Embassy of Nepal Receives Illegally Exported Artifacts from the United States

Washington, D.C. – In a momentous occasion, the Embassy of Nepal in Washington, D.C. received a collection of 40 Nepali wooden artifacts dating back to the 19th and 20th centuries. The artifacts were handed over to the Embassy by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) during a special ceremony held at the Embassy. These valuable pieces had been confiscated by the United States Customs and Border Protection on August 18, 2010, in Honolulu, Hawaii, after being illegally exported from Nepal.

The Government of Nepal officially requested the return of these artifacts from the United States in 2011, and after years of concerted efforts, the artifacts have finally been repatriated. Ambassador Sridhar Khatri expressed his sincere gratitude to the DHS, Department of State, media, art and heritage campaigners, as well as investigators and staff members of the DHS and HSI for their relentless dedication in making the recovery of these artifacts possible. He commended their hard work and acknowledged their crucial role in the repatriation of not only the artifacts handed over that day but also other pieces that had been recovered earlier.

Deputy Assistant Director of HSI, Ricardo Mayoral, expressed his happiness at the successful return of these significant artifacts to the Government of Nepal after a long and thorough investigation. Mayoral reassured the Embassy that HSI would continue to provide full cooperation in repatriating other stolen and lost artifacts from Nepal.

Similarly, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Department of State, Scott Urbom, affirmed the United States’ commitment to cooperation and collaboration with Nepal in preserving and restoring its rich art and architectural heritage. He emphasized that the successful recovery of the illegally exported artifacts is just one of many examples of this ongoing cooperation.

The trove of artifacts handed over to the Embassy included 39 engraved and painted wooden panels and a carved wooden shrine. Four panels were randomly selected and displayed during the handover ceremony, while photographs of the remaining artifacts were showcased separately to provide attendees with a glimpse of their beauty. These invaluable Nepali artifacts date back to the 19th and 20th centuries and hold deep significance, representing various aspects of Lord Buddha’s life, teachings, as well as Buddhist religious and cultural values.

The Embassy has been actively engaged with relevant agencies of both the Nepali and United States governments in its efforts to recover and repatriate lost and stolen heritages of Nepal. The Embassy extended its sincere gratitude to all agencies and individuals involved in these endeavors, including art researchers, heritage recovery campaigners, media outlets, and private individuals who have contributed to the cause.

Prior to this momentous occasion, the Embassy had successfully repatriated seven other artifacts to Nepal. These included stone statues of Uma Mahesvara, Chaturmukh Shivlinga, Nagaraja, Padmanpani, and Shakyamuni Buddha on May 18, 2022, as well as a wooden statue of Nritya Devi and a standing stone statue of Lord Buddha on April 28, 2023. The artifacts received on this day will be promptly sent to the Department of Archaeology of Nepal to ensure their preservation and proper care.

The return of these illegally exported artifacts is a significant step in reclaiming Nepal’s cultural heritage and preserving its historical treasures. The cooperation and collaboration between Nepal and the United States in this endeavor are commendable, and it sets a positive example for the international community in the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural artifacts. The Embassy of Nepal remains committed to its ongoing efforts to recover and repatriate further stolen and lost artifacts, ensuring their rightful place in Nepal’s rich cultural legacy.