8th century stolen Buddha idol recovered, five nabbed in Varanasi

By Girish Kumar Dubey, ANI, Oct 12, 2006

Varanasi, India -- Uttar Pradesh Police have arrested five people in possession of a stolen ancient Buddha idol while allegedly planning to smuggle it out of the country, said Police officials here.

The Buddha idol, believed to be of 8th century, has an estimated value of nearly 75,000 dollars (over rupees 34,00,000) in the international market. It was recovered from the accused on Tuesday in Varanasi.

Made of 'Ashtadhatu' or eight metals, the idol is one foot in height and weighs 26 kilograms.

Acting upon a tip off about the smugglers, the police laid a trap and sent a team as decoy customers.

"(We received information) that a gang engaged in stealing of antiques was in Nagwan area. The gangsters were in a park and going to sell the idol off. Some policemen posed as businessmen met them. Once the team confirmed that the idol was rare and a stolen piece, the gangsters were apprehended immediately," said Manoj Pant, a police official.

One of the five arrested individuals revealed about their modus operandi, but claimed ignorance about the actual worth of the idol.

"Our accomplice Pervez and the rest of us, went to Bihar and stole antiques from a Museum. One, we sold of for 1,50,000 rupees (3,287 dollars), of which each of us took 25,000 rupees (548 dollars) each. This is the second statue, which we were about to sell for 500,000 rupees (10,957 dollars), when we were caught in Nagwan. We do not know the market value of the idol," said Awadhesh Patel, one of the five arrested.

Unauthorized dealing in antiques is banned under the Antiquity and Art Treasure Act (AATA). Under the Act, no object more than 100 years old, can be taken out of the country.