Huge cache of artefacts seized

Kathmandu, May 6

The Central Investigation Bureau has arrested three persons for their alleged involvement in collecting and selling to foreigners a wide range of metal idols of archaeological significance.

DIG Pushkar Karki, CIB Director, said plainclothes cops raided Durbar Marg-based Curio Art and arrested its proprietor Deepak Ratna Shakya, 56, of Lalitpur in the act of selling an idol for Rs 13.5 million, convincing the customer that it dated back to the 12th or 13th century.

CIB has confiscated 13 idols of gods and goddess, and Budhha from his store. Plainclothes cops also raided Curio Concern and Devas Art located in Durbar Marg and arrested Suagat Ratna Shakya, 29, and Sishir Shakya, 31, with suspicious artefacts. Altogether, 24 idols, 101 coins with round hole on them and other metals were seized from the three stores.

DIG Karki said they had been operating this business for three generations. “They made antiques look like new and new objects look like antiques to sell them for millions of rupees. As per the existing laws, one should obtain prior approval from the Department of Archaeology to sell idols to foreigners, but they had never abided by the legal provisions,” he said.

It has also been revealed they supplied idols and other artefacts abroad through air cargo service. “They also sold artefacts and objects of archaeological importance to the USA-based Rubins Museum. We are searching for the racketeers, both Nepalis and foreigners, involved in buying archaeological objects from Nepal and selling them to museums and individuals in foreign countries,” DIG Karki informed.

He said the confiscated items would be referred to the DoA for verification of their archaeological significance and to establish if they were lifted from temples and shrines. The suspects have been charged under the Ancient Monument Preservation Act, 1956.

If a person or an institution has any archaeological object older than 100 years, the owner of such collections should register such an object with the Department of Archaeology. In case the person does not get archaeological objects registered, the DoA may seize the archaeological objects without payment.

Any person, who violates the provisions, shall be punished with a fine of up to Rs 25,000 or five years’ imprisonment or both by confiscating the objects as per the Act.