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US returns 45 stolen antiquities to Pakistan

NEW YORK: A judge in New York has announced the return of 45 antiquities valued at approximately $250,000 to the people of Pakistan.

The repatriation ceremony was attended by Pakistani Consul-General Ayesha Ali and US Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Deputy Special Agent-in-Charge Erik Rosenblatt.

“Many people believe the looting and theft of antiquities are injustices that only occurred in the past, but these crimes of culture are still being committed all over the world every day,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr.

“I strongly encourage all collectors and gallery owners to conduct due diligence and ensure all pieces they purchase were lawfully acquired. I am honored to return these 45 beautiful artifacts to the people of Pakistan,” he said.

In 2015, the District Attorney’s Office and HSI New York executed multiple search warrants and seized close to 100 antiquities from Nayef Homsi, a known trafficker involved in the illegal looting, exportation, and sale of ancient art from Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, and other nations.

Forty-five of the seized pieces were returned to Pakistan ceremony and five were returned to India in August 2020.

The repatriated items include a “Gandharan Frieze” featuring seven figures of Buddha beside a Bodhisattva Maitreya, a “Gandharan Box” of religious relics, a gray schist relief of Panchika and his consort Hariti “Panchika and Hariti Stele,” and a gray schist head of Buddha below a bodhi, the tree of awakening, “Gandharan Head Under Bodhi Tree,” all dating back to the 2nd Century.