Vijay Mallya buys Gandhi memorabilia for $1.8 mn (Second Lead)

March 6th, 2009 - 4:44 am ICT by IANS  

New York, March 6 (IANS) Amid high drama, a set of Mahatma Gandhi’s personal belongings including his iconic round-rimmed spectacles were sold for $1.8 million at an auction in New York Thursday to Indian liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya.
Tony Bedi placed the winning bid at New York’s Antiquorum Auctioneers auction house despite protests in India and an injunction from Delhi High court seeking to halt the sale. Sources said Bedi bought the items on behalf of Mallya.

However, the US justice department has asked the auctioneers to hold the lot, which also includes a 1910 silver Zenith pocket watch, sandals, a bowl, a “thali” (plate) and letters of authenticity, for two weeks pending a resolution between the new owner, and the US and Indian governments.

Bidding began at $20,000 and rose to the final price within seven minutes.

Earlier, the Los Angeles based collector James Otis, asked that the items be withdrawn from sale, but the Antiquorum auction house decided to proceed with the sale as scheduled Thursday afternoon (early morning Friday, India time).

A spokesperson of the Indian consulate in New York said Indian government itself did not participate in the auction as that would have been a violation of the Delhi high court order.

The spokesperson also denied media reports that it had discussions Thursday with Otis about his offer to withdraw the items from the auction provided New Delhi agrees to either increase government spending on the poor or to create an international travelling exhibit about Gandhi.

Otis sent the three-page proposal after a meeting Wednesday with the Indian consul general in New York, Prabhu Dayal.

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