The Tamil Nadu idol wing CID has spread its investigation to neighbouring Puducherry following the seizure of three antique idols worth Rs 12 crore from the premises of an antique seller.
After unearthing that there were attempts to smuggle these idols to France, the wing is undertaking an investigation as to when these idols were stolen.
Based on a tip-off that Hindu antique idols were kept in an art gallery at Puducherry, the team conducted a raid and found that the three statues were worth Rs 12 crore in the international market.
Antique metal idols of Lord Nataraja, Lord Veenadhara Shiva, and Lord Vishnu which were over 600 years old were found hidden inside the office of the gallery. Sources told IANS that the idols, from the period of the Vijayanagar and Chola empires, would have been stolen from Tamil Nadu temples.
There were futile attempts to smuggle these idols to France and the United States. The wing also found that the gallery owner did not have any documents on the idols from the Archeological Survey of India.
The Tamil Nadu idol wing had conducted a raid at a residence in Puducherry in July 2021 after acting on a tip-off and seized four antique metal idols worth crores in the international market.
A case against the art gallery owner and his accomplices under Sections 457( lurking house-trespass or house-breaking by night to commence and offence punishable with imprisonment), 380 (theft in dwelling house), 411 (dishonestly receiving stolen property) and 120-B
(punishment of criminal conspiracy) of the IPC were registered and investigations commenced.
An ADGP level officer at Tamil Nadu state police headquarters said: “There is a network of old antique metal idols in Puducherry and the Tamil Nadu idol theft squad will be conducting a detailed study on the art galleries and antique dealers of Puducherry and their relationship with Tamil Nadu.”
After the formation of Tamil Nadu idol wing, idols worth more than Rs 1000 crore in the International markets have been retrieved and brought home. These idols are then consecrated at the respective temples from where they were stolen after performing necessary poojas.