$30 Million in Stolen Indian Art Recovered From New York City Gallerist

Bullet Shih Jul, 2012 0
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The NY Post has reported that the Feds have uncovered a cache of stolen Indian artifacts in the possession of art dealer Subhash Chandra Kapoor who has been operating a gallery, Art of the Past on the Upper East Side of Manhattan on Madison Avenue.   While the international authorities have been closing in on Kapoor who has been dealing Indian art in New York since 1975, it appears the final nail in the coffin was provided by his ex lover Paramaspry Punusamy a Singapore art dealer after he sued her for missing artworks.  The Post reports,

The two split up amid a dispute involving Indian idols — accusing each other in a Singapore court of withholding antiquities from each other.

Kapoor was arrested in Germany last fall and was recently extradited to India on July 15th for his arraignment.  The racket is coinsidered to be one of the largest operations of illicit Indian art and highlights a complex “art” laundering process which is similar to money laundering used by many in the criminal underworld.  The stolen works were shipped around the world through various entities to give them a “clean” provenance.  The Hindu explains the process,

Smuggling antiquities is a theoretical impossibility. All ancient art objects including privately owned ones must be registered with an appropriate authority. Their export is banned. Any newly made artefact that resembles an antiquity must be certified by the archaeological authorities as being so and declared as not historically valuable before they can be taken out of the country. Customs authorities are to check for all art objects that are carried in person or shipped.

However, looking at the regular appearance of Indian antiquities on the stolen list of Interpol, it is clear that the preventive net has gaping holes and that the system is not really working.

Smugglers would not steal objects directly. They deploy a well-oiled network of local petty thieves and middlemen to scout and steal from poorly guarded temples and museums. Once the stolen goods reach their ‘shops,’ they would pack them along with other handicrafts with proper certification and purchase bills in large containers and ship them out. In the absence of enough container scanners and comprehensive checks by Customs officials, the stolen antiquities would easily slip through.

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