From temples to offshore trusts, a hunt for Cambodia’s looted heritage leads to top museums

U.S. investigators say Douglas Latchford trafficked ancient treasures for decades. Dozens of relics tied to the accused smuggler remain in the Met and other prominent institutions.

For decades, Douglas Latchford cut a romantic figure: The genial Englishman was an explorer of jungle temples, a scholar and a connoisseur seduced by the exquisite details of ancient sculpture.

Helicoptering into remote Cambodia to visit Khmer Empire cities, he risked land mines to satisfy his curiosity. Beginning in the 1970s, he amassed one of the world’s largest private collections of Khmer treasures, mostly Hindu and Buddhist sculpture, the remains of a civilization that flourished in Southeast Asia a thousand years ago. He co-wrote three glossy books on the subject.

“The sculpture and architecture created by the Khmer to honor their gods and their rulers are among the major artistic masterpieces of the world,” he wrote in the first of the three, “Adoration and Glory.”

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