March 2015: Kamakshipalya police arrest four persons who were waiting for clients at a lodge, and recover five ancient idols.
October 2014: CCB busts racket of international smuggling of ancient Indian idols, arrests three persons and recovers three idols worth Rs. 32 crore.
September 2014: Chamarajpet police arrest two persons who were trying to sell an idol stolen from a temple in Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh, worth Rs. 75 lakh.
March 2014: Sampangiramanagar police arrest a man who was trying to sell an antique idol weighing 25 kg, worth Rs. 2.5 crore, online.
Bengaluru: The city seems to be emerging as a market for antique idols and artefacts. On Sunday, the west division police arrested four persons and recovered ancient idols and artefacts estimated to be worth Rs. 1.5 crore from them.
The accused — Rudramurthy (35), Revanna (38), Jnaneshwarachar (45), and Nagraja (45) — were trying to find prospective clients near a coffee shop in BEML Layout here.
Based on a tip-off, a team led by Rajarajeshwarinagar police inspector T. Manjunath approached the four posing as prospective clients and nabbed them after the four displayed the idols.
The four were trying to sell a Ganesh idol, an idol of a sage, a vessel ( akshaya patre ), a box, and a conch made of an alloy of five metals ( pancha loha ).
During interrogation, the four confessed that they had bought the idols from a man, identified as Basha, from Challakere town in Chitradurga district, the police said. The police have sent the idols to the State Archaeological Department for analysis and to ascertain which period they belong to.
Deputy Inspector-General of Police (Economic Offences) Hemanth Nimbalkar, who earlier headed the Central Crime Branch, said most of the idols seized by the police belonged to either the Chola or the Hoysala period. The accused arrested in all the idol theft cases come to the city looking for prospective clients.
Some of these idols are found either during construction, excavation, quarrying or mining in rural Karnataka and in the neighbouring States of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Though such idols should be handed over to the government, some people try to sell them to make a fast buck.
Such idols change many hands before reaching Bengaluru, where the prices are increased based on their antique value, Mr. Nimbalkar said.
“We are cracking more such cases, as people whom the gang contacts to sell these idols tip us off. This is because those who buy them will also be booked,” he added.