The entire operation took less than 25 minutes.
A rare, centuries-old Japanese bronze Buddha statue worth $1.5 million (about Rs 12.5 crore) was stolen from an art gallery in Los Angeles last week, the New York Post reported. According to the Los Angeles Police Department, the 250-pound (114 kg) bronze sculpture was stolen on September 18 from the Barakat Gallery in Beverly Grove around 3:45 a.m.
Notably, the daring heist was also caught on CCTV. The surveillance footage shows the suspect allegedly breaking into the entrance through a driveway gate and using a dolly to move the statue onto a truck. The entire robbery lasted about 25 minutes. Authorities were shocked that a lone thief managed to steal the statue despite its weight.
The rare artifact is a seated Buddha with a halo, roughly 4 feet tall, created during Japan's Edo Period (1603-1867). It was believed to have been commissioned for the centerpiece of a temple.
''This monumental bronze sculpture likely once dominated the interior of a temple. Judging from the inscription, it is likely that this work was once placed in the Yudo-no-San Temple. We can imagine tired pilgrims struggling to climb the mountain, only to arrive at the top and have their energy revitalized by this monumental sculpture. In the Vajra mudra, the index finger of the left hand is clasped by the five fingers of the right; this is also known as the "six elements mudra," or the "fist of wisdom" mudra, for it symbolizes the unity of the five worldly elements (earth, water, fire, air, and metal) with spiritual consciousness,'' reads the statue's description on the gallery's website.
''I prize it so much. I had it in the backyard of my home and when I moved into this gallery, I put it in the backyard of the gallery for everybody to admire and enjoy,'' Fayez Barakat, the gallery owner, told KTLA.
Mr. Barakat added that he believes the theft was premeditated, as the sculpture features prominently in the gallery's outdoor space.
''I don't think there's another like it on the market anywhere. It's four feet tall, it's hollow cast bronze and it's a stunning piece. It's really aesthetically arresting and it's shocking to see something like this go missing,'' Paul Henderson, the gallery's director, told the New York Post, adding that it will be difficult for the thief to sell the piece.
Police are investigating the case and canvassing the area for additional security camera footage.
The Barakat Gallery, which also has locations in London, Seoul, and Hong Kong, opened its Los Angeles location in 2017.