Shiva and Pavarti. Courtesy of ICE

Ball State University in Indiana has handed over its lone Art of the Past artifact to federal investigators. The bronze idol — a husband and wife piece depicting Shiva the Destroyer and Parvati — had been swiped from a temple in India, and Subhash Kapoor’s Art of the Past Gallery transferred it to the university museum using a false background.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement will hold on to the statue in case it needs to be used as evidence in the investigation into Kapoor’s Manhattan-based operation, which authorities allege moved $100 million worth of stolen antiquities until he was arrested in 2011 and sent to India to face charges. Shiva and Parvati will ultimately returned to India.

Here’s the ICE account:

ICE HSI partners with Ball State University and the David Owsley Museum of Art to recover a hidden idol stolen from India

Nov. 17, 2015

MUNCIE, Indiana – Representatives from the David Owsley Museum of Art at Ball State University transferred Monday a religious relic known as a Festival Bronze of Shiva and Parvati to the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Under the auspices of Operation Hidden Idols, special agents with HSI’s cultural property unit were able to determine that this idol had been looted from a temple in Southern India and brought to the United States illegally. HSI formally took custody of the artifact, which is linked to the ongoing investigation. For the past five months, officials at the museum worked hand in hand with HSI to identify the stolen piece.

The bronze sculpture of Shiva and Parvati, from the Chola Period (860 -1279 CE), Tamil Nadu, South India (15 x 12.25 x 6 inches), was sourced illegally from India under the direction of Subhash Kapoor and smuggled into the United States. Around 2004, the stolen idol was delivered to Kapoor’s former Madison Avenue gallery, Art of the Past. Kapoor displayed the Shiva and Parvati sculpture for sale and misrepresented the idol’s true origin. In 2005, representatives from Ball State University became unwitting victims as Kapoor provided the museum with a false provenance for their artifact. Kapoor had a fraudulent provenance attributed to Leo Figiel that placed the artifact back to a U.S. collection in 1969.

HSI special agents have tracked many false provenances provided by Kapoor, the owner of Art of the Past Gallery, which has been one of the pillars of Operation Hidden Idols. This methodology of back-tracking an artifact to its theft site and searching out the smuggling methods from the source country to Kapoor’s U.S. gallery has led to numerous recoveries. To date, HSI special agents, in conjunction with the Manhattan prosecutor’s office, have netted in excess of 2,500 artifacts worth more than $100 million. These artifacts stem from countries around the world.

The Festival Bronze of Shiva and Parvati will be shipped to New York where it will serve as potential evidence in Operation Hidden Idols. Ultimately it is anticipated the item will be forfeited and repatriated to India along with at least six other sacred Chola bronzes recovered by HSI.

HSI’s Operation Hidden Idol focuses on the activities of a former New York-based art dealer, Subhash Kapoor, who is currently in custody in India awaiting trial for allegedly looting tens of millions of dollars’ worth of rare antiquities from several nations. The trails of looted artifacts have been traced all around the world. Within the past eight months, two domestic museums, the Honolulu Museum, the Peabody Essex, and one major collector have partnered with HSI to surrender illicit cultural property stemming from Kapoor. Over the last three years, HSI special agents have executed a series of search warrants targeting Kapoor’s Manhattan gallery, along with warehouses and storage facilities linked to the dealer. Additionally, three individuals have been arrested in the U.S. for their role in the scheme.

 

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