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HK police search landfill for US$3.7 mil. painting

HONG KONG--Hong Kong police on Wednesday searched for a valuable painting mistakenly dumped in a landfill after it sold for US$3.7 million at auction, reports said.

"Snowy Mountain" by Chinese artist Cui Ruzhuo, which was a main feature of the spring auction by Beijing-based Poly Culture this week, was dumped by cleaners at the luxury hotel hosting the sale, the South China Morning Post said.

Grand Hyatt hotel cleaners were suspected of dumping the painting, which sold on Monday for more than HK$28.75 million (US$3.71 million), along with rubbish that was taken to a landfill, the paper said, citing an unnamed police source.

Poly Culture did not comment immediately when contacted by AFP.

Police suspected the painting was thrown out by cleaners after viewing security camera images but would not rule out the possibility of it having been stolen, media reported.

Police told AFP a theft case was reported on Tuesday by an auction house staff member regarding a painting, without further details.

A Grant Hyatt spokeswoman would not confirm if the painting had been dumped as trash but said hotel staff did not handle items sold at the auction because they were too expensive.

She said in an emailed statement to AFP that organisers would hire their own security and contractors for such events involving "high-value" items.

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