Indian men accused of stealing gold tiffin box ‘ate their lunch out of it’
Hyderabad police say alleged thieves could have made up to £12m selling museum haul
12 Sep 2018, 15:48
Two men allegedly stole a gold jewel-encrusted tiffin box that once belonged to an Indian princely ruler and ate their lunch from it.
The men allegedly broke into the Nizam’s Museum, in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, through a ventilation shaft this month, making off with the tiffin box and a ruby- and emerald-studded gold cup, among other antiques, reports theguardian.com.
The three-tier tiffin box is made from pure gold and weighs about 2kg. Police said on Tuesday the gold alone was worth more than £100,000, and the alleged thieves could have sold the pieces at auction in Dubai for up to £12m.
Instead the duo, identified as Mohammed Mubeen and Mohammed Ghouse Pasha, allegedly fled to Mumbai, where they holed up in a luxury hotel and used the tiffin box to eat lunch, police said.
‘The duo have confessed to having food twice from the golden box,’ the Hyderabad commissioner of police, Anjani Kumar, said at a press conference on Tuesday.
Kumar said the men went to Mumbai hoping to sell the loot there but found no buyers and so returned to Hyderabad on Monday. They were arrested the following day by police acting on a tipoff.
The museum houses antiques and souvenirs of the Asaf Jah dynasty, which ruled Hyderabad from 1724 until 1948. Mir Osman Ali Khan, the last of the nizams, as the rulers were known, had refused to join either India or Pakistan when the subcontinent was partitioned the year before.
In September 1948 the Indian army invaded Hyderabad, crushing the nizam’s underprepared forces within four days and forcing the ruler to abdicate.
The seven nizams of Hyderabad were patrons of literature, art, food and architecture and were thought to be among the richest men in the world.
Police said the two alleged thieves had also contemplated stealing a gold-coated Qur’an from the museum but had second thoughts after a nearby mosque starting broadcasting a call to prayer. ‘They got scared and decided not to take that precious thing,’ Kumar told NDTV.
The pair allegedly fled on a motorcycle that then broke down, forcing them to make the rest of the journey to Mumbai by public transport.
Officers eventually found the getaway bike and used profiles of local burglars who specialised in sophisticated breaking and entering to narrow down a list of suspects. When the pair returned to Hyderabad, police were waiting.
A police inspector told the Indian Express newspaper the men were amateurs. ‘[They] dreamed of making it big in life someday,’ he said. ‘Mubeen became fascinated by the tiffin box after visiting the museum months ago. He said he wanted to feel like the nizams who ate from golden plates.’