ICE recovers stolen Indian artifacts from major auction house ahead of Asia Week New York


NEW YORK : Special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in conjunction with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office seized two stolen Indian statues Friday, believed to be from the 8th and 10th centuries A.D. The artifacts were recovered from Christie’s auction house in New York City and are the result of an international investigation led by HSI and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, with assistance from the government of India and Interpol.

The seizure comes just days before a planned March 15, 2016 auction of the items as part of the “Asia Week New York” festivities. Christie’s had included the two artifacts in an auction entitled: “The Lahiri Collection: Indian and Himalayan Art, Ancient and Modern.”

The two artifacts listed in the auction as lots 61 and 62 are described as:

  • A Buff Sandstone Stele of Rishabhanata, from Rajasthan or Madhya Pradesh, India, in the 10th century A.D, approximately 22 3/8 inches high, and depicting a stele carved with the first Jain Tirthankara (a teacher who preaches dharma) seated in vajrasana (crossed leg pose) and flanked by a pair of standing attendants, and valued at approximately $150,000.
  • A Buff Sandstone Panel Depicting Revanta and His Entourage, from India, in the 8th Century A.D., approximately 30 by 53 inches, depicting a very rare representation of the equestrian deity, Revanta, a figure of great importance in Hinduism, and valued at approximately $300,000.

According to the ongoing investigation, the Sandstone of Rishbhanata appears to have been sold by Oliver Forge to London–based Brandon Lynch Ltd between 2006 – 2007. The Panel of Revanta, according to images provided by the source dealer, appeared to have contained an “orphan fragment,” a piece perfectly broken off to be sold by the smugglers after the sale of the main part of the sculpture.

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