Estate of Suspected Antiquities Trafficker Forfeits $12 M. to Settle Civic Suit

The estate of Douglas A.J. Latchford, an art and antiquities dealer who was accused of selling ancient artifacts stolen from Cambodia, has agreed to hand over $12 million and a 17th Vietnamese bronze statue to settle a civil lawsuit brought by the U.S. Government, according to the New York Times.

In 2019, federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York alleged that Latchford had “built a career out of the smuggling and illicit sale of priceless Cambodian antiquities, often straight from archaeological sites” and forged documents in order to sell the artifacts.

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Latchford’s daughter, whom the Times reports is identified in court documents as Julia Copleston, inherited an “undetermined amount of money from her father” and more than 125 artifacts suspected to have been looted from Cambodia after his death in 2020. She has since agreed to return the objects to Cambodia, as well forfeit “tainted proceeds” from the sale of looted works.

“The late Douglas Latchford was a prolific dealer of stolen antiquities,” U.S. Homeland Security special agent Ivan J. Arvelo said in a statement. “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.”

The Cambodian government has been central to the restitution debate in recent years and has gone to great lengths to require works from museums and institutions that have been looted from religious and archaeological sites. Among those institutions is the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where Cambodian officials believe dozens of looted works are on display or in storage, many of which were sold or gifted to the museum by Latchford. 

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