Balaji idol stolen from Karnataka seized in TN

11:47 AM Nov 09, 2022 | PTI |

An impressive idol of Lord Balaji, reportedly stolen from a temple in Mandya in Karnataka, was seized from a house in Tamil Nadu’s Gobichettipalayam, state Idol Wing CID said on Wednesday.


A search by the Idol Wing sleuths led by Inspector Elango under the supervision of Additional DSP Central Zone Balamurugan, who posed as antique idol smugglers, led to the recovery of the Balaji idol, the Idol Wing police said.

Initial enquiries by the Idol Wing revealed that the Balaji idol was stolen a few years ago from a temple in Mandya by the temple pujari and sold to an advocate from Gobichettipalayam.

As part of an effort to recover stolen antique idols, the Idol Wing unit masqueraded two sub inspectors “as wealthy idol smugglers.” Both began scouting for stolen idols and on November 4, the two SIs viz. Pandiarajan and Rajesh were approached by a broker at Avinashi road in a coffee shop.

During a conversation with the undercover police, the broker revealed that he obtained a 600-year-old antique Balaji idol from an old friend. He could arrange to sell it to them for Rs 33 crore. “When the Idol Wing officers showed interest in buying the idol, he promised to show them the antique idol the next day,” Idol Wing DGP K Jayanth Murali said. As promised, the broker led them to the house of an advocate, residing at VIP Muthu Nagar, Nagarpalayam, Gobichettipalayam, and showed them the Idol. The SIs requested the broker to allow them to test the idol before buying it to ascertain its antiquity.


“They visited the seller’s residence the following day, on November 6, and carried out some make-believe tests. They informed the seller that the Balaji idol was worth only 15 crores in their estimate,” the DGP said in the release.

After intense bargaining, the advocate agreed to sell the idol for Rs 15 crore, and the SIs promised to come back the next day with the amount to procure the idol.

The Idol Wing worked out a plan to conduct a search and accordingly the two SIs appeared at the advocate’s house carrying a briefcase. When the advocate brought the Balaji idol, Inspector Elango and his team “swooped on him and seized the idol.” The advocate, realising that the police had surrounded him, offered no resistance and meekly allowed the Idol Wing police to take custody of the idol.

During interrogation, the advocate admitted that he was working as a junior advocate. His senior knew a pujari at a temple in Mandya. The priest was in a bad financial condition and requested that money be arranged for him and in return he promised to arrange an antique idol worth several crores of rupees in the international market from the temple where he was then working.

The details of the temple and identity of the priest are not known as the senior advocate died in 2018. Prior to his death, in 2017, when he was bringing the idol to Tamil Nadu, his car was stopped by the Karnataka police on suspicion and found the idol of Balaji in his car.

As he did not have papers nor offered a proper explanation for possessing an antique idol which appeared to belong to some temple, the Karnataka police confiscated the idol and registered a case of theft against the advocate.

The Karnataka police completed the investigation and filed a chargesheet. While the case was in progress, the advocate visited Kumbakonam and forged a fake bill and produced it in the court and was acquitted. After obtaining the Balaji idol from the court he took it to Gobichettipalayam, where he decided to sell the idol for Rs 50 crore.

As few prospective customers backed away due to the prohibitive cost of the idol, the late advocate then sought help from his junior to sell the idol. He however took ill suddenly and died in 2018.

In 2021, the junior advocate reduced the idol’s price to Rs 33 crore on the advice of one of the brokers, the release explained.

In November, SIs: Rajesh and Pandiarajan disguised themselves as “wealthy idol smugglers” to seize the idol. When they met one of the brokers on November 4, the broker showed them the idol of Balaji, which the special party of the Idol Wing eventually seized and registered a case. The seized idol, weighing 22.8 Kg, 58 cm in height and 31 in width, was produced in the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate court, Kumbakonam.

DGP C Sylendra Babu appreciated the Idol Wing team for their excellent work.


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