Of stolen artifacts, PAP relatives in the National Heritage Board, money laundering, and Tang Dynasty shipwreck treasures.
1. STOLEN ARTIFACTS?
The Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) is one of the National Museums of Singapore under the National Heritage Board.
On 6 December 2013, TRE broke the news that a 1,000-year idol stolen from India was in the possession of ACM.
“The 1,000-year-old Uma Parmeshvari bronze sculpture was stolen from a temple in the Ariyalur district of Tamil Nadu in 2005 or 2006 before being smuggled to Art Of The Past, owned by disgraced art dealer Subhash Kapoor. Kapoor sold the idol to ACM for US$650,000 in February 2007.
According to chasingaphrodite.com, a blog dedicated to the hunt for looted antiquities in the world’s museums, Kapoor’s contact in Singapore is ACM’s senior curator Dr Gauri Krishnan. The blog is written and maintained by Jason Felch, an award-winning investigative reporter with the Los Angeles Times.”
“Singapore’s Asian Civilizations Museum bought more than $1 million of art from disgraced Manhattan antiquities dealer Subhash Kapoor, according to business records from Kapoor’s Art of the Past gallery.”
— Chasing Aphrodite
2. ART AND MONEY LAUNDERING
Prominent Swiss businessman and art dealer Yves Bouvier, who is under investigation in Monaco for fraud and money laundering, is a Singapore permanent resident. He was accused by Russian billionaire and art collector Dmitry Rybolovlev of inflating the prices of works by master artists such as Pablo Picasso and Vincent Van Gogh.
Bouvier owns a company that ships and stores art for the wealthy, and has majority stakes in freeports — warehouses for the rich to store art and other valuables — including one in Singapore.
Lawyers and art dealers familiar with the discussions say the case could expand well beyond Bouvier and reach into the top galleries and billionaire collectors in New York, London and Hong Kong. It could widen to involve not only undisclosed mark-ups by dealers, but also tax fraud, global money laundering and possible bribery.
“This is just the beginning,” said one prominent art lawyer in New York who asked not to be named. “There will be a lot of big dealers and collectors involved.”
3. PAMELIA LEE and Tang Dynasty Ship / Shipwreck Treasure
In 2004, as Senior Consultant to the Singapore Tourism Board, Mrs Pamelia Lee (a sister-in-law of Lee Kuan Yew) handled the acquisition of a 9th Century shipwreck treasure of over 53,000 artifacts, known as the “Tang Shipwreck Treasures: Singapore’s Maritime Collection.”
Trafficking Culture, a website run by the University of Glasgow, focuses on understanding the international trade in illicit cultural objects.
From a 2012 article on Trafficking Culture:
. . .the Indonesian government turned to commercial salvaging company Seabed Explorations, led by German director Tilman Walterfang.
Walterfang sold the collection for $32 million USD in 2005 to the Sentosa Leisure Group, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Sentosa Development Corporation, an entity established by the government of Singapore. The Sentosa Development Corporation established a long-term loan agreement with the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and that same year, the STB teamed up with the Asian Civilizations Museum in Singapore to display highlights from the collection in an exhibition titled, ‘Tang Treasures from the Sea’.
In 2007, the director of the Smithsonian Institution’s Freer/Sackler Galleries was approached by Singapore Tourism Board’s Pamelia Lee about organizing an exhibition of the shipwreck and putting together a book.
. . .This news sparked an internal debate within the Smithsonian, [when] archaeologists in other museum departments heard that an exhibition of unscientifically excavated, commercially exploited artefact was so far along.
Source: Trafficking Culture
This screenshot mentions some financial numbers re: the Tang Shipwreck Treasure.
Last paragraph: “During the current financial year, 53,227 heritage materials of the Tang Shipwreck Treasure were transferred from the Singapore Tourism Board to the Board. The heritage materials were valued by an external valuer on a class basis and was valued at SGD$75,020,166 (US$60,392,985) in June 2012. These are recorded as part of heritage capital reserve.”
- Reader Tip: I remember those days, lots of rumours Pamelia Lee made a lot of comission from this. I noticed a lot of the Lee or Kwa family members used to be ex-directors in the National Heritage Board too.
4. BOARD MEMBERS in NATIONAL HERITAGE BOARD
I. Some board members include (from 2013 document):
- Mr. Kwa Chong Guan (nephew of the late Mrs. LKY)
- Ms. Chang Hwee Nee (wife of Education Minister Heng Swee Keat)
- Ms. Jane Ittogi (wife of Tharman Shanmugaratnam)
- Mrs. Lee Swet Fern (wife of Lee Hsien Yang)
- Mr. Baey Yam Keng (MP and selfie man)
- Ms. Ho Peng (former MOE director-general and sister of Ho Ching)
- Mrs. Pamelia Lee (former board member and sister-in-law of LKY)
II. Mini FAMILY TREE Image
5. NOTE ABOUT MR. KWA CHONG GUAN:
Kwa Chong Guan, a nephew of the late Mrs. Lee Kuan Yew, is a Member of the National Heritage Board and current chairman of the National Archives Advisory Committee. He is also a board member of the National Library Board, and chairs the Acquisition Sub-committee of the Asian Civilisations Board.
From the website of The National Archives of Singapore:
“The National Archives of Singapore (NAS) is the keeper of records of national or historical significance. The records acquired by NAS come from both public agencies and private sources. Records in various mediums and formats are safeguarded and preserved.
The immensely rich collection continues to grow as NAS fulfils its mission to actively acquire records that will serve as the corporate memory of the Government and the social memory of our people. This memory allows current and future generations of Singaporeans to understand our different cultures, explore our common heritage and appreciate who we are and how we became a nation.”
— National Archives of Singapore (Our Roles)
With academics warning of the “power of the Singapore state in constraining [history],” one wonders just how much of the National Archives is made to keep in line with “the well-rehearsed official state narrative.”