The arrest of a 39-year-old accomplice of idol smuggler Deenadayalan and recovery of 11 panchaloha idols from a house in Colas Nagar on Tuesday night has shed light on a hitherto hidden idol smuggling racket in Puducherry.
Pushparajan, a close aide of Deenadayalan, was arrested in Chennai two days ago. A team led by Pon Manickavel, Inspector General of Police, Idol Wing CID, raided a house in Colas Nagar and seized 11 panchaloha idols worth several crores on Tuesday.
Police sources said the searches were conducted at the house belonging to a French national of Puducherry origin, on the basis of Pushparajan’s confession. Pushparajan is said to be running an art gallery in White Town.
Besides the seizure of the idols, the police also arrested Ranjith Kumar, a carpenter and caretaker of the house in question.
Mr. Pon Manickavel said that one of the 11 idols recovered was that of Lord Nataraja and its antique value was worth Rs. 31 crore. Idols of Mahishasura Mardini, Somaskandar, Kalyanasundara, Lord Shiva, Parvathi and Amman were among the panchaloha idols seized from the house.
Preliminary investigations revealed that the seized idols were among those that were stolen from the 1000-year-old Somnath Eswaran temple at Melapadi village near Ranipet in Vellore district 15 years ago. The recovered antiques belong to the Tamil Nadu government, he added.
“We are also pursuing other vital leads which will enable us to unearth the wider ramifications of this illegal network,” a senior police official said.
Meanwhile, Gokulakrishnan, counsel of the house owner Condappa, claimed that the seized idols were not stolen.
The antiquities were duly registered with the Department of Archaeology and the ownership documents have been submitted to the court, he said.