CHINA: OFFICIAL EXECUTED FOR SELLING IMPERIAL RELICS
November 19, 2010: China executed a local official six years after he was convicted of illegally selling hundreds of Qing Dynasty imperial relics for about 550,000 dollars, state media said.
Li Haitao and several accomplices stole the items while he was head of security for relics at the Waibaimiao, or Eight Outer Temples, in the Qing court's summer resort of Chengde in the northern province of Hebei.
Li was convicted in 2004 of stealing 259 protected items from 1993 to 2002 and selling 152 of them for a total of 554,000 dollars, state television and newspapers reported.
Li lost an appeal against his sentence, and China's Supreme People's Court approved the death penalty, the reports said without saying when the higher court gave its approval.
Three accomplices received sentences of two to seven years in prison in 2004.
Earlier reports said police suspicions were raised in 2002 by a Hong Kong auction of two Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) items labelled 'Forbidden City,' the common name of the former imperial palace in Beijing, now also known as the Palace Museum.
The Beijing museum had sent cultural relics to Chengde in the 1950s and 1960s, and they were not returned, the reports said. (Sources: DPA, 19/11/2010)