Cambodian relics tied to indicted art dealer Douglas Latchford have turned up in the Met, other museums


A Khmer Buddha head displayed on the Metropolitan Museum of Artwork that was a present from Douglas Latchford in 1983. (Washington Submit illustration; {Photograph} by Salwan Georges/The Washington Submit)

For many years, Douglas Latchford minimize a romantic determine: The genial Englishman was an explorer of jungle temples, a scholar and a connoisseur seduced by the beautiful particulars of historical sculpture.

Helicoptering into distant Cambodia to go to Khmer Empire cities, he risked land mines to fulfill his curiosity. Starting within the Seventies, he amassed one of many world’s largest personal collections of Khmer treasures, principally Hindu and Buddhist sculpture, the stays of a civilization that flourished in Southeast Asia a thousand years in the past. He co-wrote three shiny books on the topic.

“The sculpture and structure created by the Khmer to honor their gods and their rulers are among the many main creative masterpieces of the world,” he wrote within the first of the three, “Adoration and Glory.”

But whereas Latchford professed reverence for Khmer achievements, he was additionally trafficking in and taking advantage of antiquities pillaged from that civilization’s sacred temples, based on U.S. prosecutors, a part of a decades-long ransacking of Cambodian websites that ranks as probably the most devastating cultural thefts of the twentieth century.

Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, left, with British collector of Khmer antiquities Douglas Latchford during a function at the National Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh on June 12, 2009. In 2019, the U.S. government charged Latchford with trafficking looted Cambodian artifacts.
Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, left, with British collector of Khmer antiquities Douglas Latchford throughout a operate on the Nationwide Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh on June 12, 2009. In 2019, the U.S. authorities charged Latchford with trafficking looted Cambodian artifacts. (Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP/Getty Photographs)

When the US indicted Latchford in 2019, it appeared eventually that lots of of stolen gadgets he had traded is likely to be recognized and returned: Prosecutors demanded the forfeiture of “any and all property” derived from his illicit commerce over 4 many years. However then the 88-year-old Latchford died earlier than trial, leaving unresolved a tantalizing query: What occurred to all the cash and looted treasures?

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The reply lies, not less than partially, in beforehand undisclosed data describing secret offshore firms and trusts that Latchford and his household managed. The data are a part of the Pandora Papers, a cache of greater than 11.9 million paperwork obtained by the Worldwide Consortium of Investigative Journalists and shared with The Washington Submit and different media retailers across the globe.

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The belief and company registration records obtained by the ICIJ present that three months after U.S. investigators started linking Latchford to looted artifacts, he and members of the family arrange the primary of two trusts, named after the Hindu gods Skanda and Siva, on the island of Jersey, a secrecy haven within the Channel Islands between England and France.

[Trove of secret files details an opaque financial universe where the global elite shield their riches]

Skanda Belief held Latchford’s antiquities assortment. Amongst its scores of treasures have been bronzes of Buddha, Lokeshvara and different spiritual figures. One of many relics was a looted Naga Buddha valued at $1.5 million. Latchford’s property in Skanda Belief have been later transferred to Siva Belief.

Whereas Latchford’s members of the family stated the trusts have been fashioned for tax functions and property planning, the secrecy surrounding them poses difficulties for investigators looking for to search out and repatriate gadgets that he could have looted.

Cambodian officers stated that they don’t know what gadgets Skanda held and that they’ve by no means heard of Siva Belief. They take into account Khmer relics taken from the nation with out permission to be looted and need them again, and have assembled a staff to trace down 1000’s of them.

“We’ll by no means surrender pursuing the return of our heritage,” stated Phoeurng Sackona, the Cambodian minister of tradition and high quality arts.

“These objects are usually not simply decorations, however have spirits and are thought-about as lives,” she stated. “It’s exhausting to quantify their loss to our temples and nation — shedding them was like shedding the spirits of our ancestors.”

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This fractured foot, photographed in 2004 within the Prasat Thom temple in Koh Ker Metropolis, Cambodia, reveals the work of looters. In a number of cases over time, antiquities consultants have pinpointed the origins of looted relics by exactly matching the fractured legs of stone statues to the ft the thieves left behind.

(Patrick Aventurier/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Photographs)

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Earlier than a street was constructed permitting entry to the temple advanced in 1965 to enhance the lives of native folks, the Khmer Empire web site of Koh Ker Metropolis, together with this seven-level pyramid, photographed in 2004, was nearly unreachable by outsiders. The brand new street introduced in guests, together with looters for whom Koh Ker Metropolis turned a major goal.

(Patrick Aventurier/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Photographs)

U.S. investigators proceed to pursue the return of things from the Latchford operation, stated two folks near the probe who weren’t approved to debate it.

The confidential data prompted a world hunt for Latchford-linked antiquities by The Submit, the ICIJ, the BBC, the Guardian, Spotify and the Australian Broadcasting Company. This led to a broader examination of the worldwide commerce in artwork, a realm wherein shell firms and trusts conceal smuggling, and a few famed establishments and personal collectors purchase gadgets of murky origin. The investigation discovered that though quite a few museums have returned a number of Latchford-linked items in years previous, not less than 27 such gadgets stay in outstanding collections.

The Metropolitan Museum of Artwork in New York holds not less than 12 relics as soon as owned or brokered by Latchford, and one other that seems to match a chunk described in his indictment. A further 15 have been discovered within the collections of the British Museum in London, the Nationwide Gallery of Australia, the Denver Artwork Museum and the Cleveland Museum of Artwork.

These and different museums maintain a further 16 relics that have been bought by a Latchford affiliate who prosecutors stated dealt in stolen relics. Not one of the museums offered data for these relics exhibiting that that they had been exported with the approval of the nationwide authorities, in some instances as a result of the museums would not have such documentation.

The gadgets recognized by the reporting staff most likely symbolize solely a small portion of those who have been tied to Latchford and wound up in museums, as a result of many such gross sales are personal.

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Simply because a museum relic handed by means of Latchford’s fingers or these of his associates doesn’t essentially imply that it was looted. However critics stated the looting of Cambodia’s temples was well-known, as was the ensuing flood of antiquities on the market. Any Latchford tie, they stated, imposes on museums a duty to research and reveal the origins of the items. Industry guidelines name on museums and different consumers to “rigorously analysis” the origins of relics earlier than buying them and to make their findings public.

Museum officers stated that they comply with business ethics pointers, and that the requirements for buying antiquities have developed over time.

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Spiritual artifacts on show on the Metropolitan Museum of Artwork in New York Metropolis, together with one donated by Douglas Latchford and an public sale home he labored with.

(Salwan Georges/The Washington Submit)

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A Khmer Buddha head, left, displayed on the Metropolitan Museum of Artwork was a present from Douglas Latchford in 1983.

(Salwan Georges/The Washington Submit)

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This plaque with notes in regards to the head of the Buddha on the Metropolitan Museum of Artwork says the Cambodian relic dates to A.D. 920 to 950 and was a present of Douglas Latchford.

(Salwan Georges/The Washington Submit)

Museums have been reluctant to return relics to their international locations of origin, even gadgets that displayed clear indicators of looting, similar to statues with severed ft.

“Accusations in opposition to Latchford … have been a matter of authorized report for almost 10 years now,” stated Tess Davis, a lawyer, archaeologist and the chief director of the Antiquities Coalition, a company that campaigns in opposition to the trafficking of cultural artifacts. “Museum leaders have had greater than sufficient time to do the proper factor. As an alternative, there’s deafening silence.”

This 12 months, Latchford’s daughter, Julia Latchford, promised to return what stays of her father’s private assortment, together with greater than 100 bronze, sandstone, copper and gold antiquities. Final week, the primary 5 relics arrived in Cambodia.

The promised return covers solely a portion of the relics Latchford dealt with. Many others have been bought way back, and neither these relics nor the monetary proceeds from their sale will probably be a part of any Latchford donation.

In letters to The Submit and the ICIJ, attorneys for Julia Latchford and her husband, Simon Copleston, stated that till lately Julia had believed that her father’s assortment had been acquired legally. It wasn’t till his dying that she found he had hid his dealings from her, the legal professionals wrote.

Planning for the Skanda and Siva trusts started “lengthy earlier than any investigations into Mr. Latchford had commenced,” the legal professionals’ letters stated. In a press release, Julia Latchford stated the trusts have been “arrange for professional tax and property planning” and, along with the relics, “included a number of household property” unrelated to Douglas Latchford’s artwork assortment.

The gathering included many gadgets with well-documented possession historical past, her assertion stated. The trusts weren’t used to obscure the origin of looted antiquities or the proceeds of their sale, it stated.

Neither she nor her husband has been accused of wrongdoing.

Two bronzes portray two Buddhist deities trampling personifications of afflictions. The pieces are on display at the Cleveland Museum of Art in May and had been owned by Latchford.
Two bronzes painting two Buddhist deities trampling personifications of afflictions. The items are on show on the Cleveland Museum of Artwork in Could and had been owned by Latchford.
(Salwan Georges/The Washington Submit)

A real obsession

Even among the many distinctive personalities utilizing offshore firms and trusts — the ultra-wealthy, compromised politicians or others looking for to elude authorities — Douglas Latchford stood out.

“Early in 2002, a small group of intrepid adventurers … boarded a helicopter and headed to northeastern Cambodia to the fabled metropolis of Lingapura, the grandiose Khmer capital begun by Jayavarman IV in AD 921,” Latchford wrote in Arts of Asia journal about considered one of his excursions.

Within the article, Latchford detailed the risks of exploring historical Khmer temples in a panorama nonetheless bearing the marks of warfare.

“Nearly instantly,” Latchford wrote, “we discovered ourselves within the depths of the jungle strolling alongside slim overgrown paths flanked by ‘cranium and crossbones’ on a crimson background, warning us of land mines.”

As a baby, Latchford, who was born in Mumbai to a British banker and his spouse in 1931, was fascinated by tales of deserted temples in Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle E-book,” he informed interviewers.

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By age 20, he had moved to Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, the place he based a pharmaceutical and manufacturing distribution firm and invested in land, he informed interviewers. These companies, he would later declare, have been the first sources of his wealth. He additionally turned an aficionado of bodybuilding, beginning a fitness center and coaching champions from Thailand and Cambodia. He was a frequent visitor on the lavish dinner events of Bangkok’s elite.

The fervour that may outline his life, nonetheless, lay elsewhere. He was about 26 when he purchased his first Khmer relic — a 24-inch sandstone statue of a feminine torso — for $700 in an space of Bangkok often known as “Thieves Market.” It had no ft or arms, however Latchford was smitten, he stated in an interview with the Bangkok Submit.

Relics turned a lifelong fascination. With Emma C. Bunker, a professor of Asian artwork historical past, he wrote three books on Khmer antiquities. Outstanding artwork establishments and galleries known as on him to establish Khmer acquisitions. He donated Khmer relics to museums all over the world and boasted of promoting to the Rockefellers. In 2008, he was granted the equal of a knighthood by the deputy prime minister of Cambodia for his donations to the nation’s nationwide museum.

It was a real obsession, pals stated.

 Two of three glossy books co-written by Douglas Latchford, a longtime expert in Cambodian antiquities whom the U.S. government in 2019 charged with trafficking looted antiquities. He died in 2020, at age 88, before a trial could be held.
Two of three shiny books co-written by Douglas Latchford, a longtime skilled in Cambodian antiquities whom the U.S. authorities in 2019 charged with trafficking looted antiquities. He died in 2020, at age 88, earlier than a trial might be held. (John McDonnell/The Washington Submit)

“Gathering is a form of a illness actually,” stated Angus Forsyth, a collector and Hong Kong lawyer who went on a few the Latchford-organized helicopter journeys into the jungle. “These with the illness like to search out fellow victims.”

Latchford’s infatuation with Khmer art work coincided with a sizzling marketplace for antiquities looted from Cambodia and neighboring Thailand and Laos. All three international locations have been a part of the Khmer Empire, which flourished from the ninth to fifteenth centuries.

Starting within the Seventies, amid the tumult of civil struggle and Pol Pot’s genocidal regime in Cambodia, the temple complexes of the Khmer Empire — together with three designated by UNESCO as World Heritage websites — fell prey to large bouts of ransacking. Organized networks, typically headed by members of the army or the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot’s radical communist motion, broke statues from their pedestals. Dynamite blasted different relics unfastened. Whole partitions have been trucked away. Proceeds from this pillaging, consultants say, helped fund the combating. The looting continued into the 2010s.

One specific goal was the traditional metropolis of Koh Ker, with its 76 temples and aqueducts, statuary and a seven-level pyramid. The statues of Koh Ker have been distinctive and revolutionary for his or her time: Artisans carved sandstone masterpieces that have been intricately detailed, larger-than-life and sometimes infused with dynamic motion.

Earlier than 1965, the temple advanced had been all however unreachable, however then a street was constructed, benefiting locals but additionally giving looters easy accessibility to the realm. To serve antiquities sellers looking for specific treasures, looters hunted for particular relics, guided by pictures that have been offered to them, stated Angela Chiu, a scholar who has written a e book on Asian artwork. To ease the consciences of their rich clientele, sellers fabricated tales to obscure the truth that the gadgets had been looted.

“Many even justified the elimination of artifacts from Cambodia as acts of rescue and introduced collectors as saviors,” Chiu stated.

Objects that may fetch hundreds of thousands of {dollars} within the West have been bought for a pittance by armed teams and determined Cambodian villagers.

One former looter informed a researcher that he had traded a big statue of Ganesha, the Hindu elephant god, for a water buffalo. One other piece — a sandstone statue that was half-woman, half-bird — was bought by looters for $500, he informed the researcher from the Nationwide Museum of Cambodia. The looters stole a 3rd object from the identical web site — a Skanda determine sitting on a peacock — transported it by oxcart to the border with Thailand and bought it for about $600.

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A Cambodian boy is dwarfed by monumental ruins on the Prasat Chen temple within the Koh Ker temple space in Preah Vihear province, Cambodia, in 2012. The realm has been a goal of looters.

(Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP/Getty Photographs)

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A Twelfth-century Bodhisattva is on show on the Metropolitan Museum of Artwork in Could. It was a present from Latchford.

(Salwan Georges/The Washington Submit)

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A late Twelfth-century statue of a standing Avalokiteshvara on the Metropolitan Museum of Artwork in Could. The merchandise was as soon as owned by Latchford.

(Salwan Georges/The Washington Submit)

In the midst of the illicit commerce was Latchford, who, based on prosecutors, trafficked in antiquities from the early Seventies till not less than 2010.

All three of these items stolen from Koh Ker — the Ganesha; the half-woman, half-bird determine; and the Skanda — have Latchford connections. Latchford brokered the sale of the Ganesha, Cambodian authorities stated. He bought the Skanda sitting on a peacock to an American personal collector for $1.5 million, based on the U.S. court docket paperwork. All three items have been featured in considered one of his books — a apply Latchford used with a purpose to give looted gadgets an air of legitimacy and ease their sale, prosecutors stated.

Emails later seized by prosecutors tied him to prison networks that had ransacked sacred temples. In a single such e mail, apparently written from Bangkok to a Manhattan seller, Latchford shared his enthusiasm for a Buddha statue present in Cambodia. An connected image confirmed it nonetheless lined in dust.

“Maintain on to your hat, simply been provided this 56 cm Angkor Borei Buddha, simply excavated, which seems to be improbable. It’s nonetheless throughout the border, however WOW.”

None of this was broadly identified, nonetheless, till Latchford’s fall from grace started in 2011, the 12 months he turned 80.

It began with a discovery by a French archaeologist.

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An impressive Tenth-century statue was about to be placed on the public sale block at Sotheby’s in New York. Dubbed “the Athlete,” the piece depicts a large determine, adorned with intricately carved jewellery and an elaborate conical headdress, proven leaping into the air. The public sale home described the statue as being “among the many nice masterpieces of Khmer artwork” and estimated its worth at $2 million to $3 million.

Within the Sotheby’s commercial and different sources, archaeologist Éric Bourdonneau discovered clear proof that the statue had been looted: Its legs precisely match the severed ft on a pedestal that looters had left behind on the Koh Ker temple of Prasat Chen. He recognized the statue as Duryodhana, the protagonist in a nine-statue tableau that depicted the climactic battle scene from a Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata.

Upon studying that the statue was most likely stolen, the deputy prime minister of Cambodia contacted U.S. authorities to cease the sale, with hours to spare. The aborted sale triggered a U.S. federal investigation and, eight years later, Latchford’s indictment.

As investigators shut in, relics transfer offshore

U.S. prosecutors’ indictment of Latchford sought to compel him to give up any looted relics and any cash he had produced from gross sales. Such forfeitures are widespread in instances of stolen art work. However offshore firms can present safety from this type of accountability.

Within the spring of 2011, based on paperwork obtained by the ICIJ, members of the Latchford household turned to Trident Belief, one of many many firms focusing on serving to rich households create offshore firms and trusts, a apply that critics say permits them to evade taxes and authorities oversight.

 A listing, seen in June, for a Sioux Falls, S.D., office suite used by Trident Trust Co., which has offices in more than 20 countries and other jurisdictions that experts view as tax or financial secrecy havens. In the spring of 2011, according to documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, relatives of antiquities dealer Douglas Latchford turned to Trident for its services.
An inventory, seen in June, for a Sioux Falls, S.D., workplace suite utilized by Trident Belief Co., which has workplaces in additional than 20 international locations and different jurisdictions that consultants view as tax or monetary secrecy havens. Within the spring of 2011, based on paperwork obtained by the Worldwide Consortium of Investigative Journalists, kin of antiquities seller Douglas Latchford turned to Trident for its companies. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Submit)

Trident Belief has workplaces in additional than 20 international locations and different jurisdictions, almost all of them beforehand named by the Group for Financial Cooperation and Improvement and the Tax Justice Community as tax or secrecy havens. In response to the Trident web site, the corporate has an extended report of working with “excessive internet price households” to make monetary preparations “that assist protect wealth from era to era.”

To start with, Latchford, his daughter Julia and Copleston created two trusts registered in Jersey, naming themselves as beneficiaries, belief paperwork present. Jersey, a self-governing British crown dependency, has “firewall legal guidelines” that defend property from collectors, tax officers and legislation enforcement companies. Such trusts pose a big impediment for legislation enforcement and different investigators looking for to recuperate ill-gotten property, largely as a result of they’re so tough to search out: There was no requirement for them to be registered with the federal government.

The legal guidelines “are designed to make any form of discovery of property tough,” stated Brooke Harrington, a Dartmouth Faculty professor who turned an authorized belief and property planner to review wealth administration and offshore funds. “And when you don’t have discovery, you gained’t get restoration.”

Skanda Belief was fashioned in June 2011, lower than three months after U.S. prosecutors stopped the Sotheby’s sale. The paperwork obtained by the ICIJ present that the belief was set as much as maintain substantial monetary property, together with funding accounts on the wealth administration agency Rathbones and HSBC Personal Financial institution, together with holdings in two hedge funds, Headstart Fund of Funds and Limestone Fund SPC Wider Russia. The trustee additionally assumed management of one other Latchford firm, Fleetwing Estates Ltd., registered in Hong Kong, which in 2002 bought a London flat at present valued at about $15 million. Title to the condo was registered to Julia Latchford and Copleston in 2020, based on property data.

[Foreign money secretly floods U.S. tax havens. Some of it is tainted.]

The paperwork obtained by the ICIJ are silent on Skanda’s holdings of Khmer relics. However 80 of them, principally bronzes, seem “courtesy of Skanda Belief” in a Latchford e book revealed in 2011. Consultants stated these relics have a collective worth of about $10 million. At the very least one, a Buddha that Latchford bought to the Nancy Wiener Gallery in Manhattan and later was valued at $1.5 million, was looted, prosecutors say.

Individually, 22 bronze items that matched pictures credited to Skanda Belief in considered one of Latchford’s books have been listed on the market by the British seller Asian Artwork, owned by Jonathan Tucker and Antonia Tozer, alongside 20 others put up on the market by Latchford, based on a consignment doc. The catalog’s complete record value was almost $2 million. A Belgian gallery, Marcel Nies Oriental Artwork, listed seven relics in publications that match Skanda Belief items revealed in Latchford’s books. Its proprietor, Marcel Nies, stated that he by no means bought any piece on behalf of Latchford instantly and that he wasn’t conscious of the gravity of the allegations in opposition to Latchford till he was indicted.

The household created the Jersey-based Siva Belief in September 2012. The trustee for the 2 entities was a British Virgin Islands-registered “personal belief firm” that the Latchfords had fashioned, giving them an additional degree of privateness, based on the paperwork obtained by the ICIJ. Such firms are usually not required to disclose their shareholders or administrators, making it tough to establish their true house owners.

In response to Julia Latchford, the household created the personal belief firm as a result of it was probably the most cost-effective solution to handle the trusts. “It was not designed to obscure the belief construction or what it held, nor to extend secrecy in any method,” she stated in a press release.

In counting on firms and trusts created in secrecy jurisdictions, Douglas Latchford joined an array of figures within the artwork world who’ve employed such entities to carry property, typically whereas engaged in theft or fraud.

Through the years, shell firms and trusts have enabled artwork and antiquities sellers and collectors to interact in quite a lot of illicit schemes: laundering cash, bidding up costs of artworks they’re promoting, disguising possession of stolen gadgets and evading taxes. One of the vital prolific merchants in looted antiquities, Giacomo Medici, who operated from the Nineteen Sixties into the Nineteen Nineties, was convicted of utilizing nameless shell firms to launder stolen antiquities. He denied trafficking in looted artwork.

Russian oligarchs Boris and Arkady Rotenberg prevented U.S. financial sanctions in opposition to them by utilizing shell firms to buy $18 million price of artwork, together with a portray by the Belgian surrealist René Magritte, based on a U.S. Senate investigation. Representatives of the Rotenbergs have denied allegations of sanctions evasion.

 Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, with Russian oligarch brothers Boris Rotenberg, center, and Arkady Rotenberg in the Russian Black Sea city of Sochi in 2017. The Rotenbergs avoided U.S. economic sanctions directed at them by using shell companies to buy $18 million worth of art, according to a U.S. Senate investigation.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, with Russian oligarch brothers Boris Rotenberg, heart, and Arkady Rotenberg within the Russian Black Sea metropolis of Sochi in 2017. The Rotenbergs prevented U.S. financial sanctions directed at them by utilizing shell firms to purchase $18 million price of artwork, based on a U.S. Senate investigation. (Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Photographs)

One other art work, a Modigliani, taken from a Parisian antiques seller by the Nazis, turned up within the possession of a Panamanian firm whose house owners have been revealed by the ICIJ’s Panama Papers investigation.

For artwork investigators, offshore firms and trusts sometimes result in a useless finish. “In monitoring down stolen items, we fairly often run right into a belief — from Liechtenstein or Panama or Cayman Islands or someplace like that — and it makes it very tough to know who to make a declare in opposition to,” stated Chris Marinello, whose agency, Artwork Restoration Worldwide, helps folks recuperate stolen items. “It could possibly actually be a brick wall.”

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How public sale homes, museums, collectors purchase looted artwork

At the moment, antiquities that have been dealt with by Latchford and his associates will be present in museums across the globe. Curators are ethically obligated to research the origins of latest acquisitions, however some consultants say far too little has been achieved to return to Cambodia items that belong there.

It’s tough to evaluate what number of Latchford items have been looted as a result of museums typically didn’t share documentation, and most publish scant details about an object’s possession historical past, often known as provenance.

Guidelines from the American Alliance of Museums say museums ought to “rigorously analysis the provenance of an object previous to acquisition” and “make a concerted effort to acquire correct written documentation with respect to the historical past of the thing, together with export and import paperwork.” However particulars which have emerged from Latchford’s indictment and different sources, together with the Chasing Aphrodite antiquities weblog, elevate questions in regards to the origins of some items. Museums have an moral obligation to reply them, consultants stated.

The Met assortment, for instance, has a sandstone statue of a determine known as a Harihara. The data revealed by the museum says the piece got here from southern Cambodia and describes its model as “pre-Angkor interval.” It was bought from considered one of Latchford’s collaborators, Spink & Son, in 1977.

A statue of a Harihara, on the right, on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in May. A Latchford associate sold it to the museum in 1977 and prosecutors described a very similar item as looted in Latchford's 2019 indictment. The Met said it is unknown whether its Harihara was the piece named in the indictment.
A statue of a Harihara, on the proper, on show on the Metropolitan Museum of Artwork in New York in Could. A Latchford affiliate bought it to the museum in 1977 and prosecutors described a really comparable merchandise as looted in Latchford’s 2019 indictment. The Met stated it’s unknown whether or not its Harihara was the piece named within the indictment. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Submit)

A really comparable piece is described within the Latchford indictment — identical spiritual determine, identical seller, identical interval, identical location — and it apparently was looted. In response to a November 1974 letter from a Spink consultant, Latchford, at the moment, had agreed to consign a “Pre-Angkor Hari Hara” to the public sale home, and the piece was “supposedly lately excavated in Cambodia close to the South Vietnamese border.” The Spink & Son consultant, based on prosecutors, was conscious of Latchford’s plans to create false documentation for Khmer antiquities.

Spink & Son was acquired by Christie’s many years in the past. The public sale home stated it might by no means promote gadgets it had purpose to consider have been stolen.

The Met declined to answer reporters’ questions in regards to the provenance of its Harihara piece or any of the 12 relics bought from or donated by Latchford and at present on show in its assortment. Questions on seven Khmer relics acquired by means of his associates went unanswered. In a written assertion, a spokeswoman for the Met stated it was “unknown” whether or not the Harihara in its assortment is identical because the Harihara that prosecutors say was looted. The assertion stated the museum applies “rigorous provenance requirements” to new acquisitions and to relics lengthy in its collections. The museum has “an extended and properly documented historical past of responding to claims relating to artworks, restituting objects the place acceptable, being clear in regards to the provenance of works within the assortment,” the assertion stated.

One other statue becoming the outline of a relic cited within the Latchford indictment is on the Denver Artwork Museum. It’s a sandstone depiction of the goddess of transcendent knowledge, Prajnaparamita. On the time of its acquisition, Latchford offered paperwork with conflicting details about its possession historical past, based on his indictment. One such doc was a letter from an individual prosecutors described as a “false collector,” who wrote that Latchford had bought the piece from him in 1999.

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Different paperwork, nonetheless, confirmed that the piece had been in Latchford’s possession 5 years earlier. Over his profession, prosecutors stated, Latchford introduced “quite a few” such letters purportedly written by the “false collector,” even after that particular person died in 2001.

The Denver museum, which has six Latchford relics in its assortment, says it “proactively contacted cultural officers in Cambodia a couple of 12 months in the past, and our dialogue with Cambodia stays ongoing about their provenance.” Bradley J. Gordon, a lawyer representing the Cambodian Ministry of Tradition and Superb Arts, stated the ministry’s staff of consultants is researching the whereabouts of looted relics. “We’re monitoring the possession and provenance of Khmer antiquities worldwide, and we’re calling for the return of all of them that aren’t correctly owned and provenanced,” Gordon stated.

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Many museums and different artwork consumers, for many years, have confronted complaints that they ignore proof of artifact theft and that this indifference provokes extra pillaging. A examine revealed by Davis, the lawyer and archaeologist, discovered that of 377 Cambodian relics bought at public sale by Sotheby’s from 1988 to 2010, 71 p.c had no listed possession historical past.

Furthermore, museums, galleries and public sale homes have proved reluctant to return relics to their international locations of origin till confronted with overwhelming proof that the gadgets have been looted. This strategy locations the burden of proof on the nation of origin. For almost 20 years, for instance, two large Koh Ker sandstone statues, topped with intricately patterned cone-shaped headdresses, flanked the doorway to the Asian Artwork Gallery on the Metropolitan Museum of Artwork. The figures, dubbed the “kneeling attendants” by curators, crouch as if genuflecting.

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Maxwell Okay. Hearn, chief of the division of Asian Artwork at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Artwork, attends the handing over of Cambodian artifacts, together with this Tenth-century statue, at Phnom Penh Worldwide Airport in June 2013. Two Tenth-century Cambodian stone statues displayed for almost 20 years on the Met have been being returned to Cambodia in a high-profile case of allegedly looted artifacts.

(Heng Sinith/Related Press)

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Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, heart left, prays with UNESCO Director Basic Irina Bokova, heart proper, in June 2013 in entrance of a Tenth-century Cambodian sandstone statue on the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh. The statue was returned from the Met in New York.

(Lon Jadina/Related Press)

That the statues have been stolen ought to have been apparent, some artwork students stated.

They have been identified to be from Koh Ker, the place looting had been rampant, and the museum had acquired them in items, one other crimson flag, consultants stated. Looters typically minimize statues into items for transportation. Latchford and the seller Spink & Son donated one of many heads in 1987, after which, in 1992, Latchford donated the our bodies. The second head got here from one other donor.

Much more damning have been marks on the statues. “Traces from the looters’ chisels have been clearly evident on the knees,” stated Bourdonneau, the archaeologist and Koh Ker skilled. Regardless of these indications, the Met accepted the donations and held on to the statues for years earlier than returning them to Cambodia in 2013.

There was ample proof that the statues belonged to the identical stolen set as Sotheby’s Duryodhana, Bourdonneau stated, nevertheless it was solely when archaeologists found pedestals in Cambodia that completely matched the “kneeling attendants” that the museum relinquished them.

This state of affairs was repeated when the Cambodians approached different museums — together with the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, Calif., the Denver Artwork Museum and the Cleveland Museum of Artwork — about returning Latchford-linked statues with spotty provenances, based on Anne LeMaistre, a former head of UNESCO in Cambodia. Solely when matching fragments have been found on web site in Koh Ker did the museums return the relics.

The Met stated its return of the Koh Ker statues was “historic” and paved the way in which for different repatriations, whereas the artwork museums in Denver and Cleveland each stated they reached out to the Cambodian authorities earlier than returning the statues. The Norton Simon Museum didn’t remark.

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Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, heart left, and Walter Timoshuk, president of the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, Calif., attend a handing over by the museum of a looted statue of Bhima, a martial determine from the Hindu epic Mahabharata, in Phnom Penh on June 2014.

(Omar Havana/Getty Photographs)

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The Bhima statue on show in December 2013 on the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, Calif. The museum quickly after introduced it might be returned to Cambodia.

(Jae C. Hong/Related Press)

The origin of antiquities in personal collections will be much more of a black field. A 2008 Architectural Digest article included images of greater than a dozen Khmer statues displayed in an opulent Palm Seaside, Fla., mansion owned on the time by billionaire George L. Lindemann, who has since died.

Reporters confirmed the journal pictures to a staff of 12 artwork consultants and archaeologists and others working with Cambodia’s Ministry of Tradition. They stated that six of the items, which they take into account amongst Cambodia’s most vital cultural treasures, have been “undoubtedly looted.” One statue, a half-woman, half-man, was stolen from a temple in Koh Ker, the consultants stated. Gordon, the lawyer representing the ministry, described the temple as “the Cambodian equal of King Tut’s tomb.” One of many images reveals three heads hung above an ornate fire. Cambodian authorities consider these items have been stolen from the walkway of giants resulting in Angkor Thom in Siem Riep.

In one other picture, a larger-than-life determine gazes serenely over Lindemann’s eating room. In response to consultants, the piece is so vital that its empty pedestal is on show in Cambodia’s nationwide museum. The Cambodian restoration staff believes it’s considered one of three statues nonetheless lacking from the Mahabharata battle scene.

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Lindemann’s widow and sons didn’t reply to repeated requests for remark.

Public glimpses into personal collections are exceedingly uncommon, complicating the Cambodians’ efforts to recuperate their cultural heritage.

Consultants say personal collectors, museums and public sale homes get away with buying stolen artwork due to an absence of exterior regulation and since possession data and particulars about purchases and donations are sometimes stored secret.

“Secrecy eases each step of the method for a looted antiquity to enter the market, from its illicit elimination to its circulation amongst sellers and personal and public collections,” stated Chiu, the scholar of Asian artwork. “The dearth of transparency permits the reality to be hidden and distorted and the antiquity washed of its illicit origins, in order that it may be placed on show in a museum, the final word marker of legitimacy.”

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A show of artifacts in Could within the Indian and Southeast Asian gallery on the Cleveland Museum of Artwork. The kneeling male determine within the forefront was bought by a Latchford affiliate to the museum in 1978.

(Salwan Georges/The Washington Submit)

Recovering relics

After greater than three years of negotiations, the Cambodians have begun to recuperate a number of the artwork that handed by means of Latchford’s fingers. In January, shortly after her father’s dying, Julia Latchford introduced that she would return his personal assortment to Cambodia. It is going to be the most important repatriation of relics within the area’s historical past, and it acquired favorable media consideration. A New York Instances article proclaimed that the present “honors, if not absolves,” her father.

Douglas Latchford initially had sought to make use of the donation as a bargaining chip in an effort to realize authorized immunity for himself, members of the family and shut affiliate Bunker, based on a leaked 2018 memo addressed to the U.S. ambassador to Cambodia and bought by the ICIJ and its reporting companions.

“Mr. Latchford has sought to connect quite a few circumstances to his provide,” Gordon, the lawyer for Cambodia, wrote within the memo. Gordon stated Latchford’s major concern gave the impression to be safety from prison prosecution for himself and others. “We consider the failure to grant this situation could fully negate his motivation to half with these antiquities,” Gordon wrote.

Throughout negotiations over the return of his complete assortment, Latchford tried to promote $3 million price of Khmer relics consigned to the gallery Asian Artwork, based on emails obtained by the ICIJ. The emails additional revealed that one of many gallery’s house owners, Jonathan Tucker, was conscious that a few of these items lacked provenance. Tucker didn’t reply to requests for remark.

Julia Latchford stated in a press release that on the time she was not conscious that her father was trying to hyperlink the return of his assortment to immunity, and that her choice to return the relics was “as a result of she had turn into satisfied that it was the proper factor to do.”

1000’s of stolen relics are nonetheless on the market. Cambodian archaeologists have begun the painstaking means of restoring a number of the nation’s 1000’s of ransacked temples.

One such archaeologist is Thach Phanit, who has been serving to to excavate the Koh Ker temples in hopes of discovering fragments and different proof that can be utilized to influence anybody now in possession of Cambodian artifacts to return the nation’s stolen heritage. These misplaced statues, he says, are “the souls of the temple.”

“With out the soul, just like the human physique, we’re simply useless,” he stated. “Returning the statues is like returning the souls of the ancestors again to the nation.”

Till they succeed, empty pedestals will accumulate mud within the Nationwide Museum of Cambodia, ready for his or her authentic occupants’ return.

Latchford sold this "Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara Seated in Royal Ease" to the Met in 1992.
Latchford bought this “Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara Seated in Royal Ease” to the Met in 1992. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Submit)

The Washington Submit and the ICIJ staff tracked dozens of antiquities presumably tied to indicted artwork seller Douglas Latchford which can be displayed in or owned by artwork museums all over the world. Along with the Pandora Papers, knowledge got here from Latchford’s self-published books, from artwork gallery catalogues and from researchers’ blogs.

The reporting staff analyzed the knowledge accessible for each bit present in a museum assortment. The data on previous possession, or provenance, decided which of the three classes the piece match into:

• Antiquities (Khmer and never Khmer) owned or brokered by Latchford, who was indicted in the US in 2019 on fees associated to the smuggling of artifacts.

• Khmer-only antiquities brokered by means of galleries that prosecutors have stated in numerous indictments have been operated by associates of Latchford, a few of whom have been accused of promoting looted relics themselves: These embrace Spink & Son in Europe; and Nancy Weiner’s gallery in New York, together with the gallery of her mom, Doris Wiener, who knew Latchford and likewise collaborated with him.

Nancy Wiener pleaded responsible final week to fees associated to the smuggling of looted antiquities. In a written assertion, she admitted to purchasing stolen relics from Douglas Latchford and others, and promoting them with falsified provenance to prestigious museums and consigning them to public sale homes. Nobody from Spink & Son has been charged with wrongdoing.

• A 3rd class was created for antiquities that haven’t any possession historical past accessible and that have been acquired by museums in or after 1970, the 12 months the United Nations handed a conference to fight the illicit trafficking of cultural property.

A few of the data was provided by the museums themselves. The staff additionally talked to 2 consultants in Southeast Asian artwork to find out whether or not some items have been Khmer or not.

Read the museums’ responses.

About this story

Malia Politzer, Delphine Reuter and Spencer Woodman are reporters for the Worldwide Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Additionally contributing to this report have been Annie Gilbertson of Spotify, James Oliver and Rory Tinman of the BBC, David Conn and Anne Davies of the Guardian and Mario Christodoulou of Australian Broadcasting Company. Graphic by Kevin Schaul.

The Pandora Papers is an investigation primarily based on greater than 11.9 million paperwork revealing the flows of cash, property and different property hid within the offshore monetary system. The Washington Submit and different information organizations uncovered the involvement of political leaders, examined the expansion of the business inside the US and demonstrated how secrecy shields property from governments, collectors and people abused or exploited by the rich and highly effective. The trove of confidential data, the biggest of its type, was obtained by the Worldwide Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which organized the investigation. Read more about this project.



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