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Stolen artifacts returned to Nepal

Stolen artifacts returned to Nepal

The Embassy of Nepal in Washington, DC has received  40 Nepali wooden artifacts dating back to the 19th-20th century from the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), USA.   The artifacts smuggled from Nepal were confiscated in Honolulu, Hawaii by the United States Customs and Border Protection on 18 Aug 2010. Nepal  had officially requested the Government of the United States to return these objects to Nepal in 2011.

In the handover ceremony held on Sunday, Nepal’s Ambassador to the US, Sridhar Khatri, extended his sincere thanks to the DHS, the Department of State, media and art and heritage campaigners for their support in retrieval and repatriation of the artifacts. He particularly appreciated and thanked the investigators and staff members of the DHS and HSI for their hard work and dedication in recovering the objects of art handed over today and other artifacts that were recovered earlier.

Deputy Assistant Director of the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Ricardo Mayoral expressed his happiness on the successful return of these important artifacts to the Government of Nepal after long investigations. He also assured that the HSI will extend fullest cooperation to the embassy for repatriation of other stolen and lost artifacts of Nepal. 

Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Department of State Scott Urbom stated that the United States will continue its cooperation and collaboration with Nepal to preserve and restore its rich art and architectural heritages. He said that the successful recovery of the illegally exported artifacts is a major achievement.  The trove of the artifacts handed over to the Embassy includes 39 engraved and painted wooden panels and a carved wooden shrine, among which the four panels were randomly selected for display during the handover ceremony.

Photographs of other artifacts were displayed separately to give the audience a flavor of what the remaining pieces would look like. These precious Nepali artifacts are estimated to date back to the period between the 19th and 20th century. They signify various aspects of Lord Buddha’s life and his teachings as well as the Buddhist religious and cultural values and practices. As part of efforts to recover and repatriate the lost and stolen heritages of Nepal, the embassy has been actively engaged with relevant agencies of the governments of Nepal and the United States. 

The embassy had repatriated to Nepal seven artifacts—stone statues of Uma Mahesvara, Chaturmukh Shivlinga, Nagaraja, Padmanpani and Shakyamuni Buddha—on 18 May 2022; and a wooden statue of Nritya Devi and a standing stone statue of Lord Buddha on 28 April  2023. The embassy said it will send the artifacts received on Sunday to the Department of Archaeology of Nepal as soon as possible.