A team of the Tamil Nadu police’s Idol Wing raided the home of prominent businessman and philanthropist Ranvir Shah at Saidapet in Chennai on Thursday and antique items including idols and temple pillars. Nearly 90 ancient art pieces were recovered, it is learnt.
Inspector General, Idol Wing CID, AG Pon Manickavel said, “I have reasonable grounds to believe all these idols and artefacts are all stolen from Hindu temples in Tamil Nadu.”
The top official said the needle of suspicion pointed to Dheenadayalan, an alleged kingpin behind idol thefts and smuggling who had been arrested earlier.
He also said nobody in Tamil Nadu has been given licence to sell antique artefacts including idols dating back to over a century.
Led by Inspector General (IG) Pon Manickvel, the team has been assigned to investigate the theft of temple idols across Tamil Nadu.
The antique value of the seized idols were expected to be more than Rs 100 crore, Idol Wing Additional SP Ashok Natarajan, who was part of the raids, said.
Pon Manickavel said the idols have changed several hands before it landed at the hands of Ranvir Shah. He said since there were no place in museums, the seized idols would be produced before appropriate court.
On 1 August, the State government passed an order transferring all the pending and future idol theft cases to CBI from the file of Idol Wing CID.
The State government took the decision to transfer the cases to CBI, claiming that the idol wing was not performing satisfactorily.
However, the CBI declined it stating that a large number of idol theft cases are pending at various stages. However, it offered assistance to idol wing CID in matters of extradition of accused, issuing red corner notices and coordinating with Interpol.