Aaron Freedman, 41, of Princeton, worked for nearly two decades as a manager at Art of the Past, the Manhattan art gallery owned by Subhash Kapoor that served as a front for the sale of stolen and looted Buddhist and Hindu statues. Freedman pleaded guilty to conspiring to criminally possess stolen property along with five counts of criminal possession of stolen property.
Bharhut Stupa Yaksi pillar sculpture valued at approximately $15 million, which is now in federal custody here pending forfeiture.
In total, Freedman pleaded guilty to six felony counts related to criminal possession of stolen property valued at roughly $35 million.
He has also agreed to cooperate with the ongoing Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and prosecution of Kapoor, who is currently in the custody of Indian authorities for arranging the theft of statues from significant cultural and religious sites in that country. Kapoor also faces charges in New York County for possession of stolen property.
“Kapoor is by far the biggest smuggler, in terms of numbers of antiquities stolen and their market value, that we have seen,” special agent in charge for HSI New York James Hayes said. “HSI special agents continue to search and seek recovery of dozens of bronze and sandstone images of Hindu and Buddhist deities sold by Kapoor.” HSI plays a leading role in criminal investigations that involve the illegal importation and distribution of cultural property, including the illicit trafficking of cultural property, especially objects that have been reported lost or stolen. Since 2007, more than 7,150 artifacts have been returned to 26 countries, including paintings from France, Germany, Poland and Austria, 15th to 18th century manuscripts from Italy and Peru, as well as cultural artifacts from China, Cambodia and Iraq. (PTI)