India's 'gold man' beaten to death

Mr Phuge gained fame when he ordered a customised gold shirt worth $255,000 in 2013.
Mr Phuge gained fame when he ordered a customised gold shirt worth $255,000 in 2013.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MUMBAI • An Indian businessman who made headlines in 2013 for buying one of the world's most expensive shirts made entirely of gold has been beaten to death in western India.

Mr Datta Phuge gained fame when he ordered a customised gold shirt worth 12.7 million rupees (S$255,000).

It was made up of 14,000 pieces of 22-carat gold, weighed 3.32kg and was put together by 15 craftsmen over 16 days.

The hefty garment earned Mr Phuge - a moneylender from Pune in Maharashtra state - the moniker "gold man", a title he cherished.

Police said Mr Phuge, believed to be in his mid-40s, was attacked and killed by 12 assailants brandishing stones and sharp weapons on Thursday night after one of the suspects had invited him for a party, according to the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency on Friday.

"As per preliminary information, Phuge and his son were invited by one of the suspects, who know each other, to celebrate a birthday.

"However, we are investigating how Phuge reached the open ground where he was murdered," PTI quoted local police inspector Navnath Ghogare as saying.

Mr Phuge's 22-year-old son witnessed his father being murdered and had been spared by the alleged killers, he added, saying that police suspected the motive could have been a dispute over a financial transaction.

Four suspects have been detained.

Mr Phuge loved gold and the fame that came with his shirt.

"Everybody knows me as the 'gold man' in the region.

"Other rich people spend one crore (10 million rupees) to buy Audis or Mercedes, to buy what they like. What crime have I done? I just love gold," he told Agence France-Presse in 2013.

"Gold has been my passion since I was young. I've always worn gold as jewellery in the form of bracelets, rings, chains," he said.

India is the world's biggest consumer of gold, with purchases an essential part of religious festivals and weddings.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 17, 2016, with the headline 'India's 'gold man' beaten to death'. Print Edition | Subscribe