Three friends of socialite Sheetal Mafatlal, whom she had accused of stealing artworks worth crores and replacing them with fakes, on Thursday alleged that she had connived with others to hide the original paintings and then falsely implicate them.
Sheetal’s childhood friends — businessman Areef Patel, Yasmin MY, the owner of the two apartments where the paintings were allegedly kept, and Farokh Wadia, Patel’s employee — on Thursday told the media they had been framed in the ‘bogus’ case.
Sheetal had accused Patel of stealing the paintings that were kept in Yasmin’s Bandra and Khar apartments, and replacing them with fakes. She had also filed a police complaint in this regard.
The three claimed the crime branch had investigated the case and later filed a closure report concluding that the complaint lodged by Sheetal was false. They said the crime branch has not only filed a B Summary report [for a false case], but had also urged the magistrate court to prosecute Sheetal for lodging the false complaint with malafide intention.
Yasmin on Thursday alleged, “The paintings were a property of Mafatlal Dyes and Chemicals Limited. Atulya [Sheetal’s husband] has admitted before the police that in 2004, his father and brother Ajay were planning to sell some of them to clear debts.”
Yasmin alleged that Sheetal first kept the paintings with her for safekeeping and later registered the false case. The paintings, 31 in all, include works by celebrated artists. During the probe into the case lodged by Sheetal, photographer Vikram Bawa had allegedly told police that he had made copies of some paintings on Sheetal’s instructions in 2011.
During questioning, Sheetal’s manager Manoj Shah allegedly told the police that the original paintings were kept by him at an apartment at Princess Street.
The crime branch has recovered 44 paintings from the apartment, which include the 31 paintings that Sheetal had alleged were switched with fakes when they were in safekeeping of her friends. Later, the police, with the assistance of art historians, concluded that the recovered paintings were original.
Patel said, “The police have filed a B-summary report in the case and we have been given a clean chit. We are contemplating to file a defamation case against Sheetal.”