Sid Maher, ‘Narendra Modi says India deeply grateful for return of stolen Shivas’, The Australian, 6 September 2014
INDIAN Prime Minister Narendra Modi has thanked Tony Abbott and Australia on behalf of 1.25 billion Indians for handing back two stolen ancient idols to him at their talks in New Delhi last night.
The Prime Minister personally delivered to Mr Modi the Shiva Nataraja and Ardhanariswara idols at a ceremony during their meeting last night.
Mr Modi expressed a “deep sense of gratitude’’ for Australia handing back the statues with “great speed’’ after the Indian government requested their return.
“Prime Minister Abbott and the people of Australia have shown enormous respect and regard not only for our ancient treasure, but also for our cultural heritage,’’ Mr Modi said.
Mr Abbott said he had restored the two shiva statues to their rightful country of ownership.
“Australia will never act as a receiver of stolen goods,’’ Mr Abbott said. “We never will and we never should.’’
The idols were allegedly stolen by a disgraced New York art dealer and sold to Australian galleries for millions of dollars.
As revealed by The Australian, the Prime Minister personally intervened to ensure that the idols were returned during his visit to India.
Attorney-General George Brandis said Dancing Shiva was sold to the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) five years ago “by a fraudulent art dealer in New York’’.
“The National Gallery of Australia, and therefore the Australian people, were the victims of a fraud.’’
Dancing Shiv was bought for $5.6m by the National Gallery of Australia five years ago and the Art Gallery of NSW paid $300,000 for the stone Shiva with Nandi which was also handed back.
The National Gallery of Australia bought the Dancing Shiva from Indian born, New Yorker Subhash Kapoor. He is alleged by US investigators to have masterminded a US$100m international antiquity-smuggling racquet.
Senator Brandis said he had signed documents last week to ensure the documents could be returned.
“And the Prime Minister was able, by happy coincidence, to return that important cultural artefact to the people of India on his visit to India at the moment,’’ Senator Brandis said.
Australian agreed to a formal request from the Indian government for the return of the two idols which were exported in contravention of India’s cultural heritage laws.
Sources said the Art Gallery of New South Wales, which purchased the Ardhanariswara idol, and the National Gallery of Australia, had both fully cooperated with the Australian government in dealing with the request for the return.
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