Cleaners at a luxury Hong Kong hotel are suspected of throwing away a painting worth more than $3.5m mistaking it for rubbish.
Snowy Mountain a 2012 ink wash painting by Chinese artist Cui Ruzhuo went under the hammer for HK$28.8million ($3.5m, £2.2) at an auction held at the five-star Grand Hyatt hotel in the former British colony earlier this week.
A day later it was reported missing to police by the auctioneers, Poly Auction.
A Hong Kong police source told the South China Morning Post (SCMP) newspaper that CCTV images showed a hotel cleaner throwing the packed artwork atop a pile of rubbish.
The source said police unsuccessfully searched a local landfill where the painting was likely to have been disposed.
Police said they had not ruled out the possibility that the painting has been stolen, and were still treating its disappearance as a case of theft. No arrests have been made.
The Grand Hyatt claimed it was not responsible for items lost at an auction held within its premises.
"It is the auction houses or third-party exhibitors that handle the installation and dismantling of their own exhibitions, whether by themselves or hiring a contractor," a spokesman told SCMP. "The hotel is not responsible for the security of the exhibits."