More than two months after a man allegedly stole three gold crowns in a daring heist at the historic Sri Govindaraja Swamy temple, police of Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh arrested him on Tuesday from Nanded in Maharashtra.
The police, however, could not recover the crowns, weighing 1,351 grams worth nearly Rs 50 lakh, in their original form from the accused, Akash Pratap Sarody, a native of Maharashtra’s Nanded district. He allegedly melted the crowns and converted them into a gold bar. The police seized the bar and also a small portion of it which was pledged with a broker in Nanded. The theft took place on February 2.
Tirupati (Urban) superintendent of police K K N Anburajan told reporters that Sarody, a repeat offender, was a regular visitor to Tirupati where he used to steal mobile phones taking advantage of the heavy rush in the temple town. There were already seven cases registered against him.
“A few days before committing the offence at the temple, Sarody and his friend conducted a recce. On the intervening night of February 2 and 3, he stole the crowns belonging to procession deities. The priest noticed the theft in the early hours,” the SP said.
The accused immediately took a train at Renigunta railway station, about 20 km from Tirupati and reached Kacheguda in Hyderabad. He tried to sell the gold but could not find brokers wiling buy them in the form of crowns. He then went to Nanded and converted them into a gold bar and pledged a part of it to a broker, the police said.
“Based on the video footage obtained from CCTV cameras installed at the temple and also at the railway stations, we could identify the thief and his movements. We sent teams to Maharashtra and after intense search and inquiries, they caught the accused,” Anburajan said.
Meanwhile, Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) executive officer Ashok Kumar Singhal said another set of three crowns would be made for the deity of Govindaraja Swamy temple.
The TTD which also manages the country’s richest temple dedicated to Lord Venkateshwara on Tirumala hills, hit the headlines last week also following a controversy over the alleged “unauthorised” transportation of 1,381 kilograms of gold belonging to the temple from a nationalized bank in Chennai on the night of April 17.