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Pandya wealth in Swiss banks — Real or illusions of grandeur?

Chennai: Is it a case of an illusion of grandeur of the glorious past of one’s royal lineage during times of distress or a cue from the fabled treasure-vault of the Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Kerala?

Or is it another legend of the infinite Indian wealth that we believe are lying in the Swiss banks?

The Thiruvananthapuram temple rose to international fame a few months ago when unverified accounts reported that its centuries old vaults have concealed wealth of more than Rs. 100,000 crore. The stupendous figure popped out of nowhere and became an instant historical fact even before the authorities began counting the contents of the vaults.

Descendants of the Pandya dynasty who are claiming the funds. Firstpost

Now in the nearby state of Tamil Nadu, some “descendants” of the Pandya dynasty say that wealth belonging to their forefathers worth hundreds of crores is lying in Swiss banks. They have asked the High Court for its help.

Pandyas who ruled the state in 5-8th century BC and then again from 13-15th century AD have their wealth in the Swiss banks? How did it reach there? When and in what form?

It is a strange and complex story that has a few recurring names and situations that will be hard to remember if one’s keen to get a gist of what is happening. Therefore, let’s forget the names. In the interest of the overall story, it is the plot and the basic details that are important.

Reportedly, a Swiss national, who married an Indian woman and lived in Chennai, had promised a person claiming to be a legal heir of the dynasty, that he had knowledge of the Pandya wealth in Swiss banks and would help him retrieve it. It is not clear if the “heir” located the Swiss man in Chennai or if it was the other way round.

The “heir” then approaches the High Court and gets a letter of administration in 2004 so as to enable the Swiss national to pursue the wealth-trail. Apparently, the latter even knew the name of the bank, as a police report would later claim.

Unfortunately the Swiss national, who apparently knew everything, dies in an accident in his country in June without blowing the lid on the mystery.

Another “heir”, this time a women, who is the “daughter-in-law” of the last descendant of the dynasty approaches the Madras High Court and seeks its help in locating the properties of her family across the country and restore them to her.

During the pendency of the case, a third player enters the fray, this time from Maharashtra, claiming a stake because her father had a power of attorney given by the same “heir” who was pursuing the Swiss bank wealth. The “heir” denies giving any such power of attorney, while the daughter-in-law-heir says he has nothing to do with the dynasty.

The court had then asked the city police commissioner to enquire on the case and file a report. The police filed a report which in fact didn’t rule out the possibility of the wealth in Swiss banks. The report also said that since the case has to be investigated in Switzerland and other places, it is best entrusted with a competent agency.

The High Court, hearing the matter again last week, has asked the appropriate central agencies to investigate and file a report in three weeks.

Two persons who claim to be descendants of the Pandya dynasty. Firstpost

By the way, the Maharashtrian woman, who has claimed a stake in the royal wealth, is the Indian sister-in-law of the deceased Swiss national.

But on Monday, things took a bizarre twist when the same “heir” (the man who had tied up with the Swiss national) submitted a claim over 104 properties in Chennai that literally included all key landmarks, ranging from five-star hotels to colleges, in the city.

Reportedly the “heir” and his lawyer have issued notices to several real estate companies in the city to stop construction, claiming ownership of their land. When the court asked for evidence for their claim, they said they were with the revenue department. The government pleader, however told the court that there was nothing on record with the government.

The High Court has now warmed the “heir” and his counsel that they will face action if their claims were bogus. The division bench, hearing the case, also warned the lawyer that his enrollment will be cancelled if the case was bogus.

At the Madras High Court, according to media reports, several of the legal heirs and members of the vestige (zamin) of the Pandya dynasty were present. The Times of India quoted one of them:  "our family has nothing to do with the ancient Pandya dynasty, though we too have Pandian as surname. We have inherited nothing but a family name."

Apparently one of them does not have enough money for his daughter’s education. And now that the wealth-hunt is on, many seem to pin their hopes on something coming out.

What next?

Let’s wait and see if the central agencies can find any Pandyan trail to the Swiss banks, and see what unfolds happens in the court-room.