July 30, 2017 4:07:26 am
With paintings “worth crores” going “missing” in the last decade, national carrier Air India — weeks after conducting an internal enquiry — has decided to initiate legal action and is planning to register an FIR with either the CBI or the Delhi Police, The Sunday Express has learnt. Air India spokesperson Dhananjay Kumar confirmed that they have conducted an enquiry and plan to initiate legal action, but refused to divulge further details. Sources said a three-member committee was formed on July 6 by Air India CMD Ashwani Lohani, who is one of the members. The committee was meant to conduct an internal enquiry regarding the theft of paintings from AI’s vast collection.
“After conducting an enquiry, a report of around 175 pages was prepared. The committee suspects some insiders allegedly stole the artwork over the last 10 years,” sources said. Action was initiated after an eminent artist wrote to Lohani and informed him that a missing painting was available in the black market. “Painter Jatin Das wrote a letter on June 24 to Lohani asking for photographs and details of the paintings in our collection that had been made by him,” Kumar said.
Subsequently, an unknown person “returned” a painting by Das, which had been part of AI’s collection, and the artwork was sent to the airline’s Delhi headquarters though a courier. Sources said that during the enquiry, the committee found that there were not enough checks and balances to keep track of paintings purchased by AI.
“After recording statements of over 100 employees, the committee found that most of the paintings went missing from the Air India building at Nariman Point, while some went missing during shifting of the Delhi headquarters,” sources said, adding that they are yet to ascertain exactly how many paintings have gone missing. Many of the paintings “are worth several lakhs each”.
Sources said days after the enquiry, one of the executive directors (ED) of Air India wrote to all heads of departments, asking them to check their warehouses to ensure paintings are, in fact, missing before lodging an FIR.
“In his letter, the ED asked them to first confirm if the paintings are missing and then inform their senior officer before August 1. They will not take any action if the artworks are returned,” sources said.
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