LAPD investigating midnight heist of $1.5-million Buddha statue

The thief pulled up to an antiquities gallery on La Cienega Boulevard with a clear plan.

He backed a rental van into the gallery driveway, broke through a gate and entered a storage yard carrying a moving dolly. Bypassing African wood carvings, Japanese terracotta roof tiles and assorted stone sculptures, he seized a massive 250-pound bronze Buddha statue worth $1.5 million. The entire operation took less than 25 minutes.

The identity and motive of the thief who hit the Barakat Gallery around 3 a.m. on Monday remained a mystery Saturday. Was he a connoisseur of temple art from feudal Japan? Was he hired by someone who was? Or was he just one of the many scrap metal scroungers who prowl Los Angeles by night and entirely oblivious to the object’s historical value?

With Los Angeles police investigating, gallery staff were re-watching surveillance video that captured part of the crime and batting around various theories.

“We’ve been trying to put the pieces together,” said Paul Henderson, the gallery director.

The missing item is a seated Buddha with a halo, roughly 4 feet tall, created during Japan’s Edo Period (1603-1867) probably as the centerpiece of a temple, according to the gallery.

Gallery owner Fayez Barakat acquired the Buddha



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