A group of more than 70 gold relics linked to Cambodian royalty that once passed through the hands of disgraced antiquities dealer Douglas A.J. Latchford, who was accused of trafficking looted artifacts and died in 2020, have been returned to the country, the New York Times reported Monday.
The items, previously stored in London, were returned under an agreement with Latchford’s estate, the Times reported. The estate, overseen by the late dealer’s daughter and legal heir Nawapan Kriangsak, returned 77 items of ancient gold jewelry deriving from the Angkor Empire. The items were officially accepted by the country’s culture ministry representatives in Phnom Penh on Monday.
The return was part of a larger deal that Latchford’s estate negotiated over three years with the country. First announced last February, the deal saw the estate repatriate a collection of Khmer antiquities worth $50 million, which are suspected to contain looted and smuggled items. Latchford was charged in 2019 with selling artifacts with falsified ownership records.
Other works with Cambodian origins that passed from Latchford to collectors and museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Denver Art Museum have also been returned following flags raised about Latchford’s suspect sourcing of artifacts. Latchford and his business dealing were identified in the 2020 Pandora Paper investigations that examined the use of off-shore tax havens.
The Angkorian items returned this week include a gold hammered crown, headdress, necklaces and earrings, among other wares. The objects are believd to have been taken from ancient temples and burial grounds between the 1970s and early 2000s, when the country was in the midst of a genocide and political unrest.
Hab Touch, a representative for Cambodia’s culture and fine arts ministry suggested to the Times in a statement that officials are considering now how the Khmer-era jewelry might be displayed in a museum setting. A representative for the Met told the Times in a statement that the museum has already shared provenance records with Cambodian officials and is in “close dialogue” about developments in their research.
A spokesperson for Edenbridge, a firm representing the Cambodian government in the negotiations, did not immediately respond to ARTnews request for additional comment about the deal. A representative for the Cambodian culture ministry could not immediately be reached for additional comment.
The latest tranche of returns comes as Cambodian officials continue to push the Met to repatriate artifacts from its collection that have ties to Latchford. The museum said in August that it is in discussions with federal officials about a potential agreement to return Cambodian items with suspect provenance records.