Officials of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) have busted a smuggling racket which has been traced to Indian-origin United States individual Vijay Nanda.

Several antiques and artefacts were recovered from Nanda who is allegedly the mastermind of the international art smuggling syndicate which has connections spread through US, Europe and Hong Kong.

The DRI had received several information about the racket following which they raided Nanda’s residence and godown at Girgaum Chowpatty on Tuesday. Nanda’s godown in Byculla was also searched by the team. The DRI found out that Nanda was not registered with the Archaeological Survey of India as an antique dealer.

“These statues appear to be relics stolen or vandalised from various temples in Eastern and Southern India, and belong to the 10th or 11th century AD. There has been an attempt made to legitimise the same through registrations of ASI, and the creation of fake documents of procurement. Several other antiques recovered from Nanda’s home have been detained for verification as it is highly likely that these were stolen from museums or vandalised from temples. It appeared that Nanda had arrived in India a few days earlier to make arrangements to smuggle the statues stored in the crates,” an official said.

“Sculptures are stolen from temples in South and Eastern India. These sculptures are then legitimised by way of forging ASI certificates or obtaining certificates by misrepresentation and false documentation. These are then smuggled out of India, concealed inside furniture, handicrafts, ready-made garment consignments. Nanda further arranges for auctions and subsequent sale in the United States and Hong Kong to private collections and museums,” DNA quoted an official as saying.

Terracotta figures and ancient coins were recovered from Nanda’s godowns.