Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Sotheby’s wilfully filed false info: US attorney

Sotheby’s wilfully filed false info: US attorney

Sotheby’s wilfully filed false info: US attorney

Auction house Sotheby’s deliberately misled the US government as to the provenance of a looted Angkorian statue, the US Attorney argued last week.

In a letter sent to court on Wednesday and obtained over the weekend, the government lawyer – who has been battling Sotheby’s for the 10th-century Duryodhana statue on behalf of the Cambodian government – writes that the auction house provided “false and misleading information … in an effort to prevent the Government from obtaining the true facts regarding the theft of the Duryodhana.”

The US has long maintained that Sotheby’s was aware of the statue’s suspect origins. The sandstone statue of the mythic Hindu warrior stood at Prasat Chen temple for more than a millennia before it was allegedly pulled from its base in 1972 and smuggled to Thailand.

When the government began investigating the case in 2011, attorney Preet Bharara explains, a government investigator asked Sotheby’s whether it had information on the statue’s origins. The director of compliance wrote in an email that the auction house had identified two people who “presently have no financial interest in the property and who personally saw the piece in London in the late 1960s”.

If true, the information would undermine Cambodia’s claim that the statue had been looted during the Lon Nol era.

But the pair, in fact, were “the original seller of the piece, who conspired with the looting network to steal it from Prasat Chen (the “Collector”), and Sotheby’s own retained art expert, who was herself was a longtime associate of the Collector,” writes Bahara.

“The information provided by [director of compliance Jane A.] Levine was simply false,” Bharara continues. “In short, Sotheby’s chief compliance officer provided false and misleading provenance information to the Government while discouraging the Government from obtaining the documents that ultimately showed that asserted provenance to be false.”

Sotheby’s did not reply to a request for comment, but according to the New York Times, the auction house filed a letter in which lawyers say that any suggestion it had willfully provided innacurate information was “demonstrably not true”.

MOST VIEWED

  • Angkor lifetime pass, special Siem Reap travel offers planned

    The Ministry of Tourism plans to introduce a convenient, single lifetime pass for foreign travellers to visit Angkor Archaeological Park and potentially other areas. The move is designed to stimulate tourism to the culturally rich province of Siem Reap as the start of the “Visit

  • Exclusive interview with Josep Borrell Fontelles, High Representative of the EU

    CAMBODIA is hosting the 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) and Related Meetings this week with top officials from the US, China, and Russia and other countries in the region slated to attend and to meet with face-to-face with their counterparts on the sidelines. In

  • ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ meet commences, Taiwan issue possibly on table

    The 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) and related meetings hosted by Cambodia kicks off in Phnom Penh on August 3, with progress, challenges, and the way forward for the ASEAN Community-building on the table. Issues on Taiwan, sparked by the visit of US House Speaker

  • Pailin longan winery tries to break through to the big time

    Longan aren’t quite as glamorous as some fruits. They don’t have the star-power of mangos or generate the excitement of a pricey seasonal niche fruit like the pungent durian. Unlike bananas or oranges, which are known and loved everywhere, longan remains a decidedly

  • Recap of this year’s ASEAN FM meet and look ahead

    This year’s edition of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) hosted by Cambodia comes against the backdrop of heightened global tensions and increasing rivalry between major powers that have been compared to the animosity of the Cold War era. The following is The Post’

  • Siem Reap action plan for tourism in motion

    The action plan for the Siem Reap Tourism Development Master Plan (2022-2023), focusing on six priority destinations, has been implemented to boost tourism and regain pre-Covid tourist numbers in the province. The action plan sets out 17 strategies and 37 implementation activities for: Angkor Archaeological Park, Phnom