Home Consulate Manhattan District Attorney returns 187 artifacts linked to disgraced dealer Subhash Kapoor to Pakistan

Manhattan District Attorney returns 187 artifacts linked to disgraced dealer Subhash Kapoor to Pakistan


Just days after antiquities dealer Subhash Kapoor was sentenced to ten years in prison by an Indian court, nearly 200 items seized during the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office investigation into the dealer and his associates have been sent back to Pakistan.

The repatriation of 192 items with a collective value of $3.4 million was announced on November 10. Of these, 187 are linked to Kapoor, his former Art of the Past gallery on Madison Avenue, and his accomplices in a vast smuggling ring that has ensnared collectors and institutions around the world, from New York to Canberra. Since 2011, the District Attorney’s Office and federal Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents have seized more than 2,500 items worth more than $143 million related to Kapoor and his associates.

“Subhash Kapoor was one of the most prolific antiquities traffickers in the world, but thanks to the work of our dedicated investigators and analysts, we were able to recover thousands of pieces looted from his network,” said the district attorney of Manhattan, Alvin L. Bragg, Jr. says in a statement. “We will continue to pursue full responsibility against Mr. Kapoor and his co-conspirators, who have shown blatant disregard for the cultural and historical significance of these antiquities.”

Newly repatriated artifacts include several terracotta Mehrgarh dolls, objects dated between 3500 and 2600 BCE, making them one of the oldest man-made figures in the world. They were first discovered in 1974 at a Neolithic archaeological site in Pakistan which was later targeted by looters. A Gandharian statue of a maitreya (a future enlightened Buddha) was also returned. It was looted in Pakistan and smuggled to New York in the 1990s by traffickers Zahid Parvez Butt and Zeeshan Butt.

The Mehrgarh dolls and the Gandharan statue which are now being returned to Pakistan had been kept in a storage unit rented by people affiliated with Art of the Past until its contents were seized earlier this year by law enforcement officers. Manhattan District Attorney’s Office Antiquities Trafficking Unit.

During a ceremony this week at the Pakistani Consulate in New York, Consul General Ayesha Ali signed an agreement with Bragg’s office to take possession of the contraband items. “We started this journey with the prosecutor’s office and [HSI] in November 2020, 45 pieces of stolen Gandhara artifacts were returned and today we are very lucky that another batch of 192 antiquities worth $3.4 million have been returned,” said Ali in a press release.

Just over a year ago, Bragg’s office repatriated 235 Kapoor-related items to India.