An antique dealer in China is now under investigation by local authorities for allegedly hiring a gang of tomb-raiding thieves to loot ancient artifacts.
The suspect, identified only by his surname Cai from Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province, also used one of the stolen treasures as a coffee table in his home.
Citing mainland news media, South China Morning Post reported that Cai ordered 12 tomb raiders to rob 12 relics from the graves of two Buddhist monks.
Between September and November 2017, the thieves reportedly stole items that date back from the Qing dynasty, which ruled from 1644 to 1911/12.
In mid-November, a group of villagers reportedly spotted the gang of thieves moving stones from the graves and notified the local authorities. After his arrest on Dec. 8, Cai admitted to his crimes following police questioning. The 12 suspected thieves were arrested a month later, on Jan. 3.
Police would later find the stolen artifacts during a raid of Cai’s house where it was being stored before selling. According to the investigators, Cai decided to keep one of the valuables and used it as a coffee table.
In an interview with a radio station, local village chief Chen Xingliang noted that the two graves hold a special significance among the villagers.
“We have known these two graves since we were little. They have been deserted for many years and people seldom go up there,” Chen was quoted as saying.
Cai, who was arrested and then given a suspended sentence in 2014 for a similar offense, is still being investigated along with his 12 accomplices.