Rare stolen artifacts discovered at Honolulu Museum of Art

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He’s accused of running one of the world’s largest international art smuggling rings.

Subhash Kapoor, formerly of New York City, is now locked up in India, awaiting trial.

Federal agents in the US have been working the case in an effort to re-patriate the stolen artifacts, some of which ended up at a museum here in Hawaii.

They look like they’re out of an Indiana Jones movie.

But these are no props.

They are stolen artifacts from India.

And they ended up at the Honolulu Museum of Art, unbeknownst to the museum back in the 90’s that they were illegally obtained.

“The works are basically stone, so carvings on the side of stone temples that were hacked off the temple and the other are terra cotta from 2-300 years before BC so they’re really old,” said Honolulu Museum of Art director Stephan Jost.

He says most likely dug up from archeological sites in India and smuggled out of the country.

“And people like Subhash Kapoor then launder them, create fake stories behind them, all that stuff and then sell them,” said Jost.

Agents with Homeland Security Investigations got a tip two months ago that the Honolulu Museum of Art had an artifact tied to Kapoor.

“They identified one work that they suspected was stolen and we responded by identifying six other works that they hadn’t figured out,” said Jost.

On Wednesday, agents retrieved the seven artifacts from the Honolulu Museum of Art.

The museum purchased five of them from Kapoor, received one of them as a gift from Kapoor, and the seventh was donated to the museum by a private collector.

“Honolulu Museum of Art has been extremely crucial to this investigation,” said Homeland Security Investigations’ Wayne Willis.

It wasn’t only this museum that got duped.

Kapoor sold and donated dozens of artifacts to famous museums like the National Gallery of Australia, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

“People often ask what’s the value of these seven pieces, all I can say is to the people of that country and many others it’s priceless,” said Willis.

The seven pieces will be shipped to New York, where those agents are based out of. They’ll catalog them, and use them as evidence in the ongoing criminal investigation.

Ultimately the artifacts will be sent back to India where they belong.

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