HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE
KATHMANDU: The Central Investigation Bureau of Nepal Police today rounded up five persons including the mastermind of an organised racket involved in the trade of ancient Buddha statues.
Acting on a tip-off, sleuths rounded up the gang members and seized a bronze Buddha idol of archaeological and historical significance from Jorpati-based Sindhupalchowk hotel.
The arrested are Dawa Lama (46), Uttam Kumar Rai (40), Dal Bahadur Rai (35) and Santosh Rai (25) of Solukhumbu and Krishna Khatri (52) of Kavre.
DSP Jagadish Pokharel said Dawa, who brought the idol to Kathmandu to find potential moneyed clients, was the brain behind the crime.
According to the Department of Archaeology, the 18 cm high Buddha idol weighing 3.9 kg was more than 100 years old and held historical and archaeological importance.
Meanwhile, Uttam is learnt to be a member of the UCPN-Maoist District Committee, Solukhumbu.
According to police, Dawa had arrived in Kathmandu last week and met four others whom he entrusted with the task of selling the antique.
Krishna, Uttam, Dal and Santosh had agreed to give Dawa Rs 300,000 for the Buddha idol in advance and additional four million rupees after the sale of the priceless antique.
“Primary investigation suggests that Krishna, Uttam, Dal and Santosh were also hatching a conspiracy to snatch the idol from Dawa’s possession and go into hiding,” DSP Pokharel said.
The arrested members of the gang have been sent to Metropolitan Police Range, Hanumandhoka to press charges under the Ancient Monument Preservation Act, 1956. It is punishable by law to trade in objects, which are more than 100 years old, such as sacred images, idols, paintings and manuscripts that have cultural and religious value.
They will be liable to jail sentence of up to five years and a fine of Rs 25,000 as per the law, if convicted.
According to CIB, five gangs dealing with ancient idols have been busted leading to the arrest of 30 persons in the Valley in the past two years.