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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 September 2005, 14:44 GMT 15:44 UK
Treasure found in Calcutta home
By Subir Bhaumik
BBC correspondent in Calcutta

Hundreds of rare Indian gold coins and priceless artefacts have been recovered from the residence of one of India's richest business families.

The discovery was made during an inventory of the personal assets of the deceased widow of the family patriarch.

The move follows a bitter legal battle between the Birla family and their former accountant, Rajendra Lodha.

Mr Lodha has produced a will that says the widow left him in control of the late husband's business empire.

A team of four special officers, appointed by the Calcutta High Court to prepare an inventory of the assets of the widow, Priyamvada Birla, found the collection of gold coins and artefacts on Wednesday.

The valuables were locked in a strong room, hidden behind a wooden panel
Court officer

Some of the gold coins are said date back to the Maurya and Gupta periods of ancient India.

Many of the coins also go back to the time of the Mughals who ruled India between the sixteenth and nineteenth century.

The coins and artefacts were found when the officers broke open Priyamvada Birla's cupboards.

"The valuables were locked in a strong room, hidden behind a wooden panel in the study on the ground floor of the third bungalow at Birla Park," one of the officers, who wished to remain unidentified, said.

Three pistols - all licensed - were also among the valuables, he added.

The discovery was immediately brought to the notice of the judge who is hearing the petition filed by the Birlas challenging Ms Birla's will.

"We have sealed the rooms and left behind armed guards at the direction of Justice Kalyanjyoti Sengupta," the officer said.

MP Birla is said to have been a well known coin collector.

Huge bequest

Priyamvada Birla left company assets worth about 50bn rupees ($1.1bn) to Rajendra Lodha.

The Birla family has united to challenge the huge bequest.

Her husband, Madhav Prasad Birla, died in 1990 and the couple had no children.

She ran the MP Birla group of companies after his death, until her own death last year at the age of 76.

Widow's billions go to accountant
14 Jul 04 |  South Asia

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