New Delhi: Thieves on Wednesday stole precious jewels from a collection of an Indian maharaja‘s treasures on display at the Doge’s Palace in Venice.
The theft took place on the final day of the ‘Treasures of the Mughals and the Maharajahs’ exhibition – which opened in September – of around 300 items showcasing five centuries of Indian craftsmanship.
The items – earrings and a brooch – were stolen from a display case by one or possibly two men, who were caught on CCTV cameras but managed to escape.
Investigators said the thieves had managed to take the items from a reinforced display case early on Wednesday morning after deactivating the alarm system. They then melted into the crowd and escaped, the Guardian reported.
Police told Italian media that even though the declared value of the stolen jewels was around 30,000 euros, in reality, they were worth millions.
The collection of treasures, owned by a member of the Al Thani ruling family of Qatar, is kept under lock and key in London when not in display around the world.
Chief police commissioner of Venice, Vito Gagliardi, told the Guardian, “We are clearly dealing here with two skilled professionals who managed to pull off their feat despite all the display rooms being fitted with technologically highly sophisticated [alarm] systems”.
“The glass case was opened up as if it were a tin can while the alarm, if it worked at all, went off late,” he is quoted as saying by the UK’s Telegraph.
The Al Thani collection of jewels spans 400 years from the Mughal period to the present. Forbes magazine has said, “there is no comparable collection on the planet.”
The collection was loaned to Japan and France last year. The fact that it was stolen in Italian territory is likely to cause embarrassment.
According to the Telegraph report, a spokesman for the Al Thani Collection in the UK said the Qatari owners were “still awaiting full details”. He said the royals were unlikely to issue a statement about the theft, at least in the short term.
In a statement, Venice’s Foundation of Civic Museums, which runs the Doge’s Palace, said that the brooch and earrings stolen were “contemporary pieces and consequently are of less historical value than other items in the collection.”