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ASI identifies Indian artefacts seized from art smuggler Subhash Kapoor in USA, could be brought back to India

Several museums worldwide have returned items acquired from Subhash Kapoor after they learnt that those were smuggled

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had identified Indian artefacts seized by the US Immigration and Customs Department from the arrested art smuggler Subhash Kapoor. On Wednesday, the ASI said that the artefacts would soon be returned to the country.

Over 300 antique objects, including idols dating to the Gupta period (5th-6th century AD) and terracotta objects of the Harappan culture, were identified by the Indian team that had visited the United States.

Two officials, Dr Urmila Sant and P.S. Sriraman, visited the US after receiving information from the Consulate General of India in New York about the seizure of artefacts by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement of U.S. Department of Homeland Security from the storage of the art smuggler Subhash Kapoor. Close to 100 objects have been identified by the ASI team.

“The antiquities comprise beautiful bronzes from the Suttamalli and Sripurantan temples of Tamil Nadu and also a very significant image of Mahakoka Devata. Of these, four antiquities were stolen from the protected monuments at Karitalai, district Katni in Madhya Pradesh on August 16 and 17, 2006,” the ASI said.

In addition to this, the Consulate showed the team 327 objects, out of which 251 were found to be historically important antiques. This also contained the 56 terracotta objects returned by the Toledo Museum (Ohio) which was originally gifted to them by Subhash Kapoor. A majority of the terracotta belonged to Chandraketugarh, West Bengal, a prominent site of terracotta art in the first decade, CE. The rest comprised terracotta objects of Harappan culture and of the Gupta period.

“Further, 232 objects comprising of brass and copper alloys, gold with enamel work, silver, stone and terracotta in possession of the Indian consulate were also inspected by the ASI officials. Among them, few were identified as antiquities, like the stone image of the Buddha of Mathura School, a terracotta image of the Buddha belonging to the Gupta period and a set of 10 copper plates engraved with Quranic verses of the late Mughal Period,” the ASI said.

The statement also added that following the arrest of Subhash Kapoor, many museums have returned the stolen artefacts procured from him.

“Many museums in the U.S. have also deposited various valuable antiquities to Homeland Security officials that they had purchased from Kapoor, saying they were not aware that the items had been smuggled into the country,” the ASI said, adding that the Indian consulate in New York would be working on transporting the objects back to India.

Subhash Kapoor was an Uttar Pradesh-born US citizen and had an antique gallery in New York. He had smuggled idols from India and Afghanistan. Kapoor is also an important link to an international smuggling racket. Interpol had acted upon a red corner notice and he was detained in Germany. He was extradited and faced trial in Chennai. Currently, he is locked up Trichy prison.

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