, BEIJING, Oct 26 – A Chinese-American academic has been sentenced to eight years in prison for selling human skulls unearthed in China to buyers overseas, state media reported Monday.
The 44-year-old US national, only identified by his surname Ding, was sentenced on September 21 for "illegal business practices," the Beijing Times reported.
His arrest came after the US Federal Bureau of Investigation tipped off Chinese police last year, informing authorities here that Ding was sending the skulls to the United States via express mail.
The academic, who worked in Beijing as a consultant, was subsequently arrested in May last year trying to ship 20 skulls to the United States. Police found an additional 1,100 skulls at his home in the capital, it said. The skulls were at least 60 years old and some dated back to 1840.
The man has appealed the verdict, with his lawyers insisting that the sale of such artefacts is not illegal and that old skulls are widely bought and sold by collectors in China, the report said.
Ding said he started collecting the artefacts after purchasing several skulls with designs carved into them at a Beijing antiques market.
He later bought skulls from wholesalers in northwestern Qinghai province and enlisted artisans to add carvings to them, the paper said.
According to the court, Ding sent around 200 of the skulls overseas, allegedly earning a total of 19,000 dollars after purchasing the heads for less than 23 dollars each.
The case is before a Beijing appeals court, the report said.