Police return 'ancient and precious' sculptures to Afghanistan

11 November 2019, 08:05

The Gandhara Sculptures returned by the police
The Gandhara Sculptures returned by the police. Picture: Met Police
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Police antique specialists have returned ancient stolen artefacts back to their home in Afghanistan after 17 years.

Scotland Yard said in 2002 Customers Officers at Heathrow Airport intercepted two wooden crates from Peshawar in Pakistan, suspected the items may contain drugs.

When they opened the crates they found no drugs, but a Buddha sculpture and nine Buddha heads.

The items which date back to between the fourth and sixth century were believed to have been stolen from Afghanistan.

Specialist officers from the Met's Arts and Antiques Squad moved in and seized the items.

Detectives established that the objects had been sent on consignment to a business based in London, which was unaware as to the nature of the items. As there were no other suspects in the UK, the case was closed.

Afghanistan subsequently claimed their pieces but it wasn’t possible to return the items due to conflict in the country.

The nine sculptures will be returned to Afghanistan
The nine sculptures will be returned to Afghanistan. Picture: Met Police

The items will now be returned to the National Museum of Afghanistan after being displayed for a short time at the British Museum.

DC Sophie Hayes from the Met’s Art and Antiques unit, said: “This has been a very long and complex case but I am delighted that after 17 years, these ancient and precious items are finally being returned to Afghanistan. The handover takes place during the Art and Antiques Unit’s 50th year and it is fitting that, whilst celebrating our anniversary, we were also able to attend the event at the British Museum to celebrate Afghanistan’s cultural heritage returning to its rightful home.”