The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art decided to return 14 antiquities to Cambodia. Also, the institution needs to return two more pieces to Thailand. The repatriation is taking place as a component of the current government inquiry concerning the deceased trader Douglas Latchford. The Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office filed an indictment against Latchford in 2019. He was an acclaimed trader and collector of ancient Cambodian items.
Pieces at the Metropolitan “shamelessly stolen”
The Manhattan Attorney Office filed an indictment for organising a scheme to sell the stolen artefacts illegally. Federal officials are looking into him from at least 2012. Also, the authorities described his is leading “vast antiquities trafficking network” in Southeast Asia. August 2020 saw his death before he could be found guilty. But, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York and Homeland Security Investigations detectives are still working to recover objects connected to Latchford.
The antiquities on display at the museum stretch back to the Khmer Empire. Among the items are relics, like a massive statue of the Buddha‘s head from the 600s C.E. Also, there is a sandstone statue of a goddess from the 900s C.E. The other pieces mostly feature the gods Shiva, Uma, and Avalokiteshvara. Erin Keegan, acting special agent in charge for HSI, described the pieces as “shamelessly stolen”.
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He also commended the Met for realising how important they were. Officials indicated 13 items would be returned to Cambodia, while the museum said 14 would. The arrangement is to return 13 masterpieces to Cambodia, the museum explained. The museum also stated they found two more artefacts from Thailand and one from Cambodia that they need to return.
On Latchford’s Indictment
Authorities submitted a duplicate of their contract with the institution. The body also describes how, in September 2021, the museum contacted federal attorneys. It also declared their readiness to assist with the inquiry upon discovering Latchford’s indictment. “The Met has been diligently working with Cambodia and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for years to resolve questions regarding these works of art”, said Max Hollein, the museum’s director.
He also added: “There are new information that arose from this process, and made it clear that we should initiate the return of this group of sculptures.” The museum is dedicated to collaborations that “promote the global understanding and appreciation of Khmer art“, Hollein continued.
“If you work at one of these institutions or for a private collection and have concerns that certain pieces may be tied to illicit trafficking, do the right thing: come forward and work with us on a voluntary basis to facilitate the return to the rightful owners”, Williams said. “That is a far better outcome for you and your institution than if our investigation leads to a knock on your door”.