Cambodia say US auction house to return ancient Khmer statue

Cambodia say US auction house to return ancient Khmer statue

PHNOM PENH - Cambodia announced Monday that leading auction house Sotheby's will return a 10th century Khmer statue worth up to $3 million (S$3.76 million) said to have been looted during its civil war.

The statue of a warrior will be returned to the kingdom within 90 days under an agreement signed last week by Sotheby's, its Belgian client and US authorities, said Deputy Prime Minister Sok An.

The deal ends a long legal battle in the US where Sotheby's is headquartered, Sok An told a press conference.

"The statue that was looted from Cambodia 41 years ago will be returned to the country," he said.

"The soul of our ancestors who built the statue will be satisfied," he said, adding that Cambodia will organise a ceremony to welcome home the statue.

The row began in early 2011 shortly before a planned auction in March that year, when Cambodia's government sent a letter through UNESCO claiming ownership of the work. Sotheby's stopped the sale.

Cambodia claims the sandstone statue, known as the Duryodhana, was looted in the 1970s from a temple in Koh Ker, 80 kilometres (50 miles) northeast of the famed Angkor Wat complex.

US authorities filed a civil complaint in April last year against Sotheby's, blocking the sale of the item.

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