Edited by Adam Graycar and Russell G. Smith
Chapter 13: Corrupt Practices in the Global Trade in Art and Antiquities
Duncan Chappell1 and Kenneth Polk2 INTRODUCTION: THE ‘GHIYA CONSPIRACY’ In June 2003, following an intensive undercover operation, Indian police in the city of Jaipur raided the home of a wealthy businessman, Vaman Narayan Ghiya. A search of the house revealed a set of secret cupboards in which were concealed hundreds of colour photographs of ancient Indian sculptures. The sculptures, many hacked away crudely from temple walls and with missing limbs or heads, were displayed haphazardly near the sites from which they had been removed. The police also discovered a large number of auction catalogues from Sotheby’s and Christies, the international auction houses located in London and New York (Keefe, 2007; Watson, 1998). Based on these discoveries, as well as further finds across the country of hordes of looted artefacts hidden at various properties owned by Ghiya, the police concluded that they had uncovered a sophisticated antiquities trafficking operation with links to auction houses and private collectors in Europe and North America. Their subsequent interrogation of Ghiya confirmed this suspicion. Ghiya admitted to heading an international business which had conducted its activities without disruption over three decades, illegally exporting thousands of plundered antiquities to overseas buyers using an elaborate laundering process. Most of the goods were shipped through a free trade zone established in Geneva, Switzerland, where Ghiya maintained three shell corporations. These companies would trade objects between themselves to establish a false provenance for the artefacts before forwarding them on to auction houses, dealers and collectors who could claim the...
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