Idol smuggling gang busted

Raid leads to seizure worth more than Rs. 50 crore

June 01, 2016 08:22 am | Updated September 16, 2016 01:46 pm IST - CHENNAI

: Officers of the Idol Wing–CID attached to the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) claim to have unearthed yet another idol smuggling racket with the arrest of three persons who allegedly helped in hiding ‘antique’ stone idols in a house in Alwarpet on Tuesday.

The hunt is on for Deenadayalan, the kingpin who allegedly smuggled the idols to Mumbai. The gang is suspected to have had links with the infamous idol smuggler Subash Kapoor.

According to A.G. Pon Manickavel, Inspector General of Police (IG), Idol Wing, his team got a tip-off that some idols were stolen from temples in Tamil Nadu and were taken to Andhra Pradesh. They were again brought to the State to be smuggled to Mumbai. “They took the detour as we had intensified checking. Based on the tip-off, we tracked and nabbed three persons – Maan Singh (55), Kumar (60) and Rajamani (60). The three worked for Deenadayalan,” he said.

According to police sources, while Maan Singh was an employee and caretaker of the house shielding Deenadayalan, Kumar prepared false bills to make it appear as if the idols were made recently so that they could be shipped without any problem. Rajamani helped in packing the antiques.

After arresting the three, the idol wing team raided the house of Deenadayalan in Murrays Gate Road, Alwarpet and seized idols worth between Rs. 10 and Rs. 40 crore. The total value of idols seized could be above Rs. 50 core. Different stone idols ranging from a small Ganapathy to Dakshinamoorthy and pillars and vessels were found stocked in the house. “We had already seized an idol of Garudalwar and Boodevi and Sridevi . Basically, everything needed for a temple was found in the house. There were also some sculptures from Hoysala dynasty, the rest were mainly from the Chola period,” Mr. Pon Manickavel said.

Deenadayalan is said to be running an art gallery in Teynampet since 1995. “In 2002, he had smuggled across an Ardhanareeswarar idol and six other idols to a dealer in Mumbai and from there to the Art of the Past gallery in New York. From there, a few antiques were sent to galleries in Australia and New South Wales,” Mr. Pon Manickavel added.

The three arrested have been remanded to judicial custody.

The Subash Kapoor angle

Subash Kapoor, who is lodged in the Puzhal prison after being arrested by the Idol Wing on July 14, 2012 on his extradition from Germany, is considered the biggest smuggler of idols in recent times.

A person of Indian origin, he owned an import company and an art gallery called ‘Art of the Past’ in New York. He has been charged with smuggling antique idols from Varadaraja Perumal Temple at Suthamalli village and from temples in Ariyalur district.

“He is quite famous in the US. He used to give small idols free of cost to the dealers and ones with more antique value at a very high price,” said an officer attached to the idol wing.

Kapoor’s contacts spanned India, Pakistan, Dubai, Hong Kong, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Cambodia and Bangkok. He used this network to ship and sell antique art works with fake documents. He used to visit Tamil Nadu whenever he came to India.

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