Stolen Indian idols seized in US

Last Updated: Thu, Dec 06, 2012 09:29 hrs

New York: US authorities, working with India, have seized five bronze statues, including an antique Goddess Parvati idol worth millions of dollars, stolen from temples in Tamil Nadu and allegedly sold by an Indian antique smuggler.

The Parvati statue, a cultural property of India, is one of many items stolen from temples in Tamil Nadu and allegedly sold by an Indian antique smuggler Subhash Kapoor, who is currently facing criminal charges in India.

Special agents with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), in cooperation with the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), seized the bronze Parvati statue and four bronze figures from Tamil Nadu estimated to be worth more than USD 5 million at the Port of Newark.

The agents were working in cooperation with the government of India, Interpol and the Manhattan District Attorney's Office.

Kapoor was the subject of an Interpol red notice and was arrested in late 2011 at Frankfurt International Airport in Germany. He was extradited to India in July this year to face criminal charges.

The ICE said even though the Parvati statue had been placed on Interpol's 'Stolen Works of Art' database, it had passed through the hands of six different dealers over as many years.

The statue had been in Europe and was being aggressively pursued by the city's federal agents.

It is the fifth bronze Chola statue allegedly stolen and sold by Kapoor that has been recovered by HSI in the past year.

Kapoor's "alleged smuggling of cultural artifacts worth more than an estimated 100 million dollars makes him one of the most prolific commodities smugglers in the world today," special agent in charge of HSI New York James Hayes said in a statement.

Hayes urged the art community to help the agency identify artifacts sold or donated by Kapoor.

"We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners and the government of India to bring Kapoor to justice and return the artifacts in question to their rightful owners," he added.

India's consul general in New York Prabhu Dayal voiced appreciation for the ICE in "retrieving and recovering priceless antiquities illegally brought into the US by smuggling syndicates".

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