MANHATTAN (CN) — Prosecutors said a second-century Buddhist sculpture was returned to Pakistan after an art dealer's plan to sell the stolen artifact for $1.1 million was foiled.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said Wednesday that the Kushan Period artifact, which depicts the "footprint of the Buddha," was given back to the country during a repatriation ceremony.
The Buddhapada sculpture was stolen from an archeological site in Pakistan's Swat Region in the 1980s and was recovered after this year's arrest and prosecution of art dealer Tatsuzo Kaku, according to Vance.
Prosecutors say Kaku, 70, pleaded guilty last month to second-degree criminal possession of stolen property.
He admitted in his guilty plea that, in February and March of this year, he arranged to have the Buddhist sculpture shipped to a gallery on New York City's Upper East Side to sell for about $1.1 million during an art event called Asia Week New York.
Kaku's arrest was the result of a joint investigation by state prosecutors and federal agents.
Vance said in a statement that "possessing stolen property is a crime, plain and simple."
"As the world becomes more aware of looting and smuggling, traders and collectors have a responsibility to determine whether a piece of art has been stolen or illegally acquired," the DA said. "This sculpture and others like it are so much more than commercial property — they represent ancient pieces of history and culture that should be celebrated and vigorously protected."
Objects like the Buddhapada sculpture are protected cultural property under Pakistani law.
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