Published: July 27, 2021
NEW YORK CITY – On July 20, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr announced the indictment of British antiquities restorer Neil Perry Smith following his extradition from London. Smith is charged with possessing and restoring 22 stolen pieces with an estimated value of more than $32 million. The works in Smith’s possession originated from India, Cambodia, Thailand and Nepal.
Smith was allegedly in conspiracy with Subhash Kapoor, the disgraced antiquities dealer indicted in 2019 for running a $143 million smuggling racket. Kapoor is currently imprisoned in India and the investigation into his smuggling racket has to date recovered more than 2,500 items. His Brooklyn-based restorer, Richard Salmon, was indicted and arraigned in 2019.
“Smith’s restorations concealed the antiquities’ illicit origin so that alleged conspiracy ringleader Subhash Kapoor could then sell them at his now-closed Madison Avenue-based gallery, Art of the Past,” the office wrote in a release.
“Without restorers to disguise stolen relics, there would be no laundered items for antiquities traffickers to sell,” said District Attorney Vance. “The arraignment of Neil Perry Smith serves as a reminder that behind every antiquities trafficking ring preying upon cultural heritage for profit, there is someone reassembling and restoring these looted pieces to lend the criminal enterprise a veneer of legitimacy. Thanks to our Antiquities Trafficking Unit and our partners at HSI, Smith will now face justice on U.S. soil, and we look forward to seeing alleged ringleader Subhash Kapoor inside of a Manhattan courtroom in the near future. In the meantime, we will continue to pursue these cases vigorously and return these stolen items to the countries from which they were stolen.”
On the day following the Smith’s indictment, Vance held a repatriation ceremony where three antiquities related to the Kapoor investigation were returned to the people of Indonesia. The country’s Consul General, Dr Arifi Saiman, MA, attended the ceremony and accepted the antiquities on behalf of his people.
The items repatriated to Indonesia included a seated Shiva, seated Parvati and seated figure of Ganesha.
The DA’s office has returned 393 antiquities to 11 nations in the past 12 months.
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