United States prosecutors announced the imminent repatriation of dozens of looted relics to Cambodia at a ceremony where officials called on wealthy art collectors and institutions holding stolen antiquities to come clean to government authorities.
The ceremony, held Monday, marked the formal handover to Cambodia of works of “extraordinary cultural value,” said Damian Williams, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, speaking at a press conference flanked by recovered stone relics. “Today, we celebrate the return of Cambodia’s cultural heritage to the Cambodian people, and reaffirm our commitment to reducing the illicit trafficking of art and antiquities,” Williams said.
Among the pieces being returned is a four-ton statue of the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesaha. It could not be brought to the ceremony because it would have broken the office’s elevators, Williams said. Another antiquity on its way home is a bronze buddha sculpture that Williams said was sold to a private U.S. collector using a photo showing it still “encrusted in minerals, essentially fresh from excavation” in Cambodia.