Days after the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) arrested an American businessman of Indian-origin for alleged smuggling of antiques and artifacts, further searches have led to recovery of antique wooden sculptures and carvings. Fresh searches conducted at the godown on second floor in central Byculla yesterday revealed that it was camouflaged as an abandoned mezzanine floor in the industrial estate. Accused Vijay Nanda was arrested on February 6 after DRI conducted searches at his house in Girgaum and a godown on the first floor in which figurines, including that of terracotta from 1st century AD, bronze figurines of Mahishasur Mardini and Ganesh dating back to 17th and 18th century were recovered.
“During the search operation on February 11 at second floor godown, officers recovered antique wooden sculptures and carvings. There were 12 ornately carved wooden columns with floral plasters, 12 wooden archways with carvings of birds and flowers on them and 12 wooden pedestals. The said articles are antiquities protected under the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act, 1972,” a DRI official said today.
His business associate Udit Jain was also arrested by DRI in Chennai for smuggling of antiques.
“The wooden sculptures belong to the Shahjahani style of architecture, which is a part of the late Mughal style of architecture of the 17th and 18th century. Similarly styled columns are also found in the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture of the 19th Century,” the official said.
The recovered columns appear to be the part of a grand haveli in Gujarat or Rajasthan.
“Actual identification will be possible only with matching of photographs from local historians/sources. All these sculptures had been packed properly and were in a ready to ship condition,” the official said.
The wooden antiquities have been seized under provisions of the Customs Act.
The official also said assistance of experts from Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is being sought for formal certification of the antiques recovered, he said.