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Palace Museum accused stole 'on spur of moment'

(Shanghai Daily)

12:58, February 18, 2012

A man accused of stealing nine exhibits from Beijing's Palace Museum yesterday in court denied planning the theft beforehand.

Instead, 28-year-old Shi Baikui told the Beijing No.2 Intermediate People's Court that he acted on the spur of the moment last May.

Appearing calm and confident, Shi surveyed his surroundings as he entered the courtroom yesterday morning, the Procuratorial Daily reported.

Prosecutors said Shi sneaked into the Palace Museum on May 8 last year and stole nine exhibits, including gold purses and jewel-encrusted mirrored compacts on loan from the Hong Kong-based Liang Yi Museum.

These had an insurance value of 410,000 yuan (US$65,096).

Shi is alleged to have discarded five items in the museum as he fled.

The others he dumped in a litter bin near Yiheyuan Road in Haidian District, after a jewelry shop owner told him they were fakes, prosecutors said.

Six pieces were recovered but three items, valued at 150,000 yuan, are still missing, the court heard.

Shi claimed he had not planned to steal anything when he went to the museum.

"Theft was not on my mind when I entered the museum?" Shi told the court. "The idea only occurred to me while I was seeking shelter there from the rain."

Prosecutors said Shi had confessed that he planned the theft and had mapped his escape route on an earlier visit.

They called for a sentence of between 13 and 15 years.

Shi's lawyer asked for a lighter sentence for the Shandong Province native, arguing that this was a regular theft except for the location.

The court did not reach a verdict yesterday.

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