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 historic sculpture.

Helicoptering into distant Cambodia to go to Khmer Empire cities, he risked land mines to fulfill his curiosity. Starting within the Nineteen Seventies, he amassed one of many world’s largest non-public collections of Khmer treasures, largely 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 inventive 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 cashing in on antiquities pillaged from that civilization’s sacred temples, in response to U.S. prosecutors, a part of a decades-long ransacking of Cambodian websites that ranks as some of the 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 perform 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 Pictures)

When the USA indicted Latchford in 2019, it appeared eventually that a whole lot 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 a long time. 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 partly, in beforehand undisclosed information describing secret offshore firms and trusts that Latchford and his household managed. The information 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 shops across the globe.

Finish of carousel

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 shaped for tax functions and property planning, the secrecy surrounding them poses difficulties for investigators looking for to seek 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 contemplate Khmer relics taken from the nation with out permission to be looted and wish them again, and have assembled a workforce 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 positive arts.

“These objects will not be simply decorations, however have spirits and are thought-about as lives,” she stated. “It’s arduous to quantify their loss to our temples and nation — dropping them was like dropping 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, exhibits 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 Pictures)

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Earlier than a street was constructed permitting entry to the temple complicated 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 just about unreachable by outsiders. The brand new street introduced in guests, together with looters for whom Koh Ker Metropolis grew to become a major goal.

(Patrick Aventurier/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Pictures)

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 information prompted a global 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 by which 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 distinguished 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 bit 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 an extra 16 relics that have been bought by a Latchford affiliate who prosecutors stated dealt in stolen relics. Not one of the museums supplied information for these relics displaying that they’d been exported with the approval of the nationwide authorities, in some circumstances as a result of the museums don’t have such documentation.

The gadgets recognized by the reporting workforce in all probability signify 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 non-public.

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Simply because a museum relic handed via Latchford’s arms 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 analyze and reveal the origins of the items. Industry guidelines name on museums and different patrons 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 tips, 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 concerning 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 nations of origin, even gadgets that displayed clear indicators of looting, comparable to statues with severed ft.

“Accusations towards Latchford … have been a matter of authorized document for practically 10 years now,” stated Tess Davis, a lawyer, archaeologist and the manager director of the Antiquities Coalition, a company that campaigns towards the trafficking of cultural artifacts. “Museum leaders have had greater than sufficient time to do the suitable factor. As a substitute, there may be 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 might 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 attorneys wrote.

Planning for the Skanda and Siva trusts started “lengthy earlier than any investigations into Mr. Latchford had commenced,” the attorneys’ letters stated. In a press release, Julia Latchford stated the trusts have been “arrange for reputable 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 Might 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 one among his excursions.

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

“Virtually instantly,” Latchford wrote, “we discovered ourselves within the depths of the jungle strolling alongside slender 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 Guide,” he advised 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 advised interviewers. These companies, he would later declare, have been the first sources of his wealth. He additionally grew to become an aficionado of bodybuilding, beginning a gymnasium 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, nevertheless, 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 called “Thieves Market.” It had no ft or arms, however Latchford was smitten, he stated in an interview with the Bangkok Submit.

Relics grew to become 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 referred to as on him to establish Khmer acquisitions. He donated Khmer relics to museums world wide 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 knowledgeable 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 may very well be held. (John McDonnell/The Washington Submit)

“Gathering is a type 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 seek out fellow victims.”

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

Starting within the Nineteen 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 huge bouts of ransacking. Organized networks, usually headed by members of the navy 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 complicated had been all however unreachable, however then a street was constructed, benefiting locals but in addition giving looters quick access to the world. To serve antiquities sellers looking for specific treasures, looters hunted for particular relics, guided by images that have been supplied 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 removing of artifacts from Cambodia as acts of rescue and offered collectors as saviors,” Chiu stated.

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

One former looter advised 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 advised 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 Pictures)

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A Twelfth-century Bodhisattva is on show on the Metropolitan Museum of Artwork in Might. 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 Might. The merchandise was as soon as owned by Latchford.

(Salwan Georges/The Washington Submit)

In the course of the illicit commerce was Latchford, who, in response to prosecutors, trafficked in antiquities from the early Nineteen 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 non-public collector for $1.5 million, in response to the U.S. courtroom paperwork. All three items have been featured in one among his books — a follow Latchford used with a view to give looted gadgets an air of legitimacy and ease their sale, prosecutors stated.

Emails later seized by prosecutors tied him to legal 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 filth.

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

None of this was extensively recognized, nevertheless, 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 an enormous 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 in all probability 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 comprised of gross sales. Such forfeitures are widespread in circumstances of stolen paintings. However offshore firms can present safety from this type of accountability.

Within the spring of 2011, in response to paperwork obtained by the ICIJ, members of the Latchford household turned to Trident Belief, one of many many firms specializing in serving to rich households create offshore firms and trusts, a follow 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.
A list, seen in June, for a Sioux Falls, S.D., workplace suite utilized by Trident Belief Co., which has places of work in additional than 20 nations and different jurisdictions that consultants view as tax or monetary secrecy havens. Within the spring of 2011, in response to paperwork obtained by the Worldwide Consortium of Investigative Journalists, family members of antiquities seller Douglas Latchford turned to Trident for its providers. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Submit)

Trident Belief has places of work in additional than 20 nations and different jurisdictions, practically all of them beforehand named by the Group for Financial Cooperation and Growth and the Tax Justice Community as tax or secrecy havens. In keeping with the Trident web site, the corporate has an extended document of working with “excessive internet value 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 shield property from collectors, tax officers and legislation enforcement businesses. Such trusts pose a major impediment for legislation enforcement and different investigators looking for to recuperate ill-gotten property, largely as a result of they’re so tough to seek 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 School professor who grew to become an authorized belief and property planner to review wealth administration and offshore funds. “And if you happen to don’t have discovery, you received’t get restoration.”

Skanda Belief was shaped 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 the moment valued at about $15 million. Title to the house was registered to Julia Latchford and Copleston in 2020, in response to property information.

[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, largely bronzes, seem “courtesy of Skanda Belief” in a Latchford e-book printed in 2011. Specialists stated these relics have a collective worth of about $10 million. A minimum of 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 images credited to Skanda Belief in one among 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, in response to a consignment doc. The catalog’s complete record value was practically $2 million. A Belgian gallery, Marcel Nies Oriental Artwork, listed seven relics in publications that match Skanda Belief items printed in Latchford’s books. Its proprietor, Marcel Nies, stated that he by no means bought any piece on behalf of Latchford immediately and that he wasn’t conscious of the gravity of the allegations towards 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 “non-public belief firm” that the Latchfords had shaped, giving them an additional degree of privateness, in response to the paperwork obtained by the ICIJ. Such firms will not be required to disclose their shareholders or administrators, making it tough to establish their true homeowners.

In keeping with Julia Latchford, the household created the non-public belief firm as a result of it was probably the most cost-effective method to handle the trusts. “It was not designed to obscure the belief construction or what it held, nor to extend secrecy in any means,” 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, usually whereas engaged in theft or fraud.

Over time, shell firms and trusts have enabled artwork and antiquities sellers and collectors to have interaction in a wide range of illicit schemes: laundering cash, bidding up costs of artworks they’re promoting, disguising possession of stolen gadgets and evading taxes. Probably the most 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 towards them through the use of shell firms to buy $18 million value of artwork, together with a portray by the Belgian surrealist René Magritte, in response to 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 through the use of shell firms to purchase $18 million value of artwork, in response to a U.S. Senate investigation. (Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Pictures)

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

For artwork investigators, offshore firms and trusts usually 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 towards,” stated Chris Marinello, whose agency, Artwork Restoration Worldwide, helps folks recuperate stolen items. “It could possibly actually be a brick wall.”

[How U.S. sanctions take a hidden toll on Russian oligarchs]

How public sale homes, museums, collectors purchase looted artwork

Right this moment, antiquities that have been dealt with by Latchford and his associates could be present in museums across the globe. Curators are ethically obligated to analyze 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 called 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 article, 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 concerning 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 referred to as a Harihara. The data printed by the museum says the piece got here from southern Cambodia and describes its type as “pre-Angkor interval.” It was bought from one among 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 suitable, on show on the Metropolitan Museum of Artwork in New York in Might. A Latchford affiliate bought it to the museum in 1977 and prosecutors described a really related 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 related piece is described within the Latchford indictment — identical spiritual determine, identical seller, identical interval, identical location — and it apparently was looted. In keeping with 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, in response to prosecutors, was conscious of Latchford’s plans to create false documentation for Khmer antiquities.

Spink & Son was acquired by Christie’s a long time in the past. The public sale home stated it will by no means promote gadgets it had motive to consider have been stolen.

The Met declined to reply to reporters’ questions concerning the provenance of its Harihara piece or any of the 12 relics bought from or donated by Latchford and at the moment on show in its assortment. Questions on seven Khmer relics acquired via 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 similar 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 effectively documented historical past of responding to claims concerning artistic endeavors, restituting objects the place acceptable, being clear concerning 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 supplied paperwork with conflicting details about its possession historical past, in response to 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, nevertheless, confirmed that the piece had been in Latchford’s possession 5 years earlier. Over his profession, prosecutors stated, Latchford offered “quite a few” such letters purportedly written by the “false collector,” even after that individual died in 2001.

The Denver museum, which has six Latchford relics in its assortment, says it “proactively contacted cultural officers in Cambodia a few 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 Advantageous Arts, stated the ministry’s workforce 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 patrons, for many years, have confronted complaints that they ignore proof of artifact theft and that this indifference provokes extra pillaging. A research printed by Davis, the lawyer and archaeologist, discovered that of 377 Cambodian relics bought at public sale by Sotheby’s from 1988 to 2010, 71 % had no listed possession historical past.

Furthermore, museums, galleries and public sale homes have proved reluctant to return relics to their nations 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 practically 20 years, for instance, two huge 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 Ok. 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 practically twenty 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 Common 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 recognized 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 usually 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 knowledgeable. 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, but it surely was solely when archaeologists found pedestals in Cambodia that completely matched the “kneeling attendants” that the museum relinquished them.

This situation 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, in response to 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 Pictures)

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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 will be returned to Cambodia.

(Jae C. Hong/Related Press)

The origin of antiquities in non-public collections could 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 images to a workforce of 12 artwork consultants and archaeologists and others working with Cambodia’s Ministry of Tradition. They stated that six of the items, which they contemplate amongst Cambodia’s most essential cultural treasures, have been “positively 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 exhibits three heads hung above an ornate hearth. 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 keeping with consultants, the piece is so important that its empty pedestal is on show in Cambodia’s nationwide museum. The Cambodian restoration workforce believes it’s one among 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 non-public collections are exceedingly uncommon, complicating the Cambodians’ efforts to recuperate their cultural heritage.

Specialists say non-public collectors, museums and public sale homes get away with buying stolen artwork due to an absence of exterior regulation and since possession information and particulars about purchases and donations are sometimes saved secret.

“Secrecy eases each step of the method for a looted antiquity to enter the market, from its illicit removing to its circulation amongst sellers and personal and public collections,” stated Chiu, the scholar of Asian artwork. “The shortage 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 Might 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 via Latchford’s arms. In January, shortly after her father’s dying, Julia Latchford introduced that she would return his non-public assortment to Cambodia. Will probably be the most important repatriation of relics within the area’s historical past, and it acquired favorable media consideration. A New York Occasions article proclaimed that the reward “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, in response to 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 situations to his provide,” Gordon, the lawyer for Cambodia, wrote within the memo. Gordon stated Latchford’s major concern seemed to be safety from legal prosecution for himself and others. “We consider the failure to grant this situation could utterly negate his motivation to half with these antiquities,” Gordon wrote.

Throughout negotiations over the return of his whole assortment, Latchford tried to promote $3 million value of Khmer relics consigned to the gallery Asian Artwork, in response to emails obtained by the ICIJ. The emails additional revealed that one of many gallery’s homeowners, 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 making an attempt to hyperlink the return of his assortment to immunity, and that her determination to return the relics was “as a result of she had change into satisfied that it was the suitable factor to do.”

Hundreds of stolen relics are nonetheless on the market. Cambodian archaeologists have begun the painstaking strategy 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 acquire 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 workforce tracked dozens of antiquities presumably tied to indicted artwork seller Douglas Latchford which can be displayed in or owned by artwork museums world wide. Along with the Pandora Papers, information got here from Latchford’s self-published books, from artwork gallery catalogues and from researchers’ blogs.

The reporting workforce analyzed the knowledge accessible for every 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 USA in 2019 on prices associated to the smuggling of artifacts.

• Khmer-only antiquities brokered via 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 in addition collaborated with him.

Nancy Wiener pleaded responsible final week to prices 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 don’t have 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 info was equipped by the museums themselves. The workforce 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 based mostly 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 USA and demonstrated how secrecy shields property from governments, collectors and people abused or exploited by the rich and highly effective. The trove of confidential info, the biggest of its form, was obtained by the Worldwide Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which organized the investigation. Read more about this project.



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