Court Permits Cambodian Statue to Remain with Sotheby’s

Posted on April 17, 2012


A 1,000-year-old Cambodian statue believed by the United States and Cambodia to be stolen from its temple site remains in the custody of Sotheby’s auction house after a recent federal court ruling on the matter. In March 2011, Sotheby’s attempted to sell the sandstone statue for an anonymous Belgian client for up to $3 million dollars. On April 5, the court issued a restraining order instructing Sotheby’s not to get rid of the statue and to make it available for an inspection by the Department of Homeland Security to determine if it should be seized as stolen property.

U.S. District Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, had filed a civil complaint against Sotheby’s, claiming it was aware that the statue was stolen property but put it on the auctioning block anyway. In response, Sotheby’s asked the court to stop the government from seizing the artifact, arguing that the sale was legal under American and Cambodian cultural property laws while also claiming the U.S. government was not fit to properly care for the relic. Assistant U.S. attorney, Sharon Cohen Levin, argued that U.S. customs officials frequently care for precious art and artifacts and that Sotheby’s was “not an appropriate independent third party for the government to entrust with the property,” because the auction house knew that the statue was stolen before putting it up for auction.

Read the full article Sotheby’s Retains Custody of Cambodian Statue.