The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Treasure hunt draws a blank

March 27: Police today began a major crackdown in large parts of the state to recover the memorabilia, including the Nobel medal, stolen from the Rabindranath Memorial Museum in Santiniketan earlier this week.

In raids on hideouts and safe houses, as well as homes of suspect antique dealers, the police arrested five persons, detained several others and recovered stolen antiques. But the operation did not yield any of the items stolen from Santiniketan.

“We have conducted raids on many hideouts in different parts of the state. Though a number of people have been arrested and goods recovered, they have no relation to what was stolen from the Rabindranath museum,” said additional director-general of police, Criminal Investigation Department, R.K. Mohanty.

The CID has been entrusted with the probe.

Shortly after midnight, a CID team, accompanied by additional forces from Lalbazar, swooped down on businessman and antique dealer Chandan Das’ house in Baranagar’s Baruipur Lane. A search revealed stolen goods, including antique crystal and brassware, but they were traced to a burglary in Krishnagar, Nadia.

Das was arrested. But the disappointment came through when IG, law and order, Chayan Mukherjee said: “Unfortunately, there is no link between the goods recovered from Das’ residence and the material stolen from Santiniketan.”

The story was repeated across the state. With informers providing “tip-offs” on the location of stolen goods, the police raced about in search of the Tagore treasures. From South 24-Parganas to Burdwan and from Birbhum to North 24-Parganas, the police made arrests and recovered stolen relics. But they could not find what they were really looking for.

In Santiniketan, senior CID officials conferred on the nature of the gang behind the heist. By the end of the day, the consensus was that it was a local gang with little interest in antiques.

“How else can you explain the fact that the gold medal was stolen but the citation wasn’t which could also fetch a lot of money from a private collector,” an official said.

Despite returning empty-handed from the raids, the police remain hopeful. “We have some vital leads and we should have a breakthrough soon,” said IG, intelligence branch, Sandhi Mukherjee.

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