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Press Release

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Return Of Thousand-Year-Old Bronze Statue To Republic Of India

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York
Statue of Hindu God Ganesha Was Stolen From a Temple in Tamil Nadu in 2006

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today the return of a stolen 11th or 12th Century bronze statue of Ganesha to the Republic of India, pursuant to an agreement between the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the Toledo Museum of Art.  The Ganesha was returned today along with several other stolen antiquities at a repatriation ceremony with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch at Blair House in Washington, D.C.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “A decade ago, a valued piece of India’s cultural heritage was stolen and sold in the United States.  We are proud to have played a role in returning this treasure to the Indian people, and reaffirm our commitment to ensuring that the United States does not become a marketplace for stolen art and antiquities.”

The statue of Ganesha, also known in Tamil Nadu as Vinayagar, is a bronze statue dating from the Chola dynasty period (1080-1150 A.D.).  The Ganesha was stolen from the Sivan temple at Sree Puranthan Village in the Ariyalur District of Tamil Nadu in 2006, and obtained by Subhash Kapoor, an antiquities dealer in Manhattan.  Kapoor has been charged with various offenses by both Indian authorities and the New York County District Attorney’s Office for his alleged involvement in trafficking in stolen antiquities, and is currently awaiting trial in Tamil Nadu.  Kapoor sold the Ganesha to the Toledo Museum of Art (the “Museum”) in 2006.

Working with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”), the Office identified the Ganesha as stolen, and contacted the Museum.  Upon being presented with the evidence of the Ganesha’s illicit origin, the Museum voluntarily agreed to turn over the Ganesha to HSI for return to the Republic of India.

Mr. Bharara thanked HSI for their outstanding work in connection with this matter.  He also thanked the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for their assistance.  Mr. Bharara also thanked the Toledo Museum of Art for their willingness to voluntarily return the Ganesha to the Republic of India.

The case is being handled by the Office’s Money Laundering and Asset Forfeiture Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexander J. Wilson is in charge of the case.

Updated June 6, 2016

Press Release Number: 16-152