Over the last year, officers of the Idol Wing–CID attached to the Tamil Nadu
Economic Offences Wing (EOW) have been busy, dismantling an international network of antiquities smugglers, some of whom have links with the infamous New York-based art dealer on trial in Chennai, Subash Kapoor.
On October 30, 2011 Kapoor was arrested at Frankfurt International Airport in connection with his role in running a $100 million international smuggling racket. Extradited from Germany on July 14, 2012, Kapoor currently spends his time between two prisons: the Puzhal Central Prison, a central prison complex located in Chennai (Tiruvallur District) and the Central Prison at Trichy, Tamil Nadu, India.
Before his arrest, Kapoor maintained contacts around the globe, in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Bangkok, Bangladesh, Dubai, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, and Pakistan, several of whom have been implicated in shipping and selling stolen objects from India, trafficked with fake provenance. At the height of his operation, Kapoor visited Tamil Nadu frequently which underscores the collector-dealer-smuggler-looter network all too clearly.
May 31, 2016 - Police recieve a tip that stolen antique idols are being packaged for export from a location on Murrays Gate Road in Chennai’s upscale neighbourhood of Alwarpet. Three men are arrested, Maan Singh, "Kumar" and "Rajamani" who have been working for the octogenarian smuggler, Govindaraj Dheenadhayalan (alternatively spelled "Deenadhayalan").
Dheenadhayalan briefly disappears before turning himself in a few days later.
During the raid of his house, Aparna Art Gallery in Alwarpet, Chennai, and a storehouse, police seized more than 200 ancient idols in bronze and stone, a large stone Nandis, 96 rare paintings, various miniature statues, ivory and wood carvings, lamps, figurines, ornamental pillars and pooja utensils.
|Image Credit: Hindu Existence|
June 04, 2016 - Four days after the search and seizure at his residence, smuggler Govindaraj Deenadhayalan surrenders to authorities. He is remanded into custody.
June 24, 2016 - Following Deenadhayalan's confession, the Idol Wing CID arrest Mahabalipuram-based smuggler Lakshmi Narasimhan (also known as "Latchu","Lakshminarayanan" and "Narasimhan" ) and seize nine panchaloha idols dating back to Later Chola period (roughly 1,000 years ago).
July 02, 2016 - Following the arrest and subsequent interrogation of Lakshmi Narasimhan, 200 more idols are seized following the execution of a search warrant of the smuggler's gallery and godown.
October 25, 2016 - After further tip-offs, DRI raid the houses of Professor T. M. Balaji at T Nagar and the grandson of Dheenadhayalan, Srikanth Omkaram, at Valasarawakkam after receiving information that several antique idols and artefacts were being stored in their residences. Both men had been implicated as being part of Dheenadhayalan’s organisation.
While being interrogated by authorities, the duo confess that they were smuggling objects out of the country using fake Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) certificates produced by another accomplice, Udit Jain, a forger from New Delhi.
Objects seized by authorities during the raid included a statue of Brāhmī, a Buddha in sitting posture, the deity Mahavishnu, stone pillar carvings and Tanjore paintings.
Following an alert by the Tamil Nadu DRI, the Mumbai DRI team intercepted Udit Jain in Mumbai and took him into custody.
November 2016 - Reopening an 11-year-old case, authorities in India, with the help of HSI special agents, were able to identify the smugglers of the now repatriated religious stone idol of Vriddhachlam Ardhanari to two antique dealers in Mumbai. Vallabh Prakash and his son Aditya Prakash, operated Indo-Nepal Art Centre, a gallery which offered the stolen Ardhanari to Subash Kapoor who together smuggled the statue to the United States. Kapoor later sold the idol with false paperwork to the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 2004.
Their arrest has been linked to the theft of 13 idols from the Sri Narambunatha Swamy Temple, Pazhavoor, Tirunelveli district and are believed to have smuggled antiquities through various routes, including Nepal.
February 6, 2017 - Indian authorities arrest, Vijay Nanda, an American citizen of Indian origin at his residence in Girgaum Chowpatty, in the Girgaon area of Mumbai, charging him with antique smuggling.
Antiquities recovered from his warehouse in Byculla include statues stolen from various temples in both the eastern and southern India and include six large stone statues of the Hindu god Vishnu, the Buddhist bodhisattva Padmapani, Varada Ganesha, Awalokateshwara, and figurines of Naga and Nagini as well as terracotta figurines from 1st Century A.D. and bronze figurines of Hindu deities Ganesh and Mahishasura dating from the 17th and 18th centuries.
A local court has remanded Nanda in judicial custody till February 20.
Vijay Kumar, of the India Pride Project has said “This kind of targeted looting when thieves pick and choose the best of Indian art and steal on an industrial basis will eventually impoverish our great land.”
We couldn't agree more.