British detectives help return missing idols to Indian temple

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Three bronze sculptures stolen from a temple in India more than 40 years ago are being returned after an intervention by specialist detectives in the UK.

According to the Metropolitan Police, the idols were taken from the temple in the Tanjavur district of Tamil Nadu in 1978.

The thieves were caught and convicted in India, but the three bronzes were not recovered and remained missing for the next four decades.

In 2019, the Indian High Commission alerted officers in the Met’s Art and Antiques Unit that one of the sculptures was being offered for sale by a UK-based dealer.

Scotland Yard said the specialist unit contacted the dealer and provided evidence the idol was a match for one of the stolen set.

Officers established the dealer had bought it in good faith and had not committed any criminal offence.

Police said he “voluntarily disclaimed” the sculpture so it could be sent back to India.

He also identified the other two missing idols and volunteered to return these as well.

Detective Chief Inspector Tim Wright, from the Met’s Central Specialist Crime, said: “The Met’s Art and Antiques Unit are proud to have been involved in the return of these idols to India.

“Not only are they beautiful and historically significant, they are of course of religious importance, so it’s particularly gratifying that they are to be returned to the temple from which they were taken.

“These three bronzes haven’t been seized by the police, but have been voluntarily disclaimed by the UK owner.

“Once he was aware that they had been stolen, he immediately recognised that they should return to India.”

Source: PA

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