Antique shawl thief did two-month stint as museum researcher

Antique shawl theft from Delhi's National Handicrafts and Handlooms Museum

His resume was impressive. Proficient in French and German, and having studied antiques in China, Germany and France extensively, it wasn’t difficult for Vinay Parmar to get a job as a researcher at the National Handicrafts and Handlooms Museum at Pragati Maidan.

During his stint at the museum, Parmar took a particular interest in antique shawls made during the Mughal era. He researched the weaving technology used to fashion the antique shawls, and then checked how much they sold for in international antique markets in China, France and the Middle East.

After two months of extensive planning, he allegedly stole 16 antique Pashmina shawls.

Almost two weeks after the theft was reported, a Delhi Police team led by ACP (Barakhamba Road) Rajesh Kumar Sharma and inspector Naresh Solanki, the Station House Officer at Tilak Marg police station, arrested Vinay and his alleged associates, Tarun Harvodiya and Adil Sheikh. The three were arrested from Kolkata after their locations were ascertained through technical surveillance.

“The three were arrested from a hotel in Tollygunge, Kolkata. Vinay and Tarun had handed over a shawl as a sample to Adil, who is an exporter of antique items,” said DCP (New Delhi) B K Singh.

According to an officer familiar with the investigation, two months before the shawls were stolen, Vinay had posed as a researcher and had conducted an extensive recce of the museum.

“He had scanned all entry and exit points, areas with lax security and access to the terrace. He was looking at all the weak links that could be exploited,” the officer said.

After the recce, Vinay had to test out the museum security. Days before the shawls were stolen, Vinay hid beneath a display of shawls as the museum staff closed the establishment at 5 pm. Tarun stayed outside, taking instructions over the phone.

“Vinay wanted to test the motion sensor cameras and the alarms. But he found that the alarms did not go off, and he was stuck inside the museum. He kept shouting for help but nobody could hear him. CCTV cameras were not working and there were no motion sensors,” the officer said.

A few hours later, Tarun alerted the guards and they managed to get Vinay out. He had a heated argument with the staff and threatened to file a case for locking him up. “The museum staff apologised and told him the cameras were not working. This was the information he wanted,” the officer said.

On the day of the incident, Tarun hid inside the shawl display, while Vinay orchestrated the heist from outside. After stealing the shawls, the accused tried to get in touch with antique shawl buyers from the Middle East. They had almost finalised a deal to sell the shawls at Rs 2 crore per piece when police caught them.




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