It was like a scene from a film. The idol wing sleuths in Tamil Nadu posed as prospective buyers and seized an antique stately idol of a lady from the royal Sethupathy clan, which the smugglers attempted to sell for Rs 2.30 crore.
Four persons were arrested for attempting to sell the stolen idol and remanded before the additional chief judicial magistrate of Kumbakonam, the idol wing police said on Friday.
Experts who examined the seized idol, said to be worth several crores of rupees in the international market, confirmed it to be an antique idol of a royal lady of the Sethupathy clan, who ruled over areas in Sivagangai district 400 years ago.
"An expert archaeologist has also pointed out that it is a very rare and exciting idol which portrays the royal garments and the accessories worn by royal ladies of that era which will be extremely useful to the students and researchers of Tamil history," a release from the Idol Wing police said.
Director general of police C Sylendra Babu lauded the Idol Wing CID Special team for their efforts and announced a handsome reward to the team for the excellent work.
Following information that an attempt was being made by one P Arumugaraj of Padukkapathu, Sathankulam taluk in Thoothukudi district and M Kumaravel of Idaichivilai, Sathankulam taluk, to sell an antique idol, DGP, Idol Wing, K Jayanth Murali, along with inspector general of police, idol wing, Dinakaran and superintendent of police Ravi, hit upon an idea to disguise some of the staff as rich buyers and approach the sellers.
Following this, a special team under ADSP Malaisamy, Madurai range, and comprising Inspector Kavitha, Sub-Inspectors Karthikeyan, Pandiarajan and Rajesh, special sub-inspectors Selvaraj and Chandanakumar, and head constable Paramasivan, hoodwinked the sellers into believing that the idol wing staff were wealthy idol collectors.
"The idol sellers were initially wary of the idol wing staff and it took more than a week for the staff to win their confidence," DGP Murali said.
Thereafter, the sellers agreed to show the idol to them.
They claimed the idol was with one K Musthafa of Mutheru in Tiruchirappalli district and demanded proof of cash after it was negotiated to buy the idol for Rs 2.30 crore, he said.
After the proof was shown, they agreed to show the idol. Musthafa and the two brokers agreed to bring the idol to a pre-determined spot on the Old Trichy Road junction (Kalapatti Road junction).
When Musthafa brought the idol wrapped in a black bag, the idol wing sleuths seized the idol and arrested the three persons.
Upon interrogation, it was revealed that they had obtained the idol from one N Selvakumar of Kilamadam, Tirupattur taluk in Sivagangai district.
Thereafter, the team rushed to Kilamadam and arrested him.
After being questioned by police, Selvakumar said the idol was in his possession for the last 12 years and it was left behind by his father, Nagarajan, an astrologer, who died five years ago.
The latter received the idol from a coconut merchant of Sivagangai.
Selvakumar had met Musthafa and the brokers a few weeks ago and decided that the one-foot tall idol would be worth several crores of rupees as it was an antique piece. He had asked Musthafa and others to sell the idol for Rs 2.30 crore, the DGP said.
Investigation is underway to find the temple from where the idol was stolen and the persons who stole it.