HONG KONG – Thieves took $ 645 million worth of artifacts from a Hong Kong apartment while the owner was in mainland China. Then they left by taxi.
Among the stolen items were 24,000 period stamps, 10 bronze coins and seven scrolls of calligraphy that the owner, Fu Chunxiao, said were written by Mao Zedong.
Most of the stolen items remain missing, but the parchment, which measures three meters, reached a buyer before being recovered by the police. It was not in its original state.
“He found the piece of calligraphy too long and difficult for viewers to show, so he cut it in half,”
Police said the termination of the case came when a taxi driver who took the men on the day of the theft in September came forward with information. On Thursday, police charged a 44-year-old suspect identified only as Wu with burglary. He was arrested in Hong Kong, along with another man identified as Tan, 47, accused of harboring “a criminal”.
The alleged buyer, a 49-year-old man identified only as Lin, was arrested last month immediately after the robbery. He was accused of handling stolen goods. Local news outlets said he had only paid $ 65 for the recovered roll.
The collector, Mr. Fu, said The South China Morning Post newspaper which was devastated by burglary and damage to the scroll. He said it was the most valuable of his stolen possessions. Mr. Fu estimated his total losses at $ 645 million, according to police.
“It was heartbreaking to see it ripped into two pieces,” he is said to have said of the scroll. “It will certainly affect its value, but the impact remains to be seen.”
A police spokesperson said over the phone that authorities had not independently determined the value of the roll. Chinese art auction houses did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment.
Mr. Fu, a native of Sichuan Province, was unable to contact him immediately, according to local news. He is known as a collector of items from the Mao era. In 2018, Mr. Fu organized an exhibition in Hong Kong of 200 stamps featuring Mao’s face. (The founding father of the People’s Republic of China, Mao ruled as Communist Party president from 1949 until his death in 1976.)
Authorities are still looking for two other suspects. The three men arrested so far are from mainland China, police said.
Thefts have recently increased in Hong Kong, rising from 786 cases in 2019 to 1,156 cases in the first half of 2020, according to police statistics. Robberies have also quadrupled, from 44 cases in 2020 to 186 in the first six months of 2020.
The Australian Consul General’s official residence was forced into force last Friday. In June, two men climbed 19 floors of bamboo scaffolding to steal a safe deposit box in an affluent Hong Kong neighborhood in June. In September, a group robbed a man carrying millions of dollars in cash in his backpack.
Thieves have more often targeted unoccupied homes on Chinese soil, said Mr. Ho, a senior police superintendent. But they are not limited to items of high commercial value.
At the start of the coronavirus outbreak in February, as consumers bought loose toilet paper out of fear it would end, three masked robbers stole more than $ 100 worth of toilet paper outside a supermarket while holding up a delivery boy with the tip of their knife.