A man was remanded by Kaohsiung police on Wednesday for allegedly stealing a painting by renowned Taiwanese painter Chen Cheng-po (陳澄波) with an estimated value of NT$30 million (US$960,614).
Liu Ching-mao (劉警懋), 45, was turned over to the Kaohsiung Prosecutors’ Office on charges of larceny.
According to police reports, Liu was the owner of a camping ground in Alishan (阿里山), but had a falling out with a long-time friend, an antiques dealer surnamed Chao (趙), after Chao refused to loan Liu NT$20,000.
Liu allegedly drugged Chao’s German shepherd at his residence at 5am on May 25 before breaking into the home and leaving with Chen’s Second Painting of Gulangyu, reportedly worth NT$30 million.
Police said they used CCTV footage of a vehicle to help identify a suspect and offered a NT$200,000 reward for information on the case.
After receiving a tip off, a plainclothes officer visited Liu’s camping ground in the guise of a teacher wanting to rent a site and found the vehicle from the video footage, making Liu the prime suspect in the theft, the police said.
Police said they obtained a search warrant for Liu’s residence and business in Chiayi County’s Jhuci Township (竹崎) and on Wednesday found not only the Chen painting, but four other paintings, including one by Qing Dynasty official Zeng Guofan (曾國藩).
Liu was quoted by police as admitting that he had stolen the painting to “get back” at Chao for refusing to lend him money, adding that he intended to lie low until the theft blew over before contacting Chao through an intermediary and selling him back the painting.
Later on Wednesday, Chao collected his painting, saying that it is authentic and he had bought in Hong Kong five years ago.
Ministry of Culture official Hsiao Chong-ray (蕭瓊瑞), who convenes the antiques review committee’s modern arts division, has said he “does not recall” if Chen painted the Second Gulangyu.
Chen’s grandson, Chen Li-pai (陳立?), said he has not seen the painting in person and declined to make any further comment.
Chen Cheng-po, born in 1895, was a renowned painter and his work On the Streets of Chiayi was selected for the seventh Imperial Japanese Arts University Exhibition.
The artist was shot dead in 1947 during the then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government’s crackdown on antigovernment uprisings that began on Feb. 27, 1947 — known as the 228 Incident.
Chen Cheng-po’s works are highly sought after and sell for between NT$500,000 to NT$2 million.
Two of his works, Chiayi Park and Sunset in Tamsui, sold for HK$5.79 million and HK$50.7 million (US$747,000 and US$6.5 million) 2002 and 2007 respectively, are designated important heritages by the ministry and are now in the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts’ collection.
Additional reporting by Yang Yuan-ting
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