UK, Swiss Police Sting Recovers Ming Vase

Operation broke up ring of thieves, officials say
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 19, 2023 12:30 PM CDT
UK, Swiss Police Sting Recovers Ming Vase
A photo issued by the Metropolitan Police on Saturday shows a Chinese vase that dates to the Yongle period of the Ming Dynasty.   (Metropolitan Police via AP)

A sting operation at a London hotel helped authorities recover a 15th-century Chinese vase worth about $2.5 million and break up the criminal ring believed to have stolen the artifact from a Swiss museum, British police said Saturday. The vase, which dates to the Yongle period of the Ming Dynasty, was one of three items stolen from the Museum of Far Eastern Art in Geneva in 2019. The Metropolitan Police Service made the announcement after a London court on Friday found two men guilty of charges related to the gang's effort to sell the vase, the AP reports. A third man pleaded guilty to similar charges earlier this year, and two others arrested in London are awaiting trial in Switzerland in the case. All five are from southeast London.

"The organized crime group involved in this offending believed they could commit significant offenses internationally and that there would be no comeback," said Detective Chief Inspector Matt Webb of the Met's Specialist Crime unit. "They were mistaken, highlighting the strength of our relations with international law enforcement partners and our ability to work across international boundaries." London police said they collaborated with Swiss authorities on the investigation after an auction house alerted them that someone had e-mailed them seeking a valuation for the stolen vase.

Officers working undercover offered to buy the vase for $573,000 and agreed to make the buy at a central London hotel, where the first suspect was arrested. Police have offered a $12,734 reward for information leading to the recovery of a "doucai-style" wine cup with chicken decorations that was also stolen from the Geneva museum. A bowl valued at around $100,000 was returned to the museum after it was sold at an auction in Hong Kong in 2019. The lucrative market for stolen Chinese antiquities has led to several high-profile crimes in recent years, per the AP, including thefts from British museums and auction houses in 2012 that netted jade bowls, figurines, and other items worth millions.

(More museum theft stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.