Museum Sues Subject of Theft Trial in India

     MANHATTAN (CN) - A Singapore museum that paid a Madison Avenue art dealer $1.4 million for antiquities of apparently questionable provenance is suing for reimbursement.
     Asian Civilisations Museum, based in Singapore, and the National Heritage Board of Singapore made the allegations in a March 17 summons with notice in Manhattan Supreme Court against Art of the Past Inc.; Subhash Kapoor and Aaron Freedman.
     The Sunday Standard, a weekly newspaper in India, reported this week that Kapoor is on trial there for theft. It has been over three years since Kapoor's October 2011 arrest in Germany made headlines.
     The New York Times reported in 2012 that the Manhattan district attorney's office had issued a warrant for Kapoor's arrest in the United States on charges of possessing stolen property. Days before that report, investigators had seized more than $20 million worth of Asian antiquities from Manhattan storage units linked to Mr. Kapoor, the Times said.
     A now-defunct website for Kapoor's Upper East Side gallery, Art of the Past, at 1242 Madison Avenue, had touted many prominent museums among its clients, the Times had said, noting that the "list includes the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, Calif.; and the Smithsonian Institution's Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington."
     The three-page summons with notice that the Singapore museum and board filed Tuesday makes no mention of Kapoor's earlier legal troubles.
     It says only that the defendants fraudulently induced them between 1997 and 2010 "to acquire several antiquities by making misrepresentations and false assurances concerning the history, title, and provenance of the antiquities."
     The museum and board seek punitive damages for fraud, breach of contract and other claims.
     "Defendants knowingly and intentionally made false and fraudulent representations that Art of the Past Inc., had full legal and equitable title of the antiquities, and that defendants could convey the antiquities to the National Heritage Board," the complaint states.
     Relying on these representations, the board paid $1,430,982 for the antiquities it purchased, according to the complaint.
     The board and museum note that the defendants had given them letters of guarantee and provenance.
     Those letters promised that "'if in the future the verity of either their provenance or authenticity is legally questioned and found to be incorrect,' the defendants promised to reimburse the Asian Civilisations Museum for the cost paid by the plaintiff for the artwork purchased from the defendants," the complaint states.
     Fox Rothschild attorney Daniel Schnapp signed the complaint.