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Statue case still alive

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In a decision paving the way for a hearing on the repatriation of an Angkor-era sandstone warrior, a New York district judge has ruled against a motion to dismiss the case.

US District Judge George B Daniels ruled Thursday that Sotheby’s auction house, which currently holds the statue, had not provided sufficient evidence to rule out the possibility that it was stolen and known to be so by Sotheby’s in 2010, when the auction house agreed to sell it on behalf of a Mrs Ruspoli Di Poggio Suasa.

Daniels also ruled that additional allegations filed in November by the US Attorneys’ office prosecuting the case could be added to the initial complaint made last April.

These allegations include that “Sotheby’s was aware of the origin of the Statue, that it had been broken off at the ankles, and it first appeared on the international art market during a period of rampant looting of antiquities from Koh Ker.”

“Sotheby’s is alleged to have provided inaccurate provenance information and omitted information about the Collector who acquired the Statue in Sotheby’s communications with potential buyers, the Kingdom of Cambodia, and United States law enforcement,” the judge stated.

Daniels noted in the ruling that the court was not necessarily accepting the US Attorneys’ office’s allegations as true. However, the possibility that the allegations are true suggested the case was worth hearing.

Ek Tha, spokesman for the Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction Unit, yesterday called the decision “a promising sign for Cambodia.”

“During the civil war in our country, some of our Khmer ancestral [artefacts] were looted, and the Cambodian people were divided. Now the war is over, Cambodia has full national reconciliation, and the statues of Cambodia should be reunited as well.”

Tha said he could not disclose the results of a visit by Assistant US Attorney Sharon Cohen Levin last month to gather additional evidence for the case, but said the visit had been “very fruitful.”

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