British brothers jailed for stealing $4.4 million worth of Chinese artefacts from Swiss museum
Two British brothers have been sentenced to prison for stealing three Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) artefacts from the Swiss Museum. The stolen items, including two bowls and a vase, are reportedly valued at approximately £3.5 million ($4.4 million).
The brothers, Louis, 45, and Stewart Ahearne, 35, are from south London. They were part of a three-man gang that broke into the Fondation Baur, a museum of Far Eastern art in Geneva, in June 2019. Both were sentenced to three years and six months in prison. This was reported by thefrontierpost.com.
It is said that the brothers, wearing masks and gloves, broke the glass on the front door of the museum and smashed the window. The brothers emphasized that the theft was done to "clear a debt".
It is noted that the three men took one bowl to an auction house in Hong Kong. Stewart Ahearne left his passport details when they sold the item. The bowl was later returned to the museum.
A year after the robbery, the vase was recovered in central London as part of a covert sting operation with Metropolitan Police officers posing as art buyers.
However, the third stolen artefact, a wine bowl decorated with a chicken, has not yet been found. A reward of up to £10,000 has been offered for information leading to its recovery.
This incident joined a number of Chinese artefacts stolen from foreign museums. In September, nine ancient Chinese porcelain pieces worth more than 1 million euros ($1.08 million) were stolen from a museum in Cologne, Germany.
In addition, in August 2023, the theft of about 2,000 artefacts stored in the British Museum was reported, including gold jewellery, gemstones, and glassware, some of which date back to about 3,500 years. This scandal has raised questions in many countries about the security and management of the British Museum. Some countries, such as Nigeria, Greece and Egypt, have again called for the return of their cultural treasures from the museum.