The head of a tomb raiding gang was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve, and other major gang members were given prison terms, a court in northeast China's Liaoning Province ruled Thursday.
When the gang, led by Yao Yuzhong, were arrested last year it was one of the biggest busts of its kind supervised by the Ministry of Public Security since the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949.
Chaoyang City Intermediate People's Court sentenced 22 members of the gang on Thursday.
Yao was found guilty of several offenses including tomb raiding, looting and selling stolen antiques.
The court heard that Yao's gang was highly organized, and would source fund, explore, loot and trade relics. Among 32 artifacts retrieved by police, 16 were under grade-one state cultural protection.
The court on Thursday ordered that 77 relics still in the possession of the gang members must be returned.
Yao's gang was among 12 organized gangs implicated in illegal excavations at Niuheliang, a Neolithic site in northeastern Liaoning. Police apprehended 225 people and retrieved a total of 2,063 artifacts.