Antique Idols worth several crores have been seized from a smuggling racket in a raid conducted by the State Police
It was a big surprise for the Idol-wing CID of Tamil Nadu police, to discover a cache of rare several centuries old idols, temple articles, when they raided a palatial residence in a posh locality in the heart of Chennai.
Sleuths of the Idol Wing–CID attached to the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) claim to have unearthed yet another idol smuggling racket with the arrest of three persons who allegedly helped in hiding ‘antique’ stone idols in a house in Alwarpet on May 31. AG Pon Manickavel, Inspector General of Police (IG), Idol Wing said that his team had got a tip-off that some idols were stolen from temples in Tamil Nadu and were taken to Andhra Pradesh. They were again brought to the State to be smuggled to Mumbai. “They adopted this method of detouring as we had intensified checking. We tracked and nabbed three persons – Maan Singh, Kumar and Rajamani. They worked for Deenadayalan, the kingpin of the operation,” he added.
While Maan Singh was an employee and caretaker of the house shielding Deenadayalan, Kumar prepared false bills to make it appear as if the idols were made recently so that they could be shipped without any problem. Rajamani helped in packing the antiques, said police. After arresting the three, the idol wing team raided the house of Deenadayalan. The most-wanted kingpin of the sensational antique idols smuggling case, octogenarian Deenadayalan, who was absconding at the time of the raid,
surrendered before the Idol Wing of the Tamil Nadu police on June 3 along with his advocate.
Deenadayalan, a native of Andhra Pradesh, set up an art gallery in his wife’s name in Chennai in 1965 and eventually entered the smuggling business. He reportedly played an active role in smuggling Ardhanarishwarar stone idol from Virudhagereeswarar Temple, Vriddhachalam. In 2004, Subash Chandra Kapoor, international idol smuggler, sold it for three million US dollars to Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney and Australia. Subash Kapoor, who is lodged in the Puzhal prison after being arrested by the Idol Wing on July 14, 2012 on his extradition from Germany, is considered the biggest smuggler of idols in recent times. A person of Indian origin, he owned an import company and an art gallery called ‘Art of the Past’ in New York. He has been charged with smuggling antique idols from Varadaraja Perumal Temple at Suthamalli Village and from temples in Ariyalur District. Kapoor’s contacts spanned India, Pakistan, Dubai, Hong Kong, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Cambodia and Bangkok. He used this network to ship and sell antique art works with fake documents. He used to visit Tamil Nadu whenever he came to India.
Police are probing on various angles, including Deenadayalan's alleged links with international idol smuggler Subash kapoor. The exact value of the seized idols is yet to be estimated, while police say that it could very well run into several crore. Experts say the idols to be aged about 10 centuries old belonging to the temples from the Kumbakonam, Myladuthurai, Tiruvarur and Tanjore Districts. Among the idols seized, some of them also were from temples in Karnataka, police said. Meanwhile, An Archaeological Survey of India team from New Delhi, led by regional director south zone Satyabhama, came to Chennai on June 6 to inspect the seized idols.
“The team will check the authenticity of the antiques and estimate their value, besides trying to find out from where they were stolen. This will help the probe being conducted by the idol wing,” police said. The three persons arrested along with the idols were produced before a magistrate and remanded in judicial custody. Police said they are questioning Deenadayalan and he was not arrested.
TS Venkatesan from Chennai