A high-ranking DRI officer, who did not wish to be named, said, “Several antiques found at Vijay Nanda’s home have been seized for verification of documents in his possession as it is highly likely that these antiques were stolen from museums or temples. It appears that Nanda had arrived in India a few days ago to make arrangements to smuggle the six large statues that were stored in crates.”
Antique smuggling involves several stages that require precise co-ordination, revealed officials from the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI). From the point at which they are stolen from temples or museums to the time they are sold, the treasures pass through several pairs of synchronised hands, they said.
DRI sleuths revealed that an associate of Nanda, Udit Jain, had already been arrested as a part of the Deendayalan syndicate by DRI in Chennai, in connection with the smuggling of antiques and old paintings. Deenadayalan is alleged idol smuggler in Chennai who is said to be working with Subhash Chandra Kapoor, an infamous idol smuggler in New York. Kapoor was arrested at a German airport in 2012 after Interpol issued a red corner notice (international arrest warrant) against him. He was extradited to India based on information provided by DRI and is currently in jail in Chennai.
The officer said, “This syndicate has in the past smuggled Gupta-era gold coins, post-Mauryan terracotta figurines, Rajputana swords and daggers, Chola bronzes and Tibetan Buddhist statues. Nanda is a prime player in the international art smuggling syndicate with extensive connections in the US, Europe and Hong Kong.”
DRI officials said that Indian antiques and artifacts command great value in International markets and are highly sought after by art galleries and private collectors.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi brought back about 2,000 antiquities from the US last June, including some that had been smuggled by the Kapoor syndicate, the DRI said. Australia, too, has returned some stolen idols. However, hundreds more are yet to be returned to India.