Temple treasure disappears from bank

MYSTERIOUS::Wenwu Temple authorities found that the temple’s building ownership certificate and 40.6kg in gold have vanished from two safety deposit boxes

By Huang Chien-hua and Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

Fri, Jul 06, 2012 - Page 5

Gold plaques weighing a total of 40.6kg and valued at NT$20 million (US$669,576), entrusted by the Wenwu Temple in Greater Kaohsiung to the First Bank’s Linya Branch for safekeeping, have disappeared and replaced with piles of ghost money.

The Wenwu Temple, a celebrated shrine to the god of business, Guan Gong (關公), is a religious center in southern Taiwan that has received numerous honorariums, such as gold plaques and gold yuanbao (元寶, a gold ingot), from devotees in gratitude for the deity’s long-time protection and blessings.

An unspecified number of gold plaques, 100 gold yuanbao and 100 gold collar splints, along with the temple’s valuable building ownership certificate, were separately locked up in five safety deposit boxes at the First Bank branch for safekeeping.

An inventory check of the boxes is conducted once every four years, after a re-election of the temple’s board of directors and supervisors has been held.

On Monday, Greater Kaohsiung Police Department’s Sinsing Precinct received a call from the temple, which said that the valuables stored in two of the safety deposit boxes had gone missing.

After a preliminary investigation, police said the last two inventory checks of the treasures were carried out in July and October 2008.

A board re-election was held on May 28 this year and temple authorities conducted an inventory check on Friday last week, planning to hand over the temple’s ownership document to the newly elected board of directors, police said.

However, the temple authorities could only unlock three of the five safety deposit boxes, police said.

These three boxes were all smaller than the two unopened ones.

On Monday the temple staff, accompanied by bank clerks, managed to open the two large safety deposit boxes. Only then did they realize that a total of 40.6kg in gold plaques, along with the temple’s ownership certificate, had disappeared.

All that was left inside the two safety deposit boxes were piles of ghost money, police said.

Four distinct seals were originally used to open the account for the five safety deposit boxes, police said, which meant that a person would have to possess the four different seals, as well as the keys to the boxes, to gain direct access to the deposited items.

However, police found that the seal impressions recorded at the stock check in October 2008 were “slightly off,” and that the banking documents for that day’s access were only stamped with the seals, without any valid signatures added on the documents.

Police said they had collected fingerprints left on the boxes and referred the stamped documents to the Criminal Investigation Bureau for verification.

Wenwu Temple president Lin Hung-chien (林宏建) yesterday called on law enforcement authorities to solve the case as soon as possible, for the sake of the temple’s devotees.