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Denver Art Museum gives up allegedly looted Cambodian artifacts

The museum is still taking care of the works until they can be transferred, but they have been officially removed from the museum's listed holdings

Denver Art Museum Director Christoph Heinrich hangs jasmine on the Torso of Rama, a 10th century stone statue, in a handing-over ceremony in Phnom Penh in 2016. The stone statue, looted from a temple during Cambodia's civil war, was acquired by the museum in 1986. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Prosecutors have filed a complaint in federal court seeking the forfeiture of four Cambodian antiquities that were sold to the Denver Art Museum by a late art dealer accused of pillaging and illegally selling ancient artifacts.

The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York filed the complaint Monday, and the museum has voluntarily relinquished possession of the artifacts, The Denver Post reported.

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“Ensuring proper ownership of antiquities is an obligation the museum takes seriously, and the museum is grateful that these pieces will be returning to their rightful home,” the museum said in a statement.

The museum is still taking care of the works until they can be transferred, but they have been officially removed from the museum’s listed holdings.

The items include a 12th-to-13th century Khmer sandstone sculpture depicting standing Prajnaparamita, a 7th-to-8th century Khmer sandstone sculpture depicting standing Surya, an Iron Age Dong Son bronze bell and a 7th-to-8th century sandstone lintel depicting the sleep of Vishnu and birth of Brahma, according to the complaint.

The forfeiture stems from an international investigation by a team of journalists in October — known as the “Pandora Papers” — that revealed tax documents showing how the world’s rich and powerful, including the late art dealer Douglas Latchford, hid assets and shielded their wealth overseas.

The Colorado Sun’s reporting on the allegedly looted artifacts helped shine a national spotlight on the situation.

Latchford was charged two years ago with a host of crimes associated with pillaging and selling artifacts. He died in August at 88 before he could stand trial.


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