Mao Zedong scroll thieves jailed in Hong Kong

·1 min read
Police show a picture of a calligraphy scroll written by Mao Zedong worth about 300 million USD
Police show a picture of a calligraphy scroll written by Mao Zedong worth about 300 million USD

Three people have been jailed in Hong Kong for stealing art said to be worth millions, including a calligraphy scroll written by former Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong.

The thieves had been unaware of its value and sold it to an amateur collector for under HK$200 ($25; £20).

The buyer himself didn't know the worth of the calligraphy and cut it in half so it could be more easily stored.

The defendants were each jailed for up to two and a half years.

The handwritten scroll contains details of a Chinese Communist Party meeting and several stanzas of Mao's poetry. Its owner has claimed it is estimated to be worth around $300m (£230m), though it is not known how the valuation was obtained.

The scroll was stolen in a massive heist in September 2020, when three men broke into the home of Fu Chunxiao, a well-known collector of stamps and revolutionary art.

They also made off with antique stamps, copper coins and other pieces of calligraphy by Mao. The total haul was worth HK$5bn ($645m; £500m) according to Mr Fu, who was reportedly in mainland China when the burglary took place.

A buyer then saw a public appeal by police, and surrendered himself with both pieces of the scroll.

Ho Yik-chiu, 46, Ng Wing-lun, 45, and Hui Ping-kei, 48, all pleaded guilty, according to The South China Morning Post.

The court heard how the three men were seasoned burglars who had deliberately targeted Mr Fu's apartment while he was overseas.

Much of the haul is still missing.

In 2019, a calligraphic autograph letter written by Mao Zedong was auctioned off by Sotheby's for £519,000. .

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