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French woman arrested at Chennai airport over stolen antiques, idols and artefacts worth crores recovered

Marie along with her husband, Prabakaran procured the antiques from small-time thieves, who stole them from ancient temples in Tamil Nadu.

Tamil Nadu police’s Idol Wing busted a gang that had been illegally exporting stolen antiques, idols and artefacts worth crores for several years from Puducherry to France through the Colombo port. The police arrested Marie Therese Anandi Vanina for storing stolen antiques in her house. The Indian origin French lady was apprehended on her arrival at the Chennai airport on Wednesday.

The case pertains to 11 panchaloha bronze idols worth several crores discovered in a house in Colas Nagar, Puducherry.

As per reports, Marie along with her husband, Prabakaran procured the antiques from small-time thieves, who stole them from ancient temples in Tamil Nadu, special officer and former Inspector General of Police AG Ponn Manickavel said on Tuesday.

The Idol Wing conducted raids in her house based on Pushparajan’s confession. Pushparajan was a close aide of Deenadayalan, an illegal antique dealer in October 2016.

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The wife and husband duo was cited as the key accused in the stocking of antique idols. The police until now could neither arrest them nor proceed further in the case since the couple lived in France and chose not to return to India.

The woman and her husband left the key with their manager to show the idols to prospective buyers locally, confirmed Inspector General of Police Ponn Manickavel.

One of the prospective buyers tipped the police with a video following which the Idol wing conducted the raids and recovered the idols from their house.

Immediately after the recovery of idols, the Idol Wing issued a lookout circular against Marie. Her bail pleas were rejected by the High Court and the Supreme Court. “There was not much progress in the investigation since the key accused was holed up in France,” Manickavel said.

Meanwhile, Marie was produced before the Additional Chief Magistrate Court on Tuesday and remanded in judicial custody. She was lodged in the Tiruchi jail. The Idol Wing has sought police custody to know the location of other stolen antiques.

About 1200 ancient idols are believed to have been stolen from Tamil Nadu between 1992 and 2017 out of which 350 have been declared untraceable and only 18 had been retrieved until last year. Owing to the lax behaviour of the authorities the Tamil Nadu government had last year at the beginning of August informed the Madras High Court that it had decided to transfer all the idol theft cases to the CBI.

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