The family of late billionaire George Lindemann voluntarily returned 33 looted antiquities to Cambodia on Monday, September 11. The family made an agreement with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and will not face criminal charges.

The returned antiquities include 10th-century statues of the epic warrior Dhrishtadyumna and of Ardhanarishvara, a composite of the god Shiva and the goddess Parvati. The collection also includes six heads of devas and asuras (characters that symbolize good and evil) that were stolen from the gates of Angkor Thom inside the Angkor Wat temple complex. The Cambodian investigators estimate that Lindemann paid $20 million for the 33 objects.

A statue of Dhrishtadyumna looted from Koh Ker (photo courtesy US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York)

Natural gas mogul George Lindemann died in 2018. He is survived by his wife Frayda and three children: Adam Lindemann, owner of the New York gallery Venus Over Manhattan; Sloan Lindemann Barnett, a lawyer and author; and George Lindemann Jr., a real estate developer. 

A 2008 Architectural Digest spread on George and Frayda Lindemann’s $68.5 million Palm Beach home tipped off Cambodian authorities. Then, in 2021, the magazine featured Sloan Lindemann Barnett and her husband Roger. Photographs of their $42 million San Francisco mansion had been altered to remove the looted Cambodian antiquities on display, but the originals were found on an architect’s website.

According to Cambodia’s lawyer Bradley J. Gordon and as reported by the New York Times, the country’s investigators have photographs of Lindemann and his wife Frayda on their way to meet notorious antiquities smuggler Douglas Latchford. They also claim to have proof of communication between the two men. Latchford began pillaging Cambodia’s cultural heritage while its population suffered under the genocidal Khmer Rouge in the 1970s. He allegedly continued to deal in looted art until at least 2012. Latchford, who died in 2020, was indicted for conspiracy, wire fraud, and other crimes in 2019. 

“For decades, Cambodia suffered at the hands of unscrupulous art dealers and looters who trafficked cultural treasures to the American art market,” US Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement, adding that the recent agreement “sets a framework for the return of cultural patrimony.”

Elaine Velie is a writer from New Hampshire living in Brooklyn. She studied Art History and Russian at Middlebury College and is interested in art's role in history, culture, and politics.

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