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Feds intervene to help Cambodia recover looted artifacts from Denver museum

The pieces had been sold to the Denver Art Museum by a renowned art collector who was later revealed to be a major trafficker in looted goods.

Federal prosecutors in New York have filed a civil complaint to help the Cambodian government retrieve valuable artifacts that a Denver art museum purchased from a renowned art collector who was later revealed to be a major trafficker in looted goods, NBC’s Dareh Gregorian reports.

The case, entitled United States of America v. a Late 12th Century Khmer Sandstone Sculpture Depicting Standing Prajnaparamita, was filed Monday. It seeks the return of four pieces the Denver Art Museum acquired from Douglas Latchford, who was one of the world’s foremost experts on Khmer Empire art.

Prosecutors charged in 2019 that Latchford was more than just an expert — he was deeply involved in looting and smuggling antiquities out of Cambodia and then selling them for millions of dollars. He died last year at the age of 88 before his trial started.

“As alleged, Douglas Latchford papered over the problematic provenance of Cambodian antiquities with falsehoods, in the process successfully placing stolen goods in the permanent collection of an American museum,” Damian Williams, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said.

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