Monday, January 01, 2018

Stolen Art Watch, Art Crime New Year, January 2018

Scotland Yard Art and Antiques Unit re-formed

The Metropolitan Police’s Art and Antiques Unit, disbanded in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire, has been re-formed after fears London was at risk from an increase in the theft and fraud of cultural items.
Following the tragic Grenfell Tower fire on June 14 the entire art crime squad was disbanded and seconded to help with the inquiry.
Now the unit’s detective constables Ray Swan and Sophie Hayes have returned to the department joining new supervisor, detective sergeant Rob Upham. A third detective constable is due to join the team in the next few months.
Upham, speaking to Antiques Trade Gazette said: “We’ve already started instigating investigations, have already yielded one arrest and from another investigation have recovered two paintings, previously reported stolen.”
Upham recently joined from the Met’s Homicide and Serious Crime Command. The art crime squad had been without a lead since Claire Hutcheon left in March 2016.
A Met police spokesman confirmed that the “Met’s Art and Antiques Unit has been reformed” and a third team member will join as soon as possible.
Specialising in tackling the theft and fraud of cultural items, art and antiques, the unit is responsible for the London Stolen Art Database - cataloguing the details of 54,000 stolen works.
The unit has been temporarily closed in the past, for instance following the July 2005 bombings. However, this year there were fears it would be permanently closed due to budgetary pressures on the Met.
Speaking during the summer, former Met Police art crime detective Dick Ellis raised concerns of a "vacuum (being) left in Europe's largest art market".
He said the effective investigation of crimes relating to the “burglary of art and antiques, international cultural property theft, fraud and money laundering” are all directly impacted by the lack of a dedicated police unit. He highlighted that in contrast to the UK, the US had trained 400 officers since 2007 and the FBI has 16 special agents on its art crime team.
Six months on from the fire that claimed 71 lives, the Grenfell inquiry began a two day hearing this week to examine issues such as witness statements and timetables. The hearing of evidence will begin next year.

Stolen van Ruisdael painting on display at Ulster Museum

A painting by Dutch master Jacob van Ruisdael, made famous by being stolen by notorious Dublin criminal Martin Cahill, has gone on display in Belfast.
The Cornfield was offered by the Alfred Beit Foundation in lieu of tax and allocated to the Ulster Museum.
It was stolen from Russborough House in County Wicklow three times between 1974 and 2002 but recovered each time.
Jacob van Ruisdael is considered by many to be a foremost Dutch landscape painter at that time.
The painting was acquired more than a century ago by Sir Otto Beit (1865-1930), joining a collection of old master works assembled by his relative, the diamond magnate Alfred Beit (1853-1906).
In 1930, the collection passed to Otto's son Sir Alfred Lane Beit (1903-1994) who relocated it some 20 years later to Russborough House, where the Cornfield hung in the saloon alongside other Dutch paintings.

The IRA heiress and the General

However, the paintings attracted much unwanted attention.
An Irish Republican Army gang, that included English heiress Dr Rose Dugdale, stole 19 paintings after tying up Sir Alfred and his wife in 1974.
All of the stolen paintings were recovered in County Cork a few weeks later.

Image copyright Press Eye/Darren Kidd
Image caption Despite its history, the Ulster Museum hopes the Cornfield will be safe within its walls
In 1986, a 13-member gang led by Martin Cahill, known in the tabloid media as 'The General', robbed the stately home again.
He took the van Ruisdael as part of a heist involving 18 paintings but the Cornfield was recovered days after the robbery.
And finally, the Cornfield was one of five paintings taken from Russborough in 2002 but recovered three months later.

'Absolute masterpiece'

Anne Stewart, a senior curator of art with the Ulster Museum, said it was excited and delighted to have a painting as important as the Cornfield in its collection.
She described it as an "absolute masterpiece".
"Jacob van Ruisdael was really the finest of all the Dutch landscape painters of the 17th century," she said.
"This is one of his most beautiful paintings.
"Jacob van Ruisdael was so adapt and clever at painting landscapes that he really went beyond the representation of what he saw... he gives it a deeper poetic meaning."

Image copyright ©Press Eye/Darren Kidd
Image caption Anne Stewart believe the Cornfield is an 'absolute masterpiece'
While she said it was a very valuable painting, Ms Stewart could not put a value on the piece.
She said every museum had concerns about the security of its collections, but that the Ulster Museum had gone to great lengths to make sure its collection was secure.
Despite the number of times it has been stolen, the painting is in a "miraculous" condition, she added, although a very close look reveals that the Cornfield does bear the scars of ill-treatment at the hands of thieves.

Who was Jacob van Ruisdael?

Jacob van Ruisdael (1628/9? - 1682) is commonly considered the foremost landscape painter of the so-called Dutch Golden Age.
He was born in Haarlem, in the north of the Netherlands, and was the son of a little known painter, Isaack Jacobsz van Ruisdael.
His work is considered to be source of inspiration for later generations of British landscape artists such as John Constable.
The subject of the cornfield featured in many of Ruisdael's works but was rarely treated as the central theme.

Kathryn Thomson, Chief Executive of National Museums NI, said: "The Ulster Museum holds a small but important collection of 17th Century Dutch paintings and the undisputed beauty of the Cornfield, an important work from the Beit collection, will significantly enhance this collection.
"I have no doubt that this beautiful painting will captivate visitors to the Ulster Museum."
The Cornfield is on display in the Life and Light Dutch and Italian Painting exhibition at the Ulster Museum.
The museum also holds a painting, River Landscape with Figures in Boats and a Church in the Distance from van Ruisdael's uncle and teacher, Salomon van Ruysdael.
Although they were uncle and nephew, they used slightly different spellings of their surname.

The Craziest Art Heists in American History

Art heists in movies and on tv can look very unrealistic. As it turns out, many seemingly impossible art heists are successful. In fact, valuable pieces of art are still missing from heists decades old. Learn more about some of the most famous and memorable art heists in the United States, ahead.

Davidoff-Morini Stradivarius, 1995

Stradivarius Violin
The violin in question has not been found. | Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images
A $3 million violin vanished from its owner’s New York City apartment in 1995. The very valuable violin made by Antonio Stradivari in 1727 sat in the china cabinet of concert violinist, Erica Morini, the Daily Beast says. “The violin is among only a few hundred instruments that Stradivari made,” according to USA Today. Morini passed away two weeks after the theft of her precious violin. The person or persons responsible for the theft have never been found and the violin has yet to be recovered.

Maxfield Parrish’s mural, 2002

Gertrude Vanderbilt Maxfield Parrish murals-theft
The two murals were cut from their frames. | FBI
Two panels from Maxfield Parrish’s mural commissioned for Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s 5th Avenue mansion in New York vanished from a California museum in 2002, according to the FBI. Thieves took the oil paintings from a West Hollywood art gallery. They cut the paintings, valued at $4 million, from their frames. The paintings remain on the Art Crime Team’s Most Wanted list.

Renoir painting, 2011

Madeleine Leaning on Her Elbow with Flowers in Her Hair by Renoir
The stolen painting is valued at $1 million. | FBI
Upon entering a Houston home, a masked robber took Madeleine Leaning on Her Elbow with Flowers in Her Hair by Renoir. The armed robber, supposedly in his early to mid 20s, got away with the painting after the homeowner heard a noise and saw the intruder. The painting is said to be worth $1 million, according to the Bureau. This theft remains on the FBI’s Top 10 Art Crimes.

Multiple pieces of artwork, 1990

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum art heist
The museum is still offering a reward for the missing paintings. | FBI
Two men dressed as police officers tied up security officers on duty at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and proceeded to have free reign of the museum, TIME says. Taking 13 pieces of artwork, this heist in Boston is one of the largest in American history. What makes this story even more interesting is that the case remains unsolved. The statute of limitations has run out and none of the artwork is back at the museum, the FBI told CNN.  As of May 2017, the museum is offering a $10 million reward for help solving the mystery.

18 paintings by various artists, 1988

The thieves used a skylight to enter the gallery. | FastGlassPhotos/iStock/Getty Images
18 paintings housed at the Manhattan branch of Colnaghi’s went missing in 1988. The heist “involved a break-in through a skylight and a maneuver with a rope that could have sent the robbers plunging down the stairwell,” Forbes says. At the time, the art valued between $6 and $10 million, making it the biggest heist in New York. Only 14 of the 18 stolen works have been recovered.

Salvador Dalí sketch, 2004

Salvador Dali with drawings
The drawing was stolen by a guard. | -/AFP/GettyImages
During his yearly stay at the St. Regis hotel in New York during the winter months of 1965, Dalí planned to visit inmate artists at Rikers Island, according to the Daily Beast. Dalí, feeling sick, canceled the visit. Feeling guilty about not visiting the prison, he drew a sketch to hang in the cafeteria. Nearly 40 years later, prison guards set off the prison’s fire alarm to distract the night guards, giving them enough time to replace the real sketch with a replica. The poorly drawn replica didn’t fool anyone for long. The guards were caught immediately following the heist, according to Ranker.

Fake artwork, 1987

New York skyline warehouses buildings reflected in the water
They ended up getting caught in their scheme. | fietstouring/iStock/Getty Images
“Antiques dealer, Nedjatollah Sakhai, hired a gang to rob a Queens warehouse filled with forged goods,” according to How Stuff Works. The art dealer and owner of the warehouse, Houshang Mahboubian, planned to file a claim and collect millions in insurance money. After receiving a tip, the police staked out the warehouse and waited for the supposed burglars to make their move. While Sakhai and Mahboubian maintain their innocence, 13 others pleaded guilty.

Planned exhibit about art dealer Max Stern reinstated by German mayor

A planned exhibit about world-renowned Jewish Montreal art dealer Max Stern has been reinstated by the mayor of Dusseldorf, Germany, after he canceled it last month.
Due to open in February after more than three years of planning by Dusseldorf’s Stadtmuseum, the exhibit – titled “Max Stern: from Dusseldorf to Montreal” – also was slated to include a stop in Israel before finishing in Montreal.
At the time of the November cancellation, German city officials cited “current demands for information and restitution in Germany” as the reason for the exhibit’s abrupt cancellation.
The exhibit will now go ahead in a “more complete and revised form” at a later date, the city said in a statement. It will now take place in the Stadtmuseum with an additional, yet-to-be-appointed curator and a “scholarly advisory board,” the city statement said. Mayor Thomas Geisel told the New York Times that the target date for the revised exhibition is October 2018. The city also is planning an international symposium about Stern to “offer a forum for research on the subject and to discuss possible forms of communicating and documenting it.”
A native of Dusseldorf, Stern took over his late father’s art gallery there in 1934 until the Nazis made it illegal for Jews to sell art. During this period, the Nazis looted hundreds of valuable artworks from his gallery.
Stern soon left Germany and settled in Montreal, where he established the renowned Dominion Gallery.
Following his death in 1987, Concordia became the base for the Max Stern Art Restitution Project, which uses funds left by his estate to Montreal’s Concordia and McGill universities and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem to seek out and recover gallery artworks stolen by the Nazis.
To date, 16 have been recovered and returned to their rightful owners, with hundreds still unaccounted for.
The list of Stern gallery artworks includes some works in the collection of the Stadtmuseum and the city of Düsseldorf.

World's first 'billion-dollar painting' almost lost to underworld after daring heist

A Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece which was valued just over $100m ten years ago is now being touted as the first painting in the world that could fetch $1bn at auction.
The staggering 10-figure price tag is viewed in art circles as entirely possible, following last month's sale of Leonardo's Salvator Mundi for a world record $591m.
Of the 20 Leonardo Da Vinci paintings thought to be in existence, all except two are held by the world's most famous and powerful art museums.
One of those works, Madonna of the Yarnwinder, painted by Leonardo in the early 16th century, is privately owned by one of Britain's wealthiest aristocrats - Richard Scott, the 10th Duke of Buccleuch.
The art world is now wondering if the duke, who is Scotland's largest landowner, will be tempted to put his prized treasure on the auction block.

The Madonna of the Yarnwinder, Leonardo da Vinci, 1520 - 1530. (Getty)

The Madonna of the Yarnwinder, a small 48cm x 37cm canvas featuring a seated Virgin Mary holding the infant Jesus, has been a possession in the duke's family for around 250 years.
However, in 2003 the painting went missing for four years, after two men armed with a knife and axe stole it from the duke's Drumlanrig castle, near Dumfries. Drumlanrig Castle was used as a set in the popular British-American television drama series, Outlander.
The two men had posed as tourists wanting to see the duke's collection of paintings, which is thought to be the UK's most valuable private holding.
Alison Russell, an 18-year-old tour guide, described how the art thieves had been waiting outside the castle for the doors to open, one morning in August 2003.
The pair ignored all the other paintings and galleries inside the castle, and instead rushed Ms Russell towards the room where the duke's prized centrepiece was hung.
Once there, one of the men grabbed her and held a knife to her throat. The other stood guard by the painting with an axe, warning Ms Russell's co-workers to stay away.

A view of Drumlanrig Castle, where a Leonardo de Vinci painting was stolen in 2003, on October 5, 2007 in Dumfries, Scotland. The castle is also a set on TV show, Outlander. (Getty)

They removed the Leonardo painting from the wall, and escaped out a window.
The biggest art theft in British history remained an unsolved mystery until 2007 when a man named Marshall Ronald contacted the duke, saying he knew where the Leonardo was and could arrange its return for a fee of almost $10m.
That led to two undercover police, who posed as an art expert and the duke's representative, meeting with Ronald, an English lawyer.
It was agreed the Leonardo would be taken to a law firm in Glasgow, where a second meeting was raided by police and the painting returned to the Duke of Buccleuch.
The Madonna of the Yarnwinder is currently on loan to the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh.

There are thought to be only two Leonardo da Vinci paintings held in private collections. The Madonna of the Yarnwinder, pictured here on loan to National Gallery of Scotland, is one of them. (Getty)

Jaynie Anderson, a professor of fine arts at the University of Melbourne, said Leonardo's Madonna of the Yarnwinder was a "much more beautiful painting" than the Salvator Mundi.
The Salvator Mundi, showing Christ dressed in Renaissance-style robes holding a crystal sphere, was significantly damaged, and it had required extensive restoration work at a New York City studio.
"I'm amazed at the price the Salvator Mundi went for," Prof Anderson said.
"The face is very damaged. And I think the fact that the face of Christ is damaged sort of inhibits you really liking the picture."
Some art critics had also doubted the authenticity of Salvator Mundi in the lead up to last month's Christie's auction. In contrast, Prof Anderson said the provenance of Leonardo's Madonna of the Yarnwinder was "impeccable".
"It is an important composition and a very interesting proposition for auction," Prof Anderson said.
"If it went up for sale I think it could go for much more than the Salvator Mundi. It is a much more beautiful painting, a far more sexy painting."

A visitor takes a photo of the painting 'Salvator Mundi' by Leonardo da Vinci at Christie's New York Auction House. (Getty)

An auction would inevitably attract big money bidders from Chinese billionaires, Russian oligrachs and Middle East royals. However, such is the rarity and allure of the Madonna of the Yarnwinder, Prof Anderson believed American billionaires and museums could also be prompted into action.
"There is competition between elite museums to make the best acquisitions," Prof Anderson said.
"The fact it is now on loan to the National Gallery of Scotland might mean that the Duke of Buccleuch intends to gift it to them when he dies. But that is an awful lot of money, so he is probably thinking about it. And if he isn't, the big auction houses like Christie's most certainly will be."
As well as the scarcity of Leonardo's works, Prof Anderson said the Italian artist, who was born in 1452, had never gone out of fashion – unlike other famous painters.
"Leonardo is very sympathetic. Everybody is fascinated with him as a personality," Prof Anderson said.

Joe Hay, security guard at the National Gallery of Scotland, stands beside the Leonardo da Vinci painting 'Madonna Of The Yarnwinder' on March 1, 2010 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Getty)

Prof Anderson, an expert in Italian Renaissance art, described Leonardo as a melancholic, neurotic and beautiful man, and likened his appeal to Shakespeare's Hamlet.
"When he walked down the street his contemporaries said you couldn't stop staring at him."
Leonardo was not a prolific painter, but he was constantly drawing and writing, she added.
"Contemporaries describe him working on The Last Supper, and how he spent ages just staring at it and not doing anything."
It was confirmed last week that Salvator Mundi will hang at The Louvre in Abu Dhabi.
There is a second version of the Madonna of the Yarnwinder, which is likely the only other Leonardo da Vinci painting in private hands.
The identity of the owner is unknown, but it is believed to be an American collector.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Stolen Art Watch, Media's Facination With Art Crime Slows December 2017

How London became a hotspot for art theft - the world’s third most profitable criminal enterprise

It’s pouring with rain when I go to meet Charley Hill in the café at The National Gallery, and the sky is so moody one might be tempted to call it ‘Rothko grey’.
He is waiting for me with a white paper envelope and a golf umbrella, and has greying curly hair, kind crinkly eyes and round tortoiseshell glasses. In contrast to Hill’s usual meetings with gangland informers and kingpins of the criminal underworld, all that’s in my envelope are three postcards he’s bought for me from the Sir John Soane’s Museum where, 30 years ago, he foiled an armed attempt to steal two Hogarth paintings. Once DCI of Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiques Unit, Hill has worked as a private detective since 1997 and has contributed to some of the biggest art crime recoveries in history.
‘I don’t break the law but I do deal with people you wouldn’t want to talk to,’ he tells me in his soft, mid-Atlantic accent. ‘Using informants is the only way to get these things back.’
The ‘things’ he refers to have included Goya’s Portrait of Doña Antonia Zárate, which he discovered rolled up in a sports bag, Vermeer’s Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid, retrieved from a multistorey car park in Antwerp, and Titian’s £5m Rest on the Flight into Egypt, stuffed into a red and blue striped laundry bag and found at a bus stop outside Richmond station. One of the best stories he tells me — over two pre-lunch Screwdrivers — involves accidentally bumping Munch’s The Scream on the headrest of his associate’s Mercedes sports coupé, having gone undercover at an Oslo hotel to retrieve the masterpiece. ‘It’s just on a piece of cardboard so it’s like carrying a big packing box,’ he says of rescuing one of the most famous paintings in the world, valued at the time at £35m.

Art work: private detective Charley Hill
Whether it’s an elaborate forgery of a Damien Hirst Spin painting, a Banksy swiped from an Islington flat by Airbnb-ers, or ISIS’s looting of historical antiquities in Palmyra, art crime is happening every day. It is now ranked the third highest grossing criminal enterprise, behind drugs and arms dealing respectively. In 2013, figures suggested that thefts of art and antiques in the UK alone totalled more than £300m. ‘London is an ideal site for moving art because of its position as a centre of the art world and global art market,’ explains Lynda Albertson, CEO of the Association for Research into Crimes against Art.
‘The British Art Market Federation reported that there were 48,500 people directly employed in the art and antiques market, and the UK has a 21 per cent share of the $56bn global art market, which gives you an idea of London’s muscle.’
Yet in August Scotland Yard announced that it had seconded the three remaining detectives from its specialist unit to the Grenfell Tower investigation, and there are fears that its Art and Antiques Unit might well be closed indefinitely. ‘The loss would be felt across the globe,’ says Vernon Rapley, who was in charge of the unit for 10 years before becoming head of security at the V&A in 2010. ‘We dealt with everything, from ancient Assyrian reliefs to contemporary painting to vintage wine — all sorts of things came through that office door. It takes a long time to understand these crimes, so having a small, specialist team frees up other officers’ time when these cases do come in.’ The Metropolitan Police did not respond to our queries about the future of the unit, but with police funding tighter than ever there’s a sense that picture-napping isn’t the most pressing concern.

Edvard Munch’s The Scream (Alamy Stock Photo)
‘I’m sympathetic to the view that knife crime is more important than art crime,’ says Saskia Hufnagel, a senior lecturer in criminal law at Queen Mary, University of London, who writes about art theft and forgery. ‘But when we think about how stolen art could be used as a currency to fund arms, drugs and terrorism, we’re talking about more than just losing cultural property.’
Although it’s the Thomas Crowne-style museum heists that make the headlines, art crime has now gone digital. This summer hackers stole sums ranging from £10,000 to £1m from nine galleries and individuals, including the Mayfair-based Hauser & Wirth gallery when they used an email scam to intercept payments between galleries and collectors. The notoriously unregulated art market, combined with large sums of money changing hands, make this type of con particularly lucrative. ‘You can’t buy a $1m condo without three weeks of paperwork and 100 checks and balances, but art dealers and their clients will wire $1m after a single conversation,’ says one US dealer who asked not to be named.
Then there are the inside jobs and questions of provenance. ‘A lot of theft from museums will be an item taken from the archives which isn’t detected for years and is never reported,’ says Hufnagel. For the V&A’s Vernon Rapley the most pressing concerns are ‘fakes and forgeries — not just those objects directly penetrating the collections, but also the attributions or provenance of those objects. Sometimes the things coming in to our collection are more dangerous than the things going out. There was a point in the past when people were borrowing a tray of coins for “study purposes”, taking the most valuable ones out and replacing them with forgeries.’

Christopher Marinello
From a nondescript office in Hatton Garden with a few watercolours on the wall, Julian Radcliffe runs The Art Loss Register, a global database of stolen art and antiques which has recovered over £100m worth of paintings, statues and sculptures since 1991. According to The Register (as it’s known in the trade), there are more than 500,000 stolen, fake or looted items floating around, including more than 1,000 Picassos — the most stolen artist. Clearly, criminals love a bit of fractured perspective.
Radcliffe is a former risk consultant for Lloyd’s of London, who once specialised in kidnap negotiations, a skill that presumably comes in handy now he spends his days trying to talk back Old Masters. ‘We often get calls from individuals who say they know where an item is and that they want money for [that knowledge],’ he says. ‘We fill in the gaps between the police, the governments and the art industry.’ The company charges people £10 to register their lost or stolen item on the database and takes a percentage of an item’s ‘ultimate net benefit’ if it’s recovered. It had a turnover of £1m last year. In 1999, Radcliffe made $2million for reuniting a stolen Cézanne painting, Pitcher and Fruit, with its owner. (There are more successes but not for such large sums of money. For example, he recently made £100,000 after recovering some pictures that were part of an insurance fraud.)
The sometimes murky distinction between paying rewards to informants, as opposed to ransom money to thieves which is illegal, means that the work of the private art detective can be controversial. In 2000, the Tate reportedly paid £3.5m to lawyers on behalf of informants with strong connections to the Serbian underworld, to retrieve two stolen Turners worth £20m. ‘There are a lot of disreputable companies operating in this grey area,’ says Christopher Marinello, who set up the non-profit register and the art recovery organisation Art Recovery International and has been dubbed the ‘Sherlock Holmes of Nazi-looted art’. ‘Paying criminals for information encourages art crime, and withholding information from victims or museums unless you get paid isn’t ethical.’ Marinello says he does a lot of pro-bono work, particularly for churches, museums and artists who can’t afford his fees. ‘I’m a sucker for religious artefacts,’ he says. ‘I recently recovered a Masonic sword which had been stolen and sold at a car-boot sale and ended up at an auction house in London. The auction house had done no due diligence whatsoever — if they’d even googled it they would’ve seen that it had been stolen.’

Titian’s Rest on the Flight into Egypt (Alamy Stock Photo)
The idea of masterpieces being stolen to order for a criminal mastermind, such as the James Bond villain Dr No with his misappropriated Goya, is nearly always Hollywood fantasy. ‘It’s almost never stolen because it’s a beautiful object,’ says Vernon Rapley. ‘Rather, it’s a commodity that can be used as collateral for other illicit activity.’ He adds that to understand art crime you need to look at the bigger picture (pun, presumably, not intended). ‘There are trends — a few years ago Chinese gangs were stealing Chinese antiquities to use as currency,’ he says. ‘Similarly, when drugs were being bought from Turkey there would be peaks in the theft of art that would appeal to that market. At the moment we’re quite concerned about our collections which feature rhino horn — they might not be the most valuable items but they’re high risk because they are desirable [in Asia].’
Technology may have led to cybercrime and more sophisticated forgeries, but it is also being turned on the criminals. ‘There are new inventions being tried such as genetic fingerprinting for paintings, analysing cryptocurrencies and blockchain software to track provenance,’ says Lynda Albertson. ‘Recently, a team of undercover operatives and Syrian archaeologists applied a tracing liquid to antiquities which uses nanotechnology to encrypt data into water.’ A solution of small particles suspended in water is painted on to objects to track where they’ve come from; it can’t be removed and it’s only visible under UV light.
For the most part, art crime cases are solved the old-fashioned way, and occasionally, quickly. Marinello recalls posing as a buyer for a job that took 15 days in total, from the time of the theft to the day the photograph — worth about £350,000 — was back on the wall of the museum it came from in Prague. ‘The stars aligned for that one,’ he admits. More often, though, unravelling the threads requires huge patience and skill. Julian Radcliffe recovered the Hooke manuscripts, original minutes of meetings at The Royal Society between 1677 and 1682, as recorded by scientist Robert Hooke, which were stolen 300 years ago. Charley Hill has been on the trail of the Mafia-inspired theft of a Caravaggio for 30 years. Will he ever give up? ‘Never — I’ll be doing this until I drop.’

'The right thing to do is return them'

Almost eight months after two Gottfried Lindauer paintings were stolen from a Parnell art centre, the centre's director has once again made a plea for their return.
Together, the paintings, depicting Chieftainess Ngatai-Raure and Chief Ngatai-Raure, are believed to be worth about $1 million.
"The right thing to do is return them," says International Art Centre director Richard Thomson. "It would be nice to see, the nation wants them returned."
Mr Thomson is speaking out, after an anonymous seller recently posted a listing on the 'dark web', selling what they claim is one of the stolen Lindauer works.
The dark web is an untraceable part of the internet and special software is needed to access it.
But Mr Thomson believes what's been advertised on the listing is fake.
"I can tell by some of the photographs on it and the photoshopping," he says. "We know those paintings more than anyone.
"Yes, it's the painting, but it's a copy of it - it's a printed copy."
Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is taking the listing seriously and has asked officials for advice.
"I've referred queries to the Ministry of Arts, Culture and Heritage, because I'm sure that there would be some way that they choose to respond to these kinds of issues - a policy on the way that they respond to stolen goods," she says.
"So I've left that for their advice. It seems pretty bold for someone to list a stolen item and actually state that it's a stolen item the way they have."
Art historian Penelope Jackson, the author of Art Thieves, Fakers and Fraudsters: The New Zealand Story, says whether the listing is authentic or not, it's brought the story back into the spotlight.
"Perhaps it might jog someone's memory about something they've seen or a conversation they've overheard that could ultimately provide the police with the information they need to find the culprits and the works," says Ms Jackson.
Mr Thomson says he's confident the paintings are still in New Zealand.

Mystery of the Admiral’s jewel: Remarkable story of Lord Nelson’s prized 300-diamond hat piece gifted to him after the Battle of the Nile that vanished from a museum 66 years ago

  • Nelson was gifted the stunning seven-inch chelengk by Sultan Selim III of Turkey
  • Hat decoration was sold in 1895 for £710 to ease the family's financial difficulties
  • It would end up in London's National Maritime Musuem until it was stolen in 1951
  • Career criminal sold the prized jewel to a gang who broke it into smaller pieces
The remarkable story of Admiral Lord Nelson's most precious jewel which vanished from a museum 66 years ago has been revealed in a new book.
Nelson was gifted the stunning seven-inch chelengk by Sultan Selim III of Turkey after the Battle of the Nile in 1798.
The hat decoration contained over 300 diamonds and a central diamond Ottoman star which was powered by clockwork to rotate and sparkle in candlelight.
Nelson was the first non-Muslim recipient of the chelengk and wore it on his hat like a turban jewel, sparking a fashion craze for similar jewels in England.
Nelson was gifted the stunning seven-inch chelengk by Sultan Selim III of Turkey after the Battle of the Nile in 1798.
A replica of the jewel
Lord Nelson (left) was gifted the stunning seven-inch chelengk (replica shown right) by Sultan Selim III of Turkey after the Battle of the Nile in 1798
London jeweller Philip Denyer has used 350 18th century diamonds to make an exact replica of the chelengk to coincede with the book launch of Nelson's Lost Chelengk
London jeweller Philip Denyer has used 350 18th century diamonds to make an exact replica of the chelengk to coincede with the book launch of Nelson's Lost Chelengk
It remained in his family for generations before it was sold in 1895 for £710 to ease the family's financial difficulties.
The chelengk was then bought for £1,500 by the Society for Nautical Research in 1929 following a national appeal and placed in London's National Maritime Museum.
But it was stolen in 1951 by career criminal George Chatham, who sold the jewel for a 'few thousand' to a criminal gang who he believes broke it up into little pieces.
The fascinating history of the jewel has been researched by historian and jewel expert Martyn Downer for his new book Nelson's Lost Chelengk.
To coincide with the book launch, London jeweller Philip Denyer has used 350 18th century diamonds to make an exact replica of the chelengk.
The jewel, worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, is on display in the Victory Gallery at Portsmouth's Historic Dockyard alongside a black felt cocked hat.
The jewel was stolen from the National Maritime Musuem in 1951 by career criminal George Chatham, who sold the jewel for a 'few thousand' to a criminal gang
The jewel was stolen from the National Maritime Musuem in 1951 by career criminal George Chatham, who sold the jewel for a 'few thousand' to a criminal gang
A close-up of the replica
The goldsmith copied a newly discovered drawing of the chelengk which had been hidden away in the library at the College of Arms in London
For the replica (left), a goldsmith copied a newly discovered drawing (right) of the chelengk which had been hidden away in the library at the College of Arms in London
The goldsmith copied a newly discovered drawing of the chelengk which had been hidden away in the library at the College of Arms in London.
The drawing was commissioned by Nelson's niece Charlotte who inherited the chelengk after his death.
She asked Thomas King, a Norfolk-born officer at the College of Arms, to paint it alongside Nelson's other orders and decorations for a planned history of Great Yarmouth.
His watercolour is the most accurate record of the chelengk as it appeared during Nelson's lifetime, showing in unprecedented detail the delicate white enamelling on the petals of the flowers and a single ruby radiating from the jewel.
By the time the chelengk passed into the hands of the National Maritime Museum in 1929, its enamelled flowering and clockwork mechanism had been removed.
Martyn Downer, 51, said: 'Nelson knew it was an extraordinary jewel and asked for permission from the king to wear it on his hat as part of his official uniform.
'I visited the College of Arms last year and by pure serendipity King's fabulous drawing of the chelengk was unearthed in an album in the library.

'Forget Trafalgar... the Battle of the Nile was Nelson's finest hour'

The Battle of the Nile was one of the most significant clashes between Nelson (pictured) and his counterpart Napoleon
The Battle of the Nile was one of the most significant clashes between Nelson (pictured) and his counterpart Napoleon
Many historians agree that the Battle of the Nile was more significant than Trafalgar, the battle in which Nelson died. It was during this conflict that Généreux was nearly taken by the Lord Admiral's men but the ship managed to escaped - only to be captured two years later.
In August 1798, the French were at anchor in Aboukir Bay in shallow water, using the shore to protect the south-western side of the fleet, while the north-eastern faced open sea.
Although the ships were chained together, Nelson believed the chain between the last ship in the line and the shore was sunk deep enough to let a vessel pass.
In a daring night-time manoeuvre, his fleet slipped through the gap and attacked the French on their unprotected side.
The battle established Britain as the dominant sea power during the French revolutionary wars and was immortalised in the poem Casablanca, known for its opening line 'The boy stood on the burning deck'.
Nelson's flagship during the battle was the Vanguard. Other British ships commemorated by surviving copses include the Minotaur, Defence, Swiftsure, Theseus, Orion, Bellerophon and Alexander.
Stephen Fisher of the National Trust said: 'The Battle of the Nile in 1798 was one of Nelson's most significant clashes with Napoleon.
'Forget Trafalgar, this was Nelson's finest hour and at the time was his most famous victory.'
Divers pull out a 200-year-old canon (pictured) from the ship wreck of the Orient, the French fleet's flagship during the Battle of the Nile, in 1999
Divers pull out a 200-year-old canon (pictured) from the ship wreck of the Orient, the French fleet's flagship during the Battle of the Nile, in 1999'The level of detail in the drawing has enabled the jeweller to make an exact replica of the chelengk using 350 18th century diamonds which have been salvaged from jewels of that era.
'The enamelling has been done in the same colour and every detail I've researched has been included in the jewel.
'It is an extraordinary object which is worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.'
During the heist, Chatham smashed the plate glass of the display case containing the Nelson relics and left a crowbar in the shards of broken glass.
Only the chelengk, the most precious object in the display, was missing.
Nothing else had been touched and the jewel's fitted case had been left behind.
Two ladders were discovered in an annex next to the gallery which had been used by Chatham to reach a window which he forced open.
A watch was immediately placed at ports and airports as there was speculation the chelengk had been stolen by an antiques gang to flog on the Continent or in America.
The replica jewel, worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, is on display in the Victory Gallery at Portsmouth's Historic Dockyard alongside a black felt cocked hat
The replica jewel, worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, is on display in the Victory Gallery at Portsmouth's Historic Dockyard alongside a black felt cocked hat
The jeweller used 350 diamonds (pictured when removed from the ornament) to recreate the famous gem
The jeweller used 350 diamonds (pictured when removed from the ornament) to recreate the famous gem
Within hours, a reward of £250 was offered for information leading to the recovery of the jewel, but no one was arrested for the theft.
However, in 1994 Chatham confessed to the crime during a TV interview.
He said he sold the chelengk for a 'few thousand' before the jewel was broken up into little pieces.
Chatham had previous as in 1948 he stole two glittering diamond-encrusted swords in an exhibition of Wellington relics at the Victoria & Albert Museum in South Kensington, west London.
Mr Dormer, 51, of Cambridge, said: 'It seems remarkable now that a burglar who preyed on Mayfair's mansions was able to take it with such apparent ease.
'It certainly caused an enormous stink that such a special object had been left unguarded.
'Chatham appeared on TV and admitted he stole it and sold it for a 'few thousand'.'
  • Nelson's Lost Jewel: The Extraordinary Story of the Lost Diamond Chelengk, by Martyn Downer, is published by The History Press and coasts £20.

Prized ornament gifted to Nelson by Sultan Selim III discovered by police divers and sold for £70,000

An ornate scabbard chape belonging to Admiral Lord Nelson - discovered on the bed of the River Thames by a police diver in the 1970s - was sold at auction for £70,000 in 2015.
It is believed the six-inch long enamel and diamond decoration that fixed onto the bottom end of the naval hero's sword case was tossed into the water by thieves decades before.
It was discovered in 1973 purely by chance by a police diver searching for a weapon used in a crime.
This ornate scabbard chape belonging to  Lord Nelson - discovered on the bed of the River Thames by a police diver in the 1970s - was sold at auction for £70,000 in 2015
This ornate scabbard chape belonging to Lord Nelson - discovered on the bed of the River Thames by a police diver in the 1970s - was sold at auction for £70,000 in 2015
The chape, like the seven-inch chelengk, was presented to Nelson by the Sultan Selim III of the Turkish Empire to commemorate the British victory over the French fleet at the Battle of the Nile in 1798.
It is decorated in diamonds with the star and crescent which matches the Ottoman Order of the Crescent granted to Nelson in 1799.
Five years before its discovery, an ornate locket with an identical decoration that was used on the top part of Nelson's scabbard was found during dredging work of the River Wey in Surrey.
The location was not far from the Thames at Windsor where the chape was found, nor from Nelson's palatial home at Merton.
The chape was presented to Nelson to commemorate the British victory over the French fleet at the Battle of the Nile in 1798 (pictured in a painting)
The chape was presented to Nelson to commemorate the British victory over the French fleet at the Battle of the Nile in 1798 (pictured in a painting)

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Stolen Art Watch, Art Crime Never Sleeps

Gambling butler jailed for stealing millions of pounds' worth of goods from Prince Charles' friend

Simon Dalton has been put behind bars for crimes against the Hanbury family.

A butler who stole possessions ranging from Picasso artwork to Faberge eggs and £1.9m worth of jewellery from a friend of Prince Charles' has been sentenced to a six years in jail.
Simon Dalton, 54, who worked for millionaire friends of the royal family, has been put behind bars after pleading guilty to six counts of theft from Major Christopher Hanbury and his wife Bridget. He used the proceeds to fund his gambling addiction.
Major Hanbury, 73, is a family friend of the Prince of Wales and has previously hosted Prince Harry at his Argentinian polo estate. He is a former member of the Queen's Royal Irish Hussars and aide to the Sultan of Brunei.
Among the stolen items are three pieces of artwork – a line drawing by Picasso, a Toulouse-Lautrec and a piece of art by singer Bob Dylan. They remain missing after Dalton has refused to reveal their whereabouts.
Manchester Crown heard that Dalton, of Finchale Drive in Hale, worked for the Hanburys since 2009 and committed the thefts between 2010 and 2012.
He was paid £19,000 after tax as house manager and lived rent free in a cottage with his wife on the family's estate in Loveslock House, Berkshire. Prosecutor David Harley said that Dalton managed the Hanbury's finances and had access to their accounts and safe.
Dalton left the family and his wife suddenly in 2012 without explanation. The only thing he left behind was a note which read: "I can't take it anymore, I'm going to Scotland to clear my head for a few months."
Despite the family making attempts to contact Dalton as they were worried about his well being, they heard no response. It was said in court that the family had "doubts" about their butler and proceeded to check their possessions to see if anything had been stolen.
They found that many valuables were missing including the Picaddo and Toulouse-Lautrec paintings, both worth approximately £650,000 each, the Dylan painting worth £100,000, and three Faberge eggs – which are jewelled eggs created by the House of Faberge.
Financial investigations found that Dalton had also stolen £725,000 from the family's bank accounts, gambling more than £570,000. Police also traced a pawnbrokers in Fleet Street, London, where the butler had pawned jewellery, watches and gems.
Pawnbrokers became suspicious when Dalton tried to pawn three Faberge eggs and a Faberge stamp, subsequently cancelling the transaction. The items were later returned to the Hanburys.
The court heard that Dalton fled to Lille in France on a ferry where he rented a safety deposit box. 1.9m of jewellery and watches were later recovered from a suitcase full of his clothes from the deposit box. Dalton was arrested on 3 January 2013 after returning to the UK.
Defending Nick Cotter claimed that Dlaton was a heavy gambler and "obsessed with death". Now separated from his wife, Cotter apologised to the Hanburys on his client's behalf.
Judge Martin Steiger QC informed Dalton that he would be "well served" at sentence if he revealed the location of the missing artwork.
The judge said: "The defendant was the trusted steward of a wealthy family involved in all things when it came to finance."

Zurich admits to ‘losing’ nearly a thousand works of art over the years

The city of Zurich has misplaced more than 900 works of art from its public collection over the years, Swiss media reported on Tuesday.
Of the 34,500 works of art belonging to the city, the whereabouts of 946 are unknown, lost over the years due to lackadaisical management, reported Tages Anzeiger
The most significant loss is a painting by Swiss-French artist and architect Le Corbusier, dating from 1927, which has an estimated value of 1.5 million francs. 
Zurich city authorities obtained the painting in 1964. It was initially displayed in a maternity hospital, before being put into storage. It later disappeared, probably in the 1990s, authorities told the media. 
Considerable effort has been made to find it, Marc Huber, a spokesman for the city’s construction department, which is responsible for the art collection, told the Tages Anzeiger. 
In 2007 the city lodged a complaint with police, and the artwork was entered into an international database of lost and stolen artworks, but as yet it hasn’t been found. 
The department has now published a list of the missing artworks in order to try and get them back.
After the piece by Le Corbusier the next most valuable is probably worth around 10,000 francs said Huber. He estimated the total value of the missing art to be around two million francs. 
The artworks were most likely lost due to mismanagement, said the paper. Over the years many were loaned out without being properly documented or tracked. 
It wasn’t until 2009 that the city took a proper inventory of its artwork, despite starting the collection a century earlier. 
The authorities now have stricter controls which have prevented more going missing, and several dozen missing artworks have been recouped in recent years, six in 2017 alone, Huber told the Tages Anzeiger.
Zurich isn’t the only the place to suffer such embarrassment. 
According to Le Matin some 2,000 works are missing from the Zurich cantonal collection, while the city of Bern has misplaced up to 200 artworks.
Other cities have remained tight-lipped about the extent of their art collections, said the paper.

Nearly 300 paintings stolen from the back of a truck in Los Banos

Read more here:
Nearly 300 paintings and sketches were stolen from the back of a truck in Los Banos over the weekend and the artist is asking for the public’s help locating the art that represents more than six years of his life.
Artist Maximo Gonzalez has been working on a project since 2011 aimed at raising environmental awareness through art. The paintings and drawings — about 268 in total — were being transported from Dallas, Texas to the Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga, Gonzalez said in a telephone interview Monday.
The artwork was stored in boxes in the back of a locked truck. The driver stopped to rest Friday night at the Maple Inn on East Pacheco Boulevard in Los Banos. On Saturday morning, he returned to the truck and found the artwork had been taken, Los Banos Police Cmdr. Ray Reyna said.

Read more here:
Reyna said the artwork consisted of about 130 paintings and 138 drawings or sketches on canvass.

Persian Bas Relief Seized at European Art Fair

An ancient limestone bas relief of a Persian soldier with shield and spear was seized by police at the New York edition of The European Fine Art Fair at the Park Avenue Armory.
The relief is worth about $1.2 million and was being offered for sale by Rupert Wace, a well-known dealer in antiquities in London, the New York Times wrote.
The bas relief is a 51.5-square-centimeter piece of carved limestone that was part of a long line of soldiers depicted on a balustrade at the central building on the Persepolis site. It dates to the Achaemenid dynasty - the first Persian empire - and was made sometime between 510 and 330 BC.
Wace said he had bought the relief from an insurance company, which had acquired it legally from a museum in Montreal, where it had been displayed since the 1950s.
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts displayed the work until 2011, when it was stolen. Three years later, the Canadian authorities recovered it from a collector in Edmonton and returned it to the museum, according to CBC News. But the curators opted to keep the insurance money and let the AXA Insurance Company take possession.
The bas relief is the latest in a string of antiquities the Manhattan district attorney’s office has seized from art dealers and museums in New York City as part of a concerted effort in recent years to recover ancient works.
Experts on artifacts from Persepolis say the bas relief was first excavated in 1933 by a team of archaeologists from the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.
The Persian government passed a law in 1930 making it illegal to transport such antiquities out of the country.
According to an earlier statement by  Ebrahim Shaqaqi, the director of legal affairs at the Iran Cultural Heritage, Handcraft and Tourism Organization, the bas relief had been stolen from Persepolis decades ago prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
“Legal follow-ups are underway to first prove that the relic belongs to Iran and finally repatriate it,” said Shaqaqi.   The European Fine Art Fair is an annual art, antiques and design fair, organized by The European Fine Art Foundation in Maastricht, Netherlands.

Stolen Stanley Spencer Painting Worth £1m Recovered From Drugs Den

Read more here:
 A painting by Sir Stanley Spencer titled Cookham from Englefield, that was stolen five years ago from the Stanley Spencer Gallery in Berkshire has been uncovered in a raid on a drug dealer’s home in Kingston- Upon-Thames. The work of art valued at over £1m has now been returned to the gallery, police have revealed.
The robbery took place when a window was smashed at the Stanley Spencer Gallery in High Street, Cookham at 01:00 BST on a Sunday evening in 2012. The thief took the painting (dated 1948) by the artist once dubbed ‘the divine fool of British art’. The painting is privately owned and had been loaned to the gallery.
It is now suspected to have been used as collateral by the gang. Harry Fisher, 28, was arrested on June 15, after police found a kilogram of cocaine and £30,000 in cash in his Mercedes. Fisher’s flat in Kingston-upon-Thames, west London, was then raided by officers who discovered the painting along with three kilograms of cocaine and 15,000 ecstasy tablets. After a search of Mr Fisher’s family home in Fulham, more Class A drugs were uncovered, making a total street value of £450,000, and £40,000 in cash.
The defendant, of Seven Kings Way, Kingston, has been incarcerated for eight years and eight months at Kingston Crown Court on Friday. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs, acquiring criminal property and handling stolen goods. The judge also sentenced 32-year-old Zak Lal, of Columbine Road, Rochester, Kent, who admitted conspiracy to supply Class A drugs, acquiring criminal property and possession of an offensive weapon.
He was jailed for five years and eight months
A spokesperson from The Stanley Spencer Gallery said, “volunteers are immensely grateful to the various police sections who have contributed to the recovery of this remarkable painting which was stolen from us more than five years ago.”
Sir Stanley Spencer CBE RA (30 June 1891 – 14 December 1959) was an English painter. Shortly after leaving the Slade School of Art, Spencer became well known for his paintings depicting Biblical scenes occurring as if in Cookham, the small village beside the River Thames where he was born and spent much of his life. Spencer referred to Cookham as “a village in Heaven”, and in his biblical scenes, fellow-villagers are shown as their Gospel counterparts. Spencer was skilled at organising multi-figure compositions such as in his large paintings for the Sandham Memorial Chapel and the Shipbuilding on the Clyde series, the former being a World War One memorial while the latter was a commission for the War Artists’ Advisory Committee during World War Two. As his career progressed, Spencer often produced landscapes for commercial necessity and the intensity of his early visionary years diminished somewhat while elements of eccentricity came more to the fore. Although his compositions became more claustrophobic and his use of colour less vivid he maintained an attention to detail in his paintings akin to that of the Pre-Raphaelites.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Stolen Art Watch, October 2017

Irish National Pleads Guilty to Rhino-Horn Smuggling Scheme

An Irish national pleaded guilty in Miami on Friday to participating in a plot to smuggle a libation cup fashioned from the horn of an endangered rhinoceros.
A statement from the Justice Department on the conviction of Michael Hegarty, 40, offers no insight as to whether Hegarty belongs to a gang of Irish Travelers called the Rathkeale Rovers who were accused by Europol of a conspiracy to plunder tens of millions of dollars worth of rhino horn and other priceless Chinese artifacts from British museums.
Reporting on the UK case from the Irish Times and The Independent mentions a man with the same name as the defendant, but describes him as older. In separate 2016 articles, the Times called this Hegarty 43, and The Independent put his age at 46.
The 40-year-old Hegarty who pleaded guilty Friday in Florida admitted that he and a co-conspirator joined a Miami resident in mid-April 2012 at an auction in Rockingham, North Carolina, where they entered a winning bid for the libation cup made of rhinoceros horn.
Though no full name is given for the Miami resident or Hegarty’s co-conspirator, the Justice Department identifies the bidder just as “Sheridan.”
It is unclear whether this Sheridan is the same individual as Patrick Sheridan, an Irish national who was extradited to the United States in 2015 on charges of rhinoceros horn trafficking.
After picking up the cup with Hegarty in Florida, according to a statement from the Justice Department, Hegarty’s “co-conspirator then smuggled the libation cup out of the United States in his luggage.”
Metropolitan Police arrested the co-conspirator, along with two other Irish nationals, in London, while attempting to sell the same rhinoceros horn libation cup to a Hong Kong native.
Prosecutors say a government forensics laboratory in Ashland, Oregon, confirmed that the libation cup was fashioned from the horn of a great Indian rhinoceros, which is protected by the Endangered Species Act. 
Hegarty was extradited to the United States from Belgium after he was arrested through an Interpol red notice. His co-conspirator is currently incarcerated in England meanwhile; the government notes he was convicted there on unrelated charges and is still wanted to face wildlife-trafficking charges in the Southern District of Florida. 
U.S. District Donald Middlebrooks accepted Hegarty’s guilty plea and will conduct sentencing on Nov. 14, 2017 at 2:20 p.m.
Hegarty faces up to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000, or up to twice the gross gain.  
Europol says the Rathkeale Rovers have been involved in an epidemic of raids on museums in Europe involving the theft of rhinoceros horns. The group allegedly leverages the rising price for rhinoceros horns on the black market to be used for traditional medicines and carving.
Some Chinese people believe that drinking from rhinoceros horn cups with bring good health. The giant, prehistoric beasts are protected by U.S. and international laws. More than 90 percent of wild rhino populations have been slaughtered illegally since the 1970s, because of the price their horns can bring, the Justice Department says.
America’s multiagency crackdown on the illegal rhino trade is known as Operation Crash, a nod to the term for a herd of rhinoceros.
The only predator of the rhinoceros is humans. Prosecutors said increasing demand is partly responsible for fueling a thriving black market that includes fake antiques made from recently hunted rhinoceros.
Among members of the gang who have been charged with smuggling crimes in the United States are Michael Slattery Jr. and Patrick Sheridan.
Another Irish traveler, Richard Kerry O’Brien, sued Bloomberg Businessweek in 2014 for reporting that he belonged to the Rathkeale Rovers.
O’Brien was a resident of Rathkeale in County Limerick but said there was nothing criminal about his business of importing antiques from China.

Cartier diamond ring among missing museum treasures worth over £1m

More than 600 items worth more than £1m have been either stolen or misplaced from collections at UK museums, figures reveal.

Dippy the Diplodocus was removed from the Natural History Museum in early 2017 but curators know where he is, unlike hundreds of other artefacts.
Image: Dippy the Diplodocus may have gone from the Natural History Museum but curators know where he is, unlike hundreds of other artefacts

More than £1m worth of artefacts have gone missing from some of Britain's most famous museums.
Figures obtained by Sky News reveal over 600 items have been lost, stolen or misplaced from collections including the Science Museum group, the British Museum and the Natural History Museum.
The Science Museum group, which includes the Science Museum in London, Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry and the National Railway Museum in York, told us they have a further 5,315 "unlocated" artefacts.
This means curators believe they are in storage, but don't know exactly where.
The Science Museums group's deputy director, Jonathan Newby, said: "Any object that we can't locate is unfortunate but this does come down to the record-keeping of museums.
"In the past, record collections started with a card index hand-written, then transcribed into databases that are now not what you would expect from a modern system."
The other problem is that museums don't have enough space for their collections. The Science Museum has only 5% of its 400,000 artefacts on display, the rest are kept in storage facilities.

More than a million pounds worth of artefacts has gone missing from some of Britain's biggest museums.
Image: This rare piece of quartz went missing from the National Museum of Scotland
Among the items missing from the museum are an old tin of talcum powder and an old-fashioned Hotpoint washing machine.
Other items lost include a rare piece of quartz from the National Museum of Scotland, an important black tie from the Imperial War Museum collection and perhaps most staggering of all, a £750,000 Cartier diamond ring from the British Museum.
A freedom of information request by Sky News reveals 947 artefacts have been reported lost or missing since 2010, and £80,000 worth of objects have been stolen.
But those in charge of museum security insist the systems are secure.
The Arts Council head of national security, William Brown, said the figures are not cause for concern.

More than a million pounds worth of artefacts has gone missing from some of Britain's biggest museums.
Image: The Imperial War Museum's missing black tie
"I liaise nationally and internationally with other security experts from around the world. Our systems are the envy of many. The government indemnity scheme and the DCMS actually support visits to venues, and fund myself and a team through the Arts Council to ensure collections are safe."
Britain's biggest museums receive £435m of government funding every year, and all museums rely on donations from the public and benefactors.
Some say they have a responsibility to improve security.
Professional art recoverer Christopher Marinello said: "It's an obligation to the public, the public who fund these museums through very high taxes, and we have a right to be able to know where our objects are.
"If there is a loss it needs to be reported to the police almost immediately so we can put the object onto a database try to find it as quickly as possible."

Art Dealer for Celebrity Artists Goes to Prison After Swindling His A-List Clients for Nearly 30 Years

Jonathan Poole was a dealer for high-profile clients that included musicians Miles Davis, John Lennon, and the Rolling Stones' Ronnie Wood.

Jonathan Poole. Courtesy of Jonathan Poole.
Jonathan Poole. Courtesy of Jonathan Poole.
It’s four years behind bars for British art dealer Jonathan Poole, who pled guilty to 26 charges of fraud and theft. The 69-year-old, who specialized in selling artwork for celebrity musicians, confessed to stealing both art and money from his high-profile clients for nearly three decades, between 1986 and 2013.
Among Poole’s notable victims was Ronnie Wood, guitarist for the Rolling Stones and a prolific painter who studied at London’s Ealing Art College and will publish a book, Ronnie Wood: Artist, next month. Poole poached a number of Wood’s portraits, featuring fellow celebrities such as Stones frontman Mick Jagger, musicians Bob Dylan, and Ringo Starr, and actress Marilyn Monroe, according to Reuters,
Rolling Stones British guitarist Ronnie Wood poses in front of his painting called <em>A Study of Carlos and Darcey Rehearsing</em> in 2008. Courtesy of Shaun Curry/AFP/Getty Images.
Poole also represented the estates of jazz musician and artist Miles Davis and musician John Lennon. He admitted to stealing works by the former Beatle, as well as works by contemporary German artist Sebastian Krüger and 19th-century French sculptor Auguste Rodin. Most of the stolen pieces depicted celebrities. In some of his scams, he also took a larger percentage than he was due from some of his art sales.
Altogether, Poole, who worked out of two galleries in the Cotswolds in rural south central England, is said to have earned over £500,000 ($664,000) from his illicit dealings. He told the court his business had faced financial difficulties due to Internet competition. Poole was sentenced on Tuesday after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing.
Sebastian Krüger's painting of Kate Moss was stolen by Jonathan Poole. Courtesy of Sebastian Krüger.

According to the Guardian, prosecutor James Ward compared Poole’s crimes to the 1999 film The Thomas Crown Affair at trial. “[B]oth Thomas Crown and Jonathan Poole stole the paintings in broad daylight,” he said. “Whilst Thomas Crown stole as a challenge because his world had become too safe, Jonathan Poole stole either to fund a gambling habit, or to stash away money for later life.”
Poole isn’t the only art world professional to run into legal trouble with his celebrity clients. In New York, the case between art advisor Darlene Lutz and her former client, pop star Madonna, is currently awaiting a hearing. The singer claims that a planned auction of her personal effects featured objects that were stolen from her by Lutz.

Police appeal for witnesses after 2000 pieces of silver stolen from Kent antiques dealer

An antiques dealer and Kent Police are calling on the trade to be aware of stolen silver items from a shop in Tenterden in Kent.
Richard Brunger’s Re-Memories Antiques was burgled earlier this week and it is believed more than 2000 items of silver were taken including carriage clocks, jewellery, dishes and cutlery.
Although there are concerns that much of the jewellery will be melted down, Brunger said every item has a small sticker with the letters RB and a serial number.
Brunger has asked the trade to look out for items that the thieves may try to sell on including a Bernard Freres brass carriage clock, a miniature silver hallmarked 1900 eight-day French movement clock with embossed Art Nouveau decoration, a Christopher Dresser style toast rack hallmarked early 1890s and a 1929 silver cigarette case engraved with a shipping route of SS Crynssen.
The robbery took place overnight between September 25-26. The thieves removed the back door and frame to the shop before moving a cabinet to gain entry and carefully removing a collection of character jugs and placing them on the floor in an alleyway.
Seven silver cabinets were emptied and the contents are believed to have been placed in a wheelie bin.
Anyone with information should contact Kent Police on 01843 222289 quoting crime reference 26-0245. Alternatively contact Kent Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

Hatton Garden watch dealer jailed for selling over 100 stolen watches after the ALR’s Watch Register identifies stolen Rolex

Rolex GMT Master ‘Eye of the Tiger’ watch, valued at £13,500, stolen from Swiss Time Machine in London in 2016 and identified two months later by the Watch Register when offered for sale with 50 others stolen ones by Nadeem Malick 
Detective Constable Kevin Parley of the Metropolitan Police Flying Squad 
A man has been jailed for dealing in high-value watches after the Art Loss Register’s (ALR) specialist service for watches – the Watch Register – identified his attempt to sell a stolen Rolex.
On Friday 23 June 2017, Nadeem Malick, 45, a dealer from Greater London operating around Hatton Garden, was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment on two counts of Concealing and Converting Criminal Property.
On 21 March the previous year, the ALR had identified him selling a stolen Rolex worth £13,500 to a Hatton Garden dealer, who had checked the watch against the Watch Register before purchase. The watch was listed on the database as having been stolen during a brazen smash-and-grab in Mayfair, London, on 6 January 2016, when four men broke into the luxury watch store Swiss Time Machine brandishing knives, hammers and an axe, which they used to break open display cases, grabbing the expensive timepieces inside. They made off on mopeds with 81 watches valued at £1.1 million.
The thieves fled the scene on motorcycles but while being pursued by officers, one of the men was seen to discard a bag. When officers recovered the bag it was found to contain 41 watches from the robbery valued at £650,000. The man who discarded the bag of watches is currently serving a seven-year prison sentence for the robbery. Shortly afterwards, the store owner supplied details of the outstanding 40 stolen watches to the Watch Register.
After checking the Rolex and hearing the news of its stolen status, the Hatton Garden dealer brought the watch and Malick to the Watch Register’s offices. The Watch Register called the Metropolitan Police Flying Squad, who had been investigating the theft. Following a brief initial questioning, they arrested Malick and seized a further 27 watches that he was carrying in a plastic shopping bag. Later that day the Police searched Malick’s property and found a further 60 watches. In total, 50 of the watches seized from Malick that day were identified as stolen, with a value of £113,450.
Over the course of the next year, Detective Constable Kevin Parley of the Metropolitan Police obtained records of the watches that had previously been sold by Malick. He began to investigate the provenance of these watches with the close co-operation of the ALR, whose multi-lingual staff assisted in contacting watch manufacturers and police forces abroad, in addition to checking their own database to establish whether the watches had been registered. The searches carried out on these watches showed 56 of them to be stolen, with Malick having been paid £180,000 for their sale. The actual retail cost of the watches would have been considerably higher.
DC Parley stated, "Despite purporting to be a small-time player on the watch dealing field, I compiled overwhelming evidence of handling stolen goods against Malick.” No provenance checks ever seem to have been carried out, and watches usually seem to have been purchased by Malick in cash with no invoice. Malick had fenced watches from all types of thefts, including smash-and-grabs, residential burglaries, snatches and credit card frauds, with a significant quantity of the watches being sold by Malick between 1-14 days after the original offence.  This was the largest discovery of stolen watches ever seen by the ALR in their 27 years’ experience in dealing with stolen property.
DC Parley concluded, "Each of the 106 stolen watches that he handled represents a victim of crime and I am pleased that the sentence handed down today reflects that.”
For the Metropolitan Police report please see:
For more information on the smash-and-grab from Swiss Time Machine see:

Night at the museum: Why the great skylight caper at the MMFA remains unsolved, 45 years later

Thieves made off with dozens of works in the spectacular 1972 heist

Landscape with cottages, dated 1654 and attributed to Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn, hasn't been seen in 45 years.
Landscape with cottages, dated 1654 and attributed to Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn, hasn't been seen in 45 years. (Wikipedia)
The year was 1972 and under the cover of darkness, three men descended into the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts through a skylight, tied up several guards, and made off with $2 million in stolen art, precious jewels and artifacts.
Among the loot, a canvas attributed to Dutch master Rembrandt van Rijn valued at a cool $1 million.
The heist, regarded as one of the largest in Canadian history, remains unsolved; any and all leads on suspects or the fate missing art evaporated decades ago.

How did they do it?

It was past midnight on the night of Sept. 3rd, when the thieves, clad in ski masks and hoods, crept on to the roof of the museum.
"It was a very cinematic theft," said Catherine Schofield Sezgin, a Montreal-born writer and contributor to the Association for Research into Crimes against Art.
In 2009, while taking an association course in Italy, Schofield Sezgin decided to research the skylight caper.
She returned to Montreal for the first time in years to dig through stacks of paper archives and conduct interviews.
Her blog faithfully chronicles the heist and its aftermath.
Bill Bantey, the museum's then spokesperson, speaking with CBC after the 1972 heist. (CBC Archives)
The thieves were careful in their execution, striking at a moment when the roof skylight was being repaired and the alarm covered by a plastic sheet.
Police believed the robbers accessed the roof by climbing an adjacent tree or propped a ladder up against the building.
Once inside the museum, the three men jumped a first guard as he was making his rounds, then two more, all of whom were bound and gagged. They threatened the guards with guns, firing two warning shots from a 12-gauge shotgun into the ceiling.
Then they set about their work. "They were discriminating thieves and had a fairly good idea of what they were looking for," the museum's spokesperson, Bill Bantey, told CBC at the time.
Montreal museum of fine arts
The thieves broke in through a skylight in what is now called the Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion. (Wikipedia)
Along with the Rembrandt, the thieves made off with works by Jean-Baptiste Corot, Gustave Courbet and Pierre-Paul Rubens.
The Rembrandt, Landscape with Cottages, was originally purchased by Canadian railroad baron William Van Horne. It was given to the museum by his daughter years later.
Also stolen was a 18th century French gold watch that once belonged to the wife of Jacques Viger, Montreal's first elected mayor.
The whole robbery took about 30 minutes.
All was going according to plan for thieves — until an alarm was triggered at the service door they planned to use for their escape.
Instead, according to Schofield Sezgin, they had to hurry off on foot with 18 canvases and 39 other items in tow, leaving behind a stack of 20 paintings they couldn't carry.
When interviewed by police, the guards were not able to give descriptions of the thieves, except for noting they had long hair and that two spoke French and the other, English.
Corot's 1865 painting, Jeune fille accoudée sur le bras gauche, was among the other works to go missing.
Schofield Sezgin spoke at length with Bantey about the skylight caper before his death in 2010. "Everyone forgot about the theft except for the insurance companies," he told her. "Like a death in the family, you have to let it drop."

What happened to the art?

Despite calling in the international police agency Interpol to help track down the thieves, the stolen art was never recovered and the insurance companies were forced to pay the museum's claim.
No suspects were ever arrested and the trail of the missing art has long since gone cold.
That's one thing that Schofield Sezgin still can't quite reconcile: "What's really fantastic is that three people conducted this theft and got away with it, and nobody after all this time has gotten the bragging rights."
Two days after the robbery, the Montreal Gazette reported that it was, in fact, the second lucrative art heist to take place that week, with $50,000 in paintings having been stolen earlier from the Oka home of Agnes Meldrum.
Police said the two incidents bared similarities: both involved three hooded, armed men, two of whom spoke French and the other, English. In the Meldrum case, thieves scaled a 600-foot cliff from a waiting motorboat on the Lake of Two Mountains to access the home.
Following the museum break-in, officials circulated information about the stolen paintings far and wide, hoping to notify international sellers and buyers about their provenance.
It's estimated that most of the pieces have dramatically increased in value since 1972, especially the Rembrandt, which some art experts believe could be worth 20 times more than it was when it was stolen.
CRIME Museum Theft Reward
This Assyrian bas-relief was stolen from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 2011, but was later recovered. (Canadian Press)
And while a haul like that may seem like a golden parachute for the thieves, some experts warn that selling this kind of high-profile material on the black market isn't so easy.
High-profile stolen works often need to lay low for years before they can be transported and sold, said Alain Lacoursière, a former art investigator for Montreal and Quebec provincial police.
Lacoursière, known as the "Colombo of art," made the skylight caper something of a pet project during the 1990s. He was never able to crack the case, but entertains some theories about what happened.
"There were rumours at the time that members of the Mafia here were trying to construct a ship and that the canvases would be rolled up and put in the hold during construction," Lacoursière told Radio-Canada.
"They are probably decorating the home or palace of a Russian, Italian or French Mafia member who may have exchanged them for drugs, weapons."

Not all attempts pay off

This wasn't the first or last attempt made on the Montreal museum's collection.
Alain Lacoursière
Alain Lacoursière, a former art crime investigator, suspects the stolen works ended up in the hands of organized crime. (Radio-Canada)
Schofield Sezgin's research turned up reports of two other attempted robberies years earlier.
In 1933, a thief passed a dozen paintings through an open bathroom window, eventually holding them for ransom. In 1960, thieves were foiled while trying to rob a Vincent van Gogh exhibition.
More recently, two valuable antiquities were stolen from the permanent collection in broad daylight. The 2011 robbery took place during visiting hours on the anniversary of the 1972 crime.
One of the pieces, a fragment of a Persian bas-relief dating from the 5th century BC, was recovered by the Sûreté du Québec in Edmonton three years later.
The second piece, a Roman marble statuette dating from the 1st century AD, was never recovered.