A crooked Manhattan art dealer had a $30 million treasure trove of stolen antiquities that would make Indiana Jones jealous — including ancient carvings and statues swiped from temples in India and other countries, authorities charged yesterday.
Subhash Chandra Kapoor stuffed four Upper West Side storage spaces with Buddha heads, a statue of the Hindu deity Lord Shiva worth $3.5 million, a massive 3,000-pound stone carving of a potbellied god, and bronze religious sculptures.
“They’re worth tens of millions of dollars together,” a law-enforcement source said of the several dozen statues and other antiquities seized from Sofia Storage on West 83rd Street. “They’re stunning — absolutely stunning.
“Some of them still have dirt on them. Many of them were taken off the sides of temples.”
The Manhattan DA’s Office issued an arrest warrant charging Kapoor, 63, with receiving items stolen from religious sites in his native India and elsewhere.
Kapoor, who has dealt art out of the Upper East Side since the mid-1970s, is already in custody in India on separate charges of trafficking in precious idols stolen from temples in the state of Tamil Nadu.
Cops there claim Kapoor is the “kingpin” of an “international racket” of antiquities smugglers who in 2005 enlisted Chennai-based art dealer Sanjivi Asokan to steal valuable metal idols from India’s Chola Era.
Three Chola Era bronze sculptures suspected of being stolen from Tamil Nadu temples were recovered in yesterday’s Upper West Side raid.
Tamil Nadu cops also claim Kapoor smuggled Buddhist artifacts out of Afghanistan and other valuable antiquities out of Pakistan. A source told The Post that many of the items — after being stolen — were shipped to Hong Kong, and then to Kapoor in New York.
He allegedly used his Madison Avenue gallery, Art of the Past, and a corporation called Nimbus Import Export as part of the smuggling operation.
Kapoor also allegedly created false paperwork to hide the origins of his ill-gotten antiquities, and investigators are urging museums and collectors to check their inventories.
Kapoor was arrested on an Interpol warrant while traveling through Germany last fall, and extradited to India on July 14.
He was given up by his ex-lover, a Singapore art dealer named Paramaspry Punusamy.
The two split up amid a dispute involving Indian idols — accusing each other in a Singapore court of withholding antiquities from each other.
Agents from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division of Homeland Security raided two other Kapoor’s Sofia Storage units in January, while he was in custody in Germany.
That search turned up dozens of antiquities with an estimated value of nearly $10 million — including a 5-foot-tall head of Buddha weighing about 1,600 pounds, ICE’s spokesman said.
Yesterday’s raid of his other four storage units recovered items worth more than $20 million, the ICE spokesman said.
Authorities would not explain the seven-month lag between the raids — but the latest search comes amid Kapoor’s cooperation with Indian police.
ICE officials said they will aggressively pursue any pieces not yet recovered.