An ancient stone sculpture of Buddha’s footprints which expected to sell for more than $1 million after being smuggled into the U.S. has been returned to the government of Pakistan. The second century piece, which was taken from a Pakistani region rich in Buddhist history decades ago, was handed to diplomats by New York prosecutors. Pakistani deputy chief of mission Rizwan Saeed Sheikh said the Buddhapada, weighing nearly 500lb, was “an important element of the cultural history of Pakistan” and he was relieved to have it returned. It would remain in New York for the time being and might be exhibited at a museum.
It’s an ancient piece that speaks to the history and culture of Pakistan that should be celebrated and protected.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R Vance Jr
The return of the sculpture comes after a Japanese antiquities dealer pleaded guilty last month to criminal possession of stolen property in a scheme to smuggle it into the U.S. Tatsuzo Kaku was spared jail as part of plea bargain and has now left the U.S. voluntarily. He said he shipped the 2nd-century Buddhapada from Tokyo to New York to sell it at a gallery, where it was expected to fetch $1.1 million. The 70-year-old claimed he only wanted to preserve such works for fear they would fall into disrepair or be destroyed if they remained in Pakistan.