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WASHINGTON — Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York Special Agent in Charge Ivan J. Arvelo and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams announced June 22 that the United States filed and settled a civil forfeiture action against $12 million derived from the sale of stolen Southeast Asian antiquities by indicted antiquities dealer Douglas Latchford. 

“The late Douglas Latchford was a prolific dealer of stolen antiquities,” Arvelo said. “His complicity in numerous illicit transactions over several decades garnered him millions of dollars in payments from buyers and dealers in the United States, of which as part of this agreement, $12 million will be rightfully forfeited by his estate. HSI New York celebrates the pending repatriation of any outstanding artifacts from Latchford’s illegally obtained collection to their rightful owners and reaffirms our commitment to disrupting the illicit trafficking of cultural property, art and antiquities.”

The settlement with Latchford’s estate, who died in 2020, resolves claims that he transferred proceeds from the sale of stolen antiquities to bank accounts in the Bailiwick of Jersey. As part of the settlement, Latchford’s estate has also agreed to the forfeiture of a seventh century bronze statue depicting the four-armed goddess Durga, which is alleged to have been stolen from Vietnam in 2008 and which Latchford allegedly purchased using tainted funds.

“For years, Douglas Latchford made millions from selling looted antiquities in the U.S. art market, stashing his ill-gotten gains offshore,” Williams said. “This historic forfeiture action and settlement shows that we will be relentless in following the money wherever it leads to fight the illicit trade in cultural patrimony.”

According to the allegations in the complaint and the stipulation filed in Manhattan federal court on June 22, 2023:

In 2019, Latchford was indicted in the Southern District of New York for wire fraud conspiracy and other crimes related to a multiyear scheme to sell looted Cambodian antiquities on the international art market, primarily by creating false provenance documents and falsifying invoices and shipping documents, including misrepresenting the country of origin of artworks. In September 2020, the indictment was dismissed due to Latchford’s death.

Between 2003 and 2020, Latchford maintained bank accounts in New York, the United Kingdom and the Bailiwick of Jersey. During those years, Latchford received more than $12 million in his New York and U.K. accounts as payment for his sale of stolen and smuggled Southeast Asian antiquities to buyers and dealers in the United States. As part of those sales, Latchford provided false provenance or made false statements on shipping records and importation records when those antiquities were imported into the United States. Latchford then transferred at least $12 million in illegally derived proceeds to his bank accounts in Jersey.

In 2008 and 2009, Latchford used funds derived from the sale of stolen and smuggled antiquities to purchase a seventh century bronze statue depicting the four-armed goddess Durga. According to bank and email records, including correspondence with his bankers, Latchford traveled to Vietnam in November 2008 to purchase a piece of art and instructed his bankers to send around $2 million to the bank account of a person with a Vietnamese email address. In January 2009, Latchford emailed a dealer a photograph of the Durga statue lying on its back, covered in what appears to be dirt and minerals indicative of recent excavation. Latchford identified My Son — a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage site located in Vietnam — as the location where the Durga statue was recovered.

Under the settlement, Latchford’s daughter consented to forfeit the $12 million and the Durga statue. The United States has agreed not to object to Jersey lifting a freeze order on remaining funds defined in the settlement agreement. The parties recognize that nothing in the stipulation constitutes an admission of liability, fault or guilt on the claimant’s part, who expressly denies fault, liability and wrongdoing.

This matter is being handled by the Southern District of New York’s Money Laundering and Transnational Criminal Enterprises Unit. Assistant U. S. Attorney Jessica Feinstein handling the case.

The allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations.

ICE breaking news $12M settlement announced of civil forfeiture action against antiquities trafficker Douglas Latchford’s estate Government Agency News