Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Stolen Art Watch, Forbidden City Palace Museum Beijing Raided !!

Million dollar art heist at Palace Museum

BEIJING, May 11 (Xinhuanet) -- Police are hunting a thief who stole millions of dollars worth of art in an overnight heist at the famed Palace Museum in Beijing.

The suspect, who was caught on security cameras, is believed to have hidden inside China's biggest museum before closing on May 8, and carried out the burglary before midnight.

Rumor of the art heist inside the heavily fortified Forbidden City Palace began to hit China's cyber world Tuesday. A blogger claimed the theft amounted to nearly one billion yuan (154 million U.S. dollars).

The museum confirmed the theft Tuesday afternoon on its microblog, but did not confirm the value of seven stolen items which were borrowed from a Hong Kong museum for the exhibition in the capital.

"They (the stolen items) are private collections, basically gold and silver powder boxes decorated by gems of various kinds," said Wang Xiahong, curator of the Hong Kong-based Liangyi Museum.

"Not as much as 1 billion yuan, but tens of millions to say the least." she adds.

Organizers say the exhibition will continue till June 27 as scheduled after a discussion with the collector of the missing items. The Palace Museum will hold a news conference today to release photos of stolen pieces which may be on sale on the black-market.

Exhibition halls, including the site of the theft in the east zone of the museum, have been closed to tourists since Tuesday noon, with the authorities not giving a clear date of when they will reopen.

According to sources, the exhibition, titled "Blending—Liang Yi Treasures Exhibition," displayed 130 exhibits, including Chinese-style furniture, western-style cosmetic containers and handbags. The exhibition kicked off on April 28 and is scheduled to last to June 27.

On May 10, a thread about the missing exhibits appeared online and said that it was reported on reliable authority that late in the night on May 8, a patrolman of the security office of the Imperial Palace found a suspicious man with a large red mark on his body. The red mark was suspected to be scraped from the wall of the Imperial Palace. The patrolman ordered the suspect to squat down and then reported to his superior. However, the suspect seized the chance and ran away. After that, the security office was unable to find him.

Early the next day, the staff workers of the Palace Museum found a big hole at the black wall of Chengshu Palace. After they entered the palace through the hole, they were surprised to learn that the exhibition cabinets were pried open and seven exhibits were lost.

It is reported that the Imperial Palace has a strict security system controlling entry and exit. Security guards patrol every night. Monitoring detectors are set up everywhere, and there are alarms on the exhibition cabinets.

However, the security office of the Palace Museum did not find the suspect despite its surveillance system and even the alarms did not sound.

The Beijing Police said, after a preliminary investigation, the lost exhibits were discovered to be modern handcrafts displayed by the Hong Kong Liang Yi Collection. Now, the police are conducting further investigations.

In addition, according to internal information, the police have confirmed a 27-year-old non-Beijing suspect. He hid in the Imperial Palace before it was closed and stole the exhibits at midnight. Currently, the police are in pursuit of the suspect. However, the information has not been confirmed by the police.

On May 10, Wang Xiahong, the curator of Hong Kong Liang Yi Collection, arrived in Beijing. She said a press conference will be held on May 11 to release the clear photos of the seven missing exhibits in order to prevent illegal trading.

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