Multi-Decade Smuggling Operation Exposed

Posted on November 14, 2012


In 2007, Indian authorities detained a consignment en route to the United States. The authorities stopped the consignment and found millions of dollars worth of Chola period idols. The authorities quickly determined that a first consignment had already been shipped to the United States. They informed United States officials, and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) successfully confiscated the consignment.

As The Hindu reports, both consignments were on their way to Subhash Chandra Kapoor, who is allegedly the kingpin of one of India’s most successful smuggling rings. For Kapoor, plundering cultural institutions is a family affair. His family has been plundering for decades.

While being questioned by ICE, Kapoor acknowledged that he knew the shipment could not be legally imported due to laws governing cultural property from India, and informed ICE officials that he would abandon the items. Although Kapoor was able to flee the United States before ICE could arrest him, he eventually turned up in a Chennai prison.

It is unclear when the idols  seized by United States authorities will be returned to India. In many cases, the idols have already been placed them in major museums across the United States. The museums will have to return the idols to India upon a formal establishment of their origin. India has already filed four claims for the reparation of idols that have been confirmed to have originate in India.