Police on Tuesday arrested two people on charges of stealing a golden tiffin box of the VIIth Nizam — made of pure gold and weighing 1,950 gm — a gold cup and saucer set and a gold spoon from the Nizam Museum in Hyderabad. The market value of the items is around Rs 1 crore, but their antique value would be about Rs 40 crore.
But selling off the items was not the first priority of accused Mohammed Ghouse Pasha, 23, and Mohammed Mubeen, 24, said S Chaitanya Kumar, Addl DCP, Commissioner’s Task Force, Hyderabad City. While they hid in a hotel in Mumbai, the duo, who are cousins and childhood friends, wanted to get a taste of how the Nizams dined in luxury, the Addl DCP said.
Ghouse told the police after his arrest Tuesday that first they wanted to get a feel of the luxury in which Nizams lived and that he and Mubeen relished eating from the tiffin box. “Ghouse and Mubeen are ‘shaukeens’. They grew up in Rajendra Nagar and dreamed of making it big in life someday. Mubeen became fascinated by the tiffin box after visiting the museum months ago. He said he wanted to feel like the Nizams who ate from golden plates. In the seven days since they stole the items, Ghouse and Mubeen bought food from outside and ate from the golden tiffin box with the golden spoon. They drank water from the golden tea cup,’’ said an inspector of the Task Force who questioned the duo.
According to the police, Ghouse planned the heist meticulously but did not plan how to dispose the valuables. As they hid in the hotel, they made calls to jewellers but did not receive any response. Mubeen, who was deported from Saudi Arabia for beating up a Pakistani, made calls to his friends there to find customers, but failed. Running out of money, they decided to return to Hyderabad on September 10 where they were nabbed.
According to the police, in the early hours of September 3, Ghouse, a mason, and Mubeen, a welder, broke into the Nizam Museum. Police said Mubeen had visited the museum and was fascinated by the golden items and discussed with Ghouse the possibility of stealing some of them. Ghouse visited the museum and observed the location of the golden tiffin box in a long corridor, said police. To avoid confusion, he identified a dried up tree opposite to the spot where the tiffin box was kept, said police.
After three days, the two came for a recce and took note of the CCTV cameras. They marked the ventilator through which they planned to enter the museum. In the early hours of September 3, they tried to enter the museum through that ventilator but failed. They then broke in through another place known as Mata-ki-khidki but were captured on CCTV cameras. The museum showcases over 1000 gifts that the last Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan, received. “Mubeen picked up three items and was about pick up a quran with a golden cover when a nearby mosque gave te call for morning prayers. They got spooked and escaped through the route they entered,’’
Police Commissioner Anjani Kumar said.
Police said Ghouse is a Class VII dropout and has about 15 cases of theft against him. He was last arrested in August 2017 in connection with a burglary and released on bail in July, 2018. Mubeen is a Class II dropout. In 2015, he went to Saudi Arabia to work as a welder. He beat up a Pakistani co-worker there, was imprisoned for 2 months and deported to India in April.
A police officer said the two took several steps to avoid being identified. “They used gloves to avoid fingerprints and masks to avoid identification. In one CCTV footage, one of them appeared to be talking on the mobile phone and we felt we would easily crack the case based on mobile phone data. But it turned out that to mislead us, Mubeen, who was riding pillion, faked talking on a phone which had no SIM card.”
According to police, after the robbery, the duo avoided main roads. They reached Muthangi located on the Mumbai highway to give an impression that they were going towards Mumbai. They then took the service road along Outer Ring Road and came back to Hyderabad. They dug a pit near their homes and kept the stolen items in it. Later, they took the same route to go to Mumbai, but their bike broke down near Zaheerabad and they abandoned it and boarded a bus to Mumbai Central, said police.
Police said pictures of the bike had been captured on CCTV cameras at the museum. The bike had earlier been captured on CCTV near Charminar a few days ago and police tracked the duo after the bike was identified.
“We got a tip-off that after their return from Mumbai, they were hiding near a hillock near Himayath Sagar. We arrested them and recovered the stolen items,’’ the police officer said.