Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Stolen Art Watch, Art Crime, Hotter Than July 2015






Bronze horses, made for Adolf Hitler by Josef Thorak, on May 21 in Bad Duerkheim, Germany. Credit Uwe Anspach/European Pressphoto Agency
BERLIN — The recent startling recovery of long-lost artworks made for Adolf Hitler and his chief architect, Albert Speer, began with a telephone call to a Berlin art dealer.
Two large and imposing bronze horses by Josef Thorak — missing from a Soviet military base outside Berlin since some point in communism’s collapse — were available. Was the dealer, Traude Sauer, interested?
Ms. Sauer, 76, who by her own estimation is a dealer of distinction, has long been a police informant. Realizing that the Nazi-era sculptures might be classified as stolen state property, she turned to René Allonge, a chief investigator with the Berlin police.
That was in September 2013. Last month, those tips culminated in one of the more sensational police raids in recent memory in Germany. The authorities descended on 10 properties nationwide, uncovering dozens of missing pieces of Nazi art and throwing rare light on the secretive market where such works are traded.




It is legal to possess art commissioned by the Nazis, but it can remain in private hands only if the state has no direct claim on it. That is almost certainly not the case with several of the recovered works.




A bronze Wehrmacht statue, which may be the original by Arno Breker, a sculptor favored by Hitler. Credit Roger-Viollet/Ullstein Bild

The discovery of the horses, and of several sculptures and reliefs created by another Hitler favorite, Arno Breker, stunned researchers who had long lamented their disappearance.
“Excited? Of course,” said Christian Fuhrmeister, an expert on Nazi art at the Central Institute for Art History in Munich. “Art history is a science of objects. We really need the original work.” Especially, he added, given the paucity of surviving artworks commissioned by Hitler and his cronies. Art historians currently know much more about the art that Hitler did not like, he noted, than about works that the Nazis favored.
The path to the missing works involved a cast of characters that could have come out of the board game Clue: the diminutive Ms. Sauer, a bag of art books always at her side; a private detective in Amsterdam who traces looted and stolen art; a fictitious Texan millionaire; a Belgian middleman; and a group of aging Germans still so intrigued by Hitler that at least one of them kept a Nazi-era tank on his rambling property, together with a long-lost statue, or its copy, depicting a Wehrmacht soldier as a hero.
The horses, which adorned a courtyard in Hitler’s chancellery, were apparently so precious to the Führer that they were evacuated by 1943, when the first Allied bombs fell on Berlin.
The Nazis took Thorak’s steeds to the town of Wriezen, Germany, and stored them there in Breker’s studio. In 1946, the Soviet forces who occupied eastern Germany apparently took several Breker pieces — and probably Thorak’s horses as well — to military barracks in nearby Eberswalde. There they remained until Communist rule started to crumble in East Germany.
Sometime from mid-1988, when a group of West Berlin art historians took photographs of them, to 1991, when the Soviets began their retreat from East Germany, the horses disappeared.
Their discovery was a shock for Arthur Brand, the private detective based in Amsterdam.
“They came out of the sky,” he said. “Everybody thought they had been destroyed.”
Mr. Brand entered the investigation in January 2014, when one of his Dutch informants reported that he, like Ms. Sauer, had been offered the Thorak horses, in his case by a Belgian middleman.
But it was not until early this year that Mr. Brand and the Berlin police detective, Mr. Allonge, joined forces. Accompanied by a journalist from Der Spiegel, the pair sought to track down the sellers of the steeds.
By that time, Mr. Brand had invented a Mr. Moss, a Texas oil millionaire who was, he told the Belgian middleman, interested in the Nazi works. He said he made up the character on the fly, borrowing heavily from the persona of J. R. Ewing on the television show “Dallas.”
“In the end, I started to believe that Mr. Moss really existed,” he said by telephone from Amsterdam.
Mr. Brand used the Moss character to lure the Belgian middleman to meetings, where he wore a camera disguised as a button to record what he hoped was the location of the horses and their owner.
When the middleman kept stalling, Mr. Brand and Mr. Allonge turned to other leads, including a tip from the redoubtable Ms. Sauer.
The first would-be dealer to contact her regarding the horses — a onetime car salesman named Johannes von Senkowski — had let slip that the sculptures were in the possession of a Rainer Wolf, a businessman from Bad Dürkheim, a town of about 19,000 in the bucolic Rhineland region of western Germany.
And it was there that the startled police found the giant bronzes — and other works — on property apparently rented by Mr. Wolf. Based on some of their other leads, the police raided nine other locations in four other German states that same day, May 20. Together, about 30 artworks were seized, said the Berlin state prosecutor Susann Wettley.
Asked why nobody apparently noticed the giant sculptures — measuring more than 11 feet tall — when they were transported or stored, Ms. Wettley said that Mr. Wolf could have wrapped them in thick plastic and told truckers that they were heavy blocks of sandstone.
“For the normal citizen,” she said, “it is not clear that it is a Breker statue, or horses, made for Adolf Hitler, for the Speer project” to create a glorious new capital for the Nazis’ Thousand Year Reich.
Ms. Sauer said it was evident that the works had been stolen. “The Russians just left them standing,” she said. “And overnight, they disappeared. Excuse me, but you can’t just stick them in your pocket!”
Mr. Allonge, the lead Berlin investigator, has declined to comment because the investigation is continuing.
The raids led investigators to eight German men, ages 61 to 79, Ms. Wettley said. None have been charged yet. Besides Mr. Wolf, who is over 70, attention has fallen on Klaus-Dieter Flick, 78, who keeps his sizable collection of Nazi paraphernalia, including a tank and possibly various historical guns, in an underground storeroom on his large property near the northern German city of Kiel.

Mr. Brand, the Dutch detective, said he believed that the collection included the Wehrmacht statue by Breker and claimed to have spotted it when looking at satellite pictures of Mr. Flick’s property.
Mr. Flick said the statue was a copy. In a telephone interview, he affirmed that he had been collecting artifacts from for almost 60 years.
“For me, art is independent of a political dimension,” he said.
In a strange twist, Mr. Flick said Thorak’s horses had resided on his property for two years in the 1990s, when they served as collateral, he said, for a 300,000 German mark loan he had made to Mr. Wolf. That would add two more long journeys for the horses.
Mr. Wolf has declined to talk to reporters, but he released a statement through his lawyer two days after the raid. “The art objects were lawfully acquired more than 25 years ago from the Russian Army and the earlier producers,” it said, referring presumably to workers in Thorak’s studio.
Mr. Flick had a more colorful account, claiming that Mr. Wolf had told him that either Russian soldiers or the East Germans — Mr. Flick cannot remember which — had cut up the bronzes and effectively sold the works as scrap metal to Mr. Wolf, who had them reassembled.
Experts are debating why the works came to light now.
“Perhaps someone thought so much time has passed, these statues won’t be recognized,” said Ralph Paschke, one of the West Berlin experts who saw the horses and other works at the Soviet base in Eberswalde in 1988.
Mr. Brand suggested that repugnance for the Nazis, as well as the Soviets, lay behind the attempt to sell.
The owners’ heirs “threaten to destroy the works with dynamite,” Mr. Brand said. “They do not want anything to do with them.”

Art Deals Shift to Shady Business
By Patricia Pierce   |   Wednesday, 01 Jul 2015 10:44 AM
Until recently, most of the art world believed The Art Loss Register (ALR) had a reliable and thorough database that listed lost and stolen art works, antiques, and collectibles, but that no longer is the case.

According to London’s Sunday Times, The New York Times and other sources, the London-based ALR has made major errors handing out certificates that gave stolen artworks clear provenance status.

The ALR works with auction houses, museums, fairs, collectors, estates, and law enforcement agencies providing certificates that state works have clear title and are free from claim. Because they did little to no research on certain pieces, they allegedly gave certificates for stolen art.

How could that happen? The Times reports that the ALR admits the more a client pays in fees, the more thorough its research. Often working as a bounty hunter, the ALR charges up to 20 percent of a painting’s worth to disclose its whereabouts.
 
Any claim that a provenance or history is clear from liens or encumbrances for a famous artwork (or one that is hundreds of years old) needs to be accompanied by an enormous amount of sale slips, exhibition records, court documents, expert opinions, conservation reports and more. If it’s a significant work of art, many databases should be scrutinized, especially those tracing Nazi loot.

No one can protect themselves against lawsuits or confiscations of art, if the professionals they trust are not accurate and meticulous with their assessments.

Art Net News reported in its article “The Art Loss Register is Entangled in 3 Major Art Disputes” the ALR admits it often took as truth whatever some clients told them about provenance and did not challenge their data. That’s a naïve, irresponsible approach to doing research! James Ratcliffe, ALR's general counsel and director of recoveries, confessed provenances given by clients are “taken in trust.” Really? What if the client is a thief?

Certified appraisers who abide by ethical standards do not take as fact data a client provides nor do they form final judgments from the client’s information without completing further research. They are expected to do due diligence, conduct proper research of all databases and other entities (such as museum and auction files) to form reliable, trustworthy conclusions that establish credible provenances and histories.
The ALR should have proven statements clients made were accurate before it handed out bogus certificates. When millions of dollars are at stake, research should be painstakingly thorough. The ALR has taken the stand: If an item isn’t already in its database of stolen or missing works, it has clear title. That assumption is negligent and immature.
 
London’s Sunday Times reported in August 2014 that ALR founder Julian Radcliffe admitted his firm paid thieves to recover stolen art in a dozen cases and is described as a “fence” by senior European law enforcement officials. By this admission, the ALR gave clearing certificates to many looters and thieves.

World Press reported in August 2013, in an article titled “Chasing Aphrodite,” that Christie’s sold ALR-cleared antiquities that were fenced by well-known loot dealers Giacomo Medici, Robin Symes, and Gianfranco Becchina, most of which were cleared by the ALR.

Much of the art world pretends to vet ancient art, trying to prove it was not illegally excavated, but many museums and collectors worldwide accept questionable paperwork so that they can purchase what they know is stolen, hoping not to get caught.

World Press claims most ALR certificates merely state “at the date that the search was made the item had not been registered as stolen,” but that doesn’t mean an item is not stolen. Many dealers and curators now realize that an ALR certificate is shabby, at best, and it does not protect anyone.

The National Gallery of Australia paid $5,000,000 for a stolen ancient Shiva bronze after receiving an ALR search certificate from now-incarcerated antiquities dealer Subhash Kapoor, who provided no provenance on the piece.

The museum should have realized that any antiquity without a provenance is a warning signal that it could be stolen. Looters and thieves count on that kind of irrational, emotional behavior.

Even worse, the ALR admits it rarely asked dealers for provenance information, which shows how shabby the firm’s research is.

Patricia Jobe Pierce is a freelance writer, art historian, art dealer-consultant, certified AAA appraiser, public speaker, photographer and American art authenticator for museums, auction houses and collectors. She graduated from Boston University with a BFA in 1965, is owner and director of Pierce Galleries, Inc. in Nantucket and Hingham, Mass., and is author of many works, including "Art Collecting & Investing: The Inner Workings and the Underbelly of the Art World." For more of her submissions, Click Here Now.


Ex-business partners hunting ability of art dealer Michel van Rijn

Quote - 07/01/2015
Van Rijn is clipped and shaved

Two former business partners of art collector Michel van Rijn hunt down a portion of the assets of the eccentric art connoisseur. The duo claimed that Van Rijn them - and several others - for 'definitely a ton "is highlighted.
Former assistant Arthur Fire and international recruiter Ard van Beek have to prove that the art dealer recent months in the Italian Livorno made ​​a handful of people cheat money. Ard van Beek claiming themselves to be duped and seeks to unify the group of victims now. There are Dutch people who reclaim money.
Van Beek bought himself at the insistence of Van Rijn painting of € 20,000, but the picture turned out to be worth nothing at closer inspection. After much nagging, received the HR boss € 5,000 back. "But that is not enough. Van Rijn has to pay back everything. This is a matter of principle. He made abuse of our friendship. That painting I bought to serve him. "
This week came the amateur sleuth in his own words on more sinister deals of the art dealer. Van Beek studied the practices of Van Rijn in the Italian port of Livorno where the art dealer spent the last months.
He found the spot that Filipino assistant to Van Rijn has been given two months not been paid and that a Chinese man, who art dealer provided include food, € 20,000 lent to Van Rijn and money in all probability lost. There is also the story of the Amsterdam art courier Jonas' Pablo "Paul still € 3,500 claims at Van Rijn. Jonas Paul vouched for the relocation of Van Rijn to Livorno.
"This man must be stopped, because he is incorrigible. He takes you in, get dressed and when you are no longer of value, it throws your way. A devil is! "Says Van Beek to Quote." I'm glad Arthur Fire assist me. " Brand: "There are a lot more people."
Van Beek Van Rijn learned a few years ago when they know together in a luxury rehab clinic in Barcelona were interned. On the intercession of the art dealer who Interpol and Mossad helped stolen art to detect, Van Beek bought a plot and paid € 20,000 to Van Rijn. That money, he would recover. The painting gold as collateral. "All bullshit talks were. That painting he had just bought something on the market. It was not worth more than a few hundred dollars! "
Then it goes wrong between the two withdrawal friends. After Van Beek, who had to transfer the money to the account of one of the college sons, again demanded his money, follow threats he tells Quote. "If you do not cooperate, you get visit of tough guys, was the threat" he says. "And I'm really not the only one this has happened."
Iran also Untalan, Filipino assistant to Van Rijn, is insulted and even accused of theft when he asks about his overdue salary. In an email to son Floris van Rijn Untalan ask themselves where he earned this dastardly treatment. "Why your dad is doing this to me? One of my friend call me on phone That your dad making That story That I steal money from him? I help your dad with all sacrifice ... I do the best I can to borrow money from Filipinos here to medicine and vodka bought his cigarettes. He even think my situation, he do not pay my 2 months salary. "
Van Beek: "It's really terrible. That Filipino boy worked for € 500 per month, but even that was not paid. When he complained Van Rijn threatened to give him as illegal by the police, "says Van Beek.
In an email conversation that goes on this issue at son Floris van Rijn apologizes for the behavior of his father, but a solution is not offered. "I know my father hasnt leg the best with you lately."
Art Courier Paul Jonas has the same unpleasant experiences. Quote to let the art transporter Van Rijn that he has moved to Italy and the contents of his son to Leiden transported. Jonas also paid a hotel stay for Van Rijn in the Netherlands who was sick. In total he yielded € 5,500 for services, he calculates, but he got paid nothing. As a result of money problems, he had to temporarily suspend its business. "Can you please tel me the wrong That I did for you. To ruin me like this. coming wednesday theywill come Come To close my business Because I am there months behind "the art courier writes in an urgent e-mail to Van Rijn. After several desperate mails will be paid € 1,000 in the end through an account of one of his sons. "What can I do?" The art courier asks in despair to Quote.
Van Beek, who has a good job at the Swiss technology giant ABB, rest only until the money is returned. "This is a matter of principle for me. It takes a lot of time, but I sure about, "he says.
Van Rijn is currently in Netherlands Quote spoke to him in recent days, by e-mail -. He has no phone - and once on a terrace at the Amsterdam Marie Heineken in front of his son Floris.
Van Rijn believes that a smear campaign against him is conducted by his former aide Arthur Fire is aware of the issues and Van Beek information whispers.
The quarrel between Brand and Van Rijn has a long history and is the result of a corporate divorce battle, about six years ago. They seemed such a nice couple. Van Rijn and Fire grew to Sherlock Holmes and John Watson tackled art swindlers. Meanwhile, they each vowed archenemies where all dirt to anyone who will listen is peddled, to private-mails to it.
Van Rijn believes that his former assistant butter on his head. " Van Rijn claims that Brand himself also acted in false works. "Arthur Fire has offered a distorted picture in Berlin at the museum and now plays the nice gentleman."
It would also be a former assistant to the internationally wanted art swindler Leonardo Patterson betrayed by declaring in front of the German justice a collection of stolen art treasures of a South American Indian tribe. Brand is held one of the witnesses against the Costa Rican in a process in Munich. Van Rijn: "He worked seven months for Patterson to help him refute all the nonsense stories about him. Then he switched to justice. "
Fire ignites in anger when confronted with this reading. "I wrong? Man! Van Rijn by Patterson bribed to tell his side of the story. Did he received for € 70,000. I never received a penny. "
The art sleuth want nothing more to do with his former boss. Also, he was visited by goons when he refused the false piece of the Berlin museum Van Rijn give back.
"It did not seem so convenient me. When Van Rijn has a famous Amsterdam criminal graduated me to recall that counterfeit image that he let me offer nota bene myself and where I later found out it was false. The man was then given the command to save me apart. Fortunately that did not happen, because I could explain it. " (This famous Mokumse tough guy will not comment on the incident, but confirmed that Van Rijn approached him for a incassoklussie).
Brand, the former protégé, wants Van Rijn trapped. "This time I let but not to sit there. He now goes straight into the bin. Someone this piece of garbage should just stop once and I'm willing to do that. I spent years Michel psychological support and have always been there for his children, but obviously looking gentleman fighting again and this time it's my turn. "

Famous Stolen Painting Sent Detroit Mob Power Horseface Pete To Twilight Prison Term

P. Licavoli
Deceased Detroit mob underboss Peter (Horseface Pete) Licavoli did a year in prison for trying to move a historically-significant piece of artwork on the black market in the years before his death in the early 1980s – it was his fourth and final trip to the clink. Licavoli, a titan in underworld circles around the country dating back to the Prohibition Era, was indicted in 1976 in Arizona federal court and eventually convicted at trial in 1978 of receiving and the attempted sale of stolen property, tied to charges of attempting to sell the world-famous “Lucretia,” a 500-year old painting, to an undercover FBI agent. The Lucretia was painted by Rembrandt in the 16th century and recently sold at an auction for five million dollars.
The then-75 year old Licavoli earned a reputation as a killer and a huge money maker during the 1920s as founder and leader of the River Gang bootlegging syndicate in Detroit – his arrest record boasted nearly 40 collars. When the Motor City’s various bootlegging factions came under one umbrella with the creation of La Cosa Nostra (the American mafia) in 1931, Horseface Pete was tapped a capo and given a large series of in-state and out-of-state rackets to run on behalf of Michigan mob administrators. By the 1940s, he had relocated to Arizona, watching over his rackets in the Midwest via his main lieutenants in Detroit, specifically men like Joseph (Scarface Joe) Bommarito, Joseph (Joe Misery) Moceri, Matthew (Mike the Enforcer) Rubino and Max (Big Maxie) Stern. Licavoli was promoted from capo to the organization’s underboss role in 1969.
“Pete Licavoli lived out of town, however he was still able to keep his presence felt in Detroit through a series of intermediaries, guys we knew very well and were almost equally as juiced-in as he was,” retired FBI agent Oscar Westerfield recalled. “They spoke for him and that voice spoke loud, even if he was out in the Arizona desert. He could touch anyone he wanted from thousands of miles away and people back in Michigan were still ungodly scared of him.”
Westerfield was the head of the FBI OC Division in Detroit during parts of the 1970s and 80s, finishing his mob-busting exploits as head of Tampa’s OC Division into the 1990s.
“Licavoli had as much respect and say as most bosses in the U.S. at his height,” Westerfield said. “He wasn’t a don, he might as well have been though with the reverence he was afforded in Detroit circles and well beyond.”
Scarface Joe Bommarito was the crime family’s first street boss until he was forced into retirement due to sickness in 1960 (he died in Florida from MS in 1965). He and Licavoli grew up together in St. Louis prior to surfacing as a tandem of terrors on the streets of Detroit and making their initial fortune in smuggling and selling illegal booze. Joe Misery, a Licavoli first cousin, numbers whiz and River Gang co-founder, ran his own crew, but frequently shuffled messages back and forth between the powers that be in Michigan and Horseface Pete in Tucson (he was killed in 1968).
Mike Rubino was Licavoli’s bodyguard as a young River Ganger and served as acting capo of his Detroit crew – upon his death in 1971 of natural causes, Joseph (Joe the Whip) Triglia took over those duties, being aided by Horseface Pete’s baby brother Dominick. Big Maxie Stern was another protégé of Licavoli’s and the syndicate’s overseer of all Jewish gambling rackets until he died of a heart attack in the early 1970s.
Arriving in Arizona on a permanent basis in around 1944, Horseface Pete built the picturesque, opulent and state-of-the-art, 75-acre Grace Ranch, an estate in Tucson that housed his residence as well as several other buildings, such as an art gallery, bowling alley, nine-hole golf course, airplane and helicopter landing strips and quite appropriately a shooting range. Grace Ranch was named after Licavoli’s wife, Grace, the sister of Joseph (Long Joe) Bommarito, another Detroit gangland figure who came out west himself to be in charge of the crime family’s interests in Las Vegas.
It was activity occurring on the Grace Ranch property in the 1970s that Licavoli’s last arrest sprouted from and landed him back behind bars (his prior stints were for bribery, contempt and tax evasion). Informants were telling the FBI that Horseface Pete was using his art gallery as a waystation for fenced merchandise, such as jewelry and precious stones, resulting in the feds bugging the telephone line in his gallery office headquarters as well as his desk and sending an undercover FBI agent in to set up a sting. It didn’t take long. Within a month, Special Agent Don Mason was meeting face-to-face with the imposing member of Midwest mob royalty in the cozy confines of his plush office.
In the midst of negotiating the purchase of a shipment of “hot” diamonds, Licavoli offered Mason a chance to buy the Lucretia, an extremely rare piece of artwork boosted from a Cincinnati,Ohio mansion the year previous (conversations picked up by the government-planted bug).Taking Mason, masquerading as a rich classic art collector, on a tour of the breathtakingly-beautiful gallery, set in the shadows of the Sierra Mountains, Horseface Pete showed him the Lucretia hanging in a frame in the foyer and newspaper clippings vouching for the Rembrandt’s authenticity.
Licavoli’s had deep blood and criminal ties in the Buckeye State – his younger brother, Thomas (Yonnie) Licavoli, first cousins, James (Jack White) Licavoli and Calogero (Leo Lips) Moceri and his brother-in-law Frank (Frankie C) Cammeratta operated with impunity in various patches of the Ohio underworld in their respective mob heydays that spanned the 1920s into the 1980s. Jack White and Leo Lips assumed leadership of the Cleveland mafia in the mid-1970s, promptly entering into a war with the city’s Irish mob group.
At almost the exact time Jack White and Leo Lips took power in Cleveland, government-mole Mason was providing Licavoli a $1,000 down payment for the Lucretia and was subsequently indicted and incarcerated for 13 months of an original 18-month sentence.
“We knew he was conducting rackets out in Arizona and in Michigan, he was booking bets, giving out loans and investing in all kinds of land and oil deals, all while chumming around with Joe Bonanno, the New York Godfather that had fled west in the 60s, amongst other hoods in the region,” commented Westerfield.
Horseface Pete (81) walked free in 1981 and died of heart failure three years later. After he was arrested and his ranch raided in the spring of 1976, the Rembrandt Lucretia was immediately seized off the wall at the art gallery and returned to its rightful owner, Charna Signer.



Tome Raiders: Rare Items Stolen From Libraries

Thieves are targeting historic collections of rare books, manuscripts and maps held at public libraries around the world.


Rare and valuable items held by libraries around the world are being "raided" by thieves, according to experts.
The theft of historically important books, manuscripts and maps has become such a serious problem that international experts are gathering in London to discuss how to tackle it.
A conference at The British Library, called The Written Heritage of Mankind in Peril, aims to produce a set of principles that will "help prevent widespread theft and trafficking and restore stolen items to their rightful owners for the benefit of everyone".
Art Recovery International, which keeps a database of missing cultural objects, says more than 2,000 rare items have been reported missing or stolen since the beginning of March.
The company's chief executive Christopher Marinello said: "We have seen thieves use small cutting tools - little knives disguised in pencils or pens.
"We have even seen them use wet string to remove a rare map or page from a book and then they will try to sell it on the open market place.
"Thieves have seen the phenomenal prices that rare books, manuscripts and maps have achieved at auction and are now raiding our libraries of some very important cultural heritage.
"Thieves are looking to cash out as quickly as possible and they are looking at libraries as a weak point.
"We hear about the fantastic art thefts that are taking place in museums - they often make the news - but very few people know about what is going on in our public libraries and that is why this conference is so important."
The conference is the first of its kind and will be attended by dealers, auction houses, law enforcement officials, security experts, lawyers, collectors, national collections and others.
Tens of thousands of historic books and manuscripts are thought to be missing or damaged.
"These are not things that can be replicated," says Jonathan Eyal from the Royal United Services Institute.
The Defence and Security Forum has had rare military and regimental books stolen from its own library.
"The particular damage from any pilfering is very specific," Mr Eyal said.
"These are very specialised collections of books, which take centuries to assemble and five minutes to destroy. The significance of such a loss is incalculable.
"One of the key problems for libraries is less that of security - most special collections are quite good at the physical security - it's more a question of betrayal of trust by employees."
One solution could be to digitise the rarest and most valuable books so they would be both accessible and secure, but opponents of the idea say it detracts from the principle of libraries being a public resource.
Speakers at The British Library conference will include Jerker Ryden, legal adviser to the Swedish library, which was at the centre of one of the world's most famous thefts.
Senior librarian Anders Burius stole at least 56 books in the 1990s. He later committed suicide following his confession and arrest in 2004.
It is also thought there are thousands of items belonging to The British Library that are missing, lost or have been stolen.



EXCLUSIVE: “I’m the real Banksy,” claims British artist hiding out in Spain

British artist claims ‘wealthy and powerful members of Britain’s art circle’ stole Banksy from him
Michael Shurman
Michael Shurman. Photo copyright the Olive Press
“I’M the real Banksy,” says British artist Michael Shurman, straight-faced with a sense of enormous relief.
Just four words into the interview and I’m hooked.
Lured on the promise of ‘the biggest art story in half a century’ I headed into the Guadalhorce Valley for what would turn out to be one of the most surreal afternoons of my life.
Miles away from anywhere, I met mysterious Brit Michael Shurman at his secluded hideout in the mountains.
“Or should I say, I created Banksy and then it was stolen from me,” he adds.
“There is no Banksy, there never was.”
The 52-year-old artist, originally from London, claims he created the ‘Banksy’ persona in 2004.
He purports that Banksy was stolen from him and then continued by ‘wealthy and powerful members of Britain’s art circle’.



Portrait of Picasso
Portrait of Picasso. Photo copyright the Olive Press
As a result, Shurman says that he has been ‘ousted’ by the British art scene and was forced to flee to Spain.
“There are some very powerful people behind this,” he adds. “Everyone from art dealers to national newspaper editors are in on it.
“People know I am the creator of Banksy, I have had over 120 works of art stolen over the last 10 years as everyone waits for the lid to be blown on this.
He adds: “I was banned from art galleries in the UK, commissions were mysteriously cancelled and I was not allowed to compete in national art competitions.
“They are scared of me and wanted me to slip away, but I’ve bit my tongue for long enough.
“This time next year people will be talking about Shurman, not Banksy. I’m going to pull the pants down on the whole scam.”
Shurman claims to have invented the Banksy idea while he was living in Glastonbury.
He claims that he first painted the image of alien heads in Bristol and Glastonbury in 2004, an image which has become synonymous with Banksy.



Shurman with latest piece
Shurman with latest piece. Photo copyright the Olive Press
“Banksy was my creation,” he adds. “Although at the time it wasn’t called Banksy, it was just something I was doing.
“It’s only when it got taken over that the ‘Banksy’ myth was attributed to it.”
Shurman, who moved to Spain in November 2014, said he has finally had enough and is ready to ‘expose those behind the con’.
Although he says he is not scared of the Banksy operators he says he intentionally chose his low-key, off the beaten track home in Andalucia’s mountains so he ‘could not be easily found’.
He is now in the process of selecting a lawyer in Spain to help him claim for damages against the people behind Banksy.
Nazi-stolen painting fetches €2.7m at auction
Photo: DPA

Nazi-stolen painting fetches €2.7m at auction

Max Liebermann's "Two Riders on a Beach" is the first piece of artwork to be auctioned off from a collection found in a 2012 police raid on the Munich apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt, son of one of Adolf Hitler's favourite art dealers.
The painting sold for nearly €2.7 million, over three times the price of €766,000 it was expected to fetch at Sotheby’s auction house in London.
The artwork was returned to the heir by Taskforce Schwabinger Kunstfund, or the Schwabinger Art Fund Task Force, in May.
The rightful heir, a New York lawyer, had even attempted to sue the Federal Republic of Germany and the state Bavaria in Washington for the art theft by the Nazis.
Before being recovered, the 1901 oil painting was inherited by Cornelius, the son of Hildebrand Gurlitt, an art dealer employed by Hitler, who died last year.
Legal wrangles erupted over the collection after Gurlitt's death, as he tried to leave the trove - including many works confiscated from Jewish families and other people targeted by the Nazis - in its entirety to the Museum of Fine Art in Bern, Switzerland.
Another heir of the painting, David Toren, now aged 90 and blind, witnessed the painting being stolen from his great-uncle David Friedmann in 1938, the day after the massive Kristallnacht (night of broken glass) action against Jewish-owned businesses, when he was 13.

Spanish police return art stolen from Swedish churches

Spanish police on Monday returned 12 artworks, including several 15th-century wood engravings, to Sweden's embassy in Madrid after they were allegedly stolen by a Spaniard from Swedish churches and museums. Police seized the items -- a wooden chest and 11 wooden engravings -- last month on Spain's Canary Islands at the home of a 63-year-old man who they suspect stole the items in Sweden, police said in a statement.

The Chinese Want Their Art Back




Photo

Credit Jun Cen
OVER the course of five days in March, Christie’s auctioned off the holdings of the dealer Robert H. Ellsworth, who, before his death last year at age 85, filled his 22-room apartment on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan with what was said to be one of the world’s most comprehensive private collections of Asian art, earning him the nickname “King of Ming.” The sale fetched $134 million, nearly four times the presale estimate of $35 million.
Chinese art has become a prized liquid asset for superrich collectors, who, instead of putting their treasures on display, often deposit them in carefully guarded, climate-controlled warehouses. But the media’s emphasis on the white-hot market for contemporary Chinese works overlooks a more interesting story: the effort by the Chinese government, state-run companies, private collectors and even, quite probably, some criminal networks to bring Chinese antiquities back home.
One impetus for this effort is the Communist Party’s embrace of traditional culture as “a foundation for China to compete in the world,” as President Xi Jinping said in October. Having for decades viewed antiquities as relics of feudal oppression and bourgeois decadence, the party now says art can “lead people to live a life abiding by the code of morality,” in that way contributing to social stability. This is a turnabout from the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), when museums were ransacked, and countless antiquities destroyed. Old art is again prestigious; new buyers seek canonical work for the social status, not just potential profit, it confers.
The party has taken its new stance on culture at a time of rising nationalism. China openly promotes efforts to repatriate works pillaged during its self-defined “century of humiliation,” from the Opium Wars of the 1840s and 1850s to the establishment of the People’s Republic in 1949.
Perhaps the most notorious affront in that period was the sacking of the magnificent Old Summer Palace by British and French troops encircling Beijing in 1860, at the end of the Second Opium War. The invaders torched or leveled as many as 200 buildings, stripping the nearly thousand-acre site of sculptures, silk robes, jewelry and even Pekingese dogs, then unknown in Europe. (Queen Victoria was presented with a puppy, named “Looty.”)
The destruction was ordered by one James Bruce, the eighth Earl of Elgin — whose father had, some 60 years earlier, ordered the removal of the friezes from the Parthenon in Athens. For decades, Greece has vainly demanded that Britain return the Elgin marbles (which are on permanent display at the British Museum), even going so far as to construct a museum that would house them.
China has taken a different approach: Instead of pressing formal demands for repatriation, it lets money do the talking. Through a corporate offshoot of the People’s Liberation Army, the China Poly Group, the government has turned the auction block into a patriotic battlefield.
Take, for example, 12 animal heads wrenched from a zodiac fountain that once glistened below the European-style Hall of Calm Seas at the palace. In 2000, auctions held in Hong Kong by Sotheby’s and Christie’s featured three of the heads. China’s Bureau of Cultural Relics urged the auction houses to withdraw the bronzes, citing a Unesco convention.
When both companies declined and the auctions went ahead, the winning bids were cast by the Poly Group. They went on view at the Poly Art Museum in Beijing, which subsequently secured three more zodiac heads. One of the three was donated by a Macao gambling tycoon; the other two were bid on at a 2009 Christie’s sale in Paris by a Chinese buyer who then refused to pay for them. In 2013, François-Henri Pinault, whose company owns the auction house, gave them to China as a good-will gesture.
Of course, many art works never come up for auction. Perhaps the greatest enigma in Chinese art today is a little-reported crime wave in Europe that, since 2010, has targeted antiquities that were looted from the Old Summer Palace or from Beijing’s Forbidden City in the early 20th century.
The string of thefts is believed to have started in August 2010 with a break-in at the Chinese Pavilion on the grounds of Drottningholm Palace, the royal residence near Stockholm. Five months later, burglars in Bergen, Norway, made off with 56 items from the China Collection of the KODE Art Museums, mostly antiquities gathered by Johan Wilhelm Normann Munthe, a military adventurer who served in the Boxer Rebellion.
In April 2012, intruders broke into the Malcolm MacDonald Gallery at the Oriental Museum at Durham University in England, filching a porcelain sculpture and jade bowl together valued at about $3 million. That same month, thieves made their way into the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge University, making off with 18 “culturally significant” objects, notably Chinese jades.
In January 2013, some 25 Chinese artworks were stolen in a second theft at the museum in Norway. The museum closed its China Collection to visitors and, in an arrangement brokered by a Chinese entrepreneur, seven of 21 marble plinths taken from the Old Summer Palace were promised to Peking University.
Finally, only three months ago, burglars pilfered 15 gold, bronze and porcelain masterworks in the Château de Fontainebleau, the former royal retreat south of Paris. In a seven-minute sweep, they outwitted alarms and cameras as they smashed display cases within the palace’s Chinese Museum, founded in 1863 by Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoleon III. “They knew very well what they were after,” said the chateau’s president, Jean-François Hebert.
Why steal documented works that can neither be legally sold nor openly exhibited? “Chinese laws, on everything from theft to intellectual property, are very different from those in the West, and therefore stolen or forged artworks find a market far more easily there than abroad,” Noah Charney, an art crime expert, said after the Norway thefts. “A certain type of Chinese collector would be far less shy about purchasing a knowingly stolen artwork than a Western collector would. Chinese collectors could purchase stolen Chinese art and still have the pride of display, perhaps with the rationale that, whether or not the object was stolen, it should be in China, and therefore the collector was somehow aiding its liberation.”

As Paul Harris, a leading British dealer of Chinese art, wrote in a blog post in March: “The general feeling in intelligence circles is that this was ‘an ordered job’ carried out by local French professional criminals acting as agents for a third party. That third party is almost certainly abroad, well away from French jurisdiction and, according to one intelligence expert, ‘The smart money is on the artifacts being on the way to the People’s Republic of China.’ ”
Granted, speculation is not evidence.
But in a revealing footnote to the Fontainebleau heist, France is involved in backstage discussions regarding the return of 30-odd gold pieces illegally unearthed more than two decades ago in China’s Gansu Province. They were donated to the Musée Guimet, an Asian art museum in Paris, by the art dealer Christian Deydier and by Mr. Pinault’s father, François Pinault, whose fashion houses include Gucci and Saint Laurent (with a large footprint in the Chinese market). But now the plan to return the antiquities has been caught in a legal maze, since gifts to French museums are in theory irrevocable.
So far there is nothing to demonstrate that Beijing has anything to do with the thefts. What’s clear, though, is that the West and China need a more open conversation about art and where it belongs. Unesco has estimated that 1.67 million Chinese relics are held by 200-plus museums in 47 countries. Many Chinese want much of it back. Whether and how that goal is realized will be one of the art world’s big stories for years to come.





Criminal Assets Bureau target homes in Rathkeale




CAB targeted homes in Rathkeale
CAB targeted homes in Rathkeale

Officers from the Criminal Assets Bureau have raided a number of properties in Rathkeale in the past week as part of an ongoing operation.
Several houses in the town are understood to have been targeted in the swoop which took place last Thursday.
A garda spokesman this week confirmed that the raids had taken place but did not reveal the reasons.
“The Criminal Assets Bureau conducted a number of searches in County Limerick on Thursday 11th June 2015,” he said.
“The planned searches were one element of an investigation which is being conducted by the Bureau. For operational reasons no further information is available.”
CAB has previously targeted homes and businesses in the town as part of its investigation into a notorious Traveller gang often referred to as the Rathkeale Rovers.
This gang, based around a small number of close-knit families, is thought to be responsible for much of the illegal rhino horn trade in Europe. However, it is believed to be involved in a wide range of criminal activities throughout Europe as well as North and South America, Asia and Australia.
In September 2013, five home and an office in Rathkeale, Limerick city and Newmarket, Co Cork were raided by officers from the bureau who removed documents and a various items from the properties.
It is not known if last week’s raids were related to this ongoing operation.

Victim finds stolen silver on eBay





Dozens of pieces of antique silverware have been found by Gloucestershire Police, after a burglary victim noticed some of her missing items on eBay.
The house in Woodmancote was searched after items stolen in the Cotswolds in May were discovered on sale on eBay.
The force has published photographs of other silver items found at the house, which they suspect are stolen, in the hope of tracing the rightful owners.
A man has been arrested and released on bail while inquiries continue.
The burglary victim's daughter noticed some of the missing items while browsing the online auction site.
Other antique items discovered include engraved spoons, trinket boxes, tankards, fob watches, perfume bottles and hairbrushes. They can be seen on the force's Pinterest page and its own website.

Former Norwich officer arrested on antique store theft allegation

STONINGTON, Conn. (AP/WTNH) — Police have arrested two suspects, including a fired Norwich police officer, on accusations they smashed a plate glass window at a Stonington antique shop and stole jewelry.
The Day of New London reports that police charged the former officer, Jamie D. Longolucco of Westerly, R.I. and Meredith Soulia of Groton with criminal mischief, larceny, and burglary. They were released on bond and are scheduled to appear June 29 in New London Superior Court.
The 41-year-old Longolucco, who was also charged with driving with a suspended license, was fired by Norwich police in 2007 after three arrests and a conviction on third-degree assault and breach of peace stemming from an off-duty fight with two women.
Carolyn Yost, owner of Yost Estate Jewelry & Stonington Antiques, now has to replace the six- by ten-foot window.
“It’s quarter-inch plate glass,” she said. “It’s been in the building probably 100 years, so it’s going to cost a lot to replace and it’s an annoyance.”
A surveillance picture shows one of the burglars in front of the Stonington Borough store, which was broken into at around 2 a.m. Monday. Witnesses gave police a description of the car, which was stopped a short time later. Police say Longolucco was behind the wheel.
“It’s really terrible that somebody that was once trusted to protect you has gone bad, but evidently maybe he was bad in the first place and shouldn’t have been a police officer,” said Yost.
Police are also investigating whether or not the pair may have been involved in a smash and grab at the nearby Water Street Barber Shop last December. A man and woman were seen stealing two remote control boats from that shop after breaking the front window.

What Happens to Stolen Art After a Heist?

The most high-profile art heists almost always end in disaster. But what about the bulk of art crimes you don't hear about?


An empty frame in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, where 13 paintings were stolen in 1990.
Photographer: David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images




Last month, administrators at the Boston Public Library discovered that a $600,000 engraving by Dürer and a $30,000 etching by Rembrandt had gone missing. It set off a media firestorm, the director of the museum resigned, and then … a few weeks after the works went missing, they were found, misfiled, 80 feet away from where they were supposed to be.
The works’ disappearance and the subsequent panic underscored how helpless law enforcement can be when art—an easily transportable, largely untraceable commodity—is stolen. But not every artwork is created equal, and neither are heists. The quality of the art, it turns out, profoundly affects how the art is pursued, which makes intuitive sense: The greater the masterpiece, the greater the uproar over its disappearance. Only one thing stays consistent: Once art is stolen, there’s an abysmally small chance of getting it back.

Major Heists

Most people are familiar with the big ones. There’s the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist, in which 13 works were taken and which has gone unsolved for 25 years; there’s the 2010 robbery of Picasso, Braque, Modigliani, Matisse, and Leger paintings from the Paris Museum of Modern Art, where one of the suspects—as reported by Le Journal du Dimanche—apparently panicked, destroyed the art, and then put the remnants in the trash (though according to the article, lawyers for  the suspect refused to confirm this theory); and there was the 2012 Rotterdam Kunsthal heist, where yet more modern work by Gaugin, Matisse, Monet, Freud, and Picasso were stolen. The art was reportedly stored in Romania with one of the suspects’ mothers, who claims to have incinerated the paintings in her kitchen stove.


A painting by Édouard Manet that was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
Édouard Manet, Chez Tortoni, ca. 1879-1880
What do these heists have in common? Start with the price tag—today, the paintings from the Gardiner Museum would be worth an estimated $300 million; the Paris Museum of Modern Art paintings were valued close to €500 million ($561 million), according to the Guardian; and the Rotterdam museum's works were (conservatively) estimated at more than €50 million. Not coincidentally, each theft generated an intense amount of publicity. (“Musee d'Art Moderne art theft” generates around 2.5 million search results on Google.) That kind of scrutiny, says Bonnie Magness-Gardiner, the art theft program manager for the FBI, makes it “very hard to sell stolen work.” Plus, the more prominent the artwork, the less likely a thief is to sell it. “There are no buyers for masterworks,” says Anthony Amore, director of security at the Gardner Museum and the author of such books as The Art of the Con and Stealing Rembrandts: The Untold Stories of Notorious Art Heists. “People talk about paintings selling for 10 percent of their value on the black market,” he says. “But masterpieces are still too expensive even at 10 percent—no one’s going to spend millions for a work they can never show anyone.”
That’s one reason that major art heists, according to Magness-Gardiner, “are rare. Or I’d go even further and say very rare,” she says. “Honestly, most of what I see are burglaries that don’t target certain paintings or prints; they target wealthy houses.” And those thefts have very different results.

Incidental Burglaries

“I tend to look at art theft in three categories,” says Jordan Arnold, a managing director at K2 Intelligence, an art risk advisory practice with headquarters in New York. “There’s the ‘cave hit,’ the ‘fire sale,’ and the ‘long bet.’” The cave hit, says Arnold, is closest to a targeted art heist, wherein a group of people target specific art to put it in some sort of underground collection. Unsurprisingly, this is the least frequent type of theft—more likely to occur regularly in Bond films than in real life. More common is the fire sale. It’s “the opportunistic criminal, where they’re looking to flip the work to a fence or unscrupulous dealer,” Arnold says. This often happens when someone robs a house, sees an artwork, takes it, and tries to get rid of it fast. Finally, the long bet is when “a thief holds onto the art and hopes that it either goes unreported or the trail goes cold,” Arnold says. “Then the thief will try to sell it some years later to a proper gallery and claim it’s inherited.”


The empty wallspace where a painting by Henri Matisse was stolen during a robbery at the Kunsthal Museum in Rotterdam.
Photographer: Robin Utrecht/AFP/Getty Images
So: How lucrative is it for the thief? “Very,” says Turbo Paul Hendry, a former art thief who now lectures on art crime and runs the blog art hostage. “Ninety-five percent of art theft is from private residences, and those items are normally $10,000 or less. Once they’re stolen, they’re passed through the hands of middlemen and reappear for their full market value.” Hendry cites the example of a Meissen porcelain figurine. “You might have 500 or 1000 versions of the same figure,” he says. “Who’s to say which is stolen and which is not?”
On the rare occasion that a multimillion-dollar work—a Picasso, say—is stolen, Hendry says that the thief makes “pennies on the dollar.” Still, he says, “if a $10 million painting sells for $100,000, that’s still pretty good for just a night’s work.”
And how often is the thief caught? Almost never, says Magness-Gardiner. She estimates that the FBI has a recovery statistic of “below 10 percent,” which means thieves pull off art crimes 90 percent of the time. Hendry has an even dimmer view. “Only about 2 [percent] or 3 percent of art is ever recovered,” he says. “When you get to high value stuff, maybe it gets up a little higher, to around 5 percent.”
Often, art theft is so successful because “sometimes people don’t even recognize that the art’s gone missing” says Magness-Gardiner. “It could be in a storage facility, or in the basement of someone’s house, and it can often be years before anyone notices it’s gone.”



Frames that held five paintings stolen from the Musee d'Art Moderne in Paris in 2010.
Photographer: Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty Images
It should be no surprise, then, that when criminals have a multiyear lead time, selling the art is easy. “Often, even when we find the stolen property, we don’t find the thief,” Magness-Gardiner says. “It’s often passed through so many different hands, and is years later, so actually figuring out who stole the work is pretty rare.”

Prevention

The way for most collectors to protect themselves, Arnold says, is to do routine collection audits. “The window of time between when it’s taken and when it’s reported dictates the likelihood of recovery,” he says.
The way for most buyers to ensure they’re not purchasing stolen art, Arnold continues, “is not just to ask the appropriate questions, but to look at the appropriate documents.” Someone might claim that they’ve had a painting for 20 years, but can they show you a sales receipt? Shipping records from the gallery they bought it from?
As the art market continues to grow, Arnold says, that level of due diligence has become increasingly exigent. “As art prices continue to soar, you should only expect that criminals are going to look to works of art with greater frequency,” he says. “Art is regularly selling for more than the average cost of a home, but unlike a house,” he adds, “you can just pick art up and walk away.”

International Police Meet in Attempt to Tackle Pink Panther Jewelry Heist Gang

The International Police Organization (Interpol) has held a two-day meeting attended by investigators from 22 countries to discuss how to stop a notorious group of jewelry thieves responsible for hundreds of high-profile heists worldwide over the past decade.
Borko IlincicOn Wednesday, June 10, Interpol gathered nearly 60 specialists to tackle the Pink Panther criminal nework. Investigators believe that the network is made up of about 800 members, many from the former Yugoslavia. They say the group has stolen jewelery worth about 334 million euros (US$ 378 million) during 380 robberies commited in 35 countries since 1999.
Interpol launched its Pink Panthers Project back in 2007, building a database of DNA, fingerprints and photos with which law enforcement agencies worldwide could identify, locate and arrest suspected members.
The project saw some successes, including the arrest of Borko Ilincic – suspected to be a key member of the gang – who was detained in Spain in 2014. Interpol issued a red notice letter for the capture of Ilincic after receiving a request from the United Arab Emirates, linked to a 2007 robbery – when some members of the group stole jewelry worth US$ 3.4 million from a shopping center,making a movie-like escape by jumping into luxurious display cars and driving them out of the mall through the windows.
The group is also responsible for the biggest jewelery theft in Japanese history to date in which, according to BBC, about US$ 30 million of jewelry was swiped from a shop in Tokyo in March 2004. A necklace they stole, known as the Countess of Vendome, is reportedly worth US$ 21 million alone. The culprits were caught and sentenced.
Last week, on June 2, Croatian police in cooperation with law enforcement from Serbia, Austria and Germany arrested six alleged Pink Panthers aged from 28 to 46 in Zagreb. Three of the suspects are Serb, two are Bosnian and one is from Montenegro.
Police charged them with organizing a criminal group and the illegal possesion of firearms, having uncovered a stash of weapons in raids. Authorities suspect the group was planning a heist. Apart from the weapons, they found fake police uniforms, walkie-talkies, tools for cutting metal along with two Audi A6 cars that had been reported stolen. Police believe they were would-be getaway cars.
The group has achieved almost mythical status in former Yugoslav countries as a result of having run rings around local and international police forces for years. Their story is told in a 2013 documentary called Smash and Grab: The Story of The Pink Panthers. The Guardian names them the world's best diamond thieves.
The group is highly organized, performing its heists in record times and usually using bold disguises, for instance dressing up as women. They were able to organize several prison breaks for members who wound up behind bars.






Photo

The packed Lifshitz Gallery on the East Side, where Elias Lifshitz has refurbished timepieces by Rolex and Cartier. Credit Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
Thirty-five years ago, a Mexican sculptor named Elias Lifshitz, who had recently moved to New York City to accept the challenge he more or less knew from a song — “If you can make it here,” he said this week, “you can make it anyplace” — opened a little shop on East 77th Street. He called it Lifshitz Gallery, and there he learned an early, hard lesson: Not as many people were interested in buying art — his or anyone else’s — as he had hoped.
Then he bought a watch — a broken watch — at a flea market. He took it to a desk in the back of his shop.
“I was good with my hands,” he said. He got it working.
“Then I started going to flea markets and buying watches for $20,” he said. He got them ticking, too, and set about figuring out what they were worth.
“There was a book,” he said. “It tells you the value.”
The watches sold for far more than he had paid for them. He expanded his travels to distant flea markets, scooping up watches and pretty much anything else that caught his eye and bringing it all back to Lifshitz Gallery.


Photo

The gallery contains an odd collection of items, including antiques and art pieces. Credit Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Its door is a few steps below the sidewalk level. The shop was narrow when he moved in, and it was empty then. Today, it is crammed with timepieces of every size, from piles of pocket watches to standing clocks to wristwatches that hang from hooks like bunched bananas. Two people cannot comfortably pass in the gallery’s lone aisle. If someone wants to exit, anyone in the way must leave first.
The watches are almost hidden behind stuff in this jungle. Over there: a hanging lamp in a fruit motif, its shade stained glass. A phone that looks like an antique roadster. A clown painting, a pencil etching of the Piazza San Marco in Venice. A porcelain elephant. Pens.
Over here: a Claddagh ring, a self-portrait in bronze, a robust photographic collection of female nudes from the 1920s. “From a man in Mexico,” Mr. Lifshitz, 73, said.
Threaded among all these items are some valuable Rolexes and Cartiers and watches by Tiffany, worth thousands of dollars. It is hard to believe that Mr. Lifshitz knows where everything is but he does.
And he was not the only one.
On March 19, Mr. Lifshitz entered the shop and right away knew something was off, he said this week. The little back room behind his workstation, where he fixes watches, was a wreck. There was a door back there that led to the basement of the apartment building above but it was still locked. Next to it was a large hole in the wall. It looked like the Hulk had broken into the place.
To get to that wall, a burglar needed to pass through three locked doors but a person could open them all with the same key, which he apparently had. He broke into a neighboring computer repair store, just to grab a duffel bag to carry watches.
Four hundred fifty watches or so went into the bag, Mr. Lifshitz said.


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Mr. Lifshitz in the shop. He began fixing and reselling watches when he had trouble selling artwork. Credit Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

One of them was a copy of a Rolex that Paul Newman wore. Mr. Lifshitz described this and many other missing watches to the detectives. “I have a computer in my head,” he said.
Detectives spoke to workers at the computer store and at a hair salon in the building, and quickly made an arrest at a motel in Queens, where they found a man identified as Arsen Canaj, 47, with a bag of watches, a hammer, a saw and a crowbar, all covered in white Sheetrock dust similar to that found near the hole in the wall, according to court documents. Mr. Canaj is free while his case is pending; there is a hearing scheduled for June.
His connection to the building, and how he got a key, if he in fact is the burglar, is unclear, and the police and Mr. Canaj’s lawyer declined to elaborate this week.
Today, Mr. Lifshitz carries on, with three complaints.
One, he wants his watches back. They are in police custody as evidence.
Two, his right hand shakes. “It made my Parkinson’s come back,” he said.
Three, no one wears watches anymore. “Now, people are with the phone,” he said. “They are robots. American robots. Pretty girls, you can’t even talk to them with the things in their ears.”
But he smiled on Thursday when he thought of the song that brought him here.
“I made it,” he said.

Cannes jewellery heist adds to trail of Pink Panther-style raids

La Croisette and the Festival Palace at Cannes. La Croisette and the Festival Palace at Cannes. Photo: Reuters
All eyes were on Cannes last week, as the world's most glamorous film stars, including Charlize Theron and Natalie Portman, gathered for its 68th annual film festival. But while the Ruinart flowed and the Chopard diamonds twinkled, there was one shadow looming over events.
Just days before festivities began, the French Riviera city had been hit by a violent jewellery heist that shocked its 70,000 inhabitants and caused alarm around the world.
At 11am on May 5, a masked man wielding a pistol burst through the front door of the Cartier store on Cannes' palm-fringed thoroughfare, La Croisette, followed by two accomplices.
A British police officer leaves a safe deposit building on Hatton Garden. A British police officer leaves a safe deposit building on Hatton Garden. Photo: Reuters
They seized £13 million ($A26 million) worth of jewellery and watches, before escaping in a stolen Mercedes getaway car driven by a fourth gang member.
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The crime — which, ironically, wouldn't have been out of place in a Hollywood script — is the latest in a string of similar attacks. In February, a £97,000 Calvin Klein dress, studded with 6000 pearls and worn by Lupita Nyong'o at this year's Oscars, was taken from The London Hotel in West Hollywood while the actress was out of the room.
A month later, £6.5 million worth of jewels and art were stolen after a 15-strong gang held up two armoured vans in Burgundy. In April, robbers snatched £3.6 million of Chanel jewels from a collector's car while it was stuck in traffic near Paris.
Holes bored through a half-metre-thick concrete wall drilled into a vault in a safe deposit centre in Hatton Garden, London. Holes bored through a half-metre-thick concrete wall drilled into a vault in a safe deposit centre in Hatton Garden, London. Photo: AFP
And then, of course, there was the audacious Easter raid on the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit company in which £60 million worth of precious stones and cash was stolen in an operation that lasted more than 50 hours and saw thieves use an industrial power drill to bore a 45cm-wide entry hole in the underground vault.
Last  week, Scotland Yard arrested nine men in connection with the affair.
The identity of the Cannes perpetrators may never be known, although the involvement of established criminal gangs is a given. The case in particular bears the hallmarks of Europe's notorious Pink Panthers — a loose, many-headed network whose origins lie in the Balkans mafia of the 1990s. Known for their brazen but meticulous robberies, its members often hail from military backgrounds (such as the elite, now disbanded, Serbian unit, the JSO). They were given their name by the Daily Mail, due to similarities between a heist at Graff, the New Bond Street jewellers, and Peter Sellers' famous Inspector Clouseau film.
Lupita Nyong'o arriving at the 87th Annual Academy Awards. Lupita Nyong'o arriving at the 87th Annual Academy Awards. Photo: Getty Images
It has also been suggested that the Panthers may have been involved, behind the scenes, in the Hatton Garden raid.
Whatever the truth, one thing is certain: the recent spree is evidence of the rapidly growing — and ever more unwieldy — black market in jewellery and precious stones, which Jim Dickie, a former detective superintendent within the Specialist Crime Directorate at New Scotland Yard, estimates to be worth hundreds of millions of pounds: "It's becoming more organised — crime groups have always been involved in thefts, but because banks no longer have large amounts of cash on the premises, they're targeting other areas."
For those behind raids, the first priority, once the crime is committed, is usually to take the loot abroad. A prearranged contact — known as "the courier" — will take it across borders to buyers usually in cities where diamond trading is widespread, such as Antwerp.
Payment will be in cash; the criminals will have an idea of the loot they'll be passing on and will have normally arranged a price — around 20 per cent of the legal market value — with the buyer in advance. Thieves keep three-quarters of that sum and the rest goes to the courier, says film-maker Havana Marking, who spent a year investigating gang members while filming her acclaimed documentary Smash & Grab: The Story of the Pink Panthers: "It's not as profitable as it might appear, but if you're talking about a large heist, they're still making £100,000 to £200,000 out of a weekend's work."
Lupita Nyong'o at the Oscars  at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles in the dress that was later stolen.
Lupita Nyong'o at the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles in the dress that was later stolen. Photo: AP
The identity of the buyer is unlikely to be known to the thieves, and vice versa. Instead, the liaison will be organised by a remote — and again anonymous — individual. Dickie likens this to the way spy rings operate: "It's a cell system, and only certain members of each cell will know each other."
Should one member be arrested, the others are protected. This first buyer — known as "the fence" — will then process the jewels. Gold will be melted down and precious gems extracted (diamonds are the biggest earner and usually the focus of any operation).
Where stones are particularly large or distinctive, the fence will recut them, though whole stones are preferred since the larger they are, the more they're worth.
From there, the gems have one of two fates: they may be returned to the legal market, being resold multiple times — Marking says the fence will receive around 30 to 40 per cent of the market value, with the price gradually rising as the jewels pass from one dealer to the next — or they may remain in the underworld, used as currency to buy drugs, weapons or people.
Part of the beauty, from the criminals' point of view, is that carrying gems is unlikely to arouse authorities' suspicion. Metal detectors don't pick them up, they're lighter in weight than gold bars and less conspicuous than suitcases of cash. As Marking puts it: "You don't even need to hide them — they're just in your pocket." They also retain their value while national currencies fluctuate; both al-Qaeda and the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab are thought to trade in diamonds.
Given the sprawling and global nature of the "industry", it's little wonder that stolen jewels are rarely recovered. There's no single, comprehensive register of legally bought pieces. The Kimberley Process, the UN-backed certification scheme aimed at eliminating blood diamonds, stipulates that rough-stone shipments are accompanied by a uniquely numbered certificate.
But once batches are divided and gems cut, they're no longer accounted for. Some owners will register their possessions privately. Organisations such as the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), offer certification services, recording stones' unique features, cut and colour.
But even when jewels are registered, the system is far from foolproof, says Julian Radcliffe, founder of the Art Loss Register: "While, if it was resubmitted, it might be able to be matched, if it has been recut, it would almost certainly not be." Likewise, if a stone is damaged in a raid, its distinguishing characteristics are altered and its traceability diminished.
Nor is there a single record of looted items. The Art Loss Register, the world's largest private database of missing art, antiques and collectibles, includes 70,000 pieces of stolen jewellery and 50,000 watches, while industry bodies such as the London Diamond Bourse circulate details of stolen goods in an attempt to prevent them being resold. But the onus is on individual victims to register the missing items.
Which is not to say there's no hope for victims. Very occasionally, when a stolen gem has re-entered the market, someone identifies it. This happened recently in New York when a grader at the GIA noticed characteristics in a newly purchased yellow diamond that matched a stolen stone. The client who'd brought it in was unaware of its illegal provenance — as was the trader who sold it to them. A private settlement was reached.
Meanwhile, the past decade has seen growing cooperation between European police forces. Both the Met and the French police will be collaborating with Interpol, which set up a dedicated Pink Panther working group in 2007.
One promising line of enquiry in the Hatton Garden case has been DNA samples which were taken in the wake of a similar raid on a Berlin bank two years ago.
And lately there have been some high-profile arrests. In February, eight criminals were sentenced to terms of up to 15 years for stealing more than £65 million in watches and jewellery, including one ring set with a 31 carat diamond said to be worth more than £4 million, in dual heists at the Harry Winston shop on Paris' Avenue Montaigne.
In one robbery, which lasted less than 20 minutes, the gunmen disguised themselves as women, sporting wigs, skirts, stockings and high heels.
The same month, four suspected Panthers were arrested in Vienna with stolen jewellery worth more than £360,000, including 18 watches that were stolen during a robbery in Montreux, Switzerland, in January.
And as the black market booms, there is evidence that criminals may be getting sloppy. In their rush to make a getaway, the Cannes raiders dropped several expensive watches on the pavement. It has also been claimed that those behind the German heist left bottles of beer at the scene.
Still, those who lost their gems in Cannes shouldn't hold their breath. Michael Levi, Professor of Criminology at Cardiff University, says that, barring a disgruntled whistle-blower coming forward, the chances of retrieving stolen loot are minimal: "It just gets mixed up in the general trade."
As for Scotland Yard's promise of a £20,000 reward for information leading to conviction — well, that's little more than wishful thinking. As Dickie puts it: "If you consider the potential value of what was stolen — £20,000 is minuscule."


Eight Years

Eight years.
Eight years since A Cavalier (self portrait) was last seen in public.
Eight years ago person(s) unknown stole this Dutch masterpiece.
Eight years.
No news. No leads. No trace.
Someone out there knows something.
Someone out there knows where A Cavalier is.
Please don’t wait another eight years to come forward.
art-a24-20cavalier-420x0

Husband and Wife Arrested for Stealing $350,000 Worth of Art From Coral Gables Mansion

Erbiti and Rojas.
Erbiti and Rojas.
Miami-Dade Corrections
Early last month, Eduardo Goudie was set to move into his new home on North Greenway Drive in Coral Gables. He had already moved in his eclectic art collection which featured contemporary painters from all across the world, but when he returned to the home on April 3 he found that five paintings worth a total of $350,000 had been cut from their frames and taken.
Now police have nabbed Raluxi Raul Erbiti and Dania Rojas, a married couple, both 39 years old, for pulling off the heist.
According to NBC Miami, one work by Cuban painter Leopoldo Romañach was worth $150,000, a work by Cuban-American modernist Cundo Bermudez worth $50,000, a painting by Cuban surrealist Wilfredo Lam valued at $75,000, a work by Pakistani artist Jamali, the originator of "Mystical Expressionism," worth $25,000, and another unknown artist's work valued at $50,000.
Coral Gables police began an investigation with the Hialeah PD, Miami-Dade PD, the Broward Sheriff's Office, the DEA, and Homeland Security which soon lead to Erbiti and Rojas.
An informant contacted Erbiti last week and agreed to meet him in the parking lot of a Sam's Club in Miramar to discuss the possible sale of the paintings. The couple then showed up the next day at the informant's office and offered two paintings for $90,000. Eventually the price agreed upon was $150,000 for the entire lot.
When they arranged to meet again it wasn't the informant but rather police who were waiting for Erbiti and Rojas. They now face charges of second-degree grand theft and dealing in stolen property.







Collector’s tip-off helps police rescue big stash of church relics

26 May 2015Written by Tom Derbyshire
More than 60 artefacts stolen from English and Welsh country churches over the past few years have been recovered by police after they were alerted by a collector.
While some items have been returned, the West Mercia force is launching an appeal to trace the owners of the many relics as yet unidentified.
Police have arrested a 50-year-old man from Wales in connection with the series of thefts, which ATG has covered on many occasions to alert the trade. The man was released on bail and is due to be further interviewed on his return to Hereford police station.
Det Con Tony Lewis, based in Hereford, told ATG: "Operation Icarus is a West Mercia-headed investigation into multiple theft offences from churches across England and Wales.
"West Mercia is heading the investigation as we have the highest number of offences on us - eight as it stands today - but I am sure we will have more as items get identified. Other offences have occurred in Breconshire, Monmouthshire, Devon, Suffolk and Kent to name but a few counties.
"Last year a private collector from the south east of England contacted the Met Police Antiques and Antiquities Department. He made due diligence reports to them as he was concerned that he may have bought items which could have been stolen."
The collector recognised items from media coverage of the theft. As a result of his information, the Met recovered a number of items and several of these were traced to thefts in Herefordshire, and Holy Trinity Church at Torbryan in Devon.
DC Lewis added: "In February West Mercia officers attended the address of the original collector in the south east. At that time some 40 exhibits were seized into police control.
"Some of these exhibits are multiple items so we have around 60 plus items safe and secure, being held at a West Mercia police station.
"These were photographed and the hunt was on to try and identify where they had come from and rehome them as soon as possible to their rightful home."
Torbryan Screen
Many of the thefts caused damage to the churches when the works were hacked away, with one of the worst cases being Torbryan, where a pair of 15th century oak panels was ripped out from the rood screen.
The decorative panels, bearing paintings of St Victor of Marseilles and St Margaret of Antioch, are considered of national importance, and were stolen in August, 2013 (reported in ATG No 2104).
The rood screen and its panels are one of only a handful of such artworks in England which survived the Reformation.
Stolen items included stone and wood carvings, cloth items, stained glass, tombstone lids, brass plaques, misericords, sections of carved rood screens and  small glass items.
DC Lewis said: "West Mercia have sought the help of a number of organisations and individuals who are all working together to identify the items we have recovered. So far we have identified some 21 items - some of which have been returned to their home, including the Torbryan item.
"We are grateful for the assistance of those helping us to identify these items.
"We would ask all church wardens/clergy/parishioners to check their churches to look and see if there are any items missing.
"We believe the offences started in 2011 and will have ended late summer/early autumn 2014.
"Some items are very small and some have been removed from dark corners or high up in walls.
"As such, the thefts may not have been noticed. In some cases attempts have been made to cover a theft, with a different item placed where the stolen item was taken from."
The Churches Conservation Trust, the national charity that cares for 347 unique churches around England including Torbryan church, faces a bill of £7,000 to restore the damage caused by the thieves hacking the panels out of the screen during the theft. The trust has launched a campaign to raise the money.
- See more at: http://www.antiquestradegazette.com/news/2015/may/26/collectors-tip-off-helps-police-rescue-big-stash-of-church-relics/#sthash.gmRYo1hb.dpuf


Picasso Recovery in Newark Shines Light on Art Theft
Stolen pieces can vanish for decades and losses are difficult to estimate
An image of the 1911 painting ‘La Coiffeuse,’ by Pablo Picasso. The artwork was recovered by customs officials in Newark in December.
Sculpture specialist Alice Levi Duncan was cataloging two early 20th-century bronze statuettes this winter when she realized something unusual.
Both of the pieces were unique casts, meaning no subsequent editions had been made from that mold—“very rare in the bronze world,” said Ms. Duncan, a director at Gerald Peters Gallery. “It’s like winning the lottery twice.”
As it turned out, the sculptures, consigned for sale at Gerald Peters, had been swiped in 1983 from another Manhattan gallery, Hirschl & Adler.
The fact was only uncovered when Ms. Duncan, who remembered selling one to Hirschl & Adler years earlier when she worked at Christie’s, called to confirm that the work—a sculpture of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney by Prince Paul Troubetzkoy—was unique.
Such recoveries offer a window into the shadowy world of art crime.
The extent of the problem is hard to pin down. At one point the Federal Bureau of Investigation estimated that art and cultural crimes, which include fraud, theft and looting, resulted in billions of dollars of losses each year, though the agency now says those figures are too hard to verify.
Complicating matters: While law-enforcement agencies track such crimes, there is no central governmental repository that lists missing objects, which may, in the case of a Picasso recovered in December, vanish in Paris and reappear in Newark, N.J.
The 1911 cubist painting, estimated to be worth millions, went missing from a storeroom at Paris’s Centre Pompidou. It resurfaced in a shipment from Belgium, labeled as an “Art Craft Toy” with a declared value of $37.

Former NYPD Detective Mark Fishstein, an investigator for the art-risk advisory practice at the consulting firm K2 Intelligence LLC. He is holding a photograph of himself with artwork he recovered.
The theft was reported in 2001. But the painting could have theoretically gone missing two years earlier: It was placed in storage in 1999 after being lent to a German museum. The loss was only detected after a subsequent loan request from India, according to court papers.
It isn’t clear how customs officials at Newark, among the busier ports in the U.S., unearthed a stolen artwork the size of a place mat. A spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations declined to comment, citing a continuing investigation.
Centre Pompidou spokesman Benoît Parayre said the museum has beefed up its security and collection-management system since the theft of the painting, titled “La Coiffeuse.”
Tracking down stolen art can take decades and may turn on lucky breaks like anonymous tips or calls to police by suspicious potential buyers.
During his time with the New York Police Department, Mark Fishstein, a detective who specialized in art crime and retired in October, handled cases ranging from break-ins to the disappearance of a Norman Rockwell painting worth more than $1 million from a Queens storage facility in 2013.
“You can never give up hope because if they are stolen, some people hold them for a predetermined amount of time and then think it’s safe to sell,” said Mr. Fishstein, who now works as an investigator for the art-risk advisory practice at the consulting firm K2 Intelligence LLC.
When objects do resurface, it is often through the combined efforts of law-enforcement agencies working with insurance companies and a small field of private businesses that specialize in detecting art fraud, tracking down purloined works and conducting the sometimes delicate negotiations surrounding their return.
Once an art object is reported stolen, police typically contact sister agencies, such as the FBI and Interpol, said NYPD Detective Michael Dorto. Police also register the theft with one of the private groups that compile stolen-art data.
The point, he said, is to “render this art useless” by indicating it is stolen.
For years, the biggest such operator has been the Art Loss Register, a London company that maintains what it says is the largest international database of stolen art objects and antiques. Last year, it conducted more than 400,000 paid searches, with more than 5,000 queries raising a red flag about an item’s provenance. About 150 or so objects are recovered each year.
The group also retrieves lost art and is building up a new business line: a database of forged items and likely fakes, according to Chairman Julian Radcliffe.
Some of his company’s methods, including payments to informants, have been questioned by others in the art world, though Mr. Radcliffe dismisses the criticism.
“The whole question of payments, police persuasion—we wouldn’t be in the business if we were operating illegally,” he said.
Two years ago, a group of former employees started a rival business, Art Recovery Group, led by lawyer Christopher Marinello. It uses a database of disputed art, launched earlier this year, that uses image-recognition software to search for matches in auction catalogs and other materials. A separate division of the firm specializes in art recovery and dispute resolution.
When the long-lost bronze statuettes came to light at Gerald Peters, the other gallery, Hirschl & Adler, called on Mr. Marinello to help arrange their return. While the Troubetzkoy work had no distinguishing characteristics, the other piece—a compact statuette of a woman holding a flower by New York sculptor Paul Manship, known for his gilded “ Prometheus” at Rockefeller Center—was mounted on a marble base with distinctive veining.
The two works are now worth an estimated $250,000.
The private stolen-art databases can make it “relatively easy to investigate something if you know where to look and find a tainted record,” said Eric Baumgartner, a senior vice president at Hirschl & Adler. 

Britain's most prolific burglar: Crook who has stolen from 250 homes is jailed... just 16 days after release

The thief's 54-year crime spree seems never ending after he was put behind bars for another six years



Prolific: Britain's burgling menace Simon Berkowitz

Britain's most prolific burglar has been jailed yet again after breaking into a retired couple's home just 16 days after being given an early release.
Career crook Simon Berkowitz has confessed to being addicted to breaking into other people's homes.
The criminal menace has committed at least 250 break ins during a 54-year career of crime.
Berkowitz' best-known crime was trying to sell stolen documents regarding then-leader of the Liberal Democrats Paddy Ashdown's affair with his secretary in the days leading up to the 1992 General Election.
He had come across the documents after breaking into the politician's solicitor's office.
The crook had been out of prison for barely two weeks after being freed half way through a five and a half year sentence when he travelled to Devon in search of properties to burgle.
Berkowitz has plagued affluent seaside towns all along the South coast and the genteel resort of Sidmouth, Devon, has been a favourite hunting ground.



 
Victim: Former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown
He broke into the home of pensioners John and Ann Searle on Guy Fawkes night last year while they were away on holiday.
He left no clues at the scene but was trapped by CCTV when he used Mr Searle's stolen bank cards to obtain £1,100 in the space of 12 hours at cash machines in Sidmouth and Exmouth.
He also used Mr Searle's stolen bus pass to wander up and down the coast, stopping at Budleigh Salterton, Bournemouth, and Dorchester.
Berkowitz was only caught when police issued his picture to local papers and television channels and he was spotted by a member of the public having Sunday lunch in a pub in Sidmouth.
Police arrested him on the sea front carrying a rucksack which contained a burglary kit consisting of metal levers, gaffer tape, two torches, a piece of wire bent into a hook, and a magnifying glass which he used to study jewellery and antiques before he took them.
He denied burgling the house in Sidmouth and told Exeter Crown Court he had no need to steal because he inherited £4,000 from his mother who died during his last jail sentence.
He said he found the bank cards with their PIN numbers on slips of paper which were conveniently attached with elastic bands.



PA
Justice: Exeter Crown Court
The jury took less than an hour to convict him after hearing his list of previous convictions which date back to Worthing in 1961, and include 37 different burglary convictions covering 250 different raids and recent jail terms of three and a half and four and a half years.
Berkowitz, 68, of Hove, denied burglary but admitted handling and five counts of using the bank cards fraudulently.
He was found guilty and jailed for six years by Judge Francis Gilbert, QC, who told him:"In your evidence you said you felt sorry for all the people you have burgled over the years.
"I find that to be completely and utterly false.
"You do not feel the least bit of sympathy for what you have done.
"It is perfectly obvious you have no regrets or remorse whatsoever.
"Burglary is your chosen way of life.
"This one took place barely two weeks after your release.
"You are a persistent burglar.
"You have an appalling record and it is extremely likely you will continue to offend."

'We didn't really think we'd get away with it': The astonishing story of how two young Irish men completed an audacious £7m art heist

In 1956 Paul Hogan shocked the world by unhooking an Impressionist masterpiece from a wall in the Tate and carrying it calmly out of the gallery

As Paul Hogan came dashing down the steps of London’s Tate Gallery in 1956 with a £7m Impressionist masterpiece under his arm after coolly unhooking it from its hanging place moments earlier, his picture was taken by a press photographer who happened to be waiting outside.
The resulting image shows the young Irish art student, the belt of his tweed overcoat flapping as he moves at speed, grappling with the heavy gilt frame containing Berthe Morisot’s Jour d’Eté and two large pieces of card attempting to cover the image of two French ladies on a boating lake. After jumping into a taxi, Mr Hogan realised he had no idea where to take his loot and instructed the driver to head to the only place he could think of - Piccadilly Circus.
As art heists go, it was audacious but it was hardly the crime of the century. Indeed, it was never meant to be.
Mr Hogan, then 25, and his accomplice, Bill Fogarty, a trainee vet from Galway, had staged the theft on 12 April 1956 solely to highlight Ireland’s claim to the Hugh Lane collection - some 39 paintings, including world class Impressionist works such as Jour d’Eté, which had been bequeathed by their wealthy owner to both London and Dublin before he perished on the Lusitania in 1915. A last-minute codicil to the art dealer’s will had promised the collection to the Irish Republic but because it was unwitnessed, a previous clause giving the paintings to the Tate was enforced by Britain - creating a further source of rancour between the two nations.
Berthe Morisot’s Jour d’Eté, stolen by Paul Hogan in 1956  
Berthe Morisot’s Jour d’Eté, stolen by Paul Hogan in 1956
Such was the desire of the two young men to gain publicity for their brazen daylight snatch that they had tipped off the Irish News Agency on Fleet Street about a “demonstration” to take place that day outside the Tate. It was the agency’s photographer who took the shot of Mr Hogan, which was then promptly surrendered to police once it became clear what had happened and used to try to trace the suspects.
From the point of view of the “thieves”, who claimed the raid on behalf of the Irish National Students Council, the operation was a brilliant success. The story made headlines around the world and even served to  knock the other great event of that day - Grace Kelly’s wedding to Prince Ranier of Monaco - from the front pages of some British newspapers.
But what has remained secret until now is the extent to which the antics of Mr Hogan, who was the son of a senior Irish civil servant and aide to Irish Taoiseach Eamon De Valera, and Mr Fogarty created panic at the highest levels of the British state.
The Scotland Yard file on the theft of Jour d’Eté had been ordered to remain under lock and key for 75 years until 2031 but it has now been released to The Independent under the Freedom of Information Act.
The 86-page file, which has been heavily redacted in places, reveals that although police were confident they had identified the two students, who went on the run after their escapade and eventually made it back to Dublin via Blackpool and Liverpool, the Yard and the Director of Public Prosecutions resolved not to prosecute the pair for fear of turning them into “martyrs” for the Irish cause.
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The documents show that the authorities were doubly reluctant to put the men on trial because they felt the inevitable publicity would expose the shambolic security at the Tate, where national treasures had been hung unsecured and a warder had let Mr Hogan walk out of the building in the belief he was taking the Morisot (worth £10,000 in 1956 but now valued at £7m) to be photographed. Officers were concerned that news of the ease with which the painting had been taken would spark a spree of more hard-nosed raids at the gallery, the custodian of key works by British artists such as Constable and Turner.
Sir John Rothenstein carries the painting 'Jour d'Ete' into the Tate after it was handed into the Irish embassy  
Sir John Rothenstein carries the painting 'Jour d'Ete' into the Tate after it was handed into the Irish embassy Mr Hogan, now aged 84, told The Independent he and his colleague had been astonished to get away with their stunt: “We had decided our only way of getting away with it would be walk out of the front door. But we didn’t really think we’d get away with it. I’m not surprised if the authorities were reluctant to prosecute - if I had been the head of the Tate Gallery, the last thing I would have wanted was further publicity.”
After a four-day manhunt, which saw watches put in place at Heathrow and all ports to try to intercept the painting as well as an alert being issued to Interpol, the missing painting was returned to the Tate via the Irish embassy and an anonymous female friend of Mr Hogan.
In a memo to colleagues, the unnamed Metropolitan Police commander dealing with the theft outlined the reasons why he and the DPP had decided not to pursue charges.
The officer wrote: “This was not a larceny with intent to sell the picture to somebody else. Although it was not exactly of a political nature, it was made in a misguided sense of patriotism… If these men were charged they would then be heroes or martyrs.”
The officer then added grumpily: “One other point too I mentioned, that in such proceedings, the complete lack of security measures, so far as a National Picture Gallery was concerned, would be revealed and it might encourage others with a real felonious intent.”

The plot to highlight the injustice of Sir Hugh Lane’s bequest residing in London had been hatched just a few weeks earlier when Mr Hogan, then a student at the Dublin College of Art, came across a pamphlet written by the collector’s aunt, Lady Augusta Gregory, agitating for her nephew’s paintings to be restored to Ireland.
Lane, a Cork-born art collector, became determined during his lifetime to see Dublin host a world-class art collection and offered his paintings - including Renoir’s Les Parapluies and works by Manet, Pissarro and Vuillard - to Ireland on the basis that they be hosted in a purpose-built gallery in the capital.
When no gallery was forthcoming, Lane changed his will to leave the works to London. But shortly before his death when the Lusitania cruise liner was sunk by a German torpedo the collector renewed his bequest to Dublin. Because the document was never witnessed, Britain refused to recognise it as legally binding and removed the collection to the Tate as the Irish Republic was declared in 1922.
Mr Hogan and Mr Fogarty, who it later emerged was a member of the Official IRA, hatched their scheme while walking home together one evening and then travelled to London, staying at the Irish Club in Belgravia to allow them to reconnoitre the gallery - with the aid of a forged letter of introduction from the Dublin College of Art - and select the Morisot as their target.
Detectives investigating the theft likened the incident to the hijacking six years earlier of the Stone of Scone by four Scottish students who stole the relic from Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1950.
Another Yard memo states: “I suggest that we treat this in the same way as the matter of the Stone of Scone… The two students in this case apparently belong to that school of thought which prefers action to words. I am reliably informed that they cared little for the risk of discovery they ran when they took the picture. This rather tends to explain the audacious manner they adopted.”
The Yard file, released at the National Archives in Kew, west London, reveals the brazen nature of the theft.
The file relating to the theft has been released after 59 years (Getty) 
The file relating to the theft has been released after 59 years (Getty)
Dennis Fisk, an 18-year-old insurance clerk, was visiting the Tate to look at Jour d’Eté and other paintings when he noticed the two men approach the Morisot carrying two large pieces of cardboard.
In his statement to police, Mr Fisk said: “Together they lifted the picture from its hooks on the wall on to the floor and placed it between the cardboard. The man carrying the picture when he had gone a few paces turned round and nodded to the second man… I thought that these men had the authority to remove this painting.”
The clerk then recounted how he had queried what he had just seen with a gallery attendant. He said: “I pointed to the blank space on the wall… and said to him, ‘Shouldn’t there be a painting there?’. He said, ‘It has been taken to the photographers and may be away a number of days’.”
The words were prophetic - the painting was indeed being photographed ahead of a short absence, though not in quite the manner the attendant had imagined.
As well as garnering publicity, the theft also arguably achieved the wider goal of its perpetrators. By 1959, it was announced that Britain and Ireland would share the paintings - a deal which was recently updated to ensure that 27 of the works remain permanently in Dublin with the remaining 12 rotated between the two capitals every six years.
And what became of the dashing patriotic art thieves? Mr Fogarty died in 2002 in a state of poverty while Mr Hogan, who became a senior Irish trade official, continues to live in his native Dublin.
Their exploits could yet hit the big screen. Mr Hogan’s nephew, the Irish actor Stephen Hogan, is in the process of writing a script with Oscar-nominated collaborators to seek funding for a film.
In the meantime, one of its protagonists remains proud of his youthful flirtation with notoriety.
Paul Hogan told The Independent: “We achieved what we set out to do. We were enormously successful in putting the issue in the headlines. I don’t think I was any more of a tearaway than anyone else I knew.”

Stolen 15th-century Torbryan church icons recovered by police

Holy Trinity church in Devon faces £7,000 costs to restore icons hacked out of their panels by thieves in 2013



The panels which were recognised by a collector
The panels were recognised in an online sale by a collector who had seen media coverage of the stolen artefacts. Photograph: Mark Passmore/Apex

Two priceless 15th -entury oak panels that were stolen from the rood screen of a west country church have been recovered by detectives.
The decorative oak panels were taken from Holy Trinity church at Torbryan in Devon in the summer of 2013.




Bearing images of St Victor of Marseilles and St Margaret of Antioch, the panels were found by the Metropolitan police’s art and antiques unit after being spotted by a private collector in an online sale.
This led to a raid by specialist detectives in south London earlier this year and the recovery of the panels, along with dozens of other artefacts.
The rood screen and its panels are particularly precious as they are one of only a handful of such artworks in England that survived the reformation.
Despite elation at their recovery, the trust faces a £7,000 bill to restore the damage – the result of the thieves hacking the panels out of the screen – and has launched a campaign to raise the money. Currently they are in storage in Bristol.
Holy Trinity is one of 347 historic churches cared for by the charity the Churches Conservation Trust. Its chief executive, Crispin Truman, said: “Torbryan rood screen is one of the highlights of this internationally significant collection. The theft of these unique artworks from Holy Trinity was a real blow, so we’re delighted that they are now back in our hands.
“Unfortunately the damage caused as the thieves hacked them out of the church will cost a lot to put right.
“The CCT is committed to displaying unique artefacts like these panels in their original setting and open to the public for everyone to see and enjoy.”
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The Rev Peter Ashman, the incumbent vicar, added: “The value of the panels cannot be underestimated – they form part of a unique collection of medieval paintings preserved from destruction during the reformation housed in a beautiful and very special church. We look forward to their safe return where they belong.”
Historian and presenter Dan Cruickshank, who backed the original campaign to find the stolen panels, said: “I’m delighted that these 15th-century artworks – once feared lost forever – have been recovered. The panels are irreplaceable examples of an important period in our art and history, and pieces like this help us to learn about who we are as a society. They should belong to everyone.”
The discovery of the screens prompted the police to set up an operation codenamed Icarus, which has led to a treasure trove of other church artefacts, including stonework, friezes, statues, paintings, brasses, misericords, stained glass and bibles, being recovered.
Among the items already returned to where they belong are a pair of misericords – mercy seats – that were taken from St Cuthbert’s Church at Holme Lacy in Herefordshire. Saxon stonework has also been returned to another church in Herefordshire, St David’s in Much Dewchurch.
Police are struggling to identify many of the items recovered, sometimes because churches do not know they have gone.
The collector who first went to the police wishes to remain anonymous. It is understood he recognised the panels from media coverage of the theft.
Since the theft, the Churches Conservation Trust have conducted an audit of security at Holy Trinity, Torbryan, and a new alarm system is now in place at the church.
The painted saints, once part of a procession of 40 panels stretching the width of the church, are exceptionally rare because so few figurative paintings, either on panels or stained glass, survived the flurry of image-smashing during the reformation in the 16th century.
Most rood screens – which originally divided the nave from the altar area of the church and supported carved crosses – were dismantled and either burned or recycled for their wood. Those with representations of saints were particularly targeted.
The Torbryan panels were restored in the 19th century from beneath layers of whitewash that may have been deliberately applied to protect them from iconoclasts. They were regarded as among the best preserved in Britain.
The church itself is unusual because it was built in one phase, between 1450 and 1470, with a spectacular fan-vaulted ceiling, instead of the usual pattern of gradual extension over centuries. Both the carving and the painting of the screen were of very high quality, and the piece is believed to have been a contemporary commission from an unknown master craftsman for the church.

Matisse From Gurlitt Collection Is Returned to Jewish Art Dealer’s Heirs



Christopher A. Marinello, a lawyer who specializes in tracking down looted and stolen art, with the recovered Matisse, "Femme Assise," in Munich on Friday. Credit Wolf Heider-Sawall/Art Recovery, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
MUNICH — The slide made public in November 2013 showing a painting of a woman wearing a white blouse embroidered with blue, purple and red flowers, with a fan on her lap, was grainy, but its subject was immediately recognizable to Elaine Rosenberg. It showed a priceless Matisse. Her family’s Matisse.
Christopher A. Marinello, a lawyer who specializes in tracking down stolen art, was in a New York hotel room at the time, when his phone rang. It was Ms. Rosenberg, his client and a descendant of Paul Rosenberg, one of the world’s leading dealers in Modern art, whose collection, including the Matisse, “Femme Assise,” or “Seated Woman/Woman Sitting in an Armchair,” was looted by the Nazis.
“She told me, ‘That is our painting, go get it,’ ” Mr. Marinello said.



On Friday, more than 70 years after its disappearance and after a year and a half of hard-nosed negotiations, the painting was handed over to Mr. Marinello, on behalf of the Rosenbergs, at an art storage facility in southern Germany.
Part of the art trove hoarded by Cornelius Gurlitt and discovered in his Munich apartment in 2012, it was one of the first two paintings from the collection to make it back to the families of the original Jewish owners.
Another painting found in Mr. Gurlitt’s home, “Two Riders on the Beach,” by Max Liebermann, was also handed over this week. Representatives of the descendants of David Friedmann, a Jewish industrialist from Breslau, whose art collection was looted by the Nazis, took possession of the picture on Wednesday, said August J. Matteis Jr., a lawyer who represents David Toren, a great-nephew.
The restitutions this week are the culmination of a discovery that upended the art world and laid bare the cumbersome bureaucracy in Germany that still hampers the return of looted works, despite pledges by the government to right the wrongs of previous generations. The Germans have vowed to provide proactive clarification and a fair and just solution, in keeping with Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art.
Yet for Mr. Marinello, getting to this day involved combing through roughly 250,000 documents, letters and photographs in the Rosenberg family’s records; chasing down signatures of the rightful heirs and Mr. Gurlitt’s descendants; and pressing the authorities, past one failed agreement and through numerous phone calls and emails — including one exchange with the leading German researcher in which she insisted that “provenance research can’t be rushed.”
“The Germans are sticklers for detail and accuracy, which is good and important in provenance research, but following the process can be very frustrating to people like my clients, who are humans who suffered at the hands of one of the worst regimes in history,” Mr. Marinello said.
The Rosenberg family thanked German officials for their cooperation and encouraged others to pursue the return of looted works. “There is a great deal to be learned from this case,” the family said in a statement.

More than 1,200 pieces were found in Mr. Gurlitt’s apartment, another 250 in his Salzburg home. Two more works, including a Carl Spitzweg painting and a Pissarro called “View of Paris,” have been recognized as looted art. A task force established by the German government and the state of Bavaria continues to investigate the ownership history of about 590 works, while Mr. Gurlitt’s decision to leave his estate to the Kunstmuseum Bern in Switzerland faces legal challenges.
Monika Grütters, who was appointed Germany’s minister of culture shortly after the collection’s existence became public, responded to international pressure by doubling the country’s budget for provenance research to 4 million euros, or $4.6 million, and establishing the German Center for Cultural Property Losses. The center serves as a clearing house for all provenance research in the country and as a central point for people seeking information about a missing painting or the history of a work in a private collection.
Germany has invested €13 million in provenance research and restituted 12,000 objects over the past decade, many of them books. But families and even small museums have been stymied by uncertainty over where to go for information related to looted works, as well as some insensitivity as to what is at stake.
Prosecutors in Augsburg, Germany, who confiscated the works from Mr. Gurlitt’s home in February 2012 as part of a tax investigation, kept the discovery a secret. Only a year later, after a wave of international criticism over its handling of the art, did the Culture Ministry intervene.
Mr. Marinello, who runs Art Recovery International, based in London, sent documents proving the Rosenberg claim to the judge in Augsburg who had jurisdiction over the case at the time. They included inventory cards listing the Matisse as item 1721, and a 1946 declaration to the French government signed by Paul Rosenberg that included the Matisse among works still missing.
Mr. Marinello never received a response.
Several weeks later, he composed a letter in German and sent it directly to Mr. Gurlitt. That led to negotiations that nearly resulted in the painting’s return. But hours before he was to board a flight from London in March 2014, his phone rang — Mr. Gurlitt had fired his lawyer, and the restitution was off.
Two months later, Mr. Gurlitt, 81, died in his home, leaving his collection to the Kunstmuseum Bern. Although agreements reached with the German and Bavarian governments before his death stipulated that any works that were found to have been looted were to be returned to their rightful owners, the Rosenbergs and other families now faced negotiations not only with the German task force but also the Munich probate court handling the estate.
All that time, the painting sat in a warehouse outside Munich.
Mr. Marinello took possession of the work on behalf of the Rosenberg family at the storage depot early Friday. He declined to say what the family intended to do with the painting, aside from having it cleaned to remove the layers of grime and to restore the original brilliance of its colors.
The first step, however, would be to get it out of the country. “It is definitely leaving Germany,” he said.

Murder hunt launched after death of infamous criminal John 'Goldfinger' Palmer

Convicted comnan, John 'Goldfinger' Palmer was initially thought to have died as a result of natural causes, but police now confirm they are treating his death as a murder inquiry

Police launch a murder inquiry after death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer
Police launch a murder inquiry after death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer Photo: Rex
John “Goldfinger” Palmer, one of Britain’s most notorious criminals, has become the latest underworld figure to fall victim to the “curse of Brink’s-MAT” after he was shot dead at his home.
Palmer, who was tried for melting down gold bars stolen in the £26 million theft of bullion and jewellery from a warehouse at Heathrow Airport, is the eighth person with close links to the 1983 robbery to be shot dead.
The 64-year-old was initially reported to have died of natural causes when his body was found at his home in South Weald, near Brentwood, Essex, on June 24, but Essex Police have now launched a murder inquiry after a post-mortem examination found he had been shot in the chest.
Palmer, who was once described as Britain’s richest criminal with a fortune of £300m, was jailed at the Old Bailey in 2001 over his involvement in a vast timeshare swindle, which cost thousands of British holidaymakers their life savings.


John ‘Goldfinger’ Palmer, with his former wife Marnie in 1987, was said to have had a £300 million fortune
But he was best known for his connection to the Brink’s-MAT heist, for which he was tried in 1987. He was said to have melted down bullion from the robbery in his back garden, but he denied knowing the bullion was stolen and was acquitted.
The Brink’s-MAT robbery was carried out by a gang of six, who had expected to find £3 million in cash but instead discovered three tonnes of gold in the warehouse owned by an American security company.
Only three men – Micky McAvoy, Brian Robinson and his brother-in-law Anthony Black, a security guard at the warehouse – were ever convicted of carrying out the robbery.
Because the gang had no expertise in handling gold, they had to recruit other underworld figures to help them dispose of the metal and launder their money.


Days before his death he had been told that he faced 15 years in jail for another alleged timeshare fraud
Inevitably, gangsters connected with the robbery fell out with each other and violence followed.
Nick Whiting, who was accused by some gang members of being an informant, was the first to be killed, in 1990, when he was stabbed nine times and shot twice. The same year Charlie Wilson, one of the Great Train Robbers, who had been hired to launder some of the proceeds of Brink’s-MAT, was shot dead on his doorstep in Marbella.
Donald Urquhart, a money launderer, was found shot dead in 1995. The following year Keith Hedley, another suspected money launderer linked to the raid, was shot and killed by three men on his yacht off Corfu, and two years later Solly Nahome, a Hatton Garden jeweller said to have handled the stolen gold, was found dead outside his home in Finchley with four bullets in his head.
 
(left - right) Nick Whiting, Charlie Wilson and Donald Urquhart
Then in 2001 Brian Perry, who served a jail sentence for handling the gold, was shot in the head. George Francis, said to have been another member of the gang, was also shot dead the same year.
Around half of the stolen gold remains unaccounted for.
Palmer had been facing trial over another alleged timeshare con at the time of his death.
He had been charged with fraud, firearm possession and money laundering after an eight-year investigation in Tenerife, where he had his second home.
Days before his death he had been told he could be facing a 15-year prison sentence, and nine others were also facing charges, including his girlfriend Christine Ketley and nephews Andrew Palmer and Dean Morris.
 
(Clockwise from top left) Solly Nahome, Brian Perry and George Francis and Kenneth Noye
DCI Simon Werrett, from Essex Police, who is leading the investigation, has called for the public's help.
He said: "My team would like to speak to anybody who was around Sandpit Lane between 4pm and 6pm on Wednesday June 24. The area is rural but is often used by dog walkers and joggers.
"Did you see any people or suspicious vehicles in the area? Did you witness anything out of the ordinary?
"Officers are at the scene making enquiries and I would urge anyone with information, no matter how small, to come forward."

Paintings stolen decades ago returning to Amsterdam Museum

A harp player - by Charles van Beveren (Picture: Facebook/Amsterdam Museum)
Five paintings that were stolen from n outside depot of the Amsterdam Museum and the Stedelijk Museum in 1972 have been found at a British auction, the museum announced in a press release on Wednesday. The paintings have been returned to the Amsterdam collection. “We are overjoyed that these works have returned to the Amsterdam museum after 43 years.” Paul Spies, director of the Amsterdam Museum, said. “It is unique that works are recovered after such a long time. We are therefore grateful to anyone who played a role in this for their help.”
A total of 49 paintings were stolen from the depot in 1972. 31 of these were traced over the years. The five 19th century paintings that were found now are A harp player by Belgian painter Charles van Beveren, Flute player with sheep by Frederik Hendrik Kaemmerer, The Death of General Hans Willem van Aylva painted by Chales Rochussen, The resting model by French-Polish artist Emile Eisman Semenowsky and A sitting page with a dog by Belgian artist Florent Willems.
The paintings were surfaced in an auction house in Lewes, Britain, While checking the origin of the paintings, the auctioneer discovered that the works were listed in the Art Loss Register – the international database for missing art and antiques. According to the museum, the owner who had given the works up for auction had no idea that they were stolen.
The resting model - by Emile Eisman Semenowsky (Picture: Facebook/Amsterdam Museum)
The resting model – by Emile Eisman Semenowsky (Picture: Facebook/Amsterdam Museum)
A sitting page with a dog - by Florent Willems (Picture: Facebook/Amsterdam Museum)
A sitting page with a dog – by Florent Willems (Picture: Facebook/Amsterdam Museum)
Flute player with sheep - by Frederik Hendrik Kaemmerer (Picture: Facebook/Amsterdam Museum)
Flute player with sheep – by Frederik Hendrik Kaemmerer (Picture: Facebook/Amsterdam Museum)
Death of General Hans Willem van Aylva - by Charles Rochussen (Picture: Facebook/Amsterdam Museum)
Death of General Hans Willem van Aylva – by Charles Rochussen (Picture: Facebook/Amsterdam Museum)