December 6, 2023
KATHMANDU – The United States on Monday handed over four stolen Nepali artefacts to Nepal.
According to the Consulate General of Nepal in New York, Bishnu Gautam, acting consul general, received the sculptures from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg Jr. and other senior officials of the District Attorney’s Office.
The artefacts dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries include two gilded Bhairav masks (Mukhundo), a sculpture each of Shiva and Parvati (Uma-Maheshwara) and Durga.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office said three of the pieces were recovered under several ongoing investigations into trafficking networks targeting Nepali antiquities.
One artefact was seized under an investigation against Subhash Kapoor, an allegedly prolific looter who helped traffic items from Afghanistan, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand and other countries.
For over a decade, the District Attorney’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit, along with law enforcement partners at Homeland Security Investigations, have investigated Kapoor and his co-conspirators for the alleged illegal looting, exportation, and sale of artefacts from numerous countries in South and Southeast Asia, including Nepal.
It is alleged that Kapoor and his co-defendants generally smuggled looted antiquities into Manhattan and sold the pieces through Kapoor’s Madison Avenue-based gallery, Art of the Past. From 2011 to 2023 the attorney office HSI recovered more than 2,500 items allegedly trafficked by Kapoor and his network. The total value of the pieces recovered exceeds $143 million.
Speaking at the handover ceremony, Acting Consul General Gautam conveyed deep gratitude from the government and people of Nepal to the District Attorney Bragg, and his team, the United States Department of Homeland Security Investigations-New York team and other officials for their collaboration in recovery and repatriation of these sculptures.
He also expressed his deep gratitude to the museums, investigators, media, art and heritage campaigners and researchers and all others involved in this process.