Three thieves who carried out a record $637 million art heist in Hong Kong but failed to realize the value of their historic loot were jailed on Friday, local media reported.
Hong Kong’s art community was rocked by the theft that included a six-foot-high scroll containing a 1929 Politburo report written by Mao Zedong valued at hundreds of millions of dollars, but sold to an amateur collector by just 200 Hong Kong dollars ($25).
When police recovered the scroll a month after it was stolen, they discovered that it had been cut in half to make it easier for the collector, who also failed to realize it was genuine.
The items were stolen in September 2020 from an apartment belonging to Chinese collector Fu Chunxiao in the city’s bustling Kowloon district.
The loot had a total estimated value of HK$5 billion ($637 million), with Mao’s scroll alone valued at HK$2.3 billion, according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP). which makes it the biggest heist in town by value.
Ho Yik-chiu, 46, Ng Wing-lun, 45, and Hui Ping-kei, 48, were jailed for up to two and a half years after pleading guilty to involvement in the crime, SCMP reported.
The court heard how the three men were experienced thieves who had deliberately broken into Fu’s apartment while he was abroad.
Much of the loot has yet to be recovered.
A calligraphic letter and a handwritten poem by Mao remain missing, as do dozens of prized Chinese seal sets, the Post reported.
A collector who received some of the goods alerted police once he realized the items had been stolen.
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