CHENNAI: An idol thief-turned-museum owner in the US, who allegedly fled India with 26 antique statues from temples in Tamil Nadu, is now under the radar of the Interpol. Thanks to the efforts of the State Economic Offences Wing, the Interpol has issued a ‘blue corner’ notice against him.
Providing further details to Express on Thursday, Additional Director General of Police, EOW, I Raja said, “The absconder, Subhash Kapoor of Punjab, was part of a 12-member gang of idol thieves operating in TN.”
According to Raja, the gang, led by Sanjeevi Ashokan, made away with 26 idols from temples in Ariyalur in 2008. Of the loot, 18 idols were from the Varadaraja Perumal temple in Udayarpalayam while the rest were from the Brahadeeswarar temple, Vikkiramangalam.
While the rest of his gang were arrested, Kapoor managed to smuggle the idols out of the country, said Raja, adding that Ashokan, the ringleader, was booked under the Goondas Act. Sustained investigations by the EOW then traced Kapoor to the United States. It also came to light that Kapoor was running a museum, ‘Art of the Past’, on Madison Avenue in New York.
“He also had the impudence to appear in a glossy magazine, posing for the camera with the stolen idols of Nataraja and Sivagami in the background,” the officer said. “We have now sought the assistance of Interpol in nabbing the smuggler and a blue corner notice has been issued against him,” the ADGP added.
Claiming that the EOW had intensified its efforts to recover stolen idols, he pointed to the seizure of ‘panchaloha’ statues of Subramaniar and Palani Andavar, said to be worth around `10 lakh, and the arrest of two persons in this connection on Wednesday.
The idols were reported stolen from the Sri Annadhana Pillayar temple, Manamadurai, Sivaganga, in 2009. While the local police registered a case, it was categorised as ‘undetected’ last year. “Since the idols were worth above `5 lakh, we took up the case,” said Raja. Based on a tip-off, a special team went to Aruppukottai, Virudhunagar district, and using a decoy, negotiated the purchase of the idols - weighing a total of 30 kg and estimated to be 150 years old - with the accused men.
They were later identified as M Kannadasan (25) and A Pandi (43) of Manamadurai. Inquiry also revealed that they were first-time offenders.