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U.S. Attorney Announces Return Of Significant Collection Of Antiquities To Cambodia

Returned Artworks Include Statues from Angkor Wat and Koh Ker Archeological and Religious Sites

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced the return of 33 Khmer antiquities to the Kingdom of Cambodia, pursuant to an agreement between the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the family of the late George Lindemann. The collection includes statues dating to the 10th and 12th centuries that were originally looted from religious and archeological sites in Cambodia. The antiquities were turned over to Cambodia on September 11, 2023, and a ceremony celebrating their repatriation will be held in Cambodia at a later date. The Lindemann family has voluntarily agreed to return the antiquities.[1] The antiquities returned to Cambodia include a monumental 10th-century statue of Dhrishtadyumna, stolen from Prasat Chen in Koh Ker, the ancient capital of the Khmer kingdom; statues stolen from Prasat Krachap in Koh Ker, including a 10th-century sculpture depicting Ardhanarishvara (half-male, half-female deity) and a 10th-century Anantashayana Vishnu (reclining Vishnu with Lakshmi); as well as six heads of devas (angels) and asuras (demons) removed from the gates to Angkor Thom in the Angkor Wat complex; and a kneeling figure from Banteay Srei, a 10th-century temple in Angkor Wat (photographs below).

Three of the Angkor Thom Heads
Three of the Angkor Thom Heads
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “For decades, Cambodia suffered at the hands of unscrupulous art dealers and looters who trafficked cultural treasures to the American art market. This historic agreement sets a framework for the return of cultural patrimony in support of the Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and Cambodia. We thank the Lindemann family for their cooperation and assistance in the repatriation of the antiquities to Cambodia.”

Since 2012, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”), has successfully investigated, identified, and repatriated 65 stolen and illegally imported Cambodian antiquities in the possession of individuals and institutions in the United States. In 2019, the art dealer Douglas Latchford was indicted in the Southern District of New York with wire fraud conspiracy and other crimes related to a multi-year scheme to sell looted Cambodian antiquities on the international art market. The Indictment was later dismissed due to Latchford’s death.

The history of Koh Ker and the illicit trafficking in Cambodian cultural patrimony is described in prior forfeiture actions filed in the Southern District of New York, including United States v. A Late 12th Century Khmer Sandstone Sculpture Depicting Standing Prajnaparamita, et al., 21 Civ. 9217, and United States v. A Late 12th Century Bayon-Style Sandstone Sculpture Depicting Eight-Armed Avalokiteshvara, 22 Civ. 229. The statue of Dhrishtadyumna was looted from same temple site as the sculpture of Duryodhana, repatriated in 2014, which was the subject of the forfeiture action United States v. A 10th Century Cambodian Sandstone Sculpture, 12 Civ. 2600. Dhrishtadyumna and Duryodana are figures from the Hindu epic Mahabharata. The Ardhanarishvara and the Anantashayana Vishnu were looted from the same temple site as the Skanda on a Peacock sculpture, repatriated in 2022, which was the subject of the forfeiture action United States v. A 10th Century Cambodian Sandstone Sculpture Depicting Skanda on a Peacock, 21 Civ. 6065.

Anantashayana Vishnu
Anantashayana Vishnu
Dhrishtadyumna from Koh Ker
Dhrishtadyumna from Koh Ker

This announcement supports the Memorandum of Understanding, known as the “U.S.-Cambodia Cultural Property Agreement,” first signed between the U.S. and Cambodia in 2003 and renewed on August 30, 2023. * * * Mr. Williams thanked HSI for its outstanding work to facilitate the repatriation and praised its ongoing efforts to find and repatriate stolen and looted cultural property. Mr. Williams also thanked the Kingdom of Cambodia’s Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts for its assistance. This matter is being handled by the Office’s Money Laundering and Transnational Criminal Enterprises Unit. Assistant U. S. Attorneys Jessica Feinstein and Shiva Logarajah are in charge of the case. [1] The agreement between the Government and the Lindemanns should not be construed as a legal or factual determination that the members of the Lindemann family have violated any federal law.

Contact: Nicholas Biase (212) 637-2600

Updated September 12, 2023


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Press Release Number: 23-307

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Three of the Angkor Thom Heads


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