An art dealer described by authorities as one of the most prolific smugglers in the world and seven others have been charged with trafficking more than $140 million in stolen antiquities.
Australia was one of the countries where the treasures turned up in public galleries.
Authorities say the conspiracy began more than three decades ago and involved more than 2,600 recovered artefacts, including statues and ancient masterworks.
A criminal complaint filed in Manhattan state court said the smuggling was orchestrated by Subhash Kapoor, a New York art gallery owner who was arrested in Germany in 2011 and later extradited to India, where he faces similar charges.
The prosecution involves artefacts stolen from Afghanistan, Cambodia, India, Pakistan and other countries that were sold for profit to dealers and collectors around the world.
Some of the items appeared in world-renowned museums without officials realising they were ill-gotten gains.
In Australia, a 900 year old bronze statue called the Dancing Shiva was returned to India in 2014, after it was suspected of being stolen from a temple.
The National Gallery of Australia had bought the statue for $A5 millon from Kapoor in 2008.
There were also questions about the provenance of other items in the collection.