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This “Vishnu and Parvati” sandstone sculpture dating to the 11th or 12th century was stolen from an Indian temple in 2009. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations returned three recovered sculptures, valued at more than $1.5 million, to the government of India Tuesday during a repatriation ceremony at the consulate in New York City.

Earlier this week, statues that had been looted from India and then laundered through Hong Kong and England were returned to their home country after the wound up in the United States. One of the pieces was listed on Interpol’s most wanted list for stolen antiquities.

Here is the Immigration and Customs Enforcement rundown on the case:

 

ICE returns recovered, ‘most wanted’ stolen antiquities to India


Jan. 14

NEW YORK —U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations returned three recovered sculptures, valued at more than $1.5 million, to the government of India Tuesday during a repatriation ceremony at the consulate in New York City.

One of the objects –- a 350-pound sandstone sculpture stolen from an Indian temple in 2009 –- was listed as one of INTERPOL’s top 10 most wanted stolen works of art.

Two of the three artifacts returned to India were reported in 2009 by the Archaeological Survey of India, who notified the Indian Consulate about two sandstone sculptures stolen from the Gadgach Temple in Atru, Rajasthan, India. The 350-pound “Vishnu and Lakshmi” sandstone sculpture dates back to the 11th or 12th century and was listed as No. 6 on INTERPOL’s top 10 most wanted works of art. Also stolen from the temple and repatriated during the Jan. 14 ceremony was the 600-pound “Vishnu and Parvati” sandstone sculpture, dating to the same period.

The third artifact is a male deity black sandstone sculpture, depicting a Bodhisattva, a popular subject in Buddhist art, and is believed to date back to the 11th or early 12th century from either the Indian State of Bihar or Bengal.

The investigation began April 13, 2010, when HSI New York special agents received information that the Indian sandstone sculptures recently looted from India were being offered for sale in the United States. HSI special agents discovered that the “Vishnu and Lakshmi” was transported from India to Hong Kong. From there, it was sold to a dealer in Thailand, and then resold to a buyer in London. The London buyer shipped the sculpture to New York City for an exhibition in March 2010. On April 15, 2010, HSI special agents recovered the piece while it was being shipped back to London.

On July 12, 2010, as a direct result of the “Vishnu and Lakshmi” seizure, a sister piece, the “Vishnu and Parvati,” was seized. It was transported to Hong Kong, sold to a buyer in New York and then sold and shipped to a buyer in Basel, Switzerland.

On July 7, 2011, the Indian black stone Bodhisattva figure was discovered being smuggled into the United States at Newark Airport by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers. HSI special agents seized it after discovering that its accompanying paperwork declared Great Britain as a false country of origin. In addition, the item was grossly undervalued.

The last ICE cultural property repatriation to India was in 2006 when ICE agents in NY returned a ninth century stone idol that had been stolen from a temple in Mandsaur in Madhya Pradesh in 2000.

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