Sat, Jan 25, 2014 - Page 3 News List

Major antique theft cracked in Greater Tainan

By Wang Chun-chung and Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

The police said they have solved a major antique theft in Greater Tainan, retrieving more than 90 rare historical artifacts and cultural treasures that were stolen by burglars last week.

Authorities announced on Thursday that they had arrested two suspects, while still pursuing two other suspected accomplices associated with a burglary at the Sifoguo Buddhist Art Shop in Greater Tainan owned by Tsai Tien-ming (蔡天明).

Valued at between NT$100 million and NT$200 million (US$3.3 million to US$6.6 million), some of the antiques and assorted cultural treasures were from China’s Qing and Ming dynasties, and several originated in the 14th century during the Mongol Empire’s dynastic rule over China.

Police arrested Yang Fang-yen (楊方言), 41, who previously managed an antique store in Changhua County, and has good knowledge of Chinese art and cultural collectibles.

Yang allegedly posed as a tourist and visited the Sifoguo shop several times last year.

On Saturday last week, after finding no one answering the doorbell at the shop, he allegedly called truck driver Chen Chia-hung (陳佳宏), 34, and two other accomplices to the shop’s back alley, police said.

They allegedly broke through the kitchen window to enter the shop, carrying out valuable antiques to the truck over the course of three hours, police said.

Sifting through videos of surveillance cameras in the area, police investigators identified a blue truck at the time of the crime.

They arrested the two men in Yunlin County‘s Douliou City (斗六) on Tuesday.

Both initially denied any involvement in the burglary, with Yang saying the goods in their possession were sold to him by Chen, but Chen said he was just the driver and did not know where the artifacts came from, police said.

Later on Thursday, a man surnamed Shih (施) went to the police in Changhua County, saying someone claiming to be Yang’s friend contacted him to temporarily store 67 rare antiques in his warehouse.

He suspected these may be connected to the Sifoguo shop theft, which was widely reported by the media earlier this week.

The police went to Shih’s warehouse in Changhua County and found 25 more items, including vintage wines, rare pottery and other artifacts.

Police retrieved a total of 92 stolen items, which were identified by Sifoguo’s Tsai family as belonging to them.

“We are very grateful for getting back these treasures. They were passed on within our family for several generations already. They had been with us for more than six decades,” Tsai said.

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