6 March 2021, Kathmandu
Dr. Yuba Raj Khatiwada, Ambassador of Nepal to the United States of America received today the statue of “Vasudeva-Kamalaja” (also known as Lakshmi-Narayan) handed over from the representative of the US Government Timothy N. Dunham, Deputy Assistant Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), in a ceremony organized at the Embassy.
The historical artifact of Nepal originally belonged to a temple in Patan, Lalitpur district of Nepal, and had been on display at Dallas Museum of Arts in Texas since 1990.
Making a brief remark during the handover ceremony, Ambassador Khatiwada expressed sincere appreciation and gratitude to the Government of the United States of America for its cooperation in reinstating the lost artifact to their original place in Nepal.
He observed that this substantial act of cooperation between the two countries in preservation of the cultural heritages would immensely contribute to further deepening the multifaceted and longstanding close relations between the two countries. He thanked all media, individuals, experts, and US agencies involved in this collective effort, particularly the US Department of State, US Embassy in Kathmandu, Dallas Museum of Arts, and the FBI.
The Ambassador also expressed hope to receive similar cooperation from all in recovering and reinstating other lost artifacts of Nepal.
Ervin Massinga, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the United States Department of State, expressed happiness to be part of the handover ceremony and mentioned that the US would continue to cooperate with Nepal in preservation and protection of its cultural heritages.
Likewise, in his remark, Deputy Assistant Director Mr. Dunham expressed that both Nepal and the United States recognize the impact and value of protecting and preserving cultural heritage and will continue to work in partnership to return these valuable pieces home.
The statue of Vasudeva-Kamalaja depicts Hindu deities Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi, in a dual form, bearing attributes and holding symbolic objects that identify both gods.
The statue measures 33.5x 19.25 inches approximately and dates back to the medieval period of Nepal. The statue was reported stolen from Narayan temple of Lalitpur, Nepal in 1984 and was illegally transported to the United States of America in the late 80s.
The cooperation on the restoration of the artifact took place within the framework of the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property 1970. The statue will be transported to Nepal in due course and installed at the appropriate place.
Earlier, Officials from the Dallas FBI Field Office and the Dallas Museum of Art announced the transfer of a recovered stone artifact that was previously on loan to the museum from a private collection.
With the full support of the object’s lender, the Stele of Laxmi-Narayana was transported from Dallas, Texas, to Washington, D.C.
“Along with the FBI’s Art Crime Team, the Dallas FBI is grateful for the Dallas Museum of Art’s determination to assist in the safe return of the Stele of Laxmi-Narayana to the government of Nepal,” said FBI Dallas Special Agent in Charge Matthew J. DeSarno.
“The FBI has developed significant relationships with our foreign partners that are committed to the protection of cultural property. We will continue to work with those partners to keep the public informed and updated about art and cultural property theft crimes to bring greater awareness to stolen artifacts.”
“The public plays an important role in recognizing and reporting possible stolen art, and the FBI relies on this cooperation to assist our recovery efforts,” SAC DeSarno continued. “In this instance, the owner purchased the piece from a multinational auction house and believed it to be legitimate, then fully cooperated with law enforcement to ensure the stele was responsibly relinquished so it could be returned to the people of Nepal.”
The FBI’s Art Crime Team, Allen Police Department, and U.S. Attorney’s Office – Northern District of Texas conducted this investigation.