The Manhattan district attorney’s office has taken a key next step in prosecuting the $143 million Asian antiquities smuggling ring led by disgraced dealer Subhash Kapoor with the arraignment yesterday of 58-year-old British art restorer Neil Perry Smith on 29 counts.
Smith is accused of restoring 22 illegally obtained Cambodian, Thai, and Nepalese antiquities, collectively valued at over $32 million, ahead of their sale at Kapoor’s New York gallery, Art of the Past. He was tasked with cleaning and repairing the stolen artworks, removing dirt and other signs that they had been looted and smuggled into the country in order to deceive potential buyers.
“The arraignment of Neil Perry Smith serves as a reminder that behind every antiquities trafficking ring preying upon cultural heritage for profit, there is someone reassembling and restoring these looted pieces to lend the criminal enterprise a veneer of legitimacy,” district attorney Cy Vance Jr. said in a statement. “Without restorers to disguise stolen relics, there would be no laundered items for antiquities traffickers to sell.”