Chinese farmer gets 13 years for Forbidden City theft

BEIJING Mon Mar 19, 2012 6:35am GMT

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BEIJING (Reuters) - A Beijing court on Monday sentenced a Chinese farmer to 13 years in jail for the audacious theft last year of several imperial treasures from the Forbidden City, state media said, in a case which highlighted lax security at China's most famous museum.

Curators at the Palace Museum, housed in the former home of China's last emperors, were left red faced after several items on loan from a Hong Kong museum were stolen in May.

Shi Baikui, from the eastern province of Shandong, broke into the museum and stole nine art works made of gold and jewels, but in his haste to escape left five of the pieces inside the museum compound, Xinhua news agency reported.

"Failing to immediately sell the treasures, he threw the other four pieces away the next day," it said, citing a court statement.

Three pieces have yet to be recovered, Xinhua added.

Two days after the theft, police arrested Shi in an Internet cafe in southern Beijing.

Shi, who called it a "spur-of-the-moment" crime, explained that he had been able to disrupt the alarm system, Xinhua said, adding that the Palace Museum is updating its alarms to prevent a repeat occurrence.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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