The Mysterious Chinese Art Heists Across Europe

The Mysterious Chinese Art Heists Across Europe

I’m Kento Bento. This video is made
possible by CuriosityStream. Watch thousands of documentaries for free for 30 days at the link
in the description. Stockholm, Sweden. 2010. Passersby on the streets of the
capital were confused and scared. Several cars in and around the vicinity had lit up in flames, and
no one had any idea why. Police soon arrived on scene but they too were baffled
with what they saw. Now, several kilometers to the
west, on the outskirts of the city, a small group of masked men made their way across the grounds of
the Drottningholm Palace, the private residence of
the Swedish Royal Family. Their target was the
royal pavilion situated in the southern part of the complex, which displayed countless
works of historic art. Once there, the men forced their way in through the backdoors,
and went right to work. They smashed the protective display cases,
and grabbed whatever items they wanted. This immediately set off the alarm system,
which alerted the Swedish police. Now, despite the alarm,
the robbers remained calm, because they knew exactly
where the police were. The burning cars on the
other side of the city were in fact a distraction for
them set up by the robbers, and they had fallen right into the trap. Still, the police raced
towards the crime scene, but by the time they
reached the royal pavilion, the place was empty, the robbers were in and out
in less than six minutes. Upon inspection, sculptures,
chalices, plates and teapots, all invaluable items, were now missing from the permanent state
collection of art and antiquities; and this wasn’t just a huge economic loss, but a cultural one as well. It was later found out that
after fleeing the pavilion on mopeds, the robbers made
their way to a nearby lake where they were then picked
up by a white speedboat. Though from this point,
the trail went cold. Despite this, authorities
remained relatively optimistic, as, in situations like these, items tended to be
recovered sooner or later. Very few people are
actually prepared to handle such high-profile works, as the pieces are often
too difficult to sell. But what the authorities
failed to realize at the time, was that the culprits were
no ordinary criminals. Little did they know,
the Drottningholm heist was just the beginning. Five months later in Bergen, Norway,
masked men descended from a glass ceiling into the KODE Museum, grabbing
vases, imperial seals, and more. In 2012, in Durham, England, thieves
broke into a museum at Durham University stealing high-value porcelain
sculptures and bowls. That same month the museum at
Cambridge University was also hit. And in 2015, in Paris, France,
intruders smashed their way into the Château de Fontainebleau, the exquisite former residence
of the French monarchs with more than 1500
rooms full of treasures, making out with artifacts so rare they were considered the
masterworks of the royal chateau. Now at this point, with
this all set in Europe, you may be wondering why this
video is titled the way it is. Well, it turns out, the
heists shared a similar M.O., cars were lit on fire as
distractions for police, actions taken were clean and meticulous, getaway methods were often
identical, but, most importantly, the artifacts stolen were
all of a similar type. You see, the first heist, the
pavilion in Sweden on the grounds of Drottningholm palace,
was the Chinese Pavilion. The 56 objects stolen from
the KODE Museum in Norway was from the China Collection. Intruders broke into the Oriental
Museum in Durham University, England. And it was the grand Chinese
Museum that was targeted in the Château de Fontainebleau in France. In each heist, the robbers
set their sights on art and antiquities from China. In fact, it seemed they were working
from a very specific shopping list. They knew exactly what they
wanted and where each piece was located, and they
were willing to leave behind high-value objects
that weren’t on the list; like in the chateau,
they completely ignored the other 1500 rooms containing
many other priceless relics, as they weren’t Chinese. Interpol was put on the case as the crimes were clearly transnational; but
despite their investigation, the crime spree could not be stopped. In the years that followed,
reports of Chinese art heists continued throughout
museums across Europe. Now, the general feeling
in intelligence circles was that the criminals were
carrying out instructions from abroad as ordered jobs;
with the true mastermind far from the jurisdiction
of European countries. But who was this mastermind? Or masterminds? And why would they steal
so many documented works that can neither be legally
sold nor openly exhibited? Indeed, the majority of the stolen art never actually resurfaced,
increasing the likelihood that it ended up as part of someone or some organization’s private collection. As the years went by,
it seemed to be becoming one of the greater mysteries
in art, alongside Stonehenge, Banksy, and the case of
the second Mona Lisa. But upon closer inspection, the mystery of the Chinese
art heists began to unravel, as signs pointed to the involvement
of an elite group of individuals. But to fully understand this,
we first need to go back in time, back 160 years ago to the
end of the Second Opium War. Beijing, 1860. British and French
troops marched defiantly towards the magnificent Old Summer Palace, the main imperial residence
of the Qing dynasty. The men were ready for retribution, as a few weeks earlier
their comrades were tortured and murdered at the hands of
the Chinese while attempting to negotiate peace under a
prearranged flag of truce. When the Europeans reached
the palace grounds, they didn’t hold back, laying
waste to everything in sight. The Old Summer Palace,
known for its architecture, extensive gardens, and its numerous
art and historical treasures, was now being desecrated and pillaged. Sculptures, robes, jewelry,
vases, chalices, plates, teapots, and even Pekingese dogs,
a breed unknown to Europe at the time, were hauled away as trophies. This momentous event,
set a 160 years earlier, was in fact the original
Chinese art heist, perhaps the real greatest
art heist in Chinese history. Once the soldiers were done pilfering, they torched the palace grounds,
to the horror of the Chinese. Now the majority of the
loot made its way to Europe, ending up in the possession
of private collectors and royal families. Queen Victoria of Britain was even gifted the very first pet Pekingese
dog ever seen in Europe, which she brazenly named Looty. Over time many of these Chinese
relics (Looty not included) made its way to museums across Europe, including the Drottningholm
Palace in Stockholm, the KODE museum in Bergen, and the Château de Fontainebleau in Paris. Present day, China is one of
the countries that has suffered the most from the loss
of antiquities, and, in the past decades, has
managed to conjure a groundswell of national support for the
return of their cultural art. In fact, the Chinese government
has openly promoted efforts to repatriate works pillaged
during the Opium Wars, most notable the invaluable items
stolen from the Old Summer Palace. As a result, certain individuals
in China have now taken it upon themselves to lead the charge, bringing back China’s lost art,
piece by piece, no matter the cost. But who could this be? Who would have the resources
and dedication to pull off such a feat? Well, in 2016, China made
headlines for creating more billionaires than the United States for the first time in
history; the growth driven by self-made entrepreneurs
(many in the tech industry). It has now reached a point
where a new billionaire is minted in China every two days. For this new class of elites,
buying up Chinese artifacts, for inordinate sums of money,
has now become the latest hot trend; an opportunity to show off not
just their new-found riches but also their fervent patriotism. After all, the fate of
the nation’s plundered art from the royal residence of
what was China’s last dynasty, has been a focal point of national pride. In 2010, in a suburban
London auction house, a 16-inch Chinese vase
from the Old Summer Palace started with an inconsequential
price of $800,000, but ended half an hour
later with a final bid of $69,500,000, 50 times its estimate, the bidder an anonymous buyer from China. And this wasn’t unique. There was also the small
porcelain chicken cup which sold for $36 million, and a Tibetan silk tapestry
which sold for $45 million. But just swooping in
and purchasing artifacts left and right isn’t always possible. In many cases, the most
prized and rarest works of art never go up for auction, rather they’re kept at Western
museums, or held in private collections. So what happens when all legal
avenues have been exhausted? Well, there is the idea that
some Chinese billionaires are funding free agents to
retrieve these museum works. And instead of putting these
dubiously-acquired treasures up for display for all to
see, are understandably hiding them away in highly-secured,
climate-controlled warehouses. Though, not all may actually
care to play it so low-key; because with Chinese laws, from theft to intellectual property, being very different
from the Western world, the aforementioned issues
of selling or exhibiting these high-profile stolen works
may not be so problematic after all. There’s also the justification
many have that since the items were initially
stolen from China, it can’t be considered a real crime; and by now returning the
artifacts to its homeland to be displayed, they are
somehow aiding its liberation. Now, all this may seem a
plausible-enough explanation, perhaps even likely, but billionaires aren’t
the only suspects here. In recent years, there
has been another popular idea circulating; one that puts
the culpability on an entity far greater and more powerful
than Chinese billionaires; and that’s the Chinese government, the implication being that
China itself is the one ordering the thefts from Western museums, and that they are in fact the
buyer of the stolen relics. After all, China’s communist
party has already made it clear that they want their
art back, with seemingly little care about the
methodology of their return. Certainly, they’ve
demonstrated no real concern or sympathy for the
museum heists in Europe. And in fact, apparently
one of the items stolen from the KODE Museum in Bergen, Norway, is now openly displayed at one
of China’s International airports in Shanghai. Police in Bergen did attempt
to follow up on this lead, but Norwegian authorities
higher up didn’t want to insult the Chinese with accusations, nor cause an international
incident, and so did nothing. Though if the Chinese government
is involved in all this, it would likely be through
their most powerful and most impenetrable
conglomerate, the China Poly Group. This state-run corporation
started as an offshoot of the People’s Liberation Army
as their arms-manufacturing wing, but has since evolved far beyond. Their varied pursuits now
include not just the peddling of missiles and weapons systems,
but international trade, real estate and, perhaps
most unexpectedly, the buying and selling
of art and antiquities. In fact, they run the
third-largest art auction house in the world, behind
Sotheby’s and Christie’s. Of the company’s headquarters
at the New Beijing Poly Plaza, The New York Times noted
the most unusual contrast of being able to buy a
painting on the third floor, and a missile system on the 27th. Today, they have declared
assets of a $140 billion, over twice the GDP of Luxembourg. So could the China Poly Group
be behind the Chinese art heists in Europe? Well, maybe. We already know they’ve been
running a global information network to locate and reclaim
lost antiquities that, as they put it, have been “illegally
robbed away by western powers”. Many might call this a
noble and just cause, although the countries
and cultures whom China itself has taken artifacts
from, through conquest, might have something to say about that. Now China Poly has not revealed
much about their retrieval program, and has not responded to public requests to elaborate on their methodology;
but they have outright denied any involvement
in the museum heists, calling the allegations nonsense. From the evidence, they
claim it cannot be inferred that there was even somebody
ordering the heists. Further, defenders of
China Poly have pointed out that during the robbery in Paris, not all the stolen artworks
were actually Chinese. One item in particular was of Thai origin, a replica crown of the King of
Siam’s given to Napoleon III in 1861; so why would the
Chinese government steal that? It’s clear there are still
mysteries left unanswered about the Chinese art heists, and perhaps we’ll never really know; such as the mystery of
the second Mona Lisa, whose very existence
has puzzled art experts for over a century. Why are there two
versions of The Mona Lisa? And is the one sitting
in the Louvre in Paris even the original? Now, if you want to
find out all about this, there’s an excellent
documentary breaking this down (similar to this video) that I highly
recommend you check out. It’s available right
now on CuriosityStream, a streaming service with thousands
of high-quality documentaries, created by the same guy
behind the Discovery Channel. So there’s The Mona Lisa Mystery
which you should definitely check out, but if you’re one of those people who doesn’t quite understand
how to look at art, or how to look at a painting (kinda like me who finds
it all a bit baffling) I’d also recommend this
12-part series called, well, “How to Look at a Painting”. Now if you love the Kento Bento channel, you’re almost certain to be
a lover of documentaries, and by going to right now, you can get unlimited access to the world’s top documentaries
and nonfiction series for a very reasonable $2.99 a month; better yet, by entering
the promo code kentobento during the signup process, your membership will be completely free
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the Kento Bento channel. So please, go check it out. (funky upbeat music)

100 thoughts on “The Mysterious Chinese Art Heists Across Europe

  1. French words are hard to pronounce…

    Get CuriosityStream & Nebula for free to watch thousands of documentaries:
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  2. 'Happy chinese Lester noise'

  3. do i hear morgz music?

  4. 7:44 nice

  5. Polis

  6. Man I love to watch these stories before I go to bed! <3

  7. Why would they put Looty in the museum xd

  8. P

  9. this would be a cool movie

  10. Are we sure it wasnt just nathan drake and sully?

  11. it doesnt matter the artifacts are rightfully theirs and its not like the western countries have them on loan, they were stolen. and if the refuse to hand over what is not their own to the rightful owner, taking it back by force is the only option left

  12. So one who sells 2000 items of $ 69M is richer than Jeff bezos.

  13. 💯 it’s China haha

  14. it feels like Kento Bento is planning a great Roberry

  15. It's theirs because they're Chinese, it should be for the Chinese not in Europe lol

  16. Now I know where heist hong kong movie like example jackie chan movie inspired by

  17. Nobo

  18. I hope indonesian language

  19. Winnie the pooh vs pewdiepie


  21. Hahaha. Just like China’s claim to the South China Sea. China is the real enemy to all of us and they have some even bigger agendas waiting to be executed. Somebody need to stop them.

  22. when you wanna play payday 2 in real life

  23. Nobody:
    Leonardo Da Vinci's drunk assistants: Watch this

  24. Nothing to see here. It was THEIR art, so there's no crime except from a few broken windows.

  25. If I could get the name of the artifact in the airport from shanghai that would be great, because I live in shanghai and I'll be flying from there, from the exact terminal and it would be interesting to see

  26. aye guys!
    ima pay u sum cash if u gonna rob some stuff for meh.
    how much?
    uhh is 20000000000 enough?

    Uhh like every european museum and places with expensive things..
    okay deal
    wait wha-

  27. bruh this would make a great movie plot: heist, action, historic intanglements, conspiracy, government involvement, dark transactions..

  28. Nice video. Keep it up. I’m actually from Bergen, Norway

  29. Europe: steals Chinese artifacts from China
    China: Okay, my turn

  30. I don’t know, do you think this is the right thing to do? What do think Kento Bento. What do you guys think. Respond in the comment.

  31. GTA irl

  32. The “Polis?

    Also you are really close to 1 mil subs

  33. Kento Bento has the best story telling voice, videography and deliver such a high quality story in a very delicate way

  34. Indians watching this video know what to do now!

  35. China is taking their stuff back

  36. I live in Stockholm

  37. Okay. Let’s loot Kohinoor

  38. Someday the West will steal back on the technology the Chinese have stolen in modern times.

  39. 'Polis'

  40. This was not theft. This was taking cultural and historic artifacts back from the real thieves

  41. burning cars in Sweden before it was cool

  42. kinda glad that they did this

  43. Polis

  44. I never even knew a second Mona Lisa existed

  45. Omg is IT in Bergen i live in Stavanger and Bergen is the nabor city

  46. “And that is the chinese-“

    Me: MAFIA



  47. Im badly want to work with this heist company!

  48. GTA in real life

  49. ok I'm Chinese…….

  50. Me and the bois doing the diamond casino heist

  51. China in 2020 has seen worse

  52. Chinese government: ABORT ABORT THEY GOT US!

  53. Do more heist videos!

  54. hold up- am i the only one that says antiques and an-tee-ks cuz he's saying it as an-tik-wa-tees or is that just a different word?? 😂

  55. Who else just marathoning Asian heists?

  56. Here before ur channel gets extreamly popular

  57. maybe they stole the thai crown for the thai royalties as a favour.

  58. The reasons they were invaded back then, mirror their not so very distant past behaviour and attitude. Some could even say they still proudly act like the stubborn arrogant fat dumb kid.
    Their disrespectful behaviour back then was met with stubborn officials not backing down.
    Then they willingly went to war with a superior foe. And were looted (old laws are still 'legal' in historical sense.).
    I wouldn't say the looting was justified, but hey… Arrogant snobs get what they deserve. 🙂
    And NOW they are using illegal actions to recover legally (old laws!) Obtained art.
    It's very likely they could recover most art under the guise of "it is our ancestry." Like the greeks, egyptians and many others have done.
    But NOOOOO.
    They rather repeat history and act like they always have.
    I find it kinda adorable how everyone has sh*t to say about the US… While China is the historical prime example of arrogance and manifest destiny.

  59. What’s Banksy’s identity tho?

  60. 0:38

    morgz music intensifies

  61. the thai crown stolen was a clue/message for someone,don't know for whom though….

  62. I am from norway

  63. Me a Norwegian from bergen:holy shit someone recongnised us

  64. Well, the Chinese took their art back. But also didn't blow up palaces when leaving. So who's the real bad guy here?

  65. 9:19
    somehow I think this is most likley

    Question : was this in December?

  67. Polis

    Great spelling kento

  68. I like how they burned the cars just like the English burnt their temple

  69. Mao and the organ harvesting CCP destroyed Chinas cultural heritage and her treasures, if it was up to the CCP nothing would have survived.

  70. reminds me of gta 5 casino heist

  71. Diamond Casino Heist in real Life

  72. fair. those arts were stolen from China 150 years ago.

  73. 0:23 "Polis"

  74. 11:38 Argument against that: Thai thieves, or organized crime rings looking to sell pieces, could have stole these items quite easily. They would just have to impersonate the already popular method that the original thieves were using: Set cars on fire; drive opposite; smash the cases and go. There were no gimmicks or specialized tricks in the MO's previous to the Thai heist.

    Food for thought.

  75. If a thief takes what is yours and you take it back, does that make you also a thief?

  76. 12:20 I’m pretty sure that’s psvr

  77. I hate how he made the swedish police have blond hair because i am swedish and i dont have blond hair.

  78. 5:36 well i guess it is good that the dpgs got stolen from the chinese coz um… you know why

  79. Asiany videos means videos about only east asia.

  80. don't you scare us by saying m kento bento

  81. Well… I'm not condoning stealing.. But, it's quite cheeky of white people to steal artifacts ect from African and Asian countries then be angry that they want their valuables back. Just saying 🤷🏽

  82. 9:50 Come on, Norway. Other nations on Earth (the US in particular) need to push back if China does shit like this. Doing nothing will only give them a green card. And they're opportunists, so you better believe they're going to take it, run with it, and escalate. First it's art heists. But before you know it, they'll be seizing military bases.


  83. I hate it that all the european nations especially UK still refuse to return any of the artifacts despite China being economically and probably in every way superior to any of them. China can obviously negotiate from a position of power but those nations just refuse even though the odds are stacked against them

  84. I live in Durham and a robbery never happened and it would have been on the news

  85. It can’t be considered as steel if it was already stolen

  86. I’m in support of the theft

  87. You left out the important FACT that the Chinese destroyed their own history

  88. 12:29

  89. wait… did all ther repeating cars burning raise any red flag

  90. Am I the Only one that notices how this is like Black Panther

  91. Kento Bento:
    EU: Write that down!

  92. The guy in the middle looks mid fart

  93. Europe- hippity hopity your culture is now my property.

  94. Other Asian countries now taking notes to get their stuff back.

  95. Well China wouldn't be so desperate to get their stuff back if they didn't destroy most of their historic artifacts during communist revolution and the great leap forward. It is so ironic that the only reason why this artifacts still exist is that they were war loot.

  96. Hey mate you need to make more of heists please

  97. This reminds me of cronadeascese that started on china

  98. Hm shouldnt the europeans apologize for stealing these artifacts and return them instead of putting it in their museum?

  99. GTA casino when u get artwork

  100. 1:21 POLIS

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