Sotheby's auction house, which has been locked in a dispute for a year over a multi-million-dollar Angkorian statue, has denied knowledge of the statue’s suspicious provenance and asked for the case to be dropped and attorneys’ fees repaid.
In a 16-page document filed with a US district court on Monday and obtained yesterday, the New York-based auctioneer shoots down claims made by US government lawyers late last year that Sotheby’s was aware the statue was likely stolen and provided “inaccurate provenance information to potential buyers, the Kingdom of Cambodia, United States law enforcement, and others”.
“Claimants deny knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth of the allegations set forth,” the filing states more than 20 times in response to each government allegation.
Among the knowledge denied is “allegations regarding whether Koh Ker suffered serious damage or widespread looting during this time period and whether any such looting of Koh Ker was “widely publicized” or “well known to the international market.”
US attorneys working on behalf of the Cambodian government have argued repeatedly that Sotheby’s knowingly accepted a false affidavit concerning the statue’s origins. The sandstone statue of the mythic Hindu warrior, known as the Duryodhana, stood at its Koh Ker temple complex site for more than a millennia before it was pulled from its base in 1972 and smuggled to Thailand.
Last week, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York announced that it would repatriate two statues from the same temple complex after receiving evidence they had been looted.