Million dollar art heist at Palace Museum
  Resource:xin hua   2011-05-12 11:07:54  

BEIJING, May 11 -- Police are hunting a thief who stole millions of dollars worth of art in an overnight heist at the famed Palace Museum in Beijing.

The suspect, who was caught on security cameras, is believed to have hidden inside China's biggest museum before closing on May 8, and carried out the burglary before midnight.

Rumor of the art heist inside the heavily fortified Forbidden City Palace began to hit China's cyber world Tuesday. A blogger claimed the theft amounted to nearly one billion yuan (154 million U.S. dollars).

The museum confirmed the theft Tuesday afternoon on its microblog, but did not confirm the value of seven stolen items which were borrowed from a Hong Kong museum for the exhibition in the capital.

"They (the stolen items) are private collections, basically gold and silver powder boxes decorated by gems of various kinds," said Wang Xiahong, curator of the Hong Kong-based Liangyi Museum.

"Not as much as 1 billion yuan, but tens of millions to say the least." she adds.

Organizers say the exhibition will continue till June 27 as scheduled after a discussion with the collector of the missing items. The Palace Museum will hold a news conference today to release photos of stolen pieces which may be on sale on the black-market.

Exhibition halls, including the site of the theft in the east zone of the museum, have been closed to tourists since Tuesday noon, with the authorities not giving a clear date of when they will reopen.

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