Chinese man accused of tunnelling for 8 days in brazen jewellery shop raid

Police believe construction worker entered shop via hole in the floor, stealing US$866,000 of gold and platinum necklaces and bracelets

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 October, 2018, 3:48pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 October, 2018, 4:28pm

When 6 million yuan (US$866,000) worth of jewellery vanished overnight from a shop in southern China, the owner was puzzled.

There were no signs of forced entry, and the security guards stationed round-the-clock outside reported nothing unusual. The only red flag at the plaza store in Laibin, Guangxi was that the surveillance cameras cut out at about 3am.

“Every night we have guards from a security company at the door, and the lights are kept on inside the store,” the owner, surnamed Wang, told Southern China Daily News on the day of the robbery.

Store employees arrived in the morning of September 5 to find all but a handful of the shop’s gold and platinum necklaces, bracelets and jewellery were gone, Wang said.

A hole in the floor of the shop was the first clue. Police then uncovered an elaborate heist that they suspect was orchestrated by a debt-laden Fujian man, who was arrested on September 20 and remains under investigation, according to details released on Wednesday by a district court in Laibin.

The suspect, a construction worker identified as Ye Jiangyun, had come to Guangxi to find work in the ceramic tile industry after his business failed. But he allegedly moved his focus to the Zhou Liu Fu jewellery shop after noticing that the newly renovated plaza basement provided an easy access point to enter the shop from below, according to the national Supreme People’s Procuratorate’s online publication.

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Ye is accused of spending eight days tunnelling through the ventilation ducts, using an electric cutter and hammer, iron tongs and a flashlight that he had bought online, according to the report. It said he worked only in the early morning so the sound would go undetected.

On the evening of the robbery, Ye is suspected of cutting the video surveillance wire and entering the shop via a hole he made in the floor. He is charged with stealing 9.75kg of gold and half a kilo of platinum jewellery.

“My business was losing money, and I owed a lot to a lot of people. I really can’t repay it,” Ye is quoted by the court report as saying. “I wanted to rob the jewellery store to pay off debt.”

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After the robbery, investigators said, Ye hired a car online to take him from Guangxi to Fuzhou city on the southeast coast, a 14-hour trip.

Police spotted Ye through surveillance footage and finally caught up with him in Fuzhou 15 days after the jewellery was taken, the report said.

Ye awaits prosecution in Laibin. The report did not state if the jewellery had been recovered.