. . . later thieves are stealing the first thief's substitutions!
In an audacious heist worthy of a Hollywood plot - a librarian at a leading Chinese fine arts gallery is accused of stealing 143 paintings by grandmasters over the course of two years and replacing them with his own forgeries.
Xiao Yuan, 57, told a court in southern China yesterday that he had substituted the famous works while overseeing a gallery within the library of the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts between 2004 and 2006.
. . .
In his defense Xiao told Guangzhou People’s Intermediate Court that the theft and forgery of art predated his employment and was commonplace at the library.
Xiao said he realised just how rampant the issue was when he noticed some of his own fakes had been replaced by new knock-offs.
“I realised someone else had replaced my paintings with their own because I could clearly discern that their works were terribly bad,” Xiao said in a video of the hearing posted on the court’s website.
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A number of high profile art forgery cases in recent years have proved that the tradition is far from dead in China.
In 2013, the 60 million yuan (£6.4 million) Jibaozhai Museum in northern China was forced to close after it was revealed that its collection of some 40,000 ancient relics were almost all knock-offs.
There's more at the link.
So, if a thief steals a worthless painting that was substituted for the real thing by an earlier thief, is the second thief still guilty? Or does the theft of a forgery count as a public service?