TN cops seize 74 antique idols worth crores from house of French national in Puducherry

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The owner of the house told police that the idols were in possession of the family since the time of his grandfather. There has been no arrest of anyone in connection with the seizure, said Sakthivel.

PUDUCHERRY: A 20-member team of the Tamil Nadu idol wing CID led by Superintendent of Police R Sakthivel on Wednesday recovered 74 antique idols from the house of a French national in Puducherry.

The seizure was made based on credible information on the network and after obtaining a warrant to search from Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate Kumbakonam Vijaykumar, Sakthivel told The New Indian Express.

The ancestral house on Romain Rolland Street (opposite to the Department of Art and Culture) was searched in the presence of the owner Jean Paul Rajarathinam and the idols were recovered. Among them were 14 sculpted in stone and the remaining in metal worth several crores, said Sakthivel, adding that some of them would be panchaloha idols. These idols dating back to the Chola period are likely to have been stolen from temples across Tamil Nadu, he said.

Rajarathinam told police that the idols were in possession of the family since the time of his grandfather. There has been no arrest of anyone in connection with the seizure in Puducherry, said Sakthivel.Incidentally, Rajarathinam is the brother of Marie Therese Anandi Vanina, 37, a French woman of Indian origin whose house on Frederick Ozanam Street, Colas Nagar, Puducherry was raided in 2016 by the idol wing CID and 11 antique bronze idols worth several crores of rupees were seized.

She was subsequently arrested by the idol wing CID in August 2019 in Chennai on charges of illegally exporting stolen antique idols and artifacts for several years from Puducherry to France. She and her husband Prabakaran, residents of France, allegedly used to stock the illegally procured artefacts and idols in their Puducherry house before shipping them to France via Colombo.

Her grandfather Joseph de Condappa and father Gerold were antique dealers in Puducherry. After their demise, she and her brother reportedly split the share of the idols and she shifted her share from the house on Romain Rolland Street to her residence in Colas Nagar.

by Debjani Dutta, Indian Express

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