Thursday, May 12, 2011

Stolen Art Watch, Beijing Palace Heist Solved !!

Chinese police arrest man after theft from Forbidden City

Police have arrested a man they said broke into China's famed Forbidden City, the heavily guarded former home of the country's emperors, and stole seven art pieces made of gold and jewels.

BEIJING - A man who is suspected of stealing nine pieces of art from an exhibition in the Palace Museum was arrested by the Beijing police authorities on Wednesday, China Central Television (CCTV) reported.

The suspect, named Shi Bokui and from Caoxian county of East China's Shandong province, was taken away by the police from an Internet bar in Fengtai district in Beijing at 7:40 pm on Wednesday, the report cited the police authorities as saying.

Shi, born in 1983 and about 160 cm tall, has confessed the theft to the police and some of the stolen art pieces have been recovered, the report said. Shi has lived in Beijing for four years. He allegedly entered the Palace Museum as a tourist and conducted the theft for money. He was identified by police through fingerprint comparison.

It was the first theft in 20 years from the historic site, the tourist attraction's spokesman Feng Nai'en said, adding that security would be increased.

An investigation found that nine pieces all small Western-style gold purses and mirrored compacts covered with jewels made in the 20th century were missing from the temporary exhibition, on loan from the private Liangyicang Museum in Hong Kong.

Two of the missing items were recovered nearby shortly after the theft and were slightly damaged.

State media said that police had caught a man called Shi Bokui in an Internet cafe on Wednesday night who confessed to the robbery. The China Daily said some of the seven remaining stolen pieces were recovered, but did not give details.

Feng said the entire Palace Museum will be checked to see if any other items are missing.

"For this to happen here shows us that, No. 1, we need to speed up the modernization and installation of our security systems," Feng said. "No. 2, we need to investigate carefully and find out if we can implement better, more modern and more sophisticated security systems."

Wang Xiahong, curator of the Liangyicang Museum, refused to reveal the value of the stolen items, which belong to Hong Kong art collector Feng Yaohui.

She said that despite the theft, the exhibition would continue and other pieces would be added to the show, which is temporarily closed but expected to reopen soon.

The museum's deputy director, Ma Jige, told reporters he felt "very guilty and sorry" about the theft. He stood up and bowed to Wang in a show of remorse.

Karen Smith, a Beijing art curator and historian, said the theft was "a big loss of face" for the museum but would probably result in much improved security at the sprawling landmark.

She also noted that the robbery targeted items of relatively low value and prestige, not the museum's best-known treasures such as its large collection of rare and delicate scroll paintings. Those pieces are undoubtedly much better protected, she said.

"If you were really going to go and steal something from the Palace Museum, there's a lot more valuable things you could make off with," Ms Smith said.

It wasn't immediately clear whether future cooperation with other international exhibitors would be affected by the incident.

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