The leader of a gang of Chinese grave robbers has been sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined RMB55,000 for illegally excavating tombs and cultural sites.
Twenty-five other culprits alongside the ringleader, known only as Zhou, have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to 11 years alongside fines of RMB3,000 to RMB5,000.
Zhou and his band of grave robbers were found guilty of stealing more than 1,500 cultural relics over the past decade, including “seven precious bronze chime bells from more than 2,600 years ago,” Global Times reports.
The chime bells are said to date to back to the Spring and Autumn Period (770BC-476BC) and were stolen by the gang from Shandong province in 2012.
The gang would study local history and media reports to find possible spots that could have been used as graves hundreds and thousands of years ago.
In 2012, after hearing of reports that someone found jade stones buried in the ground in Shandong province’s Tengzhou city, the group set upon the site with shovels in buckets.
They dug for hours beside a riverbank before eventually finding seven ancient bronze bells, which they sold to black market antique dealers for RMB1.2 million.
The bells were apparently resold several times before the police were able to track their whereabouts.
The gang had also previously raided ancient tombs and historic sites, accumulating over 1,500 cultural relics from China’s Warring States Period (475BC-221BC), the Western Han Dynasty (206BC-AD25), Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
[Cover image via Global Times]
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