Museum Security Network

Antiques smuggling: ‘Kingpin’ loaned artefacts to museum to get legal tag


TNN | Updated: Jul 31, 2017, 03:01 AM IST

 MUMBAI: US citizen and alleged mastermind in the antiques smuggling case Vijay Nanda used to loan smuggled artefacts to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya to “legitimise” the illegal acquisitions.
“These were loaned to the museum to take undue advantage of the exemptions available under the Antiques Act. It stipulates that the requirement of registering antiquities within a specified time is not applicable to antiques kept in a museum controlled by the government or local authority,” said the Bombay high court while refusing to return his passport that has been seized by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), which is investigating the case.

The DRI has accused Nanda of smuggling antiquities, sculptures made of stone, terracotta, bronze, antique coins, ancient weapons and stolen heritage furniture; and selling it to auction houses in the US, Europe, south-east Asian countries and the Gulf. Export of antiques is banned. Of the 80 antiques seized, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has certified 73 as antiques. Nanda had no legal documentation or registration with the ASI as antiques dealer, the DRI had said. Among the antiques recovered were terracotta figurines from 1st century AD and bronze figurines of ‘Mahishasura Mardhini’ and ‘Ganesha’, which date to the 17th and 18th century. Nanda was arrested in February 2017 and was released in April after 60 days in custody.

Nanda had sought return of his passport to visit his wife in the US saying she has to undergo a surgery. The HC was hearing an appeal by the DRI after the magistrate and sessions court agreed to his plea. The HC also said the DRI has the jurisdiction to hear cases related to smuggling. Quoting DRI, it said that there have been cases where foreigners and persons of Indian origin facing prosecution in India were allowed to travel and did not return to face trial. The DRI pointed out that Nanda sought to return after 12 weeks but intends to spend only three weeks with his family. Nanda’s counsel, however, argued that he was a law abiding citizen and would return.


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