The two French nationals who were detained at the Madurai airport with a Vinayaka idol have tickets to leave for Sri Lanka on Wednesday evening.
They were detained after the idol, purchased in Kochi, was detected during baggage check. Suspecting it to be an antique piece, the state’s idol wing police detained Bernard Peirre Georges and Le Mevel for questioning.
Idol wing IG Pon Manickavel had earlier stated that the duo would not be allowed to leave the country until it was ascertained if the idol was an antique piece or not.
“Under section 25 (i) of the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act, 1972, they cannot take an antique piece out of the country,” Manickavel told TOI. “I have written to the ASI director-general and regional director based in Bengaluru to rush down experts to check the antiquity of the idol. If it is confirmed that the idol is indeed an antique, then the airport customs is liable (for permitting them to leave the country),” he said.
A customs official, on condition of anonymity, said they were not in a position to restrain the foreigners. “Technically they are on their own. If they want to leave the country they can do so and we cannot stop them,” the official said. He added that they could only seize the “suspected item” as the customs would have to face the consequences if it was later found that the idol was not an antique piece.
Bernard and Le Mevel were detained after the one-foot-tall Vinayaka idol, weighing 4.8kg, was found in their baggage during screening. (Colombo Gazette)