Museums, auction houses and private collectors are facing intensifying calls to return valuable artefacts to Asian and African nations, among others, who say the items were nicked from them by criminal or unethical means.
On Sep 30, cultural ministers from 150 countries at a United Nations conference committed to improving efforts to return historical treasures to their countries of origin.
Cambodia, in particular, suffered widespread looting of archaeological sites during civil conflicts between the 1960s and 1990s.
This was a “massive heist” involving restorers, academics and in some cases around the world, museum curators themselves, said Mr Gordon.
Several precious items are believed to have passed through the hands of notorious late art dealer Douglas Latchford, who created fake documents to smuggle and sell them to Western buyers.
Cambodia’s government has since sought to repatriate purportedly stolen antiquities sold on the international market.
Its restitution team has a developing database of more than 2,000 objects outside of Cambodia – and all of them must be attributed to the Southeast Asian country, said members, even if some can continue to be loaned out.
In August, the United States said it would return 30 looted antiquities to Cambodia – including statues of Buddhist and Hindu deities carved more than 1,000 years ago.
These were handed over by US museums and private collectors.