POSTED: Friday, July 27, 2012 - 2:00pm
UPDATED: Friday, July 27, 2012 - 2:04pm
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — Federal authorities seized more than $20 million worth of statues and other Indian cultural artifacts from Manhattan storage units Thursday.
Among the artifacts seized were sandstone and bronze statues, some of which are believed to have been stolen directly from temples in India, officials said.
Homeland Security Investigations agents executed search warrants issued for the storage units, allegedly owned by Subhash Kapoor, the owner of Art of the Past Gallery.
The Manhattan District Attorney's Office also issued an arrest warrant for Kapoor for possessing the stolen property.
The artifacts were seized as part of a Homeland Security Cultural Property, Art and Antiques Program investigation.
Authorities say Kapoor created false provenances to disguise the origins of the stolen antiquities.
"The statues and sculptures recovered today are worth millions in the antiquities business, but they are priceless to the nations that they were robbed from," said James T. Hayes Jr., special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New York. "These seizures send a clear message to looters, smugglers and dealers to think twice before trying to profit from illicit cultural property in the United States."
Since 2007, Homeland Security Investigations has repatriated over 2,500 items to more than 23 countries, officials said.