At least two of the items discovered in the possession of Nancy Wiener, a prominent antiquities dealer arrested in New York on Wednesday for allegedly selling stolen artefacts from Asia to high-end collectors, hail from Cambodia, according to a complaint filed in the Manhattan Criminal Court.
Wiener, a second-generation art dealer, is being charged with criminal possession of stolen property and conspiracy, crimes that amount to a felony.
“The Defendant utilized her business, Nancy Wiener Gallery, 49 East 74th Street, New York County, to buy, smuggle, launder, and sell millions of dollars’ worth of antiquities stolen from Afghanistan, Cambodia, China, India, Pakistan, and Thailand,” the complaint reads. “Defendant and her co-conspirators have trafficked in illegal antiquities for decades.”
Wiener worked closely with an alleged co-conspirator based in London and Bangkok to purchase and sell an 11th-century Cambodian statue of Baphuon Shiva. The statue was allegedly purchased in 2008, sent to London to be cleared of all markings of looting and sold to Sotheby’s in New York in 2011. The statue stands about 100 centimetres tall and is valued at $578,500, according to the complaint.
In a separate occasion, the co-conspirator sold Wiener a stolen 10th-century bronze statue of Buddha seated on a Naga that is believed to have come from the Khmer empire. Wiener allegedly went to great lengths to hide the provenance of the statue by having it featured in an art book with false information, a common tactic for disguising the origin of stolen artefacts. She then displayed the statue for sale in her gallery with a price tag of $1.5 million.
The US Embassy in Phnom Penh declined to comment on the specifics of the Wiener case, but spokesman David Josar noted that the US has a history of ensuring stolen artefacts are returned to their rightful owners.