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

india flag2

Sporting fans disappointed as Indian flag depicted upside down in Commonwealth Games promotional video

VANCOUVER DESI India is already making headlines as the Commonwealth Games officially kick off in Glasgow – but not for sporting-related reasons. In an official…
Continue Reading »

CABS1

Heaving, hurling taxi patrons will now be charged a $75 cleanup fine

THE CANADIAN PRESS If you’re feeling queasy, step away from the cab. That’s the advice from taxi drivers across British Columbia after the province’s Passenger…
Continue Reading »

INDIA_RAPE_PROTEST_217126232

Angry villagers mob alleged suspects after another girl found hanging from tree in India

KOUSHIK DUTTA HINDUSTAN TIMES A 7-year-old girl was found raped, murdered and hanging from a tree in West Bengal on Thursday, resurfacing horrific memories from…
Continue Reading »

LOCAL NEWS

CABS1

Heaving, hurling taxi patrons will now be charged a $75 cleanup fine

THE CANADIAN PRESS If you’re feeling queasy, step away from the cab. That’s the advice from taxi drivers across British Columbia after the province’s Passenger…
Continue Reading »

Homicide investigators are on scene at a stabbing in Surrey.

Homicide investigators on scene of stabbing in Surrey

VANCOUVER DESI A man is dead following an early morning stabbing in Surrey. Surrey RCMP were called to the 10600-block 135A Street in Whalley shortly…
Continue Reading »

Vancouver restaurateur Vikram Vij poses with Barinder Rasode at his new South Surrey restaurant My Shanti at an event Thursday night. Submitted photo.

Will Vikram Vij’s ‘support’ be enough to push Barinder Rasode into Surrey mayoralty ring?

LARISSA CAHUTE VANCOUVER DESI Still yet to officially announce a bid for mayor this fall, Surrey city councillor Barinder Rasode had an endorsement party of…
Continue Reading »

Don't Miss...

child abuse

Indian kidnappers agree to handover boy to parents on condition of swapping him for his sister

CEN AGENCY In a bizarre demand, parents of an Indian boy who has been kidnapped, were told that they could have youngster back if they…
Continue Reading »

232-teeth tumour gum

Indian teen boy gets 232 teeth removed from “very rare” tumour in his jaw

VANCOUVER DESI A 17-year-old boy in India underwent a seven-hour long operation on Monday to have a whopping 232 teeth removed from a “very rare”…
Continue Reading »

basketball

Indian minister criticizes ‘no-headgear’ rule after Sikh basketball players told to remove turbans during Asia Cup

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS NEW DELHI — India’s sports minister has criticized the ‘no-headgear’ rule of basketball’s world body FIBA after two Sikh players on the…
Continue Reading »

Greece

Tipsy British tourist asked to leave church after mistaking it for a disco

CEN AGENCY A tipsy British tourist had to be asked to leave a church in Crete where he started dancing after local kids told him…
Continue Reading »

Surrey-weight lifter-Commonwealth Games-Glasgow

Surrey weightlifter Parm Phangura bound for Commonwealth Games

MICHAEL BOOTH SURREY NOW FLEETWOOD — 163+205=368. That stark equation scrawled in the top corner of a chalkboard means little to a casual observer, but…
Continue Reading »


Bollywood Latest

Priyanka Chopra

Priyanka Chopra fought with professional boxers while shooting Mary Kom

IANS Mumbai  – Actress Priyanka Chopra fought with real boxers in Mary Kom, a biopic on the five time World Champion boxer. She says it…
Continue Reading »

Bollywood

Akshay Kumar to host dance reality show Dare 2 Dance

IANS Gurgaon  – Bollywood action hero Akshay Kumar, who has played host of TV adventure reality series Fear Factor: Khatron Ke Khiladi in the past,…
Continue Reading »

INDIA-ARTS-CINEMA-BOLLYWOOD

What stunt scared Jacqueline Fernandez the most while filming Kick?

IANS Mumbai — Superstar Salman Khan has done a lot of action and stunts in Kick and the film’s leading lady Jacqueline Fernandez says that…
Continue Reading »