Partygoer stole museum statue's left thumb after selfie


Museum staff noticed the missing thumb January 8, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation traced it to Rohana five days later. For his deed, the 24-year-old was charged with concealment of major artwork and theft. He has been released on a US$15,000 bail and has handed over his passport.

But the incident has left the Chinese enraged. The Franklin's institutes employees notified the authorities who, in turn, analyzed the security tapes.

A Xinhua report said the cultural centre had established an emergency team to handle the matter and initiated procedures for claiming compensation from the USA institute, based on an agreement signed by both parties.

The accused man is believed to have stolen the thumb from the left hand of a multi-million dollar Terracotta warriors statue.

Michael Rohana was attending an "ugly Christmas jumper party" at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia when he snuck off into the restricted Terracotta Warriors of the First Emperor exhibition, according to court documents. The exhibit will run until March 4.

The statue is one of 10 on loan to the Franklin Institute, from among 8,000 life-size warriors that make up the Terracotta Army.

The statue, which is a cavalryman, dates back to at least 209 BC.

The young man in a long-sleeved green sweater and a Philadelphia Phillies cap walked into the darkened exhibit during a December 21 "Science After Hours" party, according to an affidavit by FBI Special Agent Jacob Archer. A door to the exhibit was closed, but apparently unlocked.

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Surveillance video shows the guest alone with "a priceless part of China's cultural heritage", reported Archer, a member of the FBI's Art Crime Team.

The friends left the room, but Rohana allegedly lingered for a few minutes, using his cellphone as a flashlight to look at the figures, according to the affidavit. "How come the sculptures in Philadelphia are not displayed inside glass cases?" one user on Weibo said.

Rohana then reportedly "put his hand on the left hand of the statute, appeared to break something off from the Calvaryman's left hand and put it in his pocket, and then left".

Franklin Institute staff didn't discover that the thumb was missing until January 8, according to the affidavit.

Another friend said Rohana posted a photo of "a finger" from a terra-cotta warrior on Snapchat a day after the party.

China's official news agency Xinhua reported Rohana admitted to authorities he had the thumb piece in a desk drawer.

"The terracotta warriors are national treasures of our country", the unnamed official was quoted as saying.

A Franklin Institute spokeswoman said previously the statue will be repaired, adding that a security contractor did not follow standard procedures the night of the alleged theft.