An ancient Cambodian sandstone sculpture dating back to the ninth century was seized from a prominent San Francisco auction house last month and Cambodian officials will cooperate with the United States to bring it back home.
According to a statement by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Monday, the ancient sculpture is linked to a probe into the smuggling activities of Douglas Latchford, a private collector.
It is valued at approximately $350,000 and was put up for sale at the auction house.
“It was described as a Shiva and Uma statue,” ICE said in the statement. “The artefact was discovered during an ongoing Homeland Security Investigation…dubbed ‘Indochinese Peninsula Plunder’ in New York.”
It was seized by HSI San Francisco Special Agent David Keller with assistance from HSI New York Special Agent John Paul Labbat.
“It will be returned to the Cambodian people at the conclusion of this HSI-led investigation,” it said, noting that the HSI has several open investigations involving the recovery of looted artefacts trafficked from several countries in Southeast Asia during conflicts throughout the 20th century.
Prak Sonnara, director-general of the Culture and Fine Arts Ministry’s heritage department, yesterday said the ministry will work with US officials to have the artefact returned to the Kingdom.
“We will contact them because we have a Memorandum of Understanding with the US about artefacts trafficking prevention,” Mr Sonnara said.
He noted that hearing about the recovery of the century-old artefact is good news.
“When they find out an artefact belongs to us, they will deliver it to Cambodia. This is what we have previously experienced,” Mr Sonnara said. “My work is related to heritage and artefacts. I am happy to hear about this. I am proud to be Khmer. I will do my best while working on this case.”