AS MANY as five thefts of French architect Le Corbusier designed heritage furniture were reported in the last five years but not in a single case the Chandigarh Police could arrest the big sharks having Mumbai links. In two of the theft cases, including one reported just days before the then French President Francois Hollande’s visit to Government Museum and Art Gallery, Sector 10, in 2016 and another in 2018, Mumbai links of local thieves were established but the police failed to work on the leads.
In 2016, two dozen furniture items were stolen from the locked storeroom of Chandigarh College of Arts, Sector 10, which adjoins the museum building. Four persons, including two women, were arrested. All stolen furniture items were recovered. The arrested accused were Sweety, Shakila, residents of Sector 25, Sunil Kumar and one Faqir Chand. The interrogation of Sunil Kumar and Faqir Chand revealed that they were receiving calls from Mumbai about the furniture.
A police officer, who was part of the investigation in 2016, said, “The call details record of Faqir Chand and Sunil revealed two dozen phone numbers registered in Mumbai. The two had disclosed that a person called them — every time from a different number. The gang and their planning was so well-organised that as soon as the phone was disconnected, a person on behalf of the Mumbai man appeared at their shop within moments. They handed over the stolen items to the person, who did not disclose his name and number to them. The money was paid in cash.”
The Mumbai link again surfaced in the investigation of 2018 theft of 28 heritage furniture items from the office of Punjab finance and planning department in Sector 33. An AC mechanic, Harbhajan Singh, of Mullanpura and one peon of the department were arrested in connection with the theft of heritage items stored in the basement of the building. Then investigation had revealed that the two were paid Rs 60,000 for stealing the heritage furniture. Harbhajan Singh had talked about one scrap dealer with Mumbai links but the dealer was never traced.
In 2015, heritage furniture items were stolen from none other place than the Le Corbusier Centre in Sector 19. An FIR was registered but no headway was made. In October, 2016, five heritage furniture items were stolen from General Hostel in Sector 15. Later, four men — Naresh Kumar, Rajesh, Santosh and Anil — were arrested. Police investigation had suggested that the stolen items were supposed to be transported to Mumbai but further investigation did not make any progress.
The first FIR in connection with the recovery of Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret designed furniture from the two godowns of one Bhupinder Singh, a resident of Sector 18, was registered in 2012. The FIR was registered on the basis of an indepth probe conducted by the then SDM (east) Abhishek Dev. Hundreds of heritage items were recovered from two godowns at Kaimbwala and Nayagon. A SIT was constituted to ascertain as to how the items designed by Corbusier and Jeanneret could be sold at international auction houses such as Artcurial auction house in Paris. The SIT failed to make any concrete conclusions.
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