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Sotheby’s row hits home

Sotheby’s row hits home

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Pedestals mark the site where a pair of 10th-century Khmer statues were looted from the Prasat Chen temple, part of the Koh Ker complex, about100 kilometres north of Siem Reap. Photo Supplied

An American prosecutor who has been battling the internat-ional auction house Sotheby’s for the repatriation of a 10th-century statue was running a fact-finding miss-ion in Cambodia this week, officials said yesterday.

Assistant US Attorney Sharon Cohen Levin, who is chief of the asset forfeiture office, met with Deputy Prime Minister Sok An yesterday to discuss the case before joining a delegation to visit the Koh Ker temple complex from which the statue — valued at $3 million — is believed to have been stolen in 1972.

On behalf of the Cambod-ian government, US prosecutors have been tussling with Sotheby’s for the return of the statue of Hindu warrior Duryodhana. The government has insisted Sotheby’s knowingly accepted a false affidavit, a claim the auction house has roundly denied.

Speaking to reporters after the discussion between Levin and Sok An, Council of Ministers spokesman Ek Tha said the prosecutor was gathering further evidence in support of Cambodia’s claim.

“The meeting was to collect information and other related documents demonstrating the statue had been stolen and to show the location at Koh Ker,” Tha said.

“The most important point of the visit is to collect evidence and information to help Cambodia win the case for the repatriation of the statue.”

Several US embassy officials are accompanying the two-person investigative team.

US embassy spokesman Sean McIntosh declined to comment, referring questions to the US Attorney’s press office in New York, which could not be reached by press time.
UNESCO country director Anne LeMaistre said the prosecutors had appeared hopeful in a meeting they held with her yesterday.

“I cannot tell you too much, because the content of our conversation is not public,” LeMaistre said. “But they look to be quite confident in the case, which is good news.”

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