Buddha statue stolen from India 57 years ago to be returned

Detective to hand over effigy on independence day celebrations

Harriet Agerholm
Wednesday 15 August 2018 12:14
Statue among 14 looted from a museum in eastern India, police say
Statue among 14 looted from a museum in eastern India, police say

A 12th century Buddha statue stolen from India 57 years ago is to be returned to the country.

The bronze effigy is one of 14 statues looted from a museum in Nalanda in the eastern part of India in 1961, the Metropolitan Police said.

The Buddha changed hands several times before arriving at a London dealer for sale, Scotland Yard said.

Vijay Kumar from the India Pride Project, which works to return plundered artefacts to the country, and Lynda Albertson, of the Association for Research into Crimes Against Art, identified the stolen statue at a trade fair in March.

Once the dealer and owner were made aware of the theft, they agreed for the piece to be returned to India, the Met said, adding that they cooperated fully with police and committed no crime.

Detective Chief Inspector Sheila Stewart, accompanied by officials from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, will hand over the statue to the Indian High Commissioner at a ceremony on Wednesday during India’s Independence Day celebrations.

UK Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism Michael Ellis said: “As we celebrate India’s independence day, I am proud to highlight the latest example of the UK’s cultural diplomacy in action.

“Thanks to the work of the Metropolitan Police’s Art and Antiques Unit, we are one of the first countries to recover one of the fourteen elusive Buddha statues stolen from Nalanda nearly sixty years ago

“This underlines how law enforcement and the London art market are working hand in hand to deliver positive cultural diplomacy to the world”.

Detective Constable Sophie Hayes, of the Met’s Art and Antiques Unit, said: “We are delighted to be able to facilitate the return this important piece of cultural heritage to India.”

Valuable artefacts have been looted from India for centuries, historically by colonials, but now by smuggling rings.

Among the most notorious of alleged Indian smugglers is Subhash Kapoor, a Manhattan-based art dealer accused of selling looted idols dating back hundreds of years to foreign museums.

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