Idol thief moved around Tamil Nadu, Kerala for 22 years

Representative image

Idol thief moved around Tamil Nadu, Kerala for 22 years

 Mar 11, 2018
Idol smuggler Sanjeevi Ashokan, 55, who was arrested by the idol wing police on Thursday in connection with the theft of two idols from Moonreeswarar temple in Andhalanallur in Tirunelveli district, had been moving around Tamil Nadu and Kerala ever since he had been declared untraceable in 1995.
A native of Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, and on the run for the last two years after failing to appear in court in connection with the theft of idols from a temple in Ariyalur, he was apprehended in rural Kumbakonam on a tip-off received by the idol wing police.

The arrest was over his involvement in the theft of two stone idols of Dhwara Balagar in 1994. The Veeravanallur police in Tirunelveli had registered a case and closed the case as untraceable in 1995.

Ashokan and his family members were running art galleries in Puducherry, Mannadi, and Neelankarai. The role of Ashokan was vital right from stealing the idols from temples to smuggling them to Australia.

The first breakthrough in the 23-year-old case came with the arrests of R Nachu alias Lakshmi Narasimhan, 53, from Mahabalipuram, his accomplices R Oomaithurai, 68, from Mylapore and his brother R Annathurai, 59, on November 5, 2017, which was followed by the arrest of Vallaba Prakash, 89, and his son Aditya Prakash, 48, from Mumbai the next day. Running an Indo-Nepal Art Centre in Mumbai since 1959, Vallaba and Adithya were tasked with ascertaining the antique value and artwork of the idols. Based on their directions, the three had executed the plan.

Jailed idol smuggler P Subhash Chandra Kapoor was also one of the accused in the case. He was the mastermind behind smuggling the idols to Australia and selling them to the national art gallery in Canberra in Australia for Rs 4.98 crore.  Sanjeevi Ashokan was the seventh accused arrested in the case.

Sources said that the wing remained in constant touch with the Australia government to bring back the idols from the gallery. It is expected that a team of officers from the idol wing in Tamil Nadu will soon visit the gallery

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