Free Press Journal

Smuggling of antiques: DRI seeks prosecution of Hong Kong resident


Mumbai: Eight months after the DRI arrested an American businessman of Indian orign in connection with smuggling of several antiques and artifacts valued crores of rupees, the agency has identified a man from Hong Kong and has written to the US Department of Homeland Security (HS) to prosecute him.

“Our overseas office, which was also investigating the case, has identified a Hong Kong resident who was also involved in smuggling, after which we have written to the HS for his prosecution,” a Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) officer said today.

The agency had arrested the businessman Vijay Nanda in March this year in connection with the case. He is currently out on bail.

The DRI had said that Nanda arranges for auctions and subsequent sale in US and Hong Kong to private collections and museums.

The agency also said they have secured sanction from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to prosecute Nanda under the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act.

“The sanction was given to us after the ASI confirmed that the smuggled goods that we have recovered are indeed antiquities,” according to DRI sources.

The agency had recovered various figurines and stone sculptures which included “terracotta figurines” from the first Century A.D., bronze figurines of “Mahishasura Mardhini” and “Ganesha”, all dating from the 17th and 18th Century. Statues of “Varada Ganesha”, “Padmapani”, “Awalokateshwara”, “Standing Vishnu” and figurines of “Naga and Nagini” were also recovered.

DRI had said the statues appear to be stolen/vandalised from various temples in eastern and southern India and belong to the 10th-11th Century. There has been an attempt made to legitimise the same through registrations of ASI and creation of fake documents of procurement.

Indian antiques and artifacts command great value in international markets and are highly sought after by art galleries and private collectors.