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U.S. Returns Ancient Buddhist Art Looted From Pakistan's Swat Valley

The Takht-i-Bahi complex of 1st-century Buddhist monastery near Swat.

An ancient stone sculpture of Buddha's footprints that was looted from the Swat Valley and smuggled into the United States has been returned to the government of Pakistan.

The piece, called a Buddhapada, was taken from Pakistan in 1982 and eventually smuggled to New York by a Japanese antiquities dealer who hoped to sell it for more than $1 million.

It was returned by New York prosecutors on April 27 to the Pakistani Embassy' deputy chief of mission, Rizwan Saeed Sheikh, who said it will remain in New York City for now and may be exhibited at a museum.

Sheikh said the second century Buddhapada, weighing more than 200 kilograms, was "an important element of the cultural history of Pakistan."

Antiquities dealer Tatsuzo Kaku, who pleaded guilty in March to the smuggling scheme, said he was motivated by a desire to preserve Buddhist artworks that he feared would fall into disrepair or be destroyed if they remained in Pakistan.

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters