NEW YORK: The United States has returned four antiquities worth $1 million to Nepal, including a pair of gilt copper masks representing a Hindu deity, following anti-trafficking operations, New York authorities said on Monday.
One of the items was seized as part of a probe into Subhash Kapoor, whom Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg described as an “allegedly prolific looter who helped traffic items” from several Asian countries.
Between 2011 and 2023, officials claim to have recovered more than 2,500 items trafficked by Kapoor and his network, Bragg’s office said in a statement.
“The total value of the pieces recovered exceeds $143 million,” it added.
“We will continue to target antiquities trafficking networks no matter how complex. I thank our outstanding team of analysts and attorneys... for recovering and returning these beautiful pieces,” Bragg said.
The four items given back to Nepalese authorities were handed over at a ceremony in New York.
“The return of these illegally exported four masterpieces is a significant step in reclaiming Nepal’s cultural heritage and preserving its historical treasures,” said Nepal’s acting consul general in New York Bishnu Prasad Gautam.
The masks, from the 16th century and collectively valued at $900,000, depict Shiva, part of the Hindu trinity.
“Both masks were stolen in the mid-1990s as part of a series of break-in robberies from the home of the family” whose relatives made them, Bragg’s office said.
In recent years, the New York’s Met and other prestigious museums have agreed to return trafficked works, in particular pieces from countries riddled by conflict from 1970 to 1990.
Under Bragg, who has been in office since 2022, more than 1,000 pieces worth $190 million have been returned to 19 countries, including Cambodia, China, India and Pakistan.