U.S. art dealer with links to Subhash Kapoor arrested

Nancy Wiener in New York held for trade in Indian idols

December 24, 2016 01:39 am | Updated November 17, 2021 06:33 am IST - Washington:

The Krishna idol in its original form (left) and after it was refurbished by smugglers.  — PHOTO: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

The Krishna idol in its original form (left) and after it was refurbished by smugglers. — PHOTO: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

A prominent art dealer in New York closely linked to alleged idol smuggler Subhash Kapoor has been arrested for acquiring and selling stolen artefacts from several Asian countries, including India.

Nancy Wiener, who runs the Nancy Wiener Gallery, and has a history of contact with Kapoor — now facing trial in Tamil Nadu for idol smuggling — was arrested, says a complaint filed by the U.S Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday.

The 12-page complaint in Manhattan Criminal Court cites multiple incidents of smuggling from India, an operation that involved several conspirators. Wiener, it said, oversaw an elaborate mechanism that camouflaged the transfer of stolen objects to the U.S. and their sale to reputed institutions by faking their history and origins. The complaint details the smuggling of a Chola period ‘kaliyamardhanam’ statue from Tamil Nadu by Kapoor, who sought Wiener’s help to appraise and sell it. The New York-based Kapoor bought the 11th century Krishna in 2005 and smuggled it out, hidden among legal handicrafts. In June 2006, he sent it to a U.K. restorer to hide signs of looting. According to seized emails, Kapoor sent pre and post-restoration pictures of the stolen Krishna to Wiener and she valued it at $3,500,000.

Ranjeet Kanwar and Vaman Ghiya, India-based art dealers who sent artefacts to Kapoor, are also named. In one instance, the accused sold a Buddha idol to the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, for $1,080,000, forging its ownership. After India complained that it was looted, Wiener returned the money to the gallery. The NGA returned this piece and other items to India in September.

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