Douglas Latchford’s estate hands over $12m to settle US trafficking case


The daughter of late antiquities dealer Douglas Latchford has agreed to pay $12m and hand over a 7th century Vietnamese sculpture from her father’s estate to settle a civil case that alleged Latchford made millions from selling stolen artefacts.

Latchford’s daughter, Julia Copleston, inherited from her father more than 125 statues and gold relics that authorities allege were looted from Cambodia, as well as money. In 2021, Copleston agreed to return the 125 objects to Cambodia.

The deal with prosecutors will resolve claims that her father transferred proceeds from the sale of stolen antiquities to offshore bank accounts in the Bailiwick of Jersey, a self-governing region of the UK, according to the Department of Justice.

Latchford’s daughter also agreed to hand over a bronze sculpture of the Hindu goddess Durga, which dates back to the 7th century. Latchford allegedly purchased the sculpture with “tainted funds”, according to the Justice Department, after it was stolen from Vietnam in 2008. In an email thread seen by investigators, Latchford said the sculpture was from the My Son sanctuary, a Unesco World Heritage site in Vietnam.

Between 2003 and 2020, Latchford received more than $12m in UK and New York bank accounts as payment for selling stolen and smuggled antiquities from Southeast Asia to buyers and dealers in the US, the Justice Department said. Latchford allegedly then transferred at least $12m in those illegally derived funds to his Jersey bank account.

“For years, Douglas Latchford made millions from selling looted antiquities in the US art market, stashing his ill-gotten gains offshore. This historic forfeiture action and settlement shows that we will be relentless in following the money wherever it leads to fight the illicit trade in cultural patrimony,” US. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement.

Latchford was indicted on charges of wire fraud conspiracy and other crimes in 2019 over accusations that he for decades had sold looted Cambodian antiquities on the international art market. Latchford allegedly created false provenance, invoices and shipping documents, and misrepresented works’ countries of origin and years of excavation. Prosecutors at the time said Latchford first raised eyebrows in 2011 when Cambodia claimed a 10th-century statue of the Khmer warrior Duryodhana up for auction at Sotheby’s in New York had been looted from a temple complex in Koh Ker, a remote archaeological site. The statue was pulled from auction and later returned to Cambodia after a legal battle, during which authorities accused Latchford of helping to move the work. The indictment was dismissed after Latchford died in 2020 at age 89 in Bangkok.

Institutions including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena and the Denver Art Museum have all returned objects with links to Koh Ker. Latchford’s trafficking activities are the subject of the recent Dynamite Doug podcast.


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