A prominent New York antiquities dealer has been accused of selling stolen artifacts from international smugglers by creating sham documents to hide their history in a scheme that prosecutors said dates back to 1999. Nancy Wiener was arrested yesterday on charges of criminal possession of stolen property and conspiracy, according to the Manhattan district attorney’s office. Prosecutors said she and several co-conspirators have been trafficking in illegal antiquities since at least 1999.
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“(The) defendant used a laundering process that included restoration services to hide damage from illegal excavations, straw purchases at auction houses to create sham ownership histories, and the creation of false provenance to predate international laws of patrimony prohibiting the exportation of looted antiquities,” according to the complaint filed in Manhattan Criminal Court.
Her lawyer, Georges Lederman, told The New York Times his client “surrendered voluntarily.” ”We are examining the charges and will respond at the appropriate time,” Lederman added.
Wiener and her mother, who died in 2011, have been well-known dealers of Indian and Southeast Asian art in New York for decades. Some of their top clients have been Jacqueline Kennedy, John D. Rockefeller III and Igor Stravinsky.
When Wiener’s mother died, prosecutors said she inherited hundreds of illicit items at their gallery and arraigned inaccurate ownership histories. She consigned 360 lots to Christie’s, which auctioned them off for USD 12.8 million.
In another example, prosecutors said Wiener purchased a stolen bronze Buddha from Southeast Asia and had a restorer erase shovel marks and other signs of looting before displaying it in her gallery, where authorities seized it during a raid in March.