‘Murti’ Deals Are Murky Deals: 1,000 Ancient Idols Smuggled Out Of India Every Year, Says Insider Who Bust Scam
‘Murti’ Deals Are Murky Deals: 1,000 Ancient Idols Smuggled Out Of India Every Year, Says Insider Who Bust ScamStolen Hindu antiquities now recovered (@narendramodiindiafirst/Facebook)

Singapore-based Indian-origin shipping executive, S Vijay Kumar, has said that roughly 1,000 pieces of Hindu artwork are smuggled out of India to international markets every year.

Kumar has been tracking the theft of venerable gods and goddess for 15 years and detailed it in his recently launched book The Idol Thief.

Kumar explains, "We have tracked some of the huge objects, 15-16 tonne sculptures that have left the country by Ocean containers declared as brassware and garden furniture. Sadly, for a long time, it has not been cared for," he said, pointing out that many Indians don’t realise the extent of the loot, some of which are also replicated.

He explains that the industry scale loot means that auction houses send their top executives to acquire art pieces. The criminal process starts with selecting the art piece first , reports New Indian Express.

To evade tracking, routes of container shipments of huge sculptures are changed to international destinations like New York and London, while smaller pieces are couriered.

Kumar says the US, followed by UK and Australia are the biggest markets. He says it’s hard to track pieces in the EU, where it's borderless.

Kumar, who heads a 11-member team of volunteers, supported by 200 others across the globe, have been instrumental in arresting many a smuggler.

Kumar opens the book with a story on Subhas Kapoor, an infamously prolific jailed smuggler, from whom the American authorities have recovered USD 100 million worth of art.

Kumar laments the lack of laws in India, pointing out that almost all stolen Indian artworks in the international market are without documents and archiving. He compares India to Italy, which has stringent laws and recovered 378,000 pieces 2012 while India has rescued 27 pieces since 2012. Egypt too is being tough by putting pressure on the buyer to prove it’s a legal acquisition.

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