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U.S. Returns 30 Looted Antiquities to Cambodia

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American and Cambodian officials urged museums and private collectors on Monday to investigate the origins of their Khmer art to determine whether it had been looted, and the officials demonstrated the pervasiveness of such thefts at an event that celebrated the return of 30 antiquities to Cambodia.

Lined up behind the officials were seven masterpieces of the country’s ancient heritage, including a 10th-century sandstone statue, known as “Skanda on a Peacock,” that investigators say was stolen from a temple by a Khmer Rouge conscript and self-described looter in 1997.

The Cambodian government will also welcome back a five-foot-tall sculpture of a Hindu god, Ganesha, but the four-ton sculpture was represented only in a poster on Monday for fear that it would break elevators at the Manhattan offices of the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Both objects were said to have been plundered from the archaeological site at Koh Ker, the capital of the ancient Khmer Empire.

The antiquities that are being repatriated, the officials said, were all trafficked by an organized looting network and sold in the Western art market through Douglas A.J. Latchford, a British art dealer and collector of Cambodian antiquities. He died in 2020, less than a year after he had been charged with smuggling looted relics and concealing their tainted histories by falsifying documentation to help sell them.

“It’s like a returning of the souls of our culture back to our peoples,” Keo Chhea, Cambodia’s ambassador to the United States, said at Monday’s news conference.

The relics were returned as part of an investigation into Mr. Latchford by federal prosecutors in New York and the Department of Homeland Security. They were seized from two individuals and an American museum that had owned the artifacts. All three cooperated with investigators.

“We commend individuals and institutions who decided to do the right thing,” said Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District, “and after learning about the origin of the antiquities in their possession decided to voluntarily return those pieces to their homeland.”

The owner of “Skanda on a Peacock,” which depicts the Hindu deity Skanda riding the bird, inherited the sculpture from a collector who had purchased it from Mr. Latchford in 2000 for $1.5 million, according to court papers. The heir, who has not been publicly identified, agreed to relinquish possession of the artifact to the federal authorities.

Twenty-five of the antiquities that are being returned to Cambodia were surrendered by James H. Clark, the internet pioneer and Netscape founder who said he had spent roughly $35 million in purchasing dozens of Cambodian and Southeast Asian antiquities, many of which he used to furnish a Miami Beach penthouse.

“One day I recall walking through my apartment looking at these objects and thinking, ‘They really should be in a museum, and not in private hands,’” Mr. Clark said in a phone interview on Monday. “And that’s where they will be.”

Federal officials have said that Mr. Latchford duped Mr. Clark into believing the artifacts were being legitimately sold and that once they laid out evidence to the contrary, Mr. Clark agreed to surrender 35 items, most of which had origins in Cambodia. Those items include the elephant-headed Ganesha, a bronze seated Buddha and a sandstone Buddha.

The 30 artifacts cited on Monday are expected to arrive in Cambodia by October, after which the government hopes to have a national celebration around their return, said Bradley J. Gordon, a lawyer representing the country. Government officials intend for the items to ultimately be put on public display, he said.

Four of the antiquities were surrendered by the Denver Art Museum. The museum declined to comment on the ceremony but said it was also currently researching two objects from Thailand that were related to Mr. Latchford.

The criminal case against Mr. Latchford has been dismissed since his death. When he was alive, Mr. Latchford, who had been lauded by the Cambodian government for his scholarship on Khmer art and his contributions to state museums, had argued that Westerners who bought such antiquities and sold or donated them to museums were saving them from potential destruction.

At the ceremony Monday was a delegation of Cambodian officials who have been traveling across the United States for 10 days, visiting museums in California, Texas, Pennsylvania and New York to ask for documentation relating to the Khmer collections at the institutions.

Their efforts are part of a global push to recover hundreds of Khmer and pre-Khmer artifacts that made their way around the world as a result of decades of looting. Their mission has been furthered significantly with the help of a Cambodian man named Toek Tik, the former Khmer Rouge conscript, who has disclosed details of his prolific looting career to the authorities as a way to redeem himself for actions he now regrets.

Sopheap Meas, the deputy director of antiquities management at the Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, said that during her travels she had seen many one-of-a-kind objects that she believes should never have left Cambodia.

“The burden of proof should be on the museums to show that they have the right to legally own Cambodia’s national treasures,” she said.

The overarching message of the event, according to officials from both the United States and Cambodia, was that even though these objects were being repatriated, many more with illicit origins remained in the hands of private collectors and museums. Mr. Williams encouraged “anyone out there who believes that they have illegally obtained Cambodian or other antiquities in their possession to come forward.”

“We know that this problem goes much further, deeper than the activity of one man,” Mr. Chhea said.

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Hilaria Baldwin reveals she and Alec are ‘NOT OKAY’ following the tragic Rust shooting

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Hilaria Baldwin openly admitted that she and her husband, Alec Baldwin, are ‘not okay’ following tragic Rust shooting during a preview interview with Extra published Friday.

The yoga instructor, 38, stated tearfully, ‘We can’t be okay. No one is okay.’ The emotional statement came a little over one year since cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was fatally shot on set on October 21, 2021 due to a prop gun with live rounds that was accidentally discharged while in the hands of Baldwin, 64.

The mother of seven further expressed that, ‘It was and is a tragedy that nobody could ever have imagined.’

‘Not okay’: Hilaria Baldwin, 38, revealed to Extra that she and her husband, Alec Baldwin, 64, are ‘not okay’ following tragic Rust shooting 

Hilaria could be seen sitting in a chair with city skyscrapers sprawled out behind her through a large window amid the interview. 

The businesswoman donned an all-black ensemble, and carefully listened to the interviewer asking about how the Baldwin family was coping following the fatal shooting. 

Initially, the podcaster remained silent as she took in a deep breath, and then answered with her voice cracking, ‘We’re not okay.’ 

Shortly after the tragedy, Alec was involved in a ‘wrongful death’ lawsuit filed by Halyna’s family, which included her husband, Matthew. Earlier this year in October, both parties reached a settlement. 

The 30 Rock actor shared the news on Instagram, writing in the caption, ‘Throughout this difficult process, everyone has maintained the specific desire to do what is best for Halyna’s son.’  

'A tragedy': The mother of seven further added that, 'It was and is a tragedy that nobody could ever have imagined'; Alec seen on the phone on set of Rust following fatal shooting in October 2021

‘A tragedy’: The mother of seven further added that, ‘It was and is a tragedy that nobody could ever have imagined’; Alec seen on the phone on set of Rust following fatal shooting in October 2021 

‘We are grateful to everyone who contributed to the resolution of this tragic and painful situation,’ he concluded. 

According to People, Matthew had released a statement of his own, ‘All of us believe Halyna’s death was a terrible accident. I am grateful that the producers and the entertainment community have come together to pay tribute to Halyna’s final work.’  

Also in October, the actor uploaded a tribute to Halyna on Instagram on the one-year anniversary of her tragic death, simply adding the caption, ‘One year ago today…’

Last month in November, Alec officially sued Rust crew members and the armorer for negligence and for supplying a prop gun loaded with ammunition. 

According to The New York Times, the lawsuit stated, ‘This tragedy happened because live bullets were delivered to the set and loaded into the gun.’ 

Tribute: In October, on the one-year anniversary since Hutchins's death, the 30 Rock actor shared a tribute to the late cinematographer on his Instagram

Tribute: In October, on the one-year anniversary since Hutchins’s death, the 30 Rock actor shared a tribute to the late cinematographer on his Instagram 

‘Though by no means comparable, Baldwin must live with the immense grief, and the resulting emotional, physical, and financial toll, caused by the fact that Cross-Defendants’ negligent conduct, assurances, and supervision put a loaded weapon in his hand,’ the lawsuit continued. 

‘And led him, Hutchins, and everyone else on set to believe that his directed use of the weapon was safe.’ Along with the cinematographer being fatally shot, a producer on set, Joel Souza, was also shot and injured. 

In December of last year, two months after the tragedy, Alec opened up during a candid interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. 

Alec had stated that he, ‘didn’t pull the trigger,’ while on set at Bonanza Creek Ranch in Sante Fe. ‘I would never point a gun at anyone and pull the trigger at them, never.’ 

In March of this year, he also followed legal papers in which he denied having any responsibility in the fatal shooting, according to The New York Post.   

Suing: Last month in November, Alec sued a few Rust crew members and the armorer for 'negligence'; the Baldwins seen in October in New York

Suing: Last month in November, Alec sued a few Rust crew members and the armorer for ‘negligence’; the Baldwins seen in October in New York 

By his side: Hilaria has continuously supported her husband and has publicly shared her support on her main Instagram page

By his side: Hilaria has continuously supported her husband and has publicly shared her support on her main Instagram page 

Following Hutchins’s tragic death on set of Rust last year, Hilaria has continuously shown support for her husband. 

In July, the podcast host shared a lengthy post where she emotionally expressed how ‘grateful’ she was for Alec. 

She told her husband to, ‘turn down the volume on the darkness and negativity,’ and that it was easier, ‘now more than ever to slander people and cherry pick and piece together strands taken out of context, ‘opinions’, or complete fabrications.’ 

Hilaria also added that ‘enemies’ were seeking to ‘destroy him.’ The star further penned, ‘I am the one that sees you in your dark moments…the human moments,’ and that, ‘So many love you, AB, we are here for you to lean on and feel safe.’ 

In August, she shared another heartfelt post to the actor, typing, ‘I am not going anywhere. Take all the time to be sad. I am here.’ 

Celebration: The couple recently celebrated Thanksgiving and the podcaster shared a family photo

Celebration: The couple recently celebrated Thanksgiving and the podcaster shared a family photo

Two months after welcoming their seventh child, the duo dressed to impress while attending the American Museum of Natural History’s 2022 Museum Gala in NYC on Thursday. 

During the preview interview with Extra, which airs in full-length on Monday, December 5, opened up briefly about their large family. 

‘I would say that we’re done, but I said we were done with six,’ Hilaria revealed as she held her two-month-old daughter. 

‘But Alec still has to go and do his part. So if he does not do his part, sometimes things can happen,’ the entrepreneur added.

'I am here': Hilaria penned, 'I am not going anywhere. Take all the time to be sad. I am here,' in an Instagram post to send her love and support to Alec

‘I am here’: Hilaria penned, ‘I am not going anywhere. Take all the time to be sad. I am here,’ in an Instagram post to send her love and support to Alec 

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