Thief threw away treasures when told they were fakes

Theft at Palace Museum

Published on 18 May 2011

Author(s): Shanghai Daily/Xu Chi

Type:  News

Police are still looking for the remaining three stolen pieces

The thief who stole art pieces from the Palace Museum on May 8 discarded the objects after a jewelry shop boss told him they were fakes and had no value, Beijing police said yesterday.

More details of the theft were disclosed at a press conference in Beijing yesterday when police returned a total of six pieces to the museum - two recovered near the museum after they went missing and four retrieved after they had been stolen.

Police are still looking for the remaining three stolen pieces and are offering a reward to anyone who returns the missing items or provides information leading to their recovery.

Police said the suspect, Shi Baikui, a 28-year-old man from Shandong Province, had planned his actions in advance rather than acting on the spur of the moment as previously reported in the media.

Shi told police he came to Beijing in March and was unemployed. By chance, a TV program about the Palace Museum caught his attention, and later he had the idea of stealing objects from it to get rich.

Shi said he searched for museum information online and visited it to check out the area.

Police said he checked out routes leading to the moat that encircles the Imperial Palace, also known as the Forbidden City. He paid special attention to the museum's closing time and when security guards make their final rounds.

Shi managed to sneak into the museum without buying a ticket on May 8 and hid in a narrow passage near the jewelry exhibition hall until it got dark.

At 8pm he turned off a power switch, broke windows to enter the exhibition hall, stole the objects and escaped by climbing over the compound wall.

He threw some of the objects away when he was making his escape and ditched the rest after the jewelry shop boss told him they were fake and refused to buy them.

According to the Beijing police, one of the items was found by a construction worker surnamed Yang, who found the piece lying on the ground early in the morning on May 9.

Yang compared the object with the stolen goods shown on TV news and found they looked like the same, so he handed it in to police.

Police yesterday warned that anyone who found any of the missing items but then refused to return them to police could face up to seven years in jail.

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