More than a dozen artifacts linked to infamous antiquities trafficker Subhash Kapoor were seized from Yale’s art gallery on Wednesday by Homeland Security. Twelve of the 13 artifacts were allegedly looted from India, and one item originated from Burma.
The artifacts have been valued collectively at $1.29 million, according to officials. While authorities did not initially identify the school, Yale confirmed on April 1 that it had surrendered the artifacts to the Manhattan district attorney’s office, which is working in collaboration with U.S. Homeland Security Investigations.
“Yale was glad to work cooperatively with the D.A.’s Office in this important matter,” the university said in a statement posted to the museum’s website.
The goods were seized as part of a decade-long investigation into Kapoor, a disgraced Manhattan art dealer who was accused of by U.S. authorities of being “one of the most prolific commodities smugglers in the world.”
Matthew Bogdanos, chief of the district attorney’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit, said in a statement that investigators had confirmed that nine of the 13 antiquities seized from Yale were illegally trafficked by Kapoor.
“With the assistance of our partners in India, we also identified two antiquities at Yale that had been stolen from temples,” he said.
In 2019, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office filed a criminal complaint against Kapoor that described a multinational ring that trafficked thousands of stolen artifacts worth more than $145 million over 30 years. Kapoor was jailed in India and went on trial in early 2021. A spokesperson for the HSI told ARTnews that “it is anticipated that [Kapoor] will be extradited to the United States upon his release from prison in India.”
Kapoor, 72, was renowned among New York dealers for his ability to procure museum-quality goods until his initial arrest on trafficking charges in 2011 in Germany. Subsequent investigations revealed the scope of his criminal dealings. Some 2,600 objects—smuggled from Afghanistan, Cambodia, India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Thailand using false provenance papers—were confiscated from several storage locations owned by Kapoor in New York City. Thousands more are still missing.
“From where I sit, we’re very focused on putting those smuggling networks out of business,” James T. Hayes Jr., the agent overseeing much of Homeland Security’s investigation said following Kapoor’s first arrest. “At the end of the day, our primary responsibility is to get stolen property back to its rightful owners.”
Kapoor’s buyers included a global network of private collectors, galleries, and museums, among them the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio.
In 2021, authorities in Manhattan returned 248 devotional icons worth $15 million to India. The group included two bronze statue Hindu deities dating from the 12th century and 16th century, respectively. Both were suspected of being harvested from remote shrines in the country that lack proper protection from the government.
The article was updated on April 1.