Police appeal for stolen Ming dynasty Chinese doucai cup

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Aug 22, 2023, 8:00:38 PM8/22/23
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Police appeal for stolen Ming dynasty Chinese doucai cup

Laura Chesters - 22 Aug 2023

The Metropolitan Police is offering a Serious Crime Reward of up to £10,000 for information leading to the recovery of a Ming Dynasty cup stolen in 2019 but still missing.
Doucai 'chicken cup'

The doucai 'chicken cup' remains missing after 2019 theft.

Three Chinese porcelain artefacts, estimated to be worth £3.5m, were taken during a robbery of the Museum of Far Eastern Art in Geneva.

Following a four-year police operation, three men have been convicted and two items have been recovered.

A bowl, valued at £80,000, was sold at an auction house in Hong Kong in 2019 and subsequently returned to the museum, while a Yongle period vase valued at £2m was recovered in the operation.

Anyone with information about the whereabouts of the doucai ‘chicken cup’ should call police on 101 referencing Operation Funsea or, to stay anonymous, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Yongle period vase

A Yongle period vase, valued at £2m, was recovered in the recent police operation.

The appeal for the chicken wine cup follows a case at Southwark Crown Court. On August 18, Mbaki Nkhwa, 48, of The Heights, Charlton, and Kaine Wright, 26, of Heavitree Road, Woolwich, were found guilty of one count of conspiracy to convert criminal property.

David Lamming, 31, of Belmont Park Close, Lewisham, pleaded guilty to the same offence at an earlier hearing on March 23.

All three will be sentenced on October 13. Nkhwa and Wright have been remanded in custody while Lamming has been bailed.

The convictions follow an operation between the Met and Swiss law enforcement which led to the recovery of the Yongle period vase.

In July 2020, police received a call from an auction house advising that an unknown person had e-mailed them with knowledge of the whereabouts of the vase and seeking a valuation.

An operation was launched, led by Trident officers in Specialist Crime. They managed to trace the IP address for the email account to an address in Belmont Park Close, the home of Lamming.

Rather than carry out an immediate arrest, officers wanted to ensure that they had the best chance of retrieving the stolen vase and returning it to the museum. They launched an undercover operation and when the vase was offered for sale, they posed as buyers agreeing a price of £450,000. This culminated in a meeting at a central London hotel in which Nkhwa handed over the vase to officers.

With the item finally in their possession, officers arrested Nkhwa at the scene. Telephone data showed both he and Lamming had been in regular contact with Wright, who had driven them to the hotel for the exchange.

“International boundaries”

DCI Matt Webb, from the Met’s specialist crime, said: “These convictions are the result of four years’ work crossing international boundaries and involving collaboration between many internal and external partners.”

Two other British nationals await trial in Switzerland for their alleged role in the burglary of the Museum of Far Eastern Art. Both were extradited from the UK in late 2022.

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