The Tamil Nadu Idol Wing CID (Crime Investigation Department) recovered nine stolen idols from a house in Broadway in Chennai on Tuesday, August 2. The idols are believed to be nearly 300 years old and the police seized them after the family could not provide valid documentation for them. The search for the house in Peradiyar street on Broadway was conducted based on a tip-off.
The house belonged to Pamela Emanuel, wife of the late Manuel R Pineiro, who was reportedly an idol smuggler. A press release by the Idol Wing stated that after the death of Manuel Pinerio, some of the idols he had stolen could not be smuggled abroad and were hidden away in Pamela’s house. During the search, the first idol to be recovered was one of Dakshina Moorthy. Eventually, eight other statues were recovered including idols of four male deities, three female deities and two sculptures on plinths of stone. Some of these statues have an extension at the bottom, which indicates that the idols may have been broken off from temple pillars.
Manuel’s family did not have proper documentation for these ancient statues, police said. They added that the family did not have a valid explanation for why these sculptures were at Pamela’s house, or how they were able to procure them. Experts who examined the statues said that some of them were nearly three centuries old and that seven of them were antiques. They also estimated the statues to be worth crores of rupees in international markets. However, only after all the people involved in the smuggling of these statues are caught, can the origin of these statues be traced and their appropriate value can be estimated. The Idol Wing is trying to identify which temples these stolen sculptures belong to, the press release stated.