US returns stolen antiquities to India

US returns stolen antiquities to India

India and the US turned to the gods to ease tensions after their month long diplomatic spat when the US returned three recovered, ‘most wanted’ stolen antiquities valued at over $1.5 million to India.

The objects, including a 350-pound sandstone sculpture stolen from an Indian temple in 2009  and listed as one of INTERPOL’s top 10 most wanted stolen works of art, were returned at an event Tuesday at the Indian consulate to consul general Dnyaneshwar M. Mulay.

Devyani Khobragade, who worked as Mulay’s deputy at the time of her December 12 arrest, returned home last week after India declined to waive her immunity despite her indictment by a New York grand jury.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Executive Associate Director James A. Dinkins presented the artefacts to Mulay, alongside INTERPOL Washington Director Shawn Bray.

“The excellent international cooperation between the United States and India led to the recovery and return of these priceless antiquities,” said Dinkins.  

“Prevention of illegal trade in antiquities has emerged as an important area of cooperation between India and the United States as can be seen from this recent recovery of stolen Indian antiquities,” said Mulay.

Two of the three artefacts returned to India were reported in 2009 by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), who notified the Indian Consulate about two sandstone sculptures stolen from the Gadgach Temple in Atru, Rajasthan, ICE said.

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 artefact 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 Bihar or Bengal.

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