Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Stolen Art Watch, Picasso Thief Spiderman Tomic On Trial, Hatton Garden Heist Value Doubles, Bacon Pursuit Continues, Chinese Pink Panda's & More..

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Picasso, Matisse and other art from 2010 Paris heist may be in Israel

‘Spiderman’ burglar on trial over $100m haul of five paintings; one accomplice suspected of selling them to Israeli collector

PARIS — A burglar dubbed “Spiderman,” notorious for daring acrobatic heists, went on trial here this week for a $100 million art heist in 2010 that saw works by Picasso and Matisse stolen from a Paris gallery.
Investigators reportedly believe the works may have been smuggled to Israel by one of two other defendants in the trial, for sale to an Israeli collector.
Vjeran Tomic, a 49-year-old who is a skilled rock climber, faces up to 20 years in jail if convicted of the robbery. His co-defendants face up to 10 years.
The second defendant, antiques dealer Jean-Michel Corvez, is accused of ordering one of the paintings, by Fernand Léger, on behalf of a “Moroccan or Saudi” collector.
And the third defendant, Yonathan Birn, a rare watch dealer, is accused of concealing all five paintings after the heist, and suspected of having brougth them to Israel, Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported.
Vjeran Tomic, the main suspect in the 2010 theft of five masterpieces from the Paris Modern Art Museum, arrives at his trial on January 30, 2017, at the courthouse in Paris. (AFP PHOTO / BERTRAND GUAY)
Vjeran Tomic, the main suspect in the 2010 theft of five masterpieces from the Paris Modern Art Museum, arrives at his trial on January 30, 2017, at the courthouse in Paris. (AFP PHOTO / BERTRAND GUAY)
When questioned in court, Birn claimed he had panicked and thrown all the artwork away. “I’m crying because it’s monstrous what I’ve done,” he said according to the indictment. “I was overcome with panic. I lost all reason and decided to take the paintings out of my workplace and from a safe.”
Birn said in court that he “understands that nobody believes” his claim that he destroyed the works. And investigators suspect that he smuggled the paintings out of the country, perhaps to Israel, which he recently visited. Investigators “believe that the works were sold to a collector — perhaps in Israel, which Mr Birn visited,” the Telegraph said.
Tomic arrived in a blue overcoat and sweatshirt for his trial in Paris and admitted to carrying out the heist after being arrested in May 2011 and compared himself to a famed thief from French literature as he spoke to reporters on Monday.
“What role did I have? Arsene Lupin,” he told reporters with a smile, referring to the sly but charming character who ransacked rich Parisians’ homes in stories published at the start of the 20th century.
Tomic and the two alleged accomplices have been charged over the May 2010 robbery at the Modern Art Museum of five paintings by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Ferdinand Leger and Amedeo Modigliani. All the artworks are still missing.
Tomic is suspected of cutting through a padlocked gate and breaking a window to get into the gallery, one of the most-visited museums in Paris on the banks of the Seine.
The museum’s alarms had been awaiting repair for several weeks and Tomic is alleged to have somehow knocked out a security camera.
Three guards were on duty that night, but the paintings were only found to be missing from their frames just as the museum prepared to open to the public the next day.
When police arrested the Serb in May 2011, Tomic told them he had initially broken into the museum for Leger’s “Still Life with Candlestick” from 1922, not thinking he would also be able to steal another four.
Besides the Leger canvas, the other works stolen were Picasso’s cubist “Dove with Green Peas” from 1912 — alone worth an estimated 25 million euros ($26.8 million) — French contemporary Matisse’s “Pastoral” from 1905, Braque’s “Olive Tree near Estaque” from 1906, and Modigliani’s “Woman with a Fan” from 1919.
All but the Modigliani were hung in the same room in the museum, located in the well-heeled 16th district of Paris, which is run by the city and is home to more than 8,000 works of 20th century art.

‘Liked’ paintings

Tomic, who has a criminal record of 14 previous offenses, said he took them all because he “liked” the paintings.
Authorities put the total value of the haul at 100 million euros ($107 million), but some experts said they were worth twice that, while admitting it would be impossible to sell such artworks on the open market.
The presiding judge at the trial on Monday, Peimane Ghaleh-Marzban, said the value of the masterworks was “far higher than their market value.”
They have still not been recovered.
Ghaleh-Marzban also criticized the security “failures” which enabled the heist to be carried out with “disconcerting ease.”
The defendants face a 10-year jail term if convicted for the theft or re-sale of the artworks, but Tomic’s sentence could be double that given his criminal record.
Athletically built and 1.90 meters (6 foot 2 inches) tall, he earned his nickname for clambering into posh Parisian apartments and museums to steal valuable gems and works of art.
Prosecutors claim he was spotted by a homeless man as he roamed around the museum in the days leading to the theft.
Police arrested him after receiving an anonymous tip and tracking his mobile phone. Surveillance cameras from the night of the heist recorded only one person entering through a window who could not be identified.
An art dealer who admitted to having the paintings for a short time said he dumped them in a garbage can, which authorities do not believe.
International police body Interpol put out an alert to its 188 member countries in the hope of recovering the five paintings, but so far they all remain missing.
There has been a spate of art thefts in Europe in recent years.
The most recent, in 2015, involved the theft of five paintings worth 25 million euros by renowned British artist Francis Bacon in Madrid.
Spanish police arrested seven people last year suspected of being involved in that theft.

Hatton Garden heist value has 'DOUBLED since the raid and now stands at £29million'

It was originally thought that £10million in cash and jewellery had been taken during the raid by a gang of elderly criminals

The estimated value of loot stolen in the Hatton Garden heist has more than doubled to £29m, a court heard.
It was originally thought that £10million in cash and jewellery had been taken during the raid by a gang of elderly criminals.
But at a confiscation hearing at Woolwich Crown Court, barristers said detectives are now claiming the amount stolen totalled £25m, plus £4million worth of gear that was recovered.
If the raiders do not pay back what the judge rules they gained from the crime, they could face up to a maximum of 14 years of jail time being added to their sentences, without parole.
Denis Barry, representing gang member Daniel Jones, said: “The Crown says it is £25 million between five and that really is one of the issues we are going to have to wrestle with. That’s what makes this case exceptional.”
The true value of the stolen goods will never be known because there was no record of what was stored in the vault.
It is in the interests of the police and the alleged victims to over inflate the figure to get longer sentences for the gang and higher insurance payouts.
Earlier this month it emerged a woman came forward more than a year after the raid to claim she had £7million worth of valuables stolen.
The alleged victim spoke to police last June, 15 months after the break-in. She said that was when she realised her valuables had been stolen, after coverage of the raiders’ trial, which ended in January.
The gang, with a combined age of 448, carried out the “sophisticated” and meticulously planned break-in over the 2015 Easter holiday.
Using a diamond tipped drill they bored into the vault and ransacked 73 deposit boxes for gold, diamonds and sapphires.
John “Kenny” Collins, 76, Daniel Jones, 62, Terry Perkins, 68, and the group’s oldest member, Brian Reader, 78, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary.
A biography of mastermind Brian Reader revealed he is the nation’s most prolific thief, having been involved in raids worth £200million.
The book, One Last Job, details how he planned the Hatton Garden theft with a burglar alarm expert known as Basil or The Ghost, who is still at large.
Tom Wainwright, for Reader, asked for a QC to be appointed to his client’s case, stating they would have the required skill to deal with proceedings of this length and Reader’s health.
He said: “The case is made more complex because Mr Reader is not in good health.
“He is likely to be in worse health come December or January.”
A full confiscation hearing, under the Proceeds of Crime Act, will determine how each of the defendants benefited from the raid and is expected to take place in 2018.

Art thieves suspected of Francis Bacon heist arrested in Madrid

Art thieves suspected of Francis Bacon heist arrested in Madrid
Photo: Policia Nacional
Spanish police have arrested three people in connection with the theft of five paintings by the Irish-born artist Francis Bacon valued at €25 million.
Police raided six properties in the Madrid region and seized a gun, ammunition, manuals to cracking safes, laser devices and oxy-fuel cylinders used to cut metal, Spain’s National Police said in a statement on Tuesday.
The three people were “directly connected” to the robbery and were part of a group that burgled homes across Spain, the statement said. Five other members of the gang were also arrested for a further 15 robberies.
The five paintings by Francis Bacon were stolen from the Madrid home of an art collector in June, 2015, who had reportedly been a close friend of the artist.
They were valued at around €25 million, ($26.88 million).
The thieves, who left no trace of their handiwork, had tracked the owner's movements to ensure he did not return to his apartment to catch them red-handed.Irish-born Bacon died in Madrid in 1992 aged 82 and his expressionist-surrealist works, which are often raw and emotional, remain hugely sought after.
Bacon's death only enhanced his reputation and the 2013 sale of his 1969 work "Three Studies of Lucien Freud" fetched $142,405,000 at auction, a world record at the time.
The theft occurred in June 2015, when J. C. B.—a Spanish friend of the legendary painter who inherited the artworks when Bacon died in 1992—left his residence, in an affluent area in the center of Madrid, for a few hours.
Besides the five paintings, said to be of medium to small size, the thieves stole a safe containing several collections of coins, jewels, and other valuable goods.
At the time, ABC reported that the initials J. C. B. correspond to José Capelo Blanco, and that he was Bacon’s last lover during a relationship that lasted four years, until Bacon’s death in Madrid.
Art market information leader Artprice lists Bacon as one of 10 frontline modern artists alongside the likes of Picasso and Andy Warhol Warhol whose works comprise 18 percent of global sales.

Antiques dealer jailed for stealing painting from Chester Cathedral

Latvian Vasilijs Apilats, 61, sentenced to nine months for stealing painting worth about £2,000 in August 2014
A Latvian antiques dealer who stole a 19th-century religious painting from a cathedral because he was besotted with the artwork has been jailed for nine months.
The Raising Of Lazarus was torn from its easel on the altar in the chapel of Saint Anselm in Chester Cathedral, a quiet corner intended for prayer and reflection. In its place a cheap Christmas tree decoration of an angel was left behind.
The icon, worth about £2,000, was stolen by talented artist and experienced restorer, Vasilijs Apilats, 61.
Chester crown court heard Apilats stole the item not for greed but because he was besotted by such artwork and his actions were “akin to the instinct of a magpie”.The Greek painting was donated to the historic cathedral seven years ago by the family of a former dean of Chester, Ingram Cleasby.
The recorder, Eric Lamb, told the court as he jailed the defendant: “Having seen photos of your home, I have formed the view that you committed this crime out of a simple desire to acquire the icon, rather than having any specific monetary gain in mind.”
Apilats had denied stealing the icon, dating from about 1870, in August 2014. During his trial last year he professed his orthodox Christian faith and claimed he was offered it for sale by an unidentified man at the cathedral.
He said he placed the icon into black bin liners and was told by the man he had to leave the cathedral through a back door and a metal fence.
But Apilats, who followed proceedings through a Russian interpreter, was convicted by the jury of the theft.
During the hunt for the painting officers searched the Cheshire home of the art collector and found the icon wrapped inside a bin bag and hidden among a haul of dozens of other religious artefacts.Apilats, was tracked down through his DNA from swabs taken from the easel that the painting had been screwed upon.
The following month in his terraced home in Crewe officers found paintings mostly depicting Jesus, religious books, crucifixes, busts and other church-related ornaments. Three other men – aged 31, 34 and 36 – and a 57-year-old woman were arrested but freed without charge.
After his conviction Apilats, who was given indefinite leave to remain in the UK after moving from Latvia in 1990, wrote a “gushing” apology letter to the cathedral and the general public, begging for forgiveness.
In a victim impact statement, Peter Howell-Jones, the vice-dean of Chester Cathedral, said the icon was “hugely important”, used as an aid for prayer and its theft had upset the congregation.
It emerged Apilats had previously been made the subject of a restraining order after pleading guilty to harassing the Crewe and Nantwich Tory MP, Edward Timpson, after he attended his constituency office and threatened him and members of staff during a row over housing.
Apilats claimed he had been allowed to settle in the UK in 1990 after claiming he had to flee the Russian mafia over his antique deals in Latvia.
During his trial, Apilats claimed he had bought the painting for “restoration purposes” in good faith. He said he was approached by two men he claimed worked at the cathedral and said they offered it to him for £250 before negotiating a sale price of £135 in cash. His solicitor, Peter Moss, said Apilats had a mental disorder. He claimed it was from ill-treatment suffered at the hands of the Russian mafia. The defendant was also ordered to pay a £100 victim surcharge.
However, Sgt Neil Doleman, of Cheshire constabulary, said: “Apilats is a man who appears to be obsessed with religious artefacts. He selfishly took an icon, which was not only of significant value but was also of huge importance to Chester Cathedral and the public who used it as an aid to pray.”
Chester Cathedral constable Chris Jones said: “We are delighted to be able to re-instate the stolen 18th century icon here at the cathedral. It has now been returned to its rightful place in St Anselm’s chapel, a place used for prayer and refection.
“The icon was gifted to the cathedral by a former dean of Chester, Ingram Cleasby, so it is a very meaningful part of the history of the building.
“We would like to thank everyone involved in the search for the icon, especially the Cheshire constabulary for their careful and dedicated work. We were very saddened when the icon was taken and thought it had gone forever so to see it returned is very special.”

3 Chinese linked to 'Pink Panda' theft group nabbed over diamond ring heist
The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) arrested three Chinese nationals on Jan. 24 on suspicion of stealing a diamond ring worth 2.8 million yen, the department announced.
The three are thought to be members of the Chinese theft group "Pink Panda," and include Yang Manwan, 47, of unknown occupation.
The three are accused of stealing a diamond ring from a jewelry store's booth at an international jewelry exhibition at Tokyo Big Sight in Koto Ward, Tokyo, before noon on Jan. 20 last year. All three are denying the allegations, the MPD says.
According to the MPD, the three suspects came to the attention of investigators after they examined security footage of the exhibition. Investigators were issued warrants for the arrest of the three and were searching for them, when they showed up at a jewelry exhibition that began this month on Jan. 23. They were then arrested by investigators.
Pink Panda is composed of people from China's Hunan Province. The gang was given the name by French police after the "Pink Panther" group, which is another international jewelry thief group.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Stolen Art Watch, Kardashian Latest, Diamond Crime Never Forgotten, Van Gogh Goes Home & More..

Kim Kardashian’s stolen jewellery re-cut, sold in black market

Los angeles: Reality TV star Kim Kardashian’s stolen jewellery have all been reportedly “melted down or re-cut and sold in the black market.” A police source has confirmed that none of the items taken by robbers breaking into her Paris apartment last October could be recovered, reported Us magazine.

Police detain Dutch diamond heist suspects 12 years after robbery

Dutch authorities have detained seven people over one of the world's biggest ever jewelry heists. Some 67 million euros worth of diamonds and jewels were snatched during a holdup at Amsterdam's airport 12 years ago.
Royal Marechausse police issued a statement Saturday saying five men and two women were detained Friday and Saturday on suspicion of money laundering and involvement in the armed robbery.
Armed robbers hijacked an armored car belonging to the airline KLM at a high-security area of Amsterdam's Schiphol airport on February 25, 2005. They made off with diamonds worth an estimated $72 million (67 million euros). Part of the haul was quickly recovered from the getaway car, but the police said diamonds worth $43 million remained missing.
It was one of the world's biggest ever heists. Nobody was physically hurt in the attack, even though the robbers were armed. A few months afterwards, five men were detained as suspects, but they were later released due to a lack of evidence.
Police said the seven suspects detained Friday and Saturday were all Dutch nationals. They were tracked down with the help of new information which had come to light in the past year. They were arrested in Amsterdam and the eastern Spanish coastal city of Valencia.

Stolen Van Gogh masterpieces found in Mafia’s lair returning home after mobster’s conviction

In this Friday, Sept. 30, 2016 file photo, Director of Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum Axel Rueger, center, stands next to the paintings 'Congregation Leaving The Reformed Church of Nuenen', left, and 1882 'Seascape at Scheveningen' by Vincent Van Gogh, during a press conference in Naples, Italy.
Ciro Fusco/ANSA via AP, fileIn this Friday, Sept. 30, 2016 file photo, Director of Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum Axel Rueger, center, stands next to the paintings 'Congregation Leaving The Reformed Church of Nuenen', left, and 1882 'Seascape at Scheveningen' by Vincent Van Gogh, during a press conference in Naples, Italy.


This week Italian Judge Claudia Picciotti handed down more than one hundred years of prison time in the sentencing of eight members of the international drug trafficking Amato-Pagano clan, an organized crime network once affiliated with the Secondigliano-based Di Lauro crime syndicate, and an offshoot of the Naples Camorra.

The court's ajudication closes down one of the Camorra's largest suppliers of cocaine to the Bay of Naples area, paving the way for two recovered Van Gogh paintings, View of the Sea at Scheveningen, 1882 and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen 1884 - 1885 to return home to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

The paintings were recovered during an asset seizure warrant executed in September 2016 at property occupied by the parents of drug kingpin, Raffaele Imperiale in Castellammare di Stabia, near Naples, Italy.

On hand for the sentencing hearing of the trial were:

Prosecutor Stefania Castaldi
Prosecutor Maurizio De Marco
Prosecutor Marra Vincenza
Deputy Prosecutor Filippo Beatrice
Prosecutor of the National Anti-Mafia Directorate Maria Vittoria De Simone
Dutch Liaison Magistrate for Italy Hester van Bruggen
Assistant to the Liaison Magistrate for Italy Royal Netherlands Embassy, Rome Peter Hemmes
Van Gogh Museum Attorney Carel Raymakers

The defendants convicted and sentenced January 19, 2017 include:

Carmine Amato - Before his arrest, Amato was one of Italy's 100 most wanted and dangerous criminals.  Considered the regent of the Amato-Pagano clan, a splinter organised crime group of the Di Lauro clan, dominant in the north of Naples, Amato was sentenced to twenty years imprisonment.

Vincenzo Scarpa - Drug supplier to Camorra clans in the Vesuvius periphery of the Bay of Naples, including the Gallo-Cavalieri, the Annunziata from Torre Annunziata, the i Falanga of Torre del Greco and the Licciardi of Secondigliano.  Scarpa maintained key alliances with Camorra loyal suppliers based in Spain and the Netherlands. He has been sentenced to twenty years imprisonment.

(Fugitive) Raffaele Imperiale - Clan boss of the international drug trafficking Amato-Pagano clan which supplied cocaine to Amato and Scarpa.  Although on the run from the authorities, he admitted to purchasing the Van Gogh paintings and to his illegal operations in letters to the prosecuting authorities.  Imperiale was sentenced to 18 years imprisonment in absentia.  He is believed to be hiding in Dubai.

Mario Cerrone
- Clan affiliate and business partner to Imperiale, who provided evidence to state authorities. Cerrone also led Italy's Corpo della Guardia di Finanza, which probes financial crimes related to organised crime, together with the Italian Public Prosecutions office, the Naples Direzione distrettuale antimafia and dedicated Dutch investigators to the whereabouts of the two stolen Vincent Van Gogh paintings.  He has been sentenced to 14 years imprisonment.

Gaetano Schettino - A loyalist and drug broker for Raffaele Imperial, he has been sentenced to ten years imprisonment.

Three unnamed defendants - Sentenced to eight years imprisonment respectively.

Six other defendants are still awaiting the outcome of their judicial proceedings in relation to this criminal investigation.

Originally expected to be held as evidence for future lengthy trials, the court in Naples elected to release the Van Gogh paintings from legal seizure on Thursday.  While talk continues between the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and Sylvain Bellenger, Director of the Museo di Capodimonte about the possibility of holding a brief exhibition in Naples, provided security measures are sufficient to guarantee their safety, the Dutch Impressionist's paintings are expected to be returned to Amsterdam as soon as February.
Once back home, the artworks will go on display at the Van Gogh Museum briefly, in the condition with which they were recovered, to celebrate their return.  Then the artworks will undergo close examination and conservation treatment to clean and repair damages sustained during their trubulent time with the Italian crime syndicate.

 Two stolen Vincent Van Gogh paintings found by police in a Mafia lair in Italy in September will soon return to their home in Amsterdam from where they were stolen in a spectacular heist in 2002.
Originally expected to be held as evidence for future lengthy trials, a court in Naples released the paintings from legal attachment on Thursday after sentencing — in absentia — the drug baron in whose cottage the masterpieces were found to 18 years.
The two works appear to be in reasonably good shape after their harrowing 14-year travels through the underworld, although both are missing their frames and show some signs of damage, according to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

Ciro Fusco/ANSA via AP, file
Ciro Fusco/ANSA via AP, fileIn this Friday, Sept. 30 2016 file photo, the recovered painting 'Seascape at Scheveningen' by Vincent Van Gogh, is shown during a press conference in Naples, Italy.

“It’s great news: we can now focus fully on preparing for the paintings to come home. The two canvases will be formally handed over in the near future. A precise date hasn’t been fixed yet, but it’s expected to happen quickly,” said the museum’s director Axel Rüger.
“We’re especially grateful to the Italian authorities for achieving something we almost thought would never happen. We can’t wait to place the two lost works back in our museum’s collection.”
Van Gogh’s “Seascape at Scheveningen,” painted in 1882, and “Congregation leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen” painting from 1884 to 1885, are expected to again be on public display in the museum as soon as possible.
It is believed the works, now made far more famous because of their underworld lineage, will make a brief public display in Naples before they are returned, but authorities would not confirm this.

Ciro Fusco/ANSA via AP, File
Ciro Fusco/ANSA via AP, FileIn this Friday, Sept. 30 2016 file photo, the painting 'Congregation Leaving The Reformed Church of Nuenen' by Vincent Van Gogh, is shown during a press conference in Naples, Italy. Two paintings by Vincent van Gogh that were stolen in 2002 from the Amsterdam museum that is named for the Dutch master and recovered last year by Italian police are set to be returned.
Italian police investigating drug trafficking by a Mafia clan based near Naples found the two valuable masterpieces during raids after a tip from a cooperating witness, police said.
Investigators were probing cocaine trafficking by members of the Amato-Pagano clan, said by authorities to be among the most dangerous drug trafficking clans in the Camorra, one of Italy’s Mafia organizations based in the region around Naples.
The paintings were recovered in the cottage in Castellammare di Stabia connected to Raffaele Imperiale, accused of being one of the Camorra clan’s prodigious drug barons, called a “supernarco” in Italy. Imperiale built links between the clan and South American drug producers to import cocaine to Europe, authorities said.
Although a fugitive, he was sentenced this week to 18 years for drug offenses, Italian media reported. He is believed to have fled to Dubai where he has business interests.
The seizure of assets by the Guardia di Finanza, Italy’s national financial crimes police force, also included several properties, buildings and a small plane. Officers found a hidden bunker behind a mirrored wall of a gym.

The theft of the paintings was considered one of the biggest art heists of modern times. Thieves entered from the roof of the Van Gogh Museum, bypassing security and cameras.
When an alarm was triggered, the well-prepared thieves used a ladder to climb to an upper window, smash it and escape. The two thieves were later arrested after their DNA was found at the scene, but the paintings were not recovered until October’s raid.
“It is excellent news that the paintings will shortly be returning to the Netherlands. Everyone, both young and old, should soon be able to enjoy these works again at the Van Gogh Museum,” said Jet Bussemaker, the Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science.
“My compliments to all the parties who have worked so hard to make this happen.”

Possible ‘Pink Panther’ member remanded

A Lithuanian man, 37, suspected to be a member of an international gang, was remanded for eight days Thursday after genetic material linked him to an armed robbery carried out five years ago, at a jewellery shop in Limassol.
According to police, during an investigation into a recent burglary in the Germasogeia area, genetic material collected from the 37-year-old, matched that found at the scene of the armed robbery in which expensive watches and jewellery, valued at around a million euros, were taken.
The suspect, a member of a cleaning crew working in the area where a home was recently burgled, was summoned along with other workers to give genetic material and fingerprints.
They were all released as nothing incriminating was found against them but a few days later, the genetic material of the Lithuanian was matched to that found at the jewellers, leading to his arrest.
The 37-year-old denies any involvement, saying he never visited the shop in question, which is also situated in the Germasogeia area. Detectives however, are not ruling out the possibility he is a member of the notorious international gang of thieves nicknamed the ‘Pink Panthers’ suspected of carrying out the heist.
The four perpetrators of the robbery entered the shop through a secured area, one of them wearing a suit and posing as a customer, the other three barging through wearing hoods once the door was opened. The owner’s father and two employees were overpowered under the threat of a gun and bats.
Having smashed the glass display cases, the robbers took watches and jewellery. The owner’s father tried to stop them, managing to retrieve some of the stolen goods, and removing the hood one of them was wearing. The attackers fled the scene after punching the man.
A replica pistol dropped during their escape was also recovered.
Interpol estimates the number of members of the ‘Pink Panthers’ at several hundred thieves, mainly from Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, and Macedonia. Other sources say the gang is made up of sixty or so members, half of which are thought to come from Montenegro.
Many members are said to be former soldiers with violent backgrounds. They are fluent in different languages and have been found to carry genuine passports issued to other people.
In a space of six years this century, the Pink Panthers robbed some 120 shops in twenty different countries, with businesses in Japan, London, Denmark, Monaco, Paris, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates and the United States targeted by the gang.
Their success rate has been put down to their attention to detail. Before robbing a Biarritz jewellers, the group freshly painted a nearby bench to stop anyone from using it and seeing them at work.

Deal or no deal? Phoenix Ancient Art sues Getty over billion-dollar Greek and Roman sculpture collection

The Swiss dealership says the museum cut it out of an arrangement to show the art, but the museum says they never had a deal

Deal or no deal? Phoenix Ancient Art sues Getty over billion-dollar Greek and Roman sculpture collection
Some of the statues from the Torlonia family’s collection in storage (Image: Rcs Roma/Archivio Roma)
The Getty and its director, Timothy Potts, were sued for $77m on 12 January in Manhattan federal court by the Swiss antiquities dealership Phoenix Ancient Art for cutting it out of a purported arrangement to “secure rights to” or display antiquities owned by the Torlonia family in Italy. According to the complaint, the collection of more than 600 Greek and Roman sculptures, amassed by the princely family who made a fortune in the 18th and 19th centuries as bankers to the Vatican, hasn’t been displayed since the 1960s and is worth “billions of dollars”.

The Getty, however, denies there was such an agreement and says through a spokesman that Phoenix “cannot plausibly demand payment for a deal that never occurred”. The museum says it was offered an opportunity to discuss a possible sale but “declined the acquisition and the objects were later transferred to the Italian government”. The museum currently has no plan to exhibit the work, the spokesman added. Phoenix’s lawyers did not respond to inquiries about the Getty’s statements.

The suit alleges Phoenix “created exclusive relationships with the Torlonia family and Italian officials designed to create a plan to transfer, sell, [and] display” the collection.  The Swiss dealer’s agent Electrum, which was cataloging the collection, contacted the Getty in 2013 about purchasing some of the sculptures.

Because of the Getty’s “dubious acquisitions” and trouble with Italian authorities over its past purchases of allegedly looted art, Phoenix says it required the museum to sign a confidentiality agreement and not to contact the Torlonias except through Phoenix and Electrum. Phoenix arranged for Potts to see the sculptures, negotiated with the Torlonias over the selection and price of some sculptures, and persuaded the Italian government not to interfere, the gallery claims. In 2015, Phoenix says in its complaint, the Getty “feigned” a lack of interest in pursuing a deal but worked behind Phoenix’s back to arrange to show some Torlonia sculptures, using information the museum had agreed to keep confidential.

In 2016, the Italian culture ministry reached an agreement to create a museum for the Torlonia collection in Rome. Meanwhile, the archaeologist and art historian Salvatore Settis is due to organise a temporary exhibition of more than 60 works from the collection at the Palazzo Caffarelli in Rome, the former Mussolini Museum, later this year.

In its filing, Phoenix makes a point of outlining the Getty’s legal troubles with Italy. In 2007, the museum repatriated 40 sculptures the country claimed were looted. The Getty’s former curator Marion True was tried in Italy on charges of receiving stolen artefacts and conspiring to deal in them. (The case against True, who maintained her innocence, was dismissed in 2010). This resulted in a “cultural embargo” between Italy and the museum, which Phoenix overcame, the complaint says.

Phoenix has itself been accused of smuggling illicit antiquities, and in 2004 one of its owners, Hicham Aboutaam, pled guilty to a misdemeanor in connection with importing and selling a silver drinking vessel from Iran for $950,000.

A statue stolen from the Villa Torlonia in Rome in 1983 was recently repatriated to Italy by US authorities. The work ended up in a New York art gallery in the late 1990s and was sold to a private collector in 2001 for around $75,000. When the buyer tried to sell it on at auction, they were informed it was stolen and they voluntarily turned it over to the FBI.

Gallery Owner Under Fire for Jasper Johns Fraud

MANHATTAN (CN) – A Canadian gallery that paid $800,000 for stolen Jasper Johns artwork has brought a federal complaint against the New York seller it says tried to legitimize the heisted pieces.
Filed on Jan. 11 in the Southern District of New York, the lawsuit takes aim at Fred Dorfman, a Chelsea art gallery owner described as the mastermind of a scheme that netted him nearly $6 million in commissions from sales of stolen Jasper Johns drawings.
Equinox Gallery, of Vancouver, British Columbia, says Dorfman wanted access to Johns’ works so he offered to independently represent the artist’s longtime studio assistant, James Meyer.
Noting that they never sold a single Meyer artwork – except those that Dorfman bought himself – Equinox claims that Dorfman always had his eye on Johns’ works – namely those that the artist wanted to destroy rather than include in his oeuvre.
Dorfman was never charged in the Johns fraud, but a federal judge sentenced Meyer to a year and half in prison for the scheme in 2015, plus $17.4 million in restitution and forfeiture.
Equinox quotes Meyer as calling Dorfman “architect of the scheme and its primary beneficiary.”
Even in his confession, Meyer allegedly noted how “Dorfman repeatedly asked [him] if he had access to Mr. Johns’ discarded and/or unfinished artworks that were not intended for sale, and pressured him to obtain as much of these artworks as he could so they could sell them together.”
The gallery owner has not returned a request for comment, but Equinox notes that other collectors have gone after it as well. It says Dorfman and his businesses settled with one buyer that brought a civil complaint accusing them of violating federal anti-racketeering law.
Equinox says Meyer stole the Johns artwork it bought when he was helping the artist move from his Manhattan apartment on East 63rd Street to his bucolic Sharon, Connecticut, home in 1995 and 1996.
When Dorfman agreed to sell these pieces, according to the complaint, he did so “knowing that these pieces were stolen, and in some instances had actually been fished from the trash.”
Equinox says the gallery “needed a story legitimizing their provenance.”
“To buttress this story, the Dorfman Defendants, among other things, drafted false affidavits for Meyer to sign (to be presented to the buyers, including Plaintiff here) swearing: (i) that the Stolen Works were gifts, (ii) that they were recorded in Johns’s archives, (iii) that they were authentic works, and (iv) that Johns had authorized Meyer to sell them,” the complaint states. “Of course, as the Dorfman Defendants knew at all times, these statements were false.”
Equinox says Dorfman also provided photographs purporting to show the stolen drawings listed among other legitimate Johns works in the artist’s studio ledger, and printed counterfeit “Johns” labels to affix to the back of the stolen drawings.
When Equinox bought one of the stolen pieces for $800,000 in January 2008, Dorfman earned a $470,000 commission on the sale, according to the complaint. Equinox notes that the sum “dwarf[ed]” the standard 10 percent to 25 percent commission that galleries earn on such sales.
Equinox Gallery’s lawsuit calls the piece of artwork it bought “virtually worthless and unsaleable where the market does not consider it to be authentic because it will never be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonne for Johns’s works.”
Alleging fraud, violations of RICO, breach of warranty and other claims, Equinox Gallery rescission of the cost of sale, plus seeks compensatory and consequential damages. The Gallery is represented by Judd Grossman.
A pretrial conference for the case has been set for April 6, 2017.



GONE IN 60 SECONDS

Lithuanian serial robber who was able to fly into Britain to lead 60 second raid on Queen’s jewellers is jailed for 12 years


Rimantas Borisovas was snared by blood left at the crime scene - two years after the London heist

A SERIAL armed robber raided the Queen’s jewellers of £129,000 worth of watches in a 60-second raid after flying to the UK from Lithuania.
Rimantas Borisovas, 32, has been jailed for 12 years for the heist which saw him lead a gang of men armed with a handgun and claw hammers during a 96-hour round trip to Britain.


Armed robber Rimantas Borisovas, 32, pictured on CCTV leading a gang that raided Mappin And Webb
Met Police
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Armed robber Rimantas Borisovas, 32, pictured on CCTV leading a gang that raided Mappin And Webb

He had only just been released from a German jail when he orchestrated the smash-and-grab of Cartier watches inside Mappin And Webb, Regent Street, London.
Despite managing to flee, Borisovas was finally snared when cops matched blood from the crime scene of a 2014 raid in Germany and Lithuaina – but the expensive watches have never been found.
Police believe he is part of a major criminal gang from Eastern Europe.
Detective Sergeant Ben Kennedy, of the Metropolitan Police’s Flying Squad, said: “We think it was highly organised and they have exploited freedom-of-movement rules to fly into the country to commit crime and fly out very easily.
“They could have committed other offences here.
“We believe he is part of a Pink Panther-type gang that have been able to go across country borders to target high-end jewellers.
“The Met worked with European law enforcement partners to bring him to justice and I am pleased that the lengthy custodial sentence the judge handed down reflects the seriousness of the crime.”


Borisovas has been jailed for 12 years at Kingston Crown Court after police snared him with blood found at the crime scene
Met Police
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Borisovas has been jailed for 12 years at Kingston Crown Court after police snared him with blood found at the crime scene
The mastermind behind the plot is now behind bars – two years after stealing £129,000-worth of watches
Met Police
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The mastermind behind the plot is now behind bars – two years after stealing £129,000-worth of watches

On June 10, 2014, Borisovas flew on a Ryanair flight into Stansted before leading the heist less than 48 hours later.
Police believe he may have made a two-week trip to the UK the year before to allegedly carry out another raid before targeting the official silversmith to the Queen.
One of his accomplices was wearing make-up and a curly blond wig to disguise himself before being invited into the store by the security guard.
Once inside he pulled out a handgun while Borisovas and another man – both wearing hooded tops and caps – burst in with claw hammers.


Borisovas left blood at the scene when he smashed open the watch display cabinet with a hammer
Met Police
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Borisovas left blood at the scene when he smashed open the watch display cabinet with a hammer

Borisovas left smears of blood when he smashed a display case with a hammer to reach the Cartier watches.
This was how police managed to finally catch him two years later.
He then fled on foot – flying out of Stansted the next day to Poland, landing in a city close to the Lithuanian border.
But German police’s DNA database helped track down Borisovas for a Lithuanian car thief imprisoned in Germany for 13 theft offences in 2011.
He had also been convicted of a document fraud in 2016.
Borisovas was put on a border watchlist but he was not caught until he flew into Stansted from Gdansk, Poland, on November 17 2016 that he was finally put behind bars.
Police have so far been unable to trace Borisovas’s accomplices, but the hunt continues.
In December, Borisovas admitted robbery and possession of a firearm. He was jailed last week for 12 years at Kingston Crown Court.

Robber steals diamonds worth £13 MILLION after pulling out a GRENADE at a jewellery store in Cannes 

  •  A man in sunglasses entered the Harry Winston store on the Croisette yesterday
  •  Eight minutes after arriving he left the shop with £13million worth of diamonds
  •  In 2013 a robber got away with gems worth £90million from a nearby hotel
An audacious robber held up a jewellery shop in Cannes with a pistol and a grenade and escaped on foot with £13million worth of diamonds yesterday. 
The man, who was in his 30s and wore sunglasses, strolled casually into the Harry Winston luxury jewellery shop on the city's famed Croisette promenade.
Security camera footage is being examined in an effort to identify the robber but the Mayor of Cannes, David Lisnard said the robbery 'could and should have been avoided' and he called on the government to allow jewellery shops to use biometric recognition software.
Police patrol outside the Harry Winston store a few hours after it was robbed
Police patrol outside the Harry Winston store a few hours after it was robbed
A cameraman films the front of the Harry Winston store in Cannes after yesterday's robbery
A cameraman films the front of the Harry Winston store in Cannes after yesterday's robbery
The regional prosecutor, Alain Guimbard, said the man claimed to be looking on behalf of a wealthy sponsor: 'He asked to see diamond ornaments on behalf of a sponsor. The saleswoman was suspicious and gave him a catalogue.'
He then pulled out a 7.65-calibre automatic pistol and a grenade, forced security guards to lie on the floor and ordered the two saleswomen to open the display cases. 
It is not clear if the grenade was real but the staff clearly were not taking any chances.
Nobody was injured in the heist and the robber was in and out of the shop within eight minutes.
Harry Winston is a New York-based jeweller that popular with billionaires and actresses who are often seen wearing its gems on the red carpet at the Oscars. 
It is not the first time the Croisette has been targeted.
In July 2013, a man stole £90million worth of jewels from a temporary exhibition at the Hotel Carlton and has never been caught. He was rumoured to be a member of the famous Pink Panthers gang, who hail from Eastern Europe.
France is gaining an unwelcome reputation as an easy target for jewel thieves.
In October last year £8.5million worth of jewellery belonging to Kim Kardashian was stolen from her at an apartment in Paris. 
Several men were arrested earlier this month but they have not been charged and experts say her jewels have long ago been sold on to a fence and recycled. 
Last night detectives could be seen inside the shop meeting with staff from the store
Last night detectives could be seen inside the shop meeting with staff from the store
Breath-taking: In 2014 South African actress Charlize Theron wore a Harry Winston necklace worth £13million (pictured) at the Oscars
Breath-taking: In 2014 South African actress Charlize Theron wore a Harry Winston necklace worth £13million (pictured) at the Oscars

Hogan-Howe and the riddle of a 3,000 year old curse: Met commissioner is being sued by a Lebanese antiques dealer over a bewitched £800,000 Assyrian artefact 

  • Bernard Hogan-Howe is being sued by Lebanese antiques dealer Halim Korban
  • Korban holds the Met Police Commissioner responsible for seizing the artefact 
  • A curse will allegedly be laid upon anyone who tampers with it or moves it
  • Police seized the object amid claims it had been looted from modern-day Syria
In his final weeks in office Met Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe has become embroiled in legal dispute over a 2,800-year-old artefact, which comes complete with a chilling curse.
The Met Commissioner is being sued by a Lebanese antiques dealer over the rare Assyrian relic, which is worth an estimated £800,000.
The ancient slab is engraved with a warning saying a curse will be laid upon anyone who tampers with it or moves it from its place of origin. 
The relic, which forms part of a larger piece depicting King Adad-Nirari III, is carved with the words: 'Whoever discards this image from the presence of Salmanu . . . and places it into a taboo house which it is inaccessible, may the god Salmanu, the great lord, overthrow his sovereignty; may his name and his seed disappear in the land, may he live in a contingent together with the slave women of his land.'
Officers seized the black basalt slab, known as a 'stele', back in 2014 following claims it had been stolen.
Antiques dealer Halim Korban had been planning to auction the stele at Bonham's, in Geneva, in the April of that year.
But officers swooped on Bonham's warehouse the night before the auction and seized the relic following a warning from the Beirut-based Saadeh Cultural Foundation, which told UNESCO that the stele had been obtained illegally.
Lebanese antiques dealer Halim Korban is suing the Metropolitan Police over ownership of the ancient basalt slab
Lebanese antiques dealer Halim Korban is suing the Metropolitan Police over ownership of the ancient basalt slab
The organisation said that the artefact had probably been looted from a site in modern Syria, and said that it should be returned to the country 'as soon as circumstances permit'. 
Prior to the auction Bonham's had said that the antique was 'given as a gift from father to son in the 1960s'.
The auction house also said it was confident of the object's provenance, despite te fact that there were no details available as to how it left Syria.
The upper half of the stele, which depicts King Adad-Hirari's profile, was acquired by the British Museum in 1881 from the private collector Joseph M Shemtob.
The museum obtained the piece two years after it was discovered at the Tell Sheikh Hamad site, and has housed in ever since. 
The complete stele would have measured 2.1 metres tall, and bears an image of King Adad-Nirari III.
The king ruled Mesopotamia between 810 BC and 783 BC.
The stele shows the ruler in a position of worship, with his right hand raised in worship and a mace in his left hand.
The tablet is also engraved with symbols representing the winged sun disc of Shamash; the star of Ishtar/Venus, the goddess of human passions in love and war; and the thunderbolt of the weather god Adad.  
Mr Korban holds Bernard Hogan-Howe personally responsible for the seizure of the artefact
Mr Korban holds Bernard Hogan-Howe personally responsible for the seizure of the artefact
Mr Korban offered the museum the bottom half of the slab in November 2011, but, seemingly suspicious of its origins, the museum declined to purchase the piece.
He then attempted to sell the piece on the open market before it was seized by police  as evidence in any future trial.
A Geneva-based antiques and jewellery dealer, Emile Chayto was charged with fraud by false representations in connection with the artefact eighteen months after the raid, and police are holding the object as evidence.
But Mr Korban has gone to court to have the piece returned to him, claiming he is the rightful owner.
He is also demanding £200,000 in compensation for loss and damage as part of his claim.
A spokesman for the art dealer told the Sunday Telegraph: 'The stele is a valuable object which Mr Korban considers his and he wants it back. He can show proper provenance and utterly rejects the notion that it was obtained illegally.'
The upper portion of the stele is currently held by the British Museum
The upper portion of the stele is currently held by the British Museum
Mr Korban holds Mr Hogan-Howe personally responsible for the seizure of the artefact and preventing its planned sale.
In the writ he has filed against the Commissioner he said: 'At all times since their seizure of the stele the police have been aware of the claimant's [Mr Korban] claim in respect of it, namely that he is its owner, and that he is who is entitled to its possession.'
However, the Met is adamant that the officers acted properly in confiscating the object, saying it is legally being held as part of a criminal investigation.
In a written submission to the High Court the Met's solicitors said: 'there are reasonable grounds for believing that the provenance provided is false and the object of the false representation was to disguise the theft and illegal export of the stele from Syria.'
It is not the first time Mr Korban has had the provenance of an antique that he was trying to offload called into question.
The dealer was at the centre of the sale of 14 pieces of Roman silver worth up to £200 million, known as the Sevso Treasure. 
The J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles was interesting in purchasing the collection, but later declined to go ahead with the sale, claiming that Lebanese export documents had been forged.
Mr Korban and a colleague later sold the silver to former Sotheby's chairman Peter Wilson, who then sold it on to the Marquess of Northampton.