A Japanese art dealer was arrested at an Upper East Side hotel last month for a highly-specific crime—back in 1982, he purchased a stolen
second-century Buddhist sculpture with a market value of $1.1 million. Manhattan D.A. Cy Vance's office and Homeland Security teamed up to seize the
carved 440-pound artifact, and today Vance announced its return to Pakistan—where it had been lifted from an archeological dig site—under the
approving gaze of Pakistani ambassador Rizwan Saeed Sheikh.
Before anyone goes mental over Homeland Security’s involvement, you should know that they have a special investigative task force that deals with
international art and antiquity theft. In 1789, Congress established the U.S. Customs Service which would later merge with the U.S. Immigration and
Naturalization Service that was created almost two centuries later.
After 9/11, The department of Homeland Security was formed by combining 22 different federal organizations into one single entity. In 2010, the
Homeland Security Investigations task force was created in order to deal with America’s travel, trade, financial and immigration systems.
Here’s where it gets interesting…
The word ‘swastika’ is a Sanskrit word (‘svasktika’) meaning ‘It is’, ‘Well Being’, ‘Good Existence, and ‘Good Luck’.
However, it is also known by different names in different countries - like ‘Wan’ in China, ‘Manji’ in Japan, ‘Fylfot’ in England,
‘Hakenkreuz’ in Germany and ‘Tetraskelion’ or ‘Tetragammadion’ in Greece.
The earliest swastika ever found was uncovered in Mezine, Ukraine that was carved into an ivory figurine said to be over 12,000 years old. In
Buddhism, the swastika is a symbol of good fortune, prosperity and abundance, often carved into the soles of Buddha’s feet.
It appears on the Christian catacombs in Rome next to the words “ZOTIKO ZOTIKO,” which translates into “Life of Life.” Even more fascinating
is how prevalent the symbol is amongst various churches around the world.
In Nordic Myths, Odin is represented passing through space as a whirling disk or swastika looking down through all worlds. In North America, the
swastika was used by the Navajos. In Ancient Greece, Pythagoras used the Swastika under the name ‘Tetraktys’ and it was a symbol linking heaven
and earth, with the right arm pointing to heaven and its left arm pointing to Earth.
It has been used by the Phoenicians as a symbol of the Sun and it was a sacred symbol used by the priestesses.
To this day, the symbol can still be seen on temples, buses, taxis and book covers. One Sanskrit scholar claims there is a deeper meaning to the word
“svasktika” and can have both a positive and negative connotation depending on how it is drawn.
He says in Hinduism, the right-hand swastika (clockwise), is a symbol of the sun and the god Vishnu, whereas the left-hand version (counterclockwise),
is a symbol of Kali and her magic.
Back to the original article…
Tatsuzo Kaku, a 70-year-old art and ancient artifacts dealer from Tokyo, was arrested on March 14th at the Mark Hotel on East 77th Street,
according to the Post. He had apparently just agreed to ship the sculpture to the States to be sold at the Maitreya Inc. Gallery on East 75th Street,
as part of Asia Week New York.
According to the district attorney’s office, this sculpture and objects similar to it are protected under Pakistani law as “cultural property.”
This particular sculpture is from the Swat region of Pakistan and depicts “footprints of the Buddha,” which serves as a symbolic reminder that he
once walked the earth.
Kaku pleaded guilty to criminal possession of stolen property on March 24th. According to the
Asia Week New York is actually a gold mine for stolen artifacts—daily raids at this year's event turned up a handful of artifacts, all of which were
looted from overseas. And those were just a drop in the bucket for
Operation Hidden Idol,
which has recovered more than 2,600 items over the last nine years.
I applaud the efforts of the HSI for securing and returning this and many artifacts to their point of origin, regardless of who claims they have
Private collectors often run the risk of purchasing illegally acquired or stolen artifacts from dealers who overlook the items significance in
exchange for large sums of money.
It’s sad to think what we're missing, existing in the private collections of the 1%, only to be admired by a select group of individuals. Our
history and it’s creations, if belonging to anybody, should be something we all can learn from and enjoy.
Thanks for reading!
edit on 28-4-2016 by eisegesis because: (no reason given)
Very interesting article,thanks for the insight. I was in Pakistan during the Afgan/Russian war and noted the many artifacts for sale at rock bottom
price in the markets of Peshawar. My concern would be that this beautiful piece will soon vanish again into a private collection and be lost for good.
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