The United States has returned 45 stolen pieces of antiquities worth approximately $250,000 dating back to the Gandhara period to Pakistan.

The 2nd century Buddhist artefacts were handed over at a ceremony held at the Pakistan Consulate General on Monday where New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance and Consul General Ayesha Ali signed an agreement on the return of the stolen pieces.

Also present at the ceremony were Erik Rosenblatt, deputy special agent in-charge at Homeland Security Investigations, and other officials.

Consul General Ayesha Ali expressed gratitude to the Office of the District Attorney, New York County, and the Department of Homeland Security for their efforts in retrieving the stolen cultural treasures of Pakistan.

She called it an important manifestation of the Pakistan-US friendship.

“Many people believe the looting and theft of antiquities are injustices that only occurred in the past, but these crimes of culture are still being committed all over the world every day,” District Attorney Vance said. “I strongly encourage all collectors and gallery owners to conduct due diligence and ensure all pieces they purchase were lawfully acquired. I am honoured to return these 45 beautiful artefacts to the people of Pakistan..”

In the spring of 2015, the DA’s Office and HSI New York executed multiple search warrants and seized close to 100 antiquities from Nayef Homsi, a known trafficker involved in the illegal looting, exportation, and sale of ancient art from Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, and other nations, the official statement issued by US authorities.

Forty-five of the seized pieces were returned to Pakistan in the Monday’s ceremony and five were returned to India in August 2020, it added.

The repatriated items include a “Gandharan Frieze” featuring seven figures of Buddha beside a Bodhisattva Maitreya, a “Gandharan Box” of religious relics, a gray schist relief of Panchika and his consort Hariti “Panchika and Hariti Stele,” and a gray schist head of Buddha below a bodhi, the tree of awakening, “Gandharan Head Under Bodhi Tree,” all dating back to the 2nd Century CE.