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Gold coins worth crores found in Priyamvada's house

Last updated on: August 31, 2005 18:08 IST
A few hundred gold coins of Maurya Gupta and Mughal eras and gold artefacts, which could be worth several hundred crores, were recovered from a hidden strongroom in the house of late Priyamvada Birla, over whose assets the Birlas and R S Lodha are fighting a bitter legal battle.

The special officers appointed by Calcutta High Court on Wednesday informed the court that a large number of gold coins and gold artefacts, including tea sets, flower vases and other articles, were found on Tuesday when they broke open an almirah inside secret strongroom. Three pistols were also found.

The door to the strongroom was concealed behind a wooden panel of the study on the ground floor of the house situated at Birla Park in a posh southern locality of the metropolis, where most of the Birla family members have separate residential buildings.

Another safe in the vault is yet to be opened. Ahin Chowdhury and Ashok Banerjee, two of the four special officers appointed by Justice Kalyan Jyoti Sengupta to make an inventory of the personal belongings of Priyamvada, on Wednesday appeared before him seeking directions on safe custody of the recovered articles.

Justice Sengupta directed that both Rajendra S Lodha and the Birlas would appoint four armed guards each for the safe custody of the articles, which would be required to be kept in a new almirah as the lock of the one in which it was stored had been broken.

The special officers were yet to make a full inventory of the belongings at Priyamvada's properties in Mumbai and Delhi,
while it was almost complete in Allahabad.

Justice Sengupta had earlier directed the special officers to break open any almirah or safe whose keys could
not be found.

The coins and the artefacts were the personal collections of M P Birla, who had a hobby of collecting such articles, the
sources close to the Birla family said. Justice Sengupta directed that only two representatives each would accompany the officers while making the inventory.

He asked the officers to engage a video photographer for recording the inventory-making process. As keys to the safe was not available, the manufacturer would be contacted to make duplicate keys and in case they failed, then the safe would have to be broken open, the officers informed the court.

The Birlas and chartered accountant Lodha are fighting a bitter legal battle over the Rs 5000 crore (Rs 50 billion) assets of the M P Birla group.

The court had appointed the special officers to make the inventory of Priyamvada's personal belongings following an application by the Birlas.

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