Part 19, Issue # 78 - August 15, 2002
August 25, 2002 will be the day that Dilip Shah, who is currently president elect of Philatelic Congress of India (PCI), would take over as the President. Do all members of PCI want a President who is currently being investigated by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for violations of the provisions of Antiquities and Art Treasures Act 1972 (AAT Act). At the behest of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the CBI had registered a case against Shah in December 2001.
Shah has been the Vice President from 1994 to 2000 and President-Elect from 2000 till date. Shah is also the longest serving Secretary General of the PCI since 1987 till date. He was brought in as the replacement of the then Secretary General, M G Pittie who had to resign in the middle of his two-year term because as National Commissioner for AMERIPEX 86 world philatelic exhibition, he purportedly lost five exhibits worth several crores belonging to Dhirubhai Mehta of Mumbai, S B Kothari and P Gupta (two exhibits) of Kolkata, and R Dangi (Junior) of Indore.
The report of the above loss in media alerted the officers of various departments and in May 1988 vigilant Customs Officers at Bombay International Airport apprehended Shah while he was taking nine exhibits, including his "Indian Classics" to Helsinki for participation in FINLANDIA 88 world philatelic exhibition. However no penal action was taken against him. He reportedly was forced to come to New Delhi for obtaining ASI Permit and was allowed to go on to Finland. This was the first-ever Temporary Export Permit (TEP) issued for stamps by the ASI.
Between 1976 and 1988, Indian exhibitors participated in about 30 international exhibitions abroad with hundreds of exhibits. The PCI through their appointed National Commissioners organized the participation without the mandatory TEP from ASI. Many of the exhibits did contain items that were 100 or more years old.
In 1994 Dilip Shah received the Grand Prix d'Honneur at PHILAKOREA 94 World Philatelic Exhibition at Seoul for his exhibit 'Indian Classics'. All the items of this exhibit were antiquities. This exhibit has participated abroad several times with TEP granted by the ASI and the copies of the entire exhibit are part of the ASI records. Yet Shah took the highlight the '4 Annas Inverted-head' stamp from his exhibit 'Indian Classics' to Monaco without ASI Permit in November 1997. This item has been later valued between ? 80,000 - 100,000 at the Spink's auction of October 18, 2001.
This collection was also displayed in the Court of Honor class at INDEPEX 97 world philatelic exhibition organized by the Department of Posts at New Delhi in December 1997.
Not only has Shah carried his own exhibits without the mandatory permissions but also has carried in July 2001 an exhibit belonging to A M Mollah of Mumbai to Tokyo for PHILANIPPON World exhibition without ASI Permit. This exhibit, 'Fiscal Stamps of Indore and Jaora' contained antiquities. In this same exhibition, as a member of the Expert Team, Shah was instrumental in opening of the frames of a fellow Indian collector, who has been asking them uncomfortable questions on record, was it to settle scores by having the exhibit downgraded? Only Shah knows!
Shah once again carried the highlight of his collection, the '4 Annas Inverted-head' stamp without ASI Permit from India on October 10, 2001 to Switzerland for participation in the private exhibition of great stamp rarities organized from October 12 to 14 by the auctioneer David Feldman in conjunction with the launch of their new publication, 'The Grand Prix Book'.
Shah's entire exhibit 'Indian Classics' was offered at auction sale by SPINK at London on October 18, 2001. The exhibit was broken down in to 166 lots (Lot # 1 to 166) and almost all lots were illustrated in the auction catalog of this sale. Several items offered in this sale were 'only known specimens' and one of a kind. It is clear that this collection was clandestinely taken out of country to UK for sale.
The leading daily of the national capital, The Hindustan Times carried on their front page the news of this auction on October 11, 2001. On being alerted, same day the ASI handed over the case to CBI for investigation and at ASI's initiative SPINK withdrew these lots from the sale.
Shah engaged Zaiwalla & Co. of London to defend him in this case. Zaiwallas have a very impressive list of clients with many imminent Indian and international personalities amongst them. Shah stayed out of the country since his trip to Switzerland in October and came back to India in early December 2001 just before the CBI registered a case against him. Another leading daily, Indian Express covered this news on page 2 in January 24, 2002 issue.
Dhiraj Shah, resident of USA and brother of Dilip Shah, filed an affidavit with ASI and CBI that he owns the collection that was being sold at Spink and all those items were purchased by his money. As per Article 16.1 of General Regulations of the FIP for Exhibitions (GREX) 'every exhibitor must have owned his exhibit for a minimum of two years before being eligible to exhibit at a FIP exhibition' this is the first basic requirement for applicants to exhibit. Therefore Shah's Grand Prix d'Honneur at PHILAKOREA 94 should now be presented to the runner up and his Grand Prix National in 1989 in India be awarded to the runner up Dr. Sita Bhateja of Bangalore. All his other medals and Special prizes at FIP Exhibitions on this exhibit may also be canceled and the FIP Award List be adjusted accordingly.
No further action was taken by ASI for the next several months, however constant pursuit of justice prevailed and the ASI sent several other serious violations of AAT Act by Shah to CBI for investigation in July 2002.
With such an illustrious track record Shah still continues to be on the Philatelic Advisory Committee of Ministry Communications & Information Technology. The question now is does Shah deserve to be in these positions?
Many other office bearers of PCI have been involved with similar kind of violations of the AAT Act; more details would follow in the forthcoming issues of the newsletter.