Investigation Leads To 133 Antiquities Worth $14 M. Returned to Pakistan

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office recently announced the return of 133 antiquities “collectively valued at $14 million” to Pakistan after being seized as part of multiple investigations of trafficking networks.

The press release specifically mentioned Subhash Kapoor and Richard Beale, both of whom have been previously charged with trafficking artifacts. The items were returned during a ceremony with Consul General Aamer Ahmed Atozai and a special agent from the New York office of Homeland Security Investigations.

“These artifacts are now being returned to where they belong. This repatriation is more than the return of physical objects; it is the restoration of a part of Pakistan’s soul and identity,” Atozai said in a press statement.

Among the items being returned is a Gold Strato I Coin from circa 105-85 B.C.E. According to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, Beale tried to smuggle the coin into the US through John F. Kennedy airport, resulting in its seizure in 2023. Beale was arrested in New York last January on multiple charges relating to the sale of a multimillion-dollar ancient coin. Prior to his arrest for the “Eid Mar” (Ides of March) coin, Beale was the owner and managing director of Roma Numismatics, a London-based auction house that dealt in ancient coins. Beale and Italo Vecchi were convicted of crimes related to antiquities trafficking in August last year.

The other highlighted item being returned to Pakistan is an elaborately carved stone head of a Bodhisattva wearing a headdress featuring a lotus flower from the 2nd or 3rd century. The Manhattan District Attorney’s office said the stone head was recovered from a storage facility “allegedly hidden by Kapoor.”

Kapoor, the former owner of the Madison Avenue gallery Art of the Past, has been the subject of long-term investigations by the DA’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit and Homeland Security Investigations for selling looted antiquities. Between 2011 and 2023, authorities recovered more than 2,500 items, with an estimated value of more than $143 million.

A Homeland Security Investigations officer called Kapoor “one of the most prolific commodities smugglers in the world.” An arrest warrant was obtained by the DA’s office for Kapoor in 2012, and he was indicted in November 2019. Kapoor was sentenced to ten years in prison by an Indian court in 2022 and his extradition from India is currently pending.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office did not respond to inquiries from ARTnews about the other seized items and where they would be sent.

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