Art Market

The art dealer Subhash Kapoor and seven co-conspirators were charged with running a $143-million smuggling ring.

Benjamin Sutton
Jul 11, 2019 3:59PM, via Associated Press

Photo by Samuel Zeller, via Unsplash.

A new criminal case against the former Manhattan antiquities dealer Subhash Kapoor has shed more light on the vast antiquities smuggling ring he allegedly ran. According to a new complaint filed by the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr., Kapoor and seven co-conspirators were involved in smuggling stolen artifacts worth over $143 million out of Afghanistan, Cambodia, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Thailand, over the course of 30 years. Of those artifacts about 2,600 objects collectively valued at over $107 million have already been seized by authorities, while another 39 objects said to be worth $36 million remain missing.

Vance told the Associated Press:

These are, in many instances, priceless works that represent the culture and history of the countries from which they were stolen. [. . .] They are of enormous value.

The new charges resulted from an investigation dubbed “Operation Hidden Idol,” which was guided in part by documents obtained during a raid of Kapoor’s former Madison Avenue gallery, Art of the Past. The ensuing inquiry involved federal agents from Homeland Security Investigations and international arrest warrants issued by INTERPOL. Kapoor is currently being held in India, where he has been awaiting trial on similar charges for almost eight years; according to a prosecutor, none of his co-defendants are thought to be in the United States.

While allegedly operating the smuggling ring, Kapoor sold many of the artifacts to major museums around the world, including the National Gallery of Australia and the Toledo Museum of Art.

Further Reading: 5 Art Market Misdeeds with Impressive Provenance

Benjamin Sutton