Stolen 7th-century statue handed over to VietnamFriday, September 15,2023
AsemconnectVietnam - The family of British antiquities smuggler Douglas Latchford handed over a 7th-century statue to Vietnam at a ceremony in London on September 13 (local time).
The four-armed goddess Durga statue, about 2m in length and 250kg in weight, was recognised by UNESCO as world heritage, and was stolen from the My Son Sanctuary in Vietnam’s central province of Quang Nam in 2008.
The handover is attributable to the long investigation by the US Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) in its efforts against antiquities trafficking, as well as the coordination between the agency and London police over the past time.
The ceremony saw the participation of Vietnamese Ambassador to the UK Nguyen Hoang Long and Minister Counsellor To Minh Thu, along with US and British officials.
In 2019, Latchford was indicted with wire fraud conspiracy and other crimes related to a multi-year scheme to sell looted Cambodian antiquities on the international art market, primarily by creating false provenance documents and falsifying invoices and shipping documents, including misrepresenting the country of origin of artworks.
Between 2003 and 2020, Latchford maintained bank accounts in New York, the UK, and the Bailiwick of Jersey. During those years, Latchford received more than 12 million USD in his New York and UK accounts as payment for his sale of stolen and smuggled Southeast Asian antiquities to buyers and dealers in the US.
Latchford then transferred at least 12 million USD in illegally derived proceeds to his bank accounts in Jersey.
In 2008 and 2009, Latchford used funds derived from the sale of stolen and smuggled antiquities to purchase the 7th century bronze statue depicting the four-armed goddess Durga.
After his passing away, Latchford’s daughter consented to forfeiture of the 12 million USD and the Durga.
According to bank and email records, including correspondence with his bankers, Latchford traveled to Vietnam in November 2008 to purchase a piece of art and instructed his bankers to send around 2 million USD to the bank account of a person with a Vietnamese email address.
In January 2009, Latchford emailed a dealer a photograph of the Durga lying on its back, covered in what appears to be dirt and minerals indicative of recent excavation. He identified UNESCO-recognised My Son as the location where the Durga was recovered.
After receiving information from the Vietnamese Embassy in the US, the Vietnamese Embassy in the UK contacted and had working sessions with British competent agencies over the incident.
At the ceremony, Ambassador Long, on behalf of the Vietnamese government, thanked HIS and London police for their effective coordination.
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