The Hyderabad police on Tuesday cracked the Nizam Museum theft case with the arrest of two history-sheeters and recovered from them the priceless stolen antiques including a gold tiffin box inlaid with diamonds.
Acting on a tip-off, police arrested Mohammed Ghouse Pasha, 23, and his relative Mohammed Mubeen, 24, from Himayathsagar area of the city and recovered the stolen artefacts, Hyderabad Police Commissioner Anjani Kumar told reporters.
These included a three-tier gold tiffin box studded with precious diamonds and rubies weighing about 1950 gm, a gold cup and saucer with precious stones, and a gold tea spoon belonging to the 7th Nizam Nawab Mir Osman Ali Khan Bahadur. The burglars had hidden these exhibits inside a pit near Rajendra Nagar, the officer said.
Fifteen police teams were hunting for the thieves after the September 2 incident.
Kumar said Pasha is involved in 15 cases of theft and burglary, while Mubeen, a school drop-out, was deported from Saudi Arabia, where he was imprisoned for assaulting a Pakistani national, about four months back. Mubeen had gone to Saudi Arabia in search of livelihood.
After his return to Hyderabad, Mubeen visited Nizam's Museum and was impressed with its rich collection of precious artefacts. He discussed with Pasha how to steal some of those as such antique pieces could fetch them several crores of rupees in international market, the commissioner said.
The duo conducted a recce of the premises and knew well the location of the CCTV cameras.
They reached the museum on September 2. Pasha tied one end of a rope to the parapet wall and the other to Mubeen's waist, and lowered him into the third gallery through the ventilator.
"Mubeen, who entered the museum, damaged the camera inside and took out the gold tiffin box, gold cup and saucer, and the gold spoon from the showcase and put them into a bag. Pasha then pulled him out using the rope," the officer said.
The duo used handgloves to ensure they did not leave behind fingerprints and wore masks to avoid identification. They also did not carry mobile phones during the operation, he said.
Their images coming out of the building and riding a motorcycle were, however, captured on CCTV cameras installed outside.
The two avoided taking the main roads and instead used bylanes to reach neighbouring Sangareddy district.
Fearing they could be caught, the two returned to Hyderabad and hid the articles in a pit.
They then went to Zaheerabad in Sangareddy district on their motorcycle, and after it broke down, took a bus to reach Mumbai, where they began scouting for possible buyers. Mubeen also approached his contacts abroad but without success, Kumar said.
The duo then returned to Hyderabad, where the police was tipped off about them.
The museum showcases the collection of Nizam Osman Ali Khan, the 7th and the last Nizam, and also his father's wardrobes.
The galleries at the museum stock silver and gold artefacts and replicas of landmark constructions.
Nawab Najaf Ali Khan, the grandson of the 7th Nizam and president of the Nizam Family Welfare Association, had written a letter to the Hyderabad police commissioner last week requesting him to accord "utmost priority" to recovering the missing artefacts.
He had also questioned the security arrangements at the museum.
"There is a big question mark on the management running this museum as their negligence and poor security arrangements gave easy access to the thieves," he wrote.
The museum has various precious items associated with the 7th Nizam including souvenirs, gifts presented by other rulers and dignitaries, and many more priceless objects.
Many of the exhibits are from his personal gold and silver collection that are carved intricately and are studded with diamonds and rubies.
The museum also features the massive wardrobe of the 6th Nizam, a 150-year-old manually operated lift, and 200-year-old proclamation drums, Khan wrote in the letter.
The museum at the Purani Haveli, an 18th century structure constructed by Mir Mahbub Ali Khan, the 6th Nizam, was opened to public in February 2000. There are over 1,000 artefacts in the museum, of which nearly 400 are exhibited. Many of these are gifts received by the last Nizam at the silver jubilee celebrations of his rule in 1937.