U.S. repatriating smuggled art, stolen from Indian temple (w/gallery)

Published: January 14, 2014


Picture 1 of 5

U.S. returns stolen Indian sculptures. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement photo

VERENA DOBNIK
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS 

NEW YORK — U.S authorities on Tuesday returned one of the world’s most wanted stolen artworks and two other pieces to the Indian government — staging the celebration after a month-long clash over the arrest and strip search of an Indian diplomat in New York.

The sandstone antiquities depicting Hindu deities were handed over at India’s consulate in Manhattan. The national anthems of both nations were played at the start of the event.

Consul General Dnyaneshwar Mulay denied there was any link between the timing of the repatriation and the U.S.-Indian rift after last month’s arrest of his deputy, Devyani Khobragade. A U.S. grand jury indicted her on accusations she exploited her Indian-born housekeeper and nanny and lied about it on a visa form.

The art-related ceremony “was planned sometime back,” Mulay said. But he acknowledged that although India and the United States have “an ongoing strong partnership … all partnerships have their issues.”

The Indian diplomat offered no further comment on the subject as he led the ceremony with Shawn Bray, the director of Interpol in Washington, and James Dinkins, a top official at Homeland Security Investigations that conducts looted art probes.

“This case would not have been successful without the collaboration between the United States and India,” Dinkins told those gathered in the ballroom of the consular mansion off Fifth Avenue.

The centre of attention was the 350-pound “Vishnu and Lakshmi” sandstone sculpture from the 11th or 12th century stolen in 2009 from the Gadgach Temple in the Rajasthan state. Interpol had listed it as No. 6 on the world’s top 10 most wanted artworks.

Its stolen sister piece is the 600-pound sandstone “Vishnu and Parvati” from the same temple.

Homeland Security Investigations, which operates under the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, received information in 2010 that the sculptures were being offered for sale. The most-wanted one had first gone from India to Hong Kong, was then sold in Thailand, resold in London and exhibited in New York. Special agents intercepted the piece as it was being shipped back to London.

The sister sculpture also started out in Hong Kong, went to a New York buyer and then to another buyer in Switzerland.

The third returned work is a male deity in black sandstone from an unspecified location in India that was discovered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection entering the United States through Liberty International Airport in Newark, N.J.

Customs and Border Protection Officer Domenic DiGiovanni said the shipment stood out on an aircraft manifest.

“It said it was from Great Britain, and they said it was a handicraft” — worth $400, he said.

When the crate was opened, “we knew that most definitely it was not what they said it was.”

The officers notified Homeland Security Investigations, which turned to an art expert.

On Tuesday, officials declined to discuss those who were part of the international smuggling ring that orchestrated shipments of the three works that are worth at least $1.5 million.

“This investigation is far from over,” Bray said.

Dinkins called the perpetrators “professionals at disguising ownership,” noting that shipments are often mislabeled.

The handover comes after weeks of tensions between India and the United States over treatment of the deputy consul general in New York. Khobragade was picked up Dec. 13 and strip-searched while in custody, which the U.S. Marshals say is common practice.

She denies charges that she had her housekeeper work more than 100 hours a week for low pay.

The United States requested that Khobragade leave the country.

11:40ET 14-01-14

[+]

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,



Readers Comments (0)

Comments are closed.

Featured

dog-rock-tar

Video: Rescue story of a dog that fell into hot tar and turned into a rock

VANCOUVER DESI A team of animal rescuers in Western India spent two days working to free a helpless dog trapped in a pile of hot…
Continue Reading »

Surrey-crime

Surrey Sikh temple hit-and-run still a mystery after two years

TOM ZYTARUK SURREY NOW SURREY — Surrey Mounties believe somebody must have seen something that can help investigators solve a hit-and-run crash that happened two…
Continue Reading »

Pakistan

Kids sweatshirts made in Pakistan and sold at Kroger, Fred Meyer stores in the U.S. recalled for choking hazard

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS NEW YORK — Nearly 8,000 children’s hoodies are being recalled because of a possible choking risk. No injuries have been reported, but…
Continue Reading »

LOCAL NEWS

Global index ranks Norway tops, Afghanistan worst for well-being of older citizens

By David Crary THE ASSOCIATED PRESS NEW YORK — Canada ranks fourth when it comes to the well-being of its older residents, according to a…
Continue Reading »

Canada’s disaster assistance team ill-suited to help Ebola crisis, Harper says

THE CANADIAN PRESS OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Canada’s Disaster Assistance Response Team isn’t well-suited to be of much help in the unfolding…
Continue Reading »

Canada’s disaster assistance team ill-suited to help Ebola crisis, Harper says

THE CANADIAN PRESS OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Canada’s Disaster Assistance Response Team isn’t well-suited to be of much help in the unfolding…
Continue Reading »

Don't Miss...

body image-beauty-weight-control

Self-compassion leads to positive body image in women

IANS Toronto – Women who accept and tolerate their bodily imperfections appear to have a more positive body image despite their high body mass index…
Continue Reading »

British comedian John Oliver takes aim at Indian prime minister Narendra Modi's U.S. visit on his HBO show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. YouTube/Screengrab.

British comedian John Oliver again covers Indian politics in HBO show, takes aim at Modi’s U.S. visit (w/ video)

VANCOUVER DESI British comedian John Oliver has covered Indian politics yet again on his new HBO show, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. In this…
Continue Reading »

1INDIA_INTERNATIONAL_KITE_FESTIVAL_213745704

Last remaining family member of Indian freedom fighter Bhagat Singh dies in Toronto

IANS Chandigarh — The younger sister and last remaining blood relative of revolutionary freedom fighter Bhagat Singh has died in Canada, according to relatives in…
Continue Reading »

Komagata Maru

India honours 100-year anniversary of Komagata Maru with commemorative coins

IANS New Delhi — India on Monday released a set of special coins as part of a year-long centenary commemoration of the 1914 Komagata Maru…
Continue Reading »

Sandy Sidhu main.jpg

Nanaimo’s Sandy Sidhu to appear in film at VIFF, but the actress is still waiting for her big break

LARISSA CAHUTE VANCOUVER DESI It took years for Nanaimo’s Sandy Sidhu to admit that she was an aspiring actress. Enrolled at UBC for cell biology…
Continue Reading »


Bollywood Latest

Shah Rukh Khan Deepika Padukone Bollywood sex

Shah Rukh Khan: My films are never male-oriented (w/gallery)

HINDUSTAN TIMES Shah Rukh Khan may be a name big enough to make a film a blockbuster on his own, but he says that his…
Continue Reading »

Sonam Kapoor

Gallery: 10 celebs who did not let diabetes rule their lives

VANCOUVER DESI Did you know Bollywood actress Sonam Kapoor has been living with Diabetes from her teen years? And her Pakistani co-star in Khoobsurat — Fawad…
Continue Reading »

Bollywood sex

Indian court blocks 72 websites from streaming Bollywood movie ‘Bang Bang’

IANS New Delhi – The Delhi High Court Tuesday directed various internet and telecom service providers to block access to 72 websites hosting the yet-to-be…
Continue Reading »