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Antiques smuggling case: FIRs of temple thefts to be scanned

The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) will check the FIRs that have been registered in southern and eastern India in connection with the lost antiques that were recovered from Vijay Nanda, the American businessman, on Monday.

mumbai Updated: Feb 09, 2017 09:15 IST
Pratik Salunke
MUMBAI
The central agency suspects that the six large stone sculptures that were recovered from him were from the 10th and 11th centuries and appeared to have been stolen from temples in eastern and southern India.(HT)

The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) will check the FIRs that have been registered in southern and eastern India in connection with the lost antiques that were recovered from Vijay Nanda, the American businessman, on Monday.

The central agency suspects that the six large stone sculptures that were recovered from him were from the 10th and 11th centuries and appeared to have been stolen from temples in eastern and southern India. They were stored in crates that were seized from the Byculla godown. These included statues of various Hindu deities, such as Varada Ganesha, Padmapani, Awalokateshwara, Standing Vishnu, Naga and Nagini. “We will check cases, in which sculptures were stolen from temples,” said an officer. 

DRI sources said that Nanda had come to India to smuggle the antiques out of the country. “The large sculptures were ready to be smuggled out when we raided the godown. We suspect that they were being taken to America where Nanda runs two art shops in Manhattan,” said the officer. 

The consignments are either exported out in furniture or misdeclared. Idol smuggling kingpin Subhash Chandra Kapoor, who was arrested and brought to India in 2012, also ran a gallery in Manhattan. Officials are investigating for possible links between the duo. 

Nanda is an American passport holder and the DRI will approach relevant authorities in the country for further investigation. Officials from the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) examined the objects and have submitted a preliminary report that labels most of them as antiques. “Nanda has been arranging auctions and has sold several antiques to elites,” said the officer. 

Officials stated that there was a need to strengthen the existing laws that deal with smuggling antiques. Such cases are registered under the Antiquities and Art Treasure Act, 1972, with a punishment of just six months.

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