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Here’s the ICE account on the latest in the Art of the Past investigation:

NJ man pleads to selling stolen South Central Asian antiquities

NEW YORK – A Manhattan art gallery manager pleaded guilty last week in his role in coordinating a large-scale conspiracy to sell stolen Indian antiquities worth tens of millions of dollars.

Aaron Freedman, 41, of Princeton, NJ, worked for nearly two decades as a manager at Art of the Past, a gallery that served as a front for the sale of stolen and looted Buddhist and Hindu statues. As the store’s manager, Freedman pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy in the for conspiring to possess stolen property, along with five counts of possession of stolen property.

He admitted to assisting Art of the Past owner Subhash Kapoor, 64, with shipments of stolen antiquities from India, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Cambodia, as well as providing false provenances. As part of the conspiracy, Freedman assisted with the sale of stolen artwork to galleries and museums across the world, which included the sale of a stolen $5 million Shiva Nataraja statue looted from the Sivan Temple in India, which is now on display at the National Gallery of Australia and the attempted sale of a 2nd century B.C. Bharhut Stupa Yaksi pillar sculpture valued at approximately $15 million, which is now in Homeland Security Investigations custody pending forfeiture.

In total, Freedman pleaded guilty to six felony counts related to possession of stolen property valued at roughly $35 million. He has also agreed to cooperate with the ongoing HSI investigation and prosecution of Kapoor, who is currently in the custody of Indian authorities for arranging the theft of statues from significant cultural and religious sites in that country. Kapoor also faces charges in New York County for possession of stolen property.

“Kapoor is by far the biggest smuggler, in terms of numbers of antiquities stolen and their market value, that we have seen,” said James T. Hayes Jr., special agent in charge for HSI New York. “HSI special agents continue to search and seek recovery of dozens of bronze and sandstone images of Hindu and Buddhist deities sold by Kapoor.”

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