CHENNAI: The Idol Wing sleuths of the State police on Monday seized more than 50 stone idols, some of them centuries old, from the house of an 85-year-old suspect in Alwarpet. Three persons, Kumar (60), Man Singh (55) and Raja (60), workers in the house were arrested by the police while the mastermind and house owner, Deena Dayalan, a former art and antique dealer, escaped before the police arrived.
A team headed by Inspector General of Police (IGP) Pon Manickavel conducted the seizure based on a tip off about the idols being transported for smuggling. The idols were meant to be sent to Mumbai, from where they would be shipped abroad, police said.
Deenadayalan had stocked the idols stolen from temples across the state and from Karnataka at his bungalow on Murrays Gate road in Alwarpet and had planned to smuggle them out of the country, police said.
A native of Andhra Pradesh, he had set up an art gallery in his wife’s name in Chennai in 1965 and eventually entered the smuggling business. He is said to be involved with notorious idol smuggler, Subash Kapoor, now lodged in Puzhal prison.
“In fact, he helped Subash smuggle the famous Ardhanaareshwarar stone idol from Virudhagireeswarar temple in Cuddalore, which was sold for an amount of three million dollars to a gallery in Australia in 2004,” a police officer said.
The exact value of the seized idols is yet to be estimated, while police say that it could very well run into several crore. Experts from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) have confirmed the idols to be aged about 10 centuries old belonging to the temples from the Kumbakonam, Myladuthurai, Tiruvarur and Tanjore districts. Among the idols seized, some of them also were from temples in Karnataka, police said.
The three persons arrested along with the idols were produced before a magistrate and remanded in judicial custody. Some of the idols were very heavy and could not be transported by the police team.