The curious case of the missing jewels

Dec 03 2012, 10:02 IST
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SummaryHow a wealthy family in Bangalore failed to notice it was being robbed

How a wealthy family in Bangalore failed to notice it was being robbed

Bangalore has never seen a case like this. A wealthy family is robbed of numerous valuables by their household staff over several years. The family remains blissfully ignorant. The theft is revealed in a roundabout manner, when the police find some expensive jewellery in the hands of an unlikely person in a neighbouring district. They trace it back to the family’s domestic help, who confess. A police case is registered.

The case involves the Bangalore-based D.K. Adikesavulu, former Congress party MP from Andhra Pradesh. The influential Adikesavulu is a dollar-billionaire whose business interests include liquor, steel, sugar, real estate, engineering and medical colleges across south India. The recovered goods are conservatively estimated at the value of Rs 1.5 crore. Son Adi Srinivas Naidu said that some missing antiques go back several generations, have never been valued, and can best be described as “priceless”.

Some see the Adikesavulu theft case as symptomatic of India’s yawning rich-poor divide. In Bangalore, economic inequality is not as visible as in Mumbai or New Delhi, but nevertheless manifests itself in several ways. Many poor families arrive in this expensive city daily and seek domestic work due to a lack of skills. Police stations across the city have seen a sharp increase in the registration of theft cases against domestic help. In the Adikesavulu case, however, the family barely noticed that many valuables had been disappearing.

Akram assumed the name of Ajay and inveigled himself into Adikesavulu’s palatial home in Sadashivnagar. In 2009, Akram started taking valuables from the family’s collection and passing them to his friend in a neighbouring town. These included pieces of jewellery, silverware and antiques. The mega-theft was discovered when the police stumbled upon Akram’s accomplice suspiciously hawking a pricey gold anklet in a pawn shop. The recovered loot included a diamond- studded gold necklace and a large pearl chain. The duo had managed to sell much of the jewellery and antiques in cities like Jaipur and Hyderabad.

Amar Kumar Pandey, an inspector-general of police overseeing the case, said, “it is a strange situation where no complaint was lodged despite so many valuables being plundered.” Many of the items, investigators said, were added to the list solely based on the thief’s confession. Among the few treasures that the family missed , but dismissed as being misplaced, was a diamond-encrusted gold crown. A case was finally registered last month. The domestic help and his accomplice are out on bail since they could initially be charged only for possessing stolen property.

In contrast to the Adikesavulu case, officers say many couples rush to the police station when a ring or bangle goes missing from the household. They invariably suspect their domestic employee. “Such incidents are increasing as a consequence of the growing disparity between those who have a lot and many who have nothing,” said Abdul Khadar, the police inspector investigating the Adikesavulu case. But, he said, this was the first case in 18 years in which “this family simply had no track of their valuables”.

The case illustrates the rising gap between India’s poor and very rich, the top few per cent of the population who possess over a third of the country’s wealth and assets. Naidu’s explanation for his family’s cluelessness about the large-scale looting only emphasises the inequity. “My mother keeps many boxes, some of which contain unused valuables which are rarely checked,” he said. “We have many homes and guest-houses and it is difficult to keep track.”

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