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Antiques stolen from Nizam's Museum recovered, 2 held

Antiques stolen from Nizams Museum recovered, 2 held

Hyderabad: A gold tiffin box and other antiques stolen from Nizam's Museum here were recovered on Tuesday by Hyderabad police and two persons were arrested, Police Commissioner Anjani Kumar said on Tuesday.

The men were arrested after they returned from Mumbai where they failed to find buyers for the antiques, he told a news conference here.

Ghouse Pasha and Mohammed Mubeen, both residents of Hyderabad, committed the sensational robbery in Bollywood style and with much planning.

The recovered items included a three-tier gold tiffin box studded with precious diamonds and rubies and weighing about 1,950 gm, a gold cup and saucer with precious stones (172 gm) and a gold tea spoon (14 gm), all from the personal belongings of Nizam, the ruler of the erstwhile Hyderabad State.

While it is not known if the last Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan, the richest man of his times, ate food the tiffin box, the thieves were eating in it for last two or three days, the police chief said.

The accused broke into the museum at Purani Haveli in the old city of Hyderabad on September 3 night by removing ventilator grills and sliding into the building through a rope.

Besides these antiques, the accused also wanted to take away a rare copy of Holy Quran with gold cover.

"Call it divine intervention or whatever, the offenders got scared when they heard Azan (call from prayers) from a nearby mosque for pre-dawn prayers and kept the Quran back in the shelf," Anjani Kumar said.

The police had formed 22 teams focussing on technical and human intelligence to crack the sensational case as the offenders had hardly left any clues behind. The criminals used gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints and wore masks to avoid identification.

The offenders also turned the direction of one CCTV camera installed in the hall from where they escaped with the priceless antiques. After committing the theft, they were captured on a CCTV camera moving on a motorbike with one of them speaking on mobile phone.

The police scanned data from dozens of cell towers but did not get a clue. The investigations later revealed that their mobile phone had no SIM in it and they merely used it as a torch while committing the crime.

The arrow mark found on the roof and normally put by a mason worker was the only clue. The thieves put the mark a few days before committing the crime to identify the ventilator and part of the museum hall where the antiques were kept.

According to police, Ghouse was involved in 20-25 house robberies in Hyderabad. Mubeen had earlier worked in Gulf and he allegedly came into contact with some international criminals while spending a jail term and wanted to use the same contacts to dispose of the valuables but did not succeed.

He had visited the museum 40-45 days ago as a tourist to plan the heist.

They had taken only the spoon to Mumbai to show it as a sample to strike the deal but hid the other antiques at a place on Hyderabad's outskirts.

The value in the international market for the antiques is estimated to be Rs 80-120 crore.

The police chief said that since the items stolen were a symbol of Hyderabad's heritage and history, they took the case as a challenge and recovered all the stolen antiques.

The museum has a fascinating collection of gifts that the last Nizam received on his silver jubilee celebrations in 1937. Over 1,000 objects are housed in the museum, with only over 400 open for public display.

The Nizam Trust, run by the Nizam's family, opened the museum in 2000. It is one of the major tourist attractions in the city.

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