Stolen $300M Mao Scroll Found ‘Cut in Half’: Hong Kong Police

A calligraphy scroll by former Chinese leader Mao Zedong that has been cut in half is displayed in Hong Kong on Tuesday. Stolen as part of a high-profile burglary, the artwork estimated to be worth about $296.7 million was discovered when police arrested a 49-year-old man in late September on suspicion of handling stolen property. The South China Morning Post, quoting an unnamed police source, reported that the calligraphy scroll was cut in half by a buyer who had purchased it for $64.50 and had believed the scroll to be a counterfeit. (Hong Kong Police Force via AP)

HONG KONG (AFP) — A stolen poetry scroll written by Mao Zedong and valued at hundreds of millions of dollars has been recovered, Hong Kong police said Wednesday — but not before it was cut in half.

Officers said someone handling the thieved artifact had given it the chop after judging it “too difficult to display.”

The calligraphy scroll — worth an estimated $300 million — was the most valuable item taken in a brazen robbery last month targeting the Hong Kong apartment of Chinese collector Fu Chunxiao.

The gang of three made off with a hoard of treasures worth, according to Fu, an estimated $645 million that included antique stamps and revolutionary items from mainland China in what is believed to be the city’s biggest heist by value.

On Wednesday, police announced they had recovered the Mao scroll and two bronze coins. But the scroll had suffered devastating damage.

“Someone claimed that (the scroll) was too difficult to display because it was too long so it was cut in half,” Senior Superintendent Tony Ho told reporters.

Police said one person was arrested on suspicion of handling stolen goods, another for burglary and the third for assisting a criminal.

The robbery itself was remarkably simple.

The thieves walked into the 16-story residential building, pried open an iron gate and burst through a wooden door to get inside the apartment, before making off via the same route with the goods, police said at the time.

On Wednesday investigators said earlier appeals for public information had helped them track down a taxi driver who helped them identify key suspects and locations. 

Police believe they have identified the remaining two thieves, who are currently at large.

© Agence France-Presse

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