- August 24, 2022 4:34 PM
- January 29, 2020 9:59 AM
- November 28, 2019 4:23 AM
PHNOM PENH – American justice officials are to give Cambodia back a stone statue of Vishnu looted by a notorious antiquities trafficker.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg said the Standing Sandstone Vishnu came from a 7th century temple.
The piece was broken and stolen from an eastern Cambodia temple in the early 1990s at the direction of trafficker Doris Wiener. She and a co-conspirator arranged for the piece to be restored and it was eventually smuggled to the US in 1995 through Thailand. Weiner sold it to a private collector.
The statue was returned during a repatriation ceremony attended by Cambodian Ambassador Keo Chhea and US Homeland Security Investigations acting assistant Special Agent in Charge Thomas Acocella.
Ambassador Chhea said, “My government is grateful for the excellent partnership we have developed with the United States government to return priceless antiquities to the Cambodian people.
“I want to specifically praise the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the Department of Homeland Security for their diligence and dedication to enforcing the law and doing what is right.”
“The artifacts that have been repatriated — and others that I am sure will be repatriated in the future — are a vital part of our cultural legacy and our sense of nationhood.”
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York Special Agent in Charge Ivan J. Arvelo said, "Homeland Security Investigations is committed to applying our unique investigative authority and working alongside our partners at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office to track down lost pieces like this and ensuring their return to their rightful owners – the people of Cambodia.”
Beginning in the 1960s, Wiener dealt and trafficked in Southeast Asian antiquities, which she sold through her gallery in Manhatten.
Wiener also sold antiquities with her daughter, Nancy Wiener, until Doris’s death in 2011. In 2016, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office arrested Nancy Wiener, who was ultimately convicted and sentenced in 2021.