattan DA's office. 

The Nepal officials honoured those responsible for the artefacts' restitution,  bestowing them with a traditional Tibetan Khata, a scarf offered as a symbol of respect and gratitude.  

To date, several investigations have tracked many false provenances provided by Subhash Kapoor. This methodology of back-tracking an artefact to its theft site and searching out the smuggling methods from the source country to Kapoor's U.S. gallery and the collectors who purchased from him has led to several recoveries.  One of those, a 10th- or 11th-century mūrti of Lakshmi-Narayana (Sanskrit: लक्ष्मी-नारायण, IAST: Lakṣmīnārāyaṇa), a manifestation of Vishnu in the Hindu religion disappeared from the Narayan Temple in the Patko Tol neighbourhood in Patan, in 1984.  That sacred object was eventually purchased six years later in March 1990 by David T. Owsley, (a client of Kapoor's) who in turn lent the object to the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA).  On 2 March 2021 officials from the Dallas FBI Field Office and the Dallas Museum of Art announced the voluntary restitution and formal transfer of that mūrti back to the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal.