Hong Kong police arrest 3 men in relation to $645 million art heist that included calligraphy by Mao

Written by By Eric CheungEmma Reynolds, CNN

Three men have been arrested in connection with an alleged $645 million Hong Kong art heist that included calligraphy reportedly written by Mao Zedong.

A 2.8-meter (9-foot) piece of calligraphy said to be the creation of China’s former Communist leader was cut in half by the burglars because they thought it was too long to be displayed, according to Hong Kong police.

The stolen items included six smaller calligraphy pieces also purportedly written by Mao, a collection of 10 bronze coins and more than 24,000 old stamps, Senior Inspector of Hong Kong police Tony Ho told a Wednesday news conference.

More than 24,000 old stamps were stolen from a Hong Kong apartment during the burglary.

More than 24,000 old stamps were stolen from a Hong Kong apartment during the burglary. Credit: Hong Kong Police

“Someone thought that the calligraphy was too long. It was about 2.8 meters so it would be difficult to display, so they cut it in half,” Ho said.

He said the owner had estimated that the items were worth 5 billion Hong Kong dollars ($645 million), but police were still working to confirm the exact value and have contacted relevant groups in Hong Kong and China.

The burglary took place at an apartment in Yau Ma Tei neighborhood on the night of September 10 and involved three men, who left the scene in a taxi, according to Ho.

The items included 10 bronze coins, 24,327 old stamps, and seven calligraphy pieces reported to have been written by Mao.

The items included 10 bronze coins, 24,327 old stamps, and seven calligraphy pieces reported to have been written by Mao. Credit: Hong Kong Police

On September 22, the Organized Crime and Triad Bureau arrested a 49-year-old man with the last name Lam at an apartment in Wan Chai, on suspicion of handling stolen property. He is not thought to have taken part in the burglary.

Police found some of the stolen items — two bronze coins and a calligraphy purportedly written by Mao — in his apartment. Lam has since been released on bail.

The triad bureau raided another apartment in Yau Ma Tei Tuesday and arrested two more men. A 44-year-old man, last name Ng, was arrested for burglary, while another man aged 47 was arrested for assisting an offender by providing a hideout. Police did not find any items in this raid and the men are under investigation.

Two men have been arrested in relation to the burglary and one man for allegedly assisting an offender by providing a hideout.

Two men have been arrested in relation to the burglary and one man for allegedly assisting an offender by providing a hideout. Credit: Hong Kong Police

Officers believe that two burglars are still on the run, said Ho.

The case remains under investigation and police have been studying CCTV to identify the suspects. They are still looking for eight more bronze coins, six more calligraphy pieces, and all 24,327 stamps.

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