China’s Ming tomb raiders sent to prison for theft of ancient relics

Defendants jailed for up to 12 years for stealing stone artefacts from World Heritage Site

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 July, 2018, 2:55pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 July, 2018, 2:55pm

Seven people have been sentenced to prison terms of up to 12 years for stealing relics from China’s famed Ming tombs, local media reported.

The collection of 13 mausoleums and tombs located northwest of Beijing were built during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). Although many of the buildings have been destroyed over the centuries, those that remain are part of a United Nations World Heritage Site.

According to a report by Beijing Youth Daily on Tuesday, the defendants were sentenced to between four and 12 years for their parts in the theft of two stone artefacts in April 2016. It did not say when the trial took place and provided only the defendants’ surnames.

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They were found guilty of taking the relics, each of which was about 1 metre (39 inches) tall, from a yard in front of the tomb of Emperor Zhu Youjian, the report said, citing a court document.

The artefacts were loaded onto a cart and pushed to a waiting car.

Despite the presence of security guards at the compound, it was not until two months later that management officials discovered the artefacts were missing, Xinhua reported.

No alarms were triggered at the time of the theft and it was discovered that the surveillance cameras were not working.

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The artefacts, which were part of a set used for ritual sacrifices, were first sold to a dealer in Beijing’s Fangshan district for 90,000 yuan (US$13,500) and then to a buyer in Huairou district for 150,000 yuan.

The defendants, none of whom had direct links to the tomb compound, were also found guilty on 11 other charges of stealing protected artefacts from ancient temples and other historic sites across Beijing.