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US returns to Cambodia 30 antiquities looted from historic sites

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New York — United States will return 30 looted artifacts to Cambodia, including bronze and stone statues of Buddhist and Hindu deities carved more than 1,000 years ago, US officials said Monday.

Archaeological sites in the Southeast Asian country, including the capital of the ancient Khmer Empire, Koh Kay, suffered widespread looting during civil wars from the 1960s to the 1990s. Since then, the Cambodian government has sought to repatriate stolen goods sold on international markets.

Manhattan's top federal prosecutor, Damien Williams, said the returned goods were sold to Western buyers by Bangkok dealer Douglas Ratchford. I said yes. looting and smuggling.

According to Williams, antiquities, including his 10th-century sandstone statue depicting the Hindu war god Skanda riding a peacock, were sold after his office filed a civil forfeiture claim. , voluntarily abandoned by US museums and private collectors.

"These statues and relics ... have extraordinary cultural value to the people of Cambodia," Williams said at a ceremony announcing the return of antiquities in Manhattan.

In 2019, US prosecutors indicted Thai-British dual citizen Latchford on charges of wire fraud and smuggling, alleging looting. He died in Thailand in his 2020.

The artifacts will be displayed at the National Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh, US Ambassador to Cambodia Keo Chhea told Reuters at the ceremony.

In 2014, federal prosecutors returned his looted 10th-century sandstone sculpture, Duryodhana, to Cambodia after settling with the auction company Sotheby's that bought it.

Last year, the Manhattan District Attorney's Office returned 27 looted antiques to Cambodia. (Reporting by Luc Cohen of him in New York; Editing by Richard Chang)