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Five statues seized

Antique Smuggling Gelephu police, who have detained a 27-year old man for the last two months, are looking for a 26-year old man from Yangneer, Trashigang, for their alleged involvement in attempting to illegally transact antiques.

Police apprehended the 27-year-old from Bartsam on November 27 last year, after a tip off from an informer.

The man, on his way to Gelephu from Norbuling, Serzhong gewog, was found carrying statues of Buddha, Guru Pema Jungney, two Dordemas and a Tsepame, wrapped in plastic in a black bag.

The man, however, claimed that a friend, Tshewang Tenzin from Yangneer, gave him the statues.  The police have, however, been unable to trace him.

Police sources said they corresponded with Trashigang police, who went to Yangneer.  But Tshewang Tenzin’s family in Yangneer had told police he worked for Punatsangchu project as a driver.

Gelephu police then sought Wangduephodrang police’s help, but Punatsangchu project officials had said Tshewang Tenzin did not work there.

“We sent our men with a photograph of Tshewang Tenzin but couldn’t find him,” an official in Gelephu said.

Meanwhile, the five statues, worth more than Nu 1.5M, are at the Gelephu police station.  Police and home ministry officials have been unable to trace where the statues belong.

Cultural department’s cultural property division chief, Tshewang Gyalpo, said, while most public, private and state owned statues are registered with the department, it would be difficult to trace, until it was revealed to them.

“Once they reveal the antiques, we could verify from here,” he said.

Tshewang Gyalpo said the worth of the statues are decided by a committee from the department, based on guidelines provided by the government.

“The weight of the statue, what it’s made of, how old it is and the historical importance determine the worth,” he said, adding that, at times, it could also be based on the aesthetic value.

Tashi Dema

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