JERSEY at the centre of Largest Ever Forfeiture of Proceeds [$12 million] from the Sale of Stolen Antiquities
Largest Ever Forfeiture of Proceeds from the Sale of Stolen Antiquities, Including Forfeiture of Important 7th Century Bronze Statue from Vietnam
Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Ivan J. Arvelo, the Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Office of Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”), announced today that
- the United States had 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 Settlement with the daughter of the late Douglas Latchford, who died in 2020, resolves claims that Latchford transferred the proceeds from the sale of stolen antiquities to bank accounts in the Bailiwick of Jersey.
As part of the Settlement, Latchford’s daughter has also agreed to the forfeiture of a 7th 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. The proposed settlement is subject to review by a district judge in the Southern District of New York.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “For years, Douglas Latchford made millions from selling looted antiquities in the U.S. art market, stashing his ill-gotten gains offshore.
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.”
HSI Special Agent in Charge Ivan J. Arvelo said:
- “The late Douglas Latchford was a prolific dealer of stolen antiquities. 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.”
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 with wire fraud conspiracy and other crimes related to a multi-year 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.
- See United States v. Latchford, 19 Cr. 748 (AT) (the “Indictment”).
In September 2020, the Indictment was dismissed due to the death of Latchford.
Between 2003 and 2020, Latchford maintained bank accounts in New York, the United Kingdom, and the Bailiwick of Jersey (“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 and/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 (the “$12 Million”) 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 7th Century bronze statue depicting the four-armed goddess Durga (the “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 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 was recovered.
Under the terms of the stipulation and order of settlement, Latchford’s daughter (the “Claimant”) consents to forfeiture of the $12 Million and the Durga.
The United States has agreed not to object to the lifting by Jersey of a freeze order on any remaining funds as defined in the settlement agreement.
The parties recognize that nothing in the Stipulation constitutes an admission of liability, fault, or guilt on the part of the Claimant, who expressly denies fault, liability, or wrongdoing.
* * *
Latchford Stipulation https://www.justice.gov/media/1301501/dl?inline
The allegations contained in the Complaint are merely accusations.
 As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaint and the description of the Complaint set forth herein constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.
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