TN in controversy as Germany frowns on delay in idol smuggler’s trial

Sources here said the delay in the trial was because of the tactics he employed, including the request to reexamine a large number of witnesses, and added that the prosecution has no control over the process.
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CHENNAI: The delay in the trial in which international idol smuggler Subhash Chandra Kapoor is a key accused has blown into a diplomatic headache for India after Germany, from where he was arrested and extradited more than a decade ago, expressing concern about India’s ability to keep its assurance on extradition cases.

After Germany reportedly not only denied other extradition requests but also wanted to link the signing of the bilateral Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) to the headway in the case, the matter was taken up at the highest level involving External Affairs Ministry and the National Security Advisor.

Sources in the national capital told DT Next that Foreign Secretary Vinya Kwatra wrote to Chief Secretary V Irai Anbu in the first week of September that the delay in trial was a major concern to the Union government, as it had generated a cascading effect on other extradition requests.

The case dates back to 2011 when the Idol Wing police linked Kapoor to the theft of 18 idols from Sri Varadaraja Perumal temple, a famous and ancient Vaishavite shrine in Suthamalli village in Ariyalur. Based on a red corner notice issued by Interpol following the information given by CBI, Subhash Kapoor, then a multi-millionaire US citizen, was detained at Cologne airport. The External Affairs Ministry then sent an extradition request and Kapoor was handed over to India in 2012.

However, the case has not reached the logical end even after 10 years, which has prompted the German authorities to stall other extradition requests from India and also wanted to link the signing of the bilateral Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty to the case, sources in Delhi told DT Next.

Sources here said the delay in the trial was because of the tactics he employed, including the request to reexamine a large number of witnesses, and added that the prosecution has no control over the process.

When contacted, officials at the Idol Wing said the trial was expected to end soon as it is in the final stages. The last hearing of the trial would be held soon and the final verdict was expected by the end of the month, an official said.

“The US Homeland Security Investigation and Manhattan district attorney’s office are keen on taking Kapoor to their custody. So Kapoor certainly wanted to delay that somehow, and seems to prefer staying in jail in Tamil Nadu to being taken to the United States. US officials reportedly kept a tab on his activities for nearly two decades and looked through his old shipping details, which made them believe that Kapoor was heading an international smuggling racket,” an Idol Wing official said.

Using his ‘Art of the Past’ gallery in Manhattan, New York, as a cover, Kapoor was allegedly dealing in antique idols stolen and smuggled from temples of South India, including Tamil Nadu, and also from other South Asia countries.

Though there was only the case of idol theft from Sri Varadaraja Perumal temple in Ariyalur when Kapoor was extradited, further investigations have revealed his involvement in dozens of similar cases, officials said.

He is alleged to have been running a vast network of smugglers across south India from whom he procured stolen temple idols that were smuggled out of the country and sold for a huge amount to collectors and even galleries and museums in the West. Even now, the Idol Wing sleuths are busy tracing many antique idols that he smuggled and sold abroad.

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