Idol in S'pore museum linked to US 'stolen antiquities' case

Idol in S'pore museum linked to US 'stolen antiquities' case

SINGAPORE - A 1,000-year-old bronze idol of Hindu goddess Uma Parameshvari that is owned by the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) in Singapore is the subject of a criminal complaint filed by the Manhattan District Attorney in New York.

The document stated that United States-based antiquities dealer Subhash Chandra Kapoor and his gallery manager Aaron Freedman were involved in the sale of the statue, which was stolen from a temple in the Ariyalur district of Tamil Nadu, The Hindu newspaper reported.

The sculpture was illicitly transported to the United States, and in February 2007 was sold by Kapoor to the ACM for US$650,000 and shipped to Singapore.

Last Friday, Freedman, 41, pleaded guilty over his role in the international scheme to smuggle ancient sculptures worth US$35 million (S$44 million), the Associated Press (AP) reported.

He faced the Supreme Court in Manhattan on charges of conspiracy and criminal possession of stolen property, and admitted to assisting with shipments of stolen antiquities from India, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Cambodia.

In a statement on Saturday, the ACM confirmed that it acquired the Uma Parameshvari sculpture from Kapoor's gallery Art of the Past in Manhattan where Freedman worked, but denied any wrongdoing.

It said its acquisition of the Uma Parameshvari sculpture was done according to "strict procedures governed by National Heritage Board policy and international standards of ethical collecting".

"The provenance and sources of all items are checked against international databases of stolen and looted objects before purchases are made," the statement said.

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