Stolen antique sculptures to be returned to India after 40 years missing

16 September 2020, 16:30

The antique sculptures were discovered after a UK-based dealer had put one up for sale
The antique sculptures were discovered after a UK-based dealer had put one up for sale. Picture: Metropolitan Police
Rachael Kennedy

By Rachael Kennedy

Three antique sculptures that have been missing for 40 years have been found and are set to be returned to their home in India.

The bronze idols are three of four in total that were stolen from a temple in the Tanjavur District of India in 1978.

Despite the thieves being identified and convicted in India at the time, the whereabouts of the sculptures went unknown for four decades.

It wasn't until the Indian High Commission alerted the Metropolitan Police in 2019 to a UK-based dealer putting one of the sculptures up for sale that three-quarters of the collection was found.

Officers with a specialist unit made contact with the arts dealer and found he had purchased three of the sculptures in good faith, and hadn't committed any crimes.

He then voluntarily disclaimed the bronzes to be returned to their rightful home.

Detective Chief Inspector Tim Wright, of Central Specialist Crime, said the antiques had both historical and religious importance, so it was "particularly gratifying" that they would be returned.

He added: "These three bronzes haven’t been seized by the police, but have been voluntarily disclaimed by the UK owner.

"Once he was aware that they had been stolen, he immediately recognised that they should return to India.”

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