More antiques are tumbling out of the closet following the arrest of Vijay Nanda, an American businessman of Indian origin and an alleged smuggler of antiques, as the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) officials recovered wooden artefacts from a secret godown on Saturday.
The raid resulted into recovery of antique wooden sculptures and carvings: 12 ornately carved wooden columns with floral pilasters, 12 wooden archways with carvings of birds and flowers and 12 wooden pedestals. The said articles are protected under the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act, 1972.
“The wooden sculptures belong to the Shahjahani style of architecture, which is part of late Mughal style of architecture of the 17th and 18th centuries. Similarly styled columns are also found in the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture of the 19th century. The recovered columns appear to be the part of a grand haveli [palace] in Gujarat or Rajasthan,” said a DRI official.
The godown from which the latest cache of antiques was recovered is in the same Byculla building that was raided earlier, but this one is located on a different floor. Investigators stated that Nanda tried to conceal the entire godown. “The godown was camouflaged as an abandoned mezzanine in the industrial estate,” the official added.
All the wooden artefacts were kept in a ready-to-ship condition.
“In his confessional statement, Nanda did not mention anything about these antiques,” said another officer.
Last Tuesday, DRI officials raided Nanda’s godown and residences and confiscated antiques worth crores in the black market. The DRI had seized several antiques, including six large stone sculptures.
“We searched another godown in an industrial estate in Byculla on Saturday. The said godown could not be searched earlier as Nanda had denied having keys to it. Even during interrogation, he stated that the said godown was vacant and he had lost its keys,” said a high-ranking DRI officer.