London’s Metropolitan Police have just returned a 12th century stolen Buddha statue to India. It was recovered 57 years after it was stolen from a museum at Nalanda in Bihar.

The bronze statue with silver inlay was one of 14 statues stolen in 1961. It changed hands several times over the years before surfacing at a trade fair in March 2018. It was identified by Lynda Albertson of the Association for Research into Crimes Against Art (ARCA) and Vijay Kumar from the India Pride Project, who alerted Scotland Yard.

This stolen Buddha statue was the first to be recovered. As UK Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism, says, “This underlines how law enforcement and the London art market are working hand in hand to deliver positive cultural diplomacy to the world”. Once the owner and dealer were made aware of the situation, they cooperated with the Art and Antiques Unit of the Metropolitan Police.

London’s Metropolitan Police return stolen Buddha statue

As Detective Constable Sophie Hayes of the Met’s Art and Antique Unit said, “Indeed, from the outset, they have cooperated fully with the police to resolve this matter and they have made the decision to return the sculpture via the police. We are delighted to be able to facilitate the return of this important piece of cultural heritage to India.”

The stolen Buddha statue was then returned as part of a ceremony at the Indian High Commission in London on Wednesday to coincide with India’s 72nd Independence Day celebrations. Indian High Commissioner to the UK, Y K Sinha, also from Bihar, hopes that it will now go back to where it belongs.

“I am delighted to return this piece of history. This is an excellent example of the results that can come with close cooperation between law enforcement, trade and scholars. Although this was stolen over 50 years ago, this did not prevent the piece being recognised and the credit must go to the eagle eye informants who made us aware that the missing piece had been located after so many years.” said Detective Chief Inspector Sheila Stewart, of London’s Metropolitan Police Art and Antiques Unit.

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