A still image shows the cultural relics. (Photo/CCTV)
Sentencing details were released recently in connection with a Mafia-style tomb-raiding, gambling and loansharking gang that was broken up in 2016.
Yuncheng Intermediate People's Court in Shanxi province handed life sentences in February to the gang's leaders - four brothers named Hou Jinliang, Hou Jinfa, Hou Jinhai and Hou Jinjiang. Five others were also sentenced to life in prison.
They were among 466 suspects detained in 2016 as part of a crackdown on a gang that had robbed tombs across Shanxi, including in the Yangyu protected area in Yuncheng's Wenxi county. It also ran illegal gambling and money-lending operations.
Investigators have solved 325 connected cases and recovered 2,895 stolen cultural relics, including 24 with national first-class status and 59 with second-class status, the Shanxi Public Security Department said in a statement on Sunday.
Police work is continuing in tracking down a large number of cultural relics stolen and trafficked over two decades by the gang.
"Organized crime seriously threatens public security and social stability. We will seriously combat such crimes to safeguard people's lives and property," the department said, adding the search for missing artifacts continues.
The case dates to June 2016 when the Wenxi police discovered that precious bronze and jade objects had been removed from tombs in the Yangyu protected area.
Hundreds of suspects were rounded up, and police identified the Hou brothers as the ringleaders. They were charged with operating a Mafia-like gang for 20 years involved in grave robbing, illegal casinos and loan-sharking, which bankrupted many and resulted in some people losing their lives, the statement said.
In addition to the nine life sentences, Yuncheng Intermediate People's Court handed down prison terms ranging from three to 18 years for 166 other gang members.
Investigators also found that 17 police officers, including two auxiliary officers in Wenxi, had acted as protective umbrellas for the gang and used their positions to facilitate its crimes.
Five were convicted of covering up the crimes, indulging in Mafia-like organized crime, robbing graves and helping the suspects escape punishment. They were sentenced to life in prison. Twelve other police officers received sentences ranging from two to 20 years.