CARPENTER SARFRAZ appears to be a small fish caught by the Chandigarh Police while big sharks sitting in mega cities are yet to be nailed in the theft of 48 heritage chairs from Panjab University.
Sarfraz has been in the business of wooden carpentering for 10 years, near Sri Singh Sabha Gurdwara at Baltana. Earlier, his name had cropped up during the investigation into theft of heritage furniture and manhole covers.
Sarfraz has a wife and four children. One of the close relatives of Sarfraz, Mohammed Yaseen, said, “Although Sarfraz was arrested for the first time, we were aware of his involvement in the thefts of furniture for a long time. We advised him not to indulge in these activities but he did not pay any heed (to our advice). We distanced ourselves from him. Wooden carpentering is our family business. Almost all of our family members are in the furniture business. I own a small furniture manufacturing unit at Mor Thikri near Derabassi. There are big people, who are the real beneficiaries. Sarfraz is a small fish.”
A visit to the Sarfraz Carpenter Hand Graffi in Ward 14, Baltana, showed the first accused arrested in theft of 48 heritage chairs from PU has a registered GST number for his firm. He has employed two workers on Rs 1,000 daily wages.
His wife, Shaina Begum, said, “Two men, including one Vijay, had come to my husband last month. They had also brought so many chairs for repair. My husband stored the chairs inside the shop. I do not know from where the chairs came. Last Friday night, around eight people, some dressed in police uniform and others in plain clothes, came and took away my husband and chairs. Later, I was informed about the arrest of my husband. I met him in police custody in Sector 11 this morning. Some of my relatives also met him last night. I am not aware of any heritage furniture.”
Naeem, a worker at the manufacturing unit, said, “I am a distant relative of Sarfraz. I joined him six months back. I did not understand when I found chairs stored at the shop. It was contrary to his business of manufacturing wooden doors, windows etc. Sarfraz did not tell me anything but maintained that these came for repairing.” Sarfraz is a native of Shamli district in Uttar Pradesh. Dhiman, another carpenter near Sarfraz’s shop, said, “Sarfraz has been running his shop here for almost one decade. His appearance and living standards don’t suggest that he was earning high amount through his profession. We were informed about his involvement in a theft case by his workers.”
The crime branch arrested Sarfraz in connection with theft of 48 heritage chairs on Saturday. The chairs were stolen from the psychology department of PU between October 1 and 3. At least 20 chairs out of 48 were recovered from the accused’s possession.
A source in the crime branch said, “The call detail scrutiny of Sarfraz and his interrogation indicates that he was getting a little share from his handlers in Mumabi and Delhi. Vijay along with his other accomplices are being questioned.”
Sources said role of certain fourth class employees of PU is also under the scanner.
SP (crime) Manoj Kumar Meena said, “We have leads about the handlers of Sarfraz sitting in metro cities. Efforts are being made to identify and trace them. Sarfraz used to repair and also disassemble the furniture.” Sources said the possibility of transporting these items after disassembling to the foreign countries cannot be ruled out. Sarfraz is in police custody of crime branch. A case was registered at Sector 11 PS.
One heritage furniture item designed by French architect Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeannert fetches almost Rs 2 to Rs 21 lakh in international market, depending on the size, shape and design of the item. On October 14, 10 heritage items designed by architects Corbusier and Jeanneret were auctioned in the UK and sold for € 2,21,260 (Rs 2.11 crore) against the reserved price of Rs 1.50 crore.
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