Centuries-old idols recovered from bizman’s residence

Centuries-old idols recovered from bizman’s residence

Ranvir Shah

Centuries-old idols and temple pillars, which are suspected to have been stolen from temples across Tamil Nadu, were recovered from the residence of businessman Ranvir Shah here on Thursday.

As things stand today, according to police, Shah is “just a purchaser” of the antique materials and investigation in respect of the businessman possessing a huge number of statues is yet to begin.

Shah is a businessman and founder-trustee of Founder Trustee of Prakriti Foundation based in Chennai.

A total of 89 antique items -- 56 stone idols, 22 pillars and 11 metal statues – whose value run into several crores were recovered from Shah’s residence in Saidapet here during a raid by the Idol Wing Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of Tamil Nadu police.

“The businessman, Ranvir Shah, has purchased these idols from a seller. If there is any incrimination on his part and if we establish that he had a criminal intent or plans to sell these idols, we will definitely act against him. But, investigations in respect of the businessman is yet to begin,” Inspector General of the Idol Wing, Pon Manickavel, told DH.

He said the raid was conducted on a specific information from people in the trade of selling idols. Some idols that were recovered have imprint of the Chola dynasty and the police officer said he has very “strong grounds” to believe that all these artefacts were stolen from “Hindu temples” in Tamil Nadu.

A statue of Lord Shiva-Parvathi which was kept inside the puja hall of the businessman and a metal statue of Amman were some of the idols recovered from his house. “All these statues and pillars were displayed in his house. We are also trying to find out whether he has bought more such idols,” Pon Manickavel said.  

Police suspect that Dheenadayalan, the alleged kingpin behind idol thefts who was arrested in 2016, could have sold these idols to Shah.  They said the businessman possessed records like registration certificates which showed from whom he had purchased it but there was no record of where these idols were present prior to that.

Idols, especially those made of metal, have high demand in the international market and they are sold to customers abroad after they are stolen from temples, in most cases with the help of authorities.

The special wing of the CID headed by Inspector-General Pon Manickavel has been successful in recovering a few hundred idols from the drawing rooms of several businessmen both inside and outside India.


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