Friday, June 03, 2016

Stolen Art Watch, Flaming June 2016, Where Eagles Dare, Angels Fear To Tread, Charles Dickens, Inverted Jenny, Dutch Masterpiece Returns, Eagle Has Landed, Hopefully Homeward Bound

$10K reward for golden eagle; search is on for silver decoy

Gold and silver eagles
Ron Shore's gold and silver eagles are shown.
Police have added another strange layer to the case of a stolen golden eagle statue, revealing that they're also searching for a decoy made of silver.
The diamond-encrusted eagle was reportedly stolen during a mugging in the parking lot of Pneuma Church in Ladner, B.C. on Sunday, May 29.
Its owner, Ron Shore, told CTV News he was leaving a Christian concert at the church when he was attacked by two men. Shore was taken to hospital, but the statue, which he had in his backpack, did not escape the mugging.
The Maltese Eagle was commissioned in 2009, and created by artist Kevin Peters. It is made of 14- and 18-karat gold, and contains a 12.72 carat emerald recovered from a 1600s shipwreck. Its head is embedded with 736 diamonds, weighing a total of 56 carats.
At a news conference Thursday, Delta police announced that they have confirmed that two men took the statue. Investigators are searching for a dark-coloured SUV, possibly a GMC Yukon, and a red SUV that may be a Hyundai Santa Fe.
The eagle had recently been appraised at $9 million, according to its owner, but Shore said Thursday that its value is considered to be closer to $7 million.
"It may already have been melted down. If that's the case then I will be crushed. I'm hopeful that it's not," he said at the news conference.
Shore said he's offering a $10,000 reward for the eagle's return.
Officers then revealed that they're also looking for a second eagle made of silver, that was being used as a decoy. The silver eagle was also in a backpack, and stolen at the same time.
An investigation is ongoing. Anyone with tips about the eagle’s whereabouts or information about the crime is asked to call 604-946-4411. 

Sculptor of stolen $5M solid gold, diamond-encrusted eagle statue fears it will be melted down

Ron Shore holds the now-stolen, solid gold eagle in 2010. Valued at more than $5 million, the statue is encrusted with more than 700 diamonds and features the Atocha Star — a 400-year-old, square-cut emerald recovered from a shipwreck.
Bill Keay/Postmedia News/FileRon Shore holds the now-stolen, solid gold eagle in 2010. Valued at more than $5 million, the statue is encrusted with more than 700 diamonds and features the Atocha Star — a 400-year-old, square-cut emerald recovered from a shipwreck.
B.C. sculptor Kevin Peters turned on the TV news Monday at noon and was startled to see an image of a one-of-a-kind eagle statue he had crafted several years ago.
At that moment, the phone rang.
Ron Shore, the businessman who commissioned the piece of art, was on the other end. He wasn’t his usual self. He sounded defeated.
“I lost the eagle,” Peters recalled him saying.
Peters learned that Shore had been violently robbed of the solid-gold statue late Sunday in a residential neighbourhood in Ladner, a suburb south of Vancouver.
“That took a minute to sink in,” he said.
Official details of how the robbery went down remain murky.
The Canadian Press / Handout-Ron Shore
The Canadian Press / Handout-Ron Shore Ron Shore's solid gold eagle.
There have been conflicting accounts in the media and Shore was unable Tuesday to reconcile them, saying he had received instructions from Delta, B.C., police not to comment on certain points.
Andreas Basson, pastor at the Pneuma Church in Ladner, said the incident happened after a concert at the church. A mother and daughter saw two men beating Shore and one ran away with his backpack. As the assailants drove off, Shore tried to cling to the vehicle.
“The daughter started crying because of what they saw,” he said Tuesday.
This was no ordinary eagle.
Valued at more than $5 million, the statue is encrusted with more than 700 diamonds and features the Atocha Star — a 400-year-old square-cut emerald recovered from a shipwreck.
“If it moves, it catches light and catches your eye,” said Peters, who devoted a year to the project and went through three or four practice pieces.
Shore, who operates a telecommunications company, had commissioned the project as part of a campaign to raise money for breast cancer research. After his sister-in-law died from breast cancer and a car accident almost killed him, he said he couldn’t help but ponder: “What have I really done with my life?”
Shore said he mortgaged his house and used inheritance money and credit cards to finance the project.
His hope was that proceeds from the sale of the eagle could be put toward an annual breast cancer benefit concert.
“My wife is a (cancer) survivor. It was a very meaningful project to work on,” Peters said.
“With the loss of this eagle, it really crushes my ability to fulfil my vision,” Shore said.
Shore confirms the statue had been on display at Art! Vancouver, a four-day exhibition in the city’s downtown that concluded Sunday.
Later that evening, it was stolen as it was being loaded into a vehicle and destined for safe keeping in a vault, he said.
“I struggled as hard as I could, yet was unable to prevent the robbery,” he said Monday through police.
I’d hate to think it’d be melted down. That’s my fear.
CTV reported that Shore had left a church concert when he was confronted by two assailants. In an interview Monday with Postmedia, Shore said there was one assailant.
On Tuesday he told the National Post there was “at least one” assailant. He wouldn’t confirm whether he had attended a church event that night. Nor would he say if any weapons were used.
Shore did confirm he suffered injuries during the robbery and had to be taken to hospital. He was released the next morning.
“I’m extremely sore,” he said.
“They beat him up pretty bad,” Peters said.
Shore also confirmed that, at the time of the attack, he was accompanied by a “designated security person.”
CTV reported the eagle was taken from a backpack Shore had been wearing. One churchgoer told CTV he saw Shore wearing the backpack and was aware of what was in it.
Basson said he also recalled seeing Shore — who was not a regular church member — wearing the backpack at the concert.
Shore wouldn’t say if the statue was insured. Delta police confirmed Tuesday they had asked Shore not to say anything more about the robbery.
Acting Sgt. Sarah Swallow said investigators were interviewing witnesses and collecting surveillance footage from the area.
This is not the first time the eagle has been targeted. In a 2010 interview, Shore told the Vancouver Sun that RCMP accompanied him and the eagle to an event because of concerns organized crime elements might be looking to steal it.
Peters said a few people had expressed interest in the eagle but backed out because of security concerns.
Shore, who once made headlines for making repeated attempts to get on to Donald Trump’s reality TV show, The Apprentice, said his priority is getting the statue back. But Peters worries the statue may have left the country — or worse.
“I’d hate to think it’d be melted down,” he said. “That’s my fear.”

Diamond-encrusted Golden Eagle stolen

The Golden Eagle, a diamond encrusted statue made of gold, is the centerpiece of The World’s Greatest Treasure Hunt, a marketing scheme created by Hunt for the Cause Foundation President Ron Shore, aimed at raising funds for breast cancer research. Now it’s gone.
“Without the eagle, I don’t have anything,” Shore said Tuesday.
The one-of-a-kind Maltese eagle statue is made of 18 pounds of pure gold, covered in 763 diamonds and contains a 12.7 carat emerald. It is valued around $6.8 million.
Night street heist
On Sunday, around 10 p.m. Shore says he was carrying the statue when he was robbed on the street in Ladner, part of the municipality of Delta in British Columbia, according to the Delta Police Department. “The victim suffered some injuries and was treated at hospital and released.”
“The eagle was in transport,” Shore said. “It was being transported to a secure location. During the transport, I was badly injured in trying to protect it from being stolen.”
Just hours before, the Golden Eagle had been on display at the Art! Vancouver four-day art fair.
“It was the most valuable piece in the show,” Art! Vancouver Director Lisa Wolfin said. “Usually he keeps it in the bank vault,” she said, speaking of Shore.
“After the event, since it was Sunday and the bank was not open, he didn’t return it to the bank and went somewhere else,” said Wolfin. She confirmed the statue was insured but did not know for what amount.
CNN affiliate CTV reported Shore was leaving a Christian concert at a local church when he was robbed by two men.
Jim Murphy, who was at the church that night, told CTV Shore was vocal about carrying something valuable, telling others he had “a piece of art in his backpack.”
“He was wearing a backpack when he was talking to me,” Murphy said.
“There was a designated security person with me at all times,” Shore said. He said because of the ongoing police investigation, he couldn’t provide more details of the incident.
The Golden Eagle, however, was part of something much bigger.
The World’s Greatest Treasure Hunt
In 2002, Shore’s sister-in-law had to decide between her life and the life of her unborn child after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“She was given the choice of getting chemo and saving her own life or saving the life of her child,” Shore said. After his sister-in-law passed away, Shore had his own near-death experience after a drunken driver slammed against his car at 100 mph.
“As I was lying in the hospital bed I was thinking, what had my life really stood for? I though the bulk of my life had been selfish and I had not given back to the community enough,” he said.
Shore owns a telecommunications company and, according to his website, has traveled to over 44 countries. He has auditioned 11 times for Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice.”
It was at this time of introspection that Shore turned to his MBA thesis: “How to Create the World’s Greatest Treasure Hunt.” He also created Hunt for the Cause, a nonprofit organization to raise funds for breast cancer research.
The thesis scheme involved writing a series of “treasure hunt” books prompting readers to crack hidden codes and solve complex riddles. His website advertises a grand prize of $1 million “hidden somewhere in the world,” which can only be found using the clues in the books.
“In writing the book, the theme of the book was a quest for something and because I really appreciate the bald eagle, I chose the eagle as the theme for the book,” Shore said. “If you are going to have a theme you need to have an object.”
Shore then set out to design and create the Golden Eagle.
“I mortgaged my house and used my savings to buy the gold and diamonds,” said Shore. “And then to have an old world treasure I approached the Fisher family from Key West, with the Atocha shipwreck, and I asked them if they had an emerald from the shipwreck that I could use.” He bought one of the Atocha emeralds on a bid.
But despite the flashy diamond-covered Golden Eagle theme, book sales flopped. Since 2010, Hunt for the Cause has netted around $15,000 from book sales, according to Shore. That’s a fraction of the $100 million he set out to raise.
“Sales of the book have not been as good as we would have liked,” Shore acknowledged.
To raise more funds, Shore decided it was time to sell the eagle.
Golden Eagle for sale
Before the Golden Eagle was stolen, it was for sale.
Shore attempted to sell the statue at the Art! Vancouver show. “There were a few people who were interested in buying it,” he said.
Once sold, the Golden Eagle would fund Shore’s next project: a series of music concerts to benefit breast cancer research.
“We wanted to have the world’s best artists to play. People like Paul McCartney, Lady Gaga, Adele, Taylor Swift, Elton John,” Shore said. “I’m really hoping that the music industry can come together regardless of whether I can get the eagle back. That is my whole dream.”
Police investigation
Police are treating the incident as a robbery, Delta Police spokeswoman Sarah Swallow said. They are canvasing the neighborhood for surveillance or CCTV video and looking at witness statements.
“It is a very unique piece with significant media coverage. It would get harder to get rid of. But there are underground networks were this could be done,” Swallow said.
Shore is hopeful the Golden Eagle will be returned. “I don’t care how I get it back as long as I get it back,” he said. “The whole thing was to sell the Eagle and raise money for breast cancer research. Without the eagle I don’t have anything.”

Pricey Painting Found

SUFFIELD, Conn. (CBS Connecticut) – Suffield Police say they have recovered a painting valued at $25,000, stolen right off the wall of a local home. They aren’t revealing details about who stole the Henry Farny oil painting because the owner has declined to press charges.
Authorities say the painting was stolen sometime around May 21, from the second floor of a home, where the owner is in the process of moving. There was no sign of forced entry.
Police thanked the public and the media for their assistance in locating the art. Though the owner is currently out of state, police say he is grateful to have the painting back.

“The Raymond Rembrandt” - Anthony Amore  

One of a number of famous stolen Rembrandts
A year or so ago, I received an uncharacteristically quick response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request I had filed with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  It seemed that my application for all FBI records pertaining to Raymond L.S. Patriarca would be granted, and rather soon, because another organization had filed the same request and the information was readily available.  Since I was happy to receive the files in the form of a compact disk, I would have my information within weeks. When the disk came, I could hardly wait to read its contents. The size of the data was huge, consisting of thousand of pages of scanned FBI documents about the man who ran organized crime in New England from a small, understated business office on Federal Hill, just a block away from the corner of Federal and Albro Streets where my father grew up and where I once played with my brother on my grandmother’s front stoop.
As I started to read the documents, I was taken aback by how much was redacted.  The Bureau is careful not to release the names of people who are still alive or to divulge information that remains pertinent to criminal investigations.  It seemed like every other sentence contained a blocked-out name. How could this many people from the 1950s and ‘60s still be within this mortal coil? Could the water in Providence be that good?
I wasn’t quite sure what I hoped to find in the files. I certainly wanted to learn more about organized crime, and Patriarca’s reign was so long and so impressive that anyone interested in true crime, as am I, would undoubtedly be mesmerized by the Bureau’s files.  As an investigator and writer, the Patriarca FOIA files represent a veritable anthology of mafia activity in New England from the 1950s through the early 1980s.  But when I started to dig in, I became disheartened by the volume and put off a comprehensive review.

Raymond Patriarca, Head of the New England Crime Family for forty years
Then GoLocalProv came to the rescue. The Patriarca Papers feature has been a godsend, doing the heavy lifting for me by culling out the important topics by heading and thereby creating a helpful index. I found myself on this site more often than my own FBI-produced CD.  And one day, a particular heading jumped out at me: PAGE 49: Looking for a half a million Rembrandt.
I’ve been looking for a Rembrandt--actually, three stolen Rembrandts taken from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston--for more than a decade. I also wrote a book about Rembrandt thefts and had never heard of a Raymond Patriarca nexus. I read the FBI document and found that an unidentified individual had asked him if he knew “the thief from Boston who has the Rembrandt worth a half a million dollars. He stated that he has a guy who is willing to pay fifty to seventy-five thousand dollars for it. Raymond told him no, but he will try to find out who he is.”
The conversation took place in July of 1962, so it had nothing to do with the three I seek--those were taken in 1990. Still, I was curious: what Rembrandt was it, and where is it now?
My first step was obvious. Myles Connor is the world’s greatest art thief and a notorious criminal in the Boston area during the relevant period (and for many years thereafter). He certainly sounded like the perfect suspect.  So I checked his autobiography, The Art of the Heist.  Within, he tells of all of his criminal exploits. But there’s not a whiff of a 1962 Rembrandt to be found. In fact, he doesn’t mention a Rembrandt heist until he swiped a magnificent work from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in 1975. I don’t believe he’d have left out a theft from more than fifty years ago.
My next suspect was Florian “Al” Monday. Al was the mastermind of a Rembrandt theft in Worcester in 1972. Though he wasn’t thought of as a Boston thief, he was from Rhode Island and had ties to the Patriarca organization at the relevant time.  I went over the voluminous notes I had kept from my interviews of Monday over the years and, again, there’s no mention of a stolen Rembrandt ten years prior to his biggest crime.
Still curious, I pored over old newspapers and found some Rembrandt heists from the period. There were masterpieces taken in Berlin and Holland, among others. But not only were they not in the half-million dollar range, they had all been recovered. In the United States, a painting believed to be a Rembrandt titled Tobias and His Wife was stolen in San Francisco, but that was only worth about $9,000.
So, I’m left perplexed. It’s one thing to know a painting is stolen. It’s an entirely other thing to know an unknown painting is stolen.
I began to wonder if maybe the mysterious man who approached Patriarca knew only one great artist’s name and referred to a stolen painting as a “Rembrandt” because he had never heard of, say, Frans Hals or Gerard Dou. In other words, a valuable painting equals “Rembrandt.” Or, as a colleague posited, perhaps there wasn’t really a painting available. Maybe it was just the criminal echo-chamber at work.
I should probably just dismiss it as meaningless chatter.  As far as I can see, it didn’t come up again. But I’m not the sort who can just forget about a stolen masterpiece. So, as is the case with so many missing paintings, the search continues.

Anthony Amore, security expert and author
Anthony Amore is an expert in security matters and art theft. He is the author of "The Art of the Con." He can be reached at Follow him on twitter @amoream

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Rare Stamp Returned to Owners 61 Years After Theft, FBI Says

 The return of an
The return of an "Inverted Jenny" stamp from 1918 will be announced at the World Stamp Show at the Javits Center.

United States Post Office Department
MANHATTAN — A rare stamp called the “Inverted Jenny” was returned to its owner after it was stolen 61 years ago.
The 24-cent stamp with the image of an upside-down Curtiss JN-4HM airplane, also known as the "Jenny," was handed over to the American Philatelic Research Library at the World Stamp Show, which is currently happening at the  Jacob Javits Convention Center.
"It's with great pleasure that we return this Jenny from the block," said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, referencing the popular Jennifer Lopez single, "First worth a little, now it's worth a lot."
The 1918 stamp is one from a block of four, belonging to collector Ethel McCoy, that were secreted away from their display case during an exhibition at the American Philatelic Research Library convention in 1955, according to federal prosecutors.
"There were no witnesses, no suspects and little evidence to pursue," said FBI Art Crime assistant director in charge Diego Rodriguez.
The FBI Art Crime team recovered two stolen of McCoy's Inverted Jennies in the 1970s and 1980s. The Jennies were returned to the library since McCoy had donated the block of stamps to them in 1979, according to an agreement drafted by federal prosecutors.
The third Inverted Jenny was handed over this April by Keelin O’Neill, a man who had received the stamp from his grandfather, who had purchased the stamp at a car boot, or yard sale, in Ireland.
"Oh my god," said O'Neill, who received a $50,000 reward for relinquishing his claim to the stamp, "It's been a rollercoaster ride ever since it happened."
Neither O'Neill nor his grandfather are suspected of being involved in the heist of the the third Jenny, which American Philatelic executive director Scott English to be worth about $170,000.
The Inverted Jenny has been featured in movies and television: in the 1985 Richard Pryor film, "Brewster's Millions," Pryor's character uses an Inverted Jenny to mail a postcard. And The Simpson's own Homer trades away a block of the priceless stamps at a swap meet.
The return of the third recovered Inverted Jenny to the library occurred just two days after another of McCoy’s stolen stamps was auctioned off at the Javits Center and sold for more than $1 million.
The stamp was not returned in its original condition. The perforations were altered on the left side and the gum on the back was removed. Investigators believe the alterations were meant to mask the stamp's identity.
Stamp enthusiast Sherri Jennings traveled from Colorado to see the hand-off at the Javits Center atrium. She called the day a historic event but expressed outrage that the stamp had been altered to hide its identity.
"It would be painting over the Mona Lisa to disguise it," said Jennings. "Or taking the Venus de Milo and putting arms on it."

Ukranian art buyer hands back stolen Dutch masterpiece 

THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS -- A Ukranian art buyer has handed back a missing 18th-century painting stolen a decade ago from a Dutch museum, bringing the total number of masterpieces retrieved from the heist to five, officials said on Monday.

“A Ukranian resident returned one of the 24 paintings that were stolen from the Westfries Museum to the Dutch Embassy in Kiev,” said Marieke van Leeuwen, spokeswoman for the Hoorn municipality in northwest Netherlands where the museum is based.

“The man had brought in the painting in good faith and with a certificate of authenticity,” Van Leeuwen added in a statement.

He did not say how the buyer came into possession of the latest returned painting, Izaak Ouwater’s 1784 piece entitled Nieuwstraat in Hoorn, valued at around €30,000 ($33,400).

Twenty-four Dutch Golden Age masterpieces and 70 pieces of silverware were stolen from the Westfries Museum on the night of Jan. 9, 2005.

For years Hoorn’s residents hoped that the stolen art would some day resurface. At the time of their disappearance, the paintings were valued at a total of 10 million euros ($11 million).

Ukraine last month announced it had recovered four of the paintings, but it did not give details of how the works were retrieved, saying only they were “in the possession of criminal groups.”

Friday, May 20, 2016

Stolen Art Watch, Bulmer Paintings, Dick Ellis Double Cross, Runs With The Hare & Hunts With The Hounds

Seven arrested for Somerset's biggest ever burglary - the multi-million Bulmer raid in 2009

Seven men have been arrested in connection with one of the West's largest and most notorious burglaries – which saw millions of pounds of paintings, silverware and jewellery stolen from one of Somerset's most famous cider dynasty families.
The men were arrested in a series of dawn raids across England – in Gloucestershire, the West Midlands and the south east – in connection with the infamous raid on the mansion home of Esmond and Susie Bulmer seven years ago.
Their mansion in Bruton was targeted in March 2009 by a gang of five masked raiders who burst in, tied up the couple's housekeeper, threatened to pour bleach over her and stole 15 paintings worth millions, as well as a safe containing a million pounds' worth of jewellery and silverware.
Police inquiries in the immediate aftermath failed to make headway and the couple caused a small amount of controversy last year when they revealed they had managed to get the paintings back, after paying an expert in the shadowy art world to track them down, and put up a £50,000 reward – all done without telling the police first.

Two of the 15 pictures taken – and now returned - were regarded as 'important works' – one a work by George Frederick Watts called Endymion which is thought to be worth more than £1 million on its own. Another is called Apple Blossom, and is said to be among Sir George Clausen's finest works.
Avon and Somerset police would not be drawn into commenting on the move last year by the family to track the paintings down themselves, but now arrests have been made.
A police spokesman said the seven suspects were arrested in relation to an aggravated burglary in 2009.
"Following a complex and detailed investigation, seven men from the South West, South East and the Midlands, have been arrested for offences in connection with the burglary," a spokesman said.
"The property in the Bruton area of Somerset was targeted in March 2009. Fifteen well-known and valuable paintings, expensive jewellery and silverware were taken during the burglary," he added.
Police said the first arrests happened on Tuesday this week in a dawn operation in the south east where three were arrested. Two of those three, one aged 61 and another 54-year-old, were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit fraud and possession of criminal property.
The following day another dawn raid on a location in Gloucestershire saw two men aged 51 and 40 arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary.
Finally, after a third dawn raid in the West Midlands yesterday morning, police were able to reveal the breakthrough after another two men, aged 58 and 63, were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit fraud.
"The arrests form part of a detailed and on-going complex enquiry," added the police spokesman. "We are keen to hear from anyone who may have information to help our enquiries. They should contact us on 101 quoting ref 3559609."

Seven arrested after violent £2.7m art and jewellery heist at Bulmer family's Somerset home

By L_Churchill  |  Posted: May 20, 2016

Seven arrested after violent £2.7m art and jewellery heist at Bulmer family's Somerset home
Seven suspects have been arrested following a violent £2.7 million Somerset heist where valuable art work and jewellery were stolen.
Police made the arrests this week after a gang left house-sitter Deborah Branjum tied up against the banisters of the palatial home of Esmond Bulmer, of the Bulmers cider family in March 2009.
Around 15 well-known paintings, expensive jewellery and silverware were taken in the raid where Ms Branjum, then aged 47, was tied up and threatened with bleach.
Ms Branjum was looking after The Pavilion in Redlynch, near Bruton, Somerset, while former Tory MP Mr Bulmer and his wife Susan were on holiday in Barbados.
A dawn operation in the south east of England saw three men, two aged 61 and another 54, arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit fraud and possession of criminal property on Tuesday.
The following day, two men aged 51 and 40, from Gloucestershire were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary after another early morning operation.
Today a further two men, aged 58 and 63, were arrested in the West Midlands on suspicion of conspiracy to commit fraud.

Esmond Bulmer at the scene of the aggravated burglary
A spokesman for Avon and Somerset police said: "We can confirm the arrest this week of seven suspects in relation to an aggravated burglary in 2009, where valuable paintings and jewellery were taken, following an incident in Somerset.
"Following a complex and detailed investigation, seven men from the South West, South East and the Midlands, have been arrested for offences in connection with the burglary.
"The property in the Bruton area of Somerset was targeted in March 2009. Fifteen well-known and valuable paintings, expensive jewellery and silverware were taken during the burglary.
"The arrests form part of a detailed and on-going complex enquiry.
"We are keen to hear from anyone who may have information to help our enquiries. They should contact us on 101 quoting ref 3559609."
During the violent burglary £1.7m worth of paintings, including En Dymion by George Frederic Watts and Apple Blossom by Clausen, and £1m of antique jewellery were taken.
The gang loaded up the Bulmers' Mercedes car with the loot before fleeing and Ms Branjum was only found still tied up the following day.
The raid was carried out at the exclusive Redlynch Park, near Bruton, which contains a series of high-value apartments and houses.
The 18th-century gardens which surround the plush estate were designed by Edwin Lutyens and are in 309 hectares of parkland.

Seven suspects released on bail as police investigation into Bruton art burglary continues

Seven suspects released on bail as police investigation into Bruton art burglary continues

SEVEN people arrested last week in connection with valuable paintings and jewellery stolen from a property near Bruton have been released on police bail.
A police spokesman confirmed today that suspects linked with an aggravated burglary in 2009 have been granted bail.
A series of early morning raids by police last week led to the arrest of seven men across the country in Gloucestershire, the South East and the West Midlands.
READ MORE: Find out more about police raids last week and the men arrested
A total of 15 expensive and well-known paintings, as well as jewellery and silverware, were taken from the home of Esmond Bulmer, the former chairman of Bulmers Cider, on March 20, 2009.

Esmond Bulmer, who had valuable art stolen from his home near Bruton in 2009. Mr Bulmer and his wife Susie were on holiday in Barbados at the time of the burglary but their house sitter – Deborah Barnjum – was allegedly tied up by the intruders.
One of the stolen paintings, Endymion by George Frederic Watts, is thought to be worth as much as £1M
Suspects fled the scene in Mr Bulmer's Mercedes 220.
A police spokesman said last week: "The arrests form part of a detailed and on-going complex enquiry.
"We are keen to hear from anyone who may have information to help our enquiries. They should contact us on 101 quoting ref 3559609."

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Stolen Art Watch, Verona's Castelvecchio Museum Haul Recovered From Ukraine Fantasy Island, Plus More Art Crime

Paintings stolen from a museum in Verona were recently recovered in Ukraine (video screenshot)

Russia's FSB said to have set sights on paintings stolen from Italy, found in Ukraine

The paintings worth from EUR 15 million to EUR 20 million were stolen from Verona's Castelvecchio museum last November

Russia's FSB Federal Security Service has been developing its own operation to track down 17 precious paintings stolen from a museum in Verona, Italy, and recently recovered in Ukraine, according to the Ukrainian State Border Service.
"During the investigation, the border guards have learnt that the search for the paintings was also in the sphere of the Russian FSB's interests, and the thieves were taken by the Russian side under control. What is more, the FSB planned its own operation to relocate the pictures to Russian-controlled Transdniestria [a breakaway self-proclaimed state located on the eastern Moldovan border with Ukraine]," the Ukrainian agency said.
Read also Dutch Art Mystery Solved
Having identified members of the criminal group and the way they had transported the paintings, including works by Tintoretto, Rubens and Mantegna, the Ukrainian border guards, investigators and military prosecutors found a cache storing the stolen art on Turunchuk Island on the Dniester River in Odesa region's Biliayivsky district between Ukraine and Moldova, the service's press service reported.

The Ukrainian law enforcers worked closely with their Moldovan counterparts to identify the thieves and track down the paintings. The criminal group included citizens of Ukraine, Moldova and Russia. The investigators found that the works of art had been mailed to Odesa region from Moldova for further sale in Ukraine and Russia.
As part of the investigation, the Ukrainian military prosecutors plan to invite Italian experts and officials in to authenticate the paintings and formalize their handover.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has already hailed the Ukrainian investigators' work as a "brilliant operation" and said it had demonstrated Ukraine's efficient fight against art smuggling.
The presidential press service reported that the paintings were seized on May 6 and tests conducted on May 7 confirmed that these are the original works of art.
The paintings worth from EUR 15 million to EUR 20 million were stolen from Verona's Castelvecchio museum last November.
Watch also From Trash To Treasure: Recovered paintings from Odesa's dumpsters on display
In March, the Italian authorities announced the arrest of 13 suspects in the case in Italy and the ex-Soviet nation of Moldova.
Director of the Ukrainian State Tax Service's investigation department Petro Tsyhykal reported that the paintings search operation conducted by the Italian police was dubbed "Twins," as twin brothers were involved in the theft. One of them worked as a museum guard. The criminals acted out an attack on the museum's guards and stole the paintings, which were allegedly ordered by a private art collector from a Russian region, most probably, the Chechen Republic.

Ukraine tracks down Old Master paintings stolen from Verona

KIEV, Ukraine — The 17 precious paintings stolen from a museum in Verona, Italy, including works by Tintoretto, Rubens and Mantegna, have been recovered by Ukrainian law enforcement agencies in what the nation's president hailed Wednesday as a "brilliant operation."
President Petro Poroshenko said the recovery of the stolen art estimated to be worth more than 16 million euros ($18.3 million) had demonstrated Ukraine's efficient fight against art smuggling.
Ukrainian border guards found the stolen paintings hidden in plastic bags in a cache on a small island on the Dniester River between Ukraine and Moldova.
The paintings were stolen from Verona's Castelvecchio museum last November. Three masked armed men entered the museum in a medieval castle after it closed and just before its alarm system was activated. They tied up a security guard and a cashier, quickly took the paintings from the walls and got away in the security guard's car.
In March, the Italian authorities announced the arrest of 13 suspects in the case in Italy and the ex-Soviet nation of Moldova. They included the Italian guard on duty when the robbery took place and his twin brother along with the brother's Moldovan wife, who were arrested in Italy.
Investigators had analyzed 4,000 hours of video and hundreds of phone calls to identify the suspects. In intercepted phone calls, the thieves congratulated themselves, calling the heist "a big hit," and saying they would have to wait a few months before trying to offload such valuable paintings.
Ukrainian Border Guard agency said the paintings had been mailed from Moldova to Ukraine's Odessa border region and kept there by members of a criminal group that included citizens of Ukraine, Moldova and Russia.
"We have not only preserved the global value of these paintings, but also reaffirmed Ukraine's prestige by such efficient actions," Poroshenko said.
He ordered his government to invite Italian officials and experts in to authenticate the paintings and formalize their handover.

Man sentenced in connection with theft of 'priceless' South Devon church artworks

Recovered panels from Holy Trinity Church, Torbryan
A MAN has admitted the theft of two priceless 15th century oak panels, originally stolen from the rood screen of a South Devon church in August 2013.
Christopher Cooper, 48, pleaded guilty to fraud, specimen theft charges and dealing in tainted cultural objects.
His thefts took place in a series of offences over three years, during which time district crown prosecutor and CPS lead for heritage crime Stephen Davies suggested he made £150,000 from his crimes.
He was sentenced to three years and eight months at Hereford Crown Court.
It took a dedicated team at West Mercia Police 18-months to fully investigate the crimes, with the support of the Metropolitan Police Art and Antiques Unit, and most of the stolen items have now been returned to their rightful owners.
Following a successful fundraising campaign by The Churches Conservation Trust to raise the money to fix damage caused by the thefts, the two priceless panels from Holy Trinity at Torbryan are now undergoing painstaking conservation work, and are scheduled to be returned to the church over the summer.

Holy Trinity Church at Torbryan The decorative oak panels, bearing paintings of St Victor of Marseilles and St Margaret of Antioch, are considered of national importance, and were stolen from Holy Trinity Church at Torbryan between August 2 and 9 2013.
The panels remained missing until they were recovered by the Metropolitan Police 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 in January 2015.
Crispin Truman, chief executive of The Churches Conservation Trust, said: "It is good that Mr Cooper has come clean about these damaging and heart-breaking thefts and has helped return valuable historic items to their rightful owners - the community.
"Heritage crime causes just as much heartache and anxiety as other sorts of theft, but all too often it goes unsolved.
"Particular thanks to West Mercia Police and the various police forces who worked so hard to bring Mr Cooper to justice.
"Thankfully, the generosity of our supporters and the general public is allowing the priceless artworks he hacked out of Holy Trinity in Torbryan to be painstakingly conserved, and they will soon return home to the church.

The panels before (left) and after the theft "However, as a heritage charity reliant on donations to maintain and care for our 349 churches, that money could have been spent on other important artefacts."
The panels are part of a rood screen which is one of only a handful of such artworks in England which survived the Reformation.
The theft prompted a national media campaign to try to trace the whereabouts of the missing panels, receiving the backing of high profile figures such as Loyd Grossman, Dan Cruickshank and the late Candida Lycett Green.
The collector who alerted the police recognised the panels from media coverage of the theft.
When it first came to light in 2013, the theft was a bitter blow for The Churches Conservation Trust, the national charity that cares for 349 unique churches across England, including Torbryan church.
Thanks to donations from supporters and members of the public, £7,000 was raised to restore the damage.
West Mercia Police led the investigation into the theft as part of Operation Icarus, and recovered a treasure trove of other church artefacts, including stonework, friezes, statues, paintings, brasses, misericords, stained glass and bibles.

Rosemary Siemens wasn't sure if she'd ever see her signature violin again after it went missing last week
"It was probably the most stressful thing I've ever been through," World-Renowned Violinist and Plum Coulee native Rosemary Siemens says. "I've never been so beside myself."
Nicknamed "Sparkle" the priceless 302-year-old violin Siemens had been given to perform with, along with a gifted $15,000 bow, mysteriously went missing last week after a show at the Museum of Contemporary Art in California last week.
"It felt like a piece of me had died... I love sharing the story of how I got my instrument and how it touches people," she says. "And I thought, "how can my story be taken from me?" It's such a positive story of how people have given to me and how I give back through it."
At 3:00 a.m Siemens and friends went out into the Santa Barbra streets scouring dumpsters, and inquiring at gas stations for any sign of the 18th century instrument. With a flight to catch in a matter of hours, Siemens says she didn't know how she would play her next show. It was then a glimmer of hope appeared, a good samaritan heard about the story and offered a $2,000 reward to anyone with information on the missing violin. Fellow musician, Ainsley Kroeker, offered to borrow a bow; friends and family were praying through the night. She says even her taxi driver helped search dumpsters around the hotel.
"It was unbelievable how people jumped in to help," Siemens says.
After a sleepless night, Siemens boarded her flight bound for North Dakota with no news on the missing instrument. It was during a layover in the Seattle airport she received word the violin had been returned as mysteriously as it was taken."Sparkle" dates back to 1714
She learned someone in a hooded sweater had walked into the front desk of Siemens' hotel and placed the violin on the counter with the simple explanation, "I hear you've been looking for this," and walked out.
There in the boarding area of the airport Siemens broke down, "I could not stop crying," she says.
While the circumstances surrounding the disappearance and return of the violin are still unclear, Siemens believes it was the power of prayer that prevailed. The entire experience has also given her a new appreciation for what she calls, "the perfect instrument," one that has defined her sound as an artist for the past 14 years.
"I'm just so thankful, everyday I'm waking up thankful," Siemens says.
The story that could've ended tragically, she says, is now inspiring others. After sharing the experience fans have offered to pay travel costs to reunite Siemens with the violin, while another, a massage therapist, offered a massage after the stressful episode. She notes it's also fitting May is Pay It Forward month.
"It's beautiful because one man's junk is another person's treasure, and he doesn't know what he stole from me," Siemens says. "It's important to just do wonderful things for people, even simple things, because you don't know how it's going to touch them on that day."

The Ins and Outs of Stolen Art, Explained

Modigliani’s Seated Man With a Cane (1918). Photo by Brian Smith.
Art dealer Kenneth Hendel recently found himself in a sticky situation: He was in possession of stolen art. The Florida-based dealer purchased a painting by Picasso after it failed to sell at auction. After the purchase, Wilma “Billie” Tisch, the rightful owner, discovered the painting’s whereabouts and demanded its return. Hendel claims that he is now the rightful owner. The dealer is confident that he will not be forced to return the work because he is working under the assumption that Florida law protects his purchase. He claims that “the piece belongs to the last person who purchased it if it has passed through at least two people since the theft.” This is simply not true.
While it is true that certain aspects of the law in Florida are more forgiving towards current possessors than would be the case under New York law, there are major misconceptions in Hendel’s analysis. There is no law, in any state, that allows someone to gain title over a work after it has passed through a requisite number of exchanges. In fact, a work can be sold by a hundred dealers and yet still belong to an original owner.

Stolen Art Statute in the U.S.

In the United States, every state operates under the “nemo dat” rule, shorthand for “nemo dat quod non habet,” meaning “no one gives what he doesn’t have.” Generally, a thief can never gain good title (ownership not subject to competing claims or liens) and may never pass title. Anyone in the chain of sale for a stolen work will not get good title, absent an exception.
There are narrow exceptions that allow a good faith purchaser (someone without constructive or actual knowledge of any title defects) to gain proper title. In limited circumstances, the court may deem it equitable to grant title to a good faith purchaser rather than the original owner. And while it is true that those limited exceptions vary from state to state, no state simply provides title to the most recent purchaser, as Hendel suggests.
Due to New York’s position at the center of the art market, both in the U.S. and the world at large, the Empire State is particularly protective of original owners in order to prevent the state from becoming a haven for stolen art. The state’s protective stance is reflected in its statute of limitations exception. As a general rule, a victim has a set time to file a lawsuit. For art theft, the clock typically begins to run when the work is stolen. However, the New York statute of limitations for art theft begins when the true owner demands the return of the object and the possessor refuses the demand. The reasoning is as follows: A good faith purchaser does not commit a wrongful act until he or she refuses to return the stolen work; only then can the statute of limitations begin to run. This “Demand and Refusal Rule” is tempered by a legal defense called “laches,” that prevents an original owner from sitting on their rights for an unreasonable length of time.
Other states are not quite as protective, following the “Discovery Rule.” That rule holds that the statute of limitations begins to run when a diligent owner knew, or should have known, the current location of an artwork. This standard is used by all states other than New York, as it encourages the original owner to act diligently in seeking his or her property. In the case that the original owner did nothing to recover his property, then a court may not agree to delay the statute of limitations, and the owner may be barred from bringing suit. This analysis is fact-specific and differs from case to case.
The inquiry in Tisch v. Hendel will rely on many facts. Should Tisch have discovered the location of the work earlier? How should she have searched for the painting? Should she have advertised the theft or would that have driven the work further underground? Did Hendel act in good faith? He is an art dealer with knowledge of the art market. Should he have research the work more thoroughly before purchase? As Picasso is the most stolen artist, should Hendel have been more skeptical of the piece and its low sale price? However, independent of the outcome of this case, the U.S. statute is clear and, in fact, much more stringent than in certain other jurisdictions worldwide.

What Loopholes Could Have Protected Hendel?

In the U.S., courts have recognized the importance of researching the title and history of artworks. If someone intends to purchase stolen art, there are other jurisdictions that are more favorable. Switzerland has long had a reputation as a safe haven for stolen property. Not only does the European nation fiercely guard the privacy of its banking clients, but its freeport in Geneva has become home to some of the greatest private art collections, with many deals taking place in the secrecy of its vaults.
The freeport has become notorious for housing looted and stolen art. One of the most famous dealers in looted Roman and Etruscan antiquities, Giacomo Medici, stored his wares in the freeport, eventually facing criminal changes, serving time in prison, and having his collection seized in the late 1990s. But the freeport continues to make headlines, as a raid earlier this year led to the discovery of a trove of illicit antiquities belong to one of Medici’s contacts, Robin Symes.
After much criticism over the nature of the Geneva warehouse, a change to the Swiss Customs Act was enacted on January 1, 2016. The regulations were amended to implement time limits for exports, increase transparency by declaring goods for export and provide the identification of buyers. The change to the Act was motivated as part of a larger program to reduce money laundering and smuggling. However, even with these changes, stolen art may be easier to transfer in Switzerland due to the fact that Swiss law presumes good faith on the part of a purchaser.
Individuals involved in the trade of stolen art have also used offshore accounts to complete transactions away from the prying eyes of the law and the art market. In April, a Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca, suffered a security breach and had millions of internal files become public. The information in the so-called Panama Papers leak confirmed the suspicion that wealthy individuals use shell companies to hide art.
One prime example among the revelations is the case of Modigliani’s portrait Seated Man With a Cane (1918). The piece was once stolen by the Nazis. It vanished for decades but appeared for auction in 1996 at Christie’s and again in 2008 at Sotheby’s, with the well-known Helly Nahmad Gallery listed as consignor. At this time, the original owner’s heir, Philippe Maestracci, discovered the work’s whereabouts and claimed the painting as his family’s missing property. But when Maestracci demanded return of the work, the Nahmad Gallery claimed that it did not own the painting. The gallery claimed that the Modigliani portrait was purchased by International Art Center S.A. (“IAC”), a Panamanian company. As was revealed in the Panama Papers, IAC is a shell company for the Nahmads that was established by a member of the family. Ownership was later transferred to other family members through a share transfer.
For individuals with stolen art, the options are not limited to Florida and New York. Offshore accounts, freeports, and nations that presume good faith are all options for collectors. However, as a lawyer, I do not advocate hiding or purchasing stolen art or loot. As noted above in reference to the Panama Papers and the discovery of Medici and Symes collections, hidden art troves are usually discovered, and with disastrous consequences. It is not wise to deal in stolen or looted art. And it is important to purchase art with good title, as those purchases encourage a healthy and transparent art market, and those works also retain their value upon resale and are not subject to seizure.

Should the FBI Offer Reward Money for Stolen Art?

Andy Warhol’s soup cans are one of the most iconic images of American pop art–and last week, someone decided to take them for a walk. The Springfield Art Museum of Springfield, Missouri reported a burglary last week that involved several prints made by Warhol in 1968. The FBI has announced a $25,000 reward for information leading to the apprehension of the thieves–which seems excessive until you consider that a single one of Warhol’s soup can prints sold for $30,660 last year at Christie’s. The reward also pales in comparison to the $5 million reward offered for information regarding the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum robbery–during which multiple pieces by Renoir and Vermeer were stolen. Yet it is still a massive sum that will hopefully tempt informants to come forward.
The FBI has a specially designated Art Crime Team brought in to handle matters involving stolen artwork but unless the prints are found relatively quickly, they may be transferred into the collection of a private buyer via the black market and never seen again. The FBI operates a National Stolen Art File, which provides a comprehensive index of art that has been stolen worldwide, but with a piece as recognizable as Warhol’s soup cans, putting it in the index is not even necessary. The print could never go to auction in a traditional showroom, which means tracking it will be an infinitely difficult task. Law enforcement will be forced to rely heavily on anonymous tips and confidential informants, which is why they have drawn attention to their tip line with a cash incentive.
However, that incentive may not seem justified from all quarters. Why is the FBI designating such a massive cash prize to the Warhol paintings when it could donate the same prize to informants who call in regarding violent actions or organized crime? Why is the FBI designating that money to prizes at all when it could be using it to finance operations and hire the best possible analysts (instead of potentially losing them to the private sector)? The Art Crime Team would respond that stealing art can be equated with stealing history, taking away the identity and history of a given people. This argument holds up when considering the team’s successful recovery of artifacts stolen from archaeological sites and public museums, but when examining private collections, we come to gray area. Should the government be tasked with providing a reward for the theft of a privately owned painting or should that responsibility fall to the owner, who has the ability to insure the painting?
On its website, the Art Crime Team has listed several of its successes, including the case of “approximately 100 paintings stolen from a Florida family’s art collection in a fine art storage facility. This collection included works by Picasso, Rothko, Matisse and others that were recovered from Chicago, New York and Tokyo.” Stealing a painting from a venue like the Springfield Art Museum does impact the community’s ability to access and enjoy art but if it was stolen from a private collection, the public would have just as little access to the artwork after the theft as they did before. The reward offered in the case of the Warhol prints may turn up valuable information, but it could also be a waste of government funds that will do virtually nothing to return the prints. 

Bosnia Urged to Tackle Art Trafficking

Thousands of artworks disappeared from Bosnian collections during and after the war, and the authorities are not doing enough to tackle the illegal trade, experts say.
Rodolfo Toe
The Bosnian National Gallery. Photo: Emir Kapetanovic/Wikicommons.
"Thousands of artworks were stolen" during the war, and the crimes continued after the end of the conflict, Dzenan Jusufovic, the director of the Bosnian Centre Against Trafficking in Works of Art, an NGO campaigning for a national mechanism to counter illegal art sales, told BIRN.
There is no accurate data on the issue, but large numbers of artworks have been stolen from both private and public collections, Jusufovic said.
“Around 1,500 works were stolen from the Bosnian Association of Visual Artists alone, another 45 from the International Gallery of Portraits of Tuzla," he added by way of example.
Strajo Krsmanovic, the director of Bosnian National Art Gallery, told BIRN that the museum had complained of the disappearance of around 50 portraits as long ago as 1993, but that so far none of them has been found.
"We initially denounced the theft in 1993 and recently renewed our complaint to the authorities of the Sarajevo canton... We know that Interpol is also working on this topic, but so far there has been no result," Krsmanovic said.
He also said that the people who trafficked art during the war cannot be prosecuted any more because the crime has passed the statute of limitations.
"However, our first concern is not to punish these criminals, rather to get back our works," Krsmanovic said.
"What we are asking for is to establish an effective system for the identification and tracking of these works, so that it will become impossible to sell them and therefore whoever has them now will be incentivised to return them," Krsmanovic added.
Last month, 44 portraits that disappeared from the Museum of AVNOJ (the Anti-Fascist Council for the Liberation of Yugoslavia) in the central Bosnian town of Jajce were delivered to the Bosnian embassy in Belgrade by an anonymous individual.
"That was probably a case of somebody who wasn't able to sell these portraits anymore," Krsmanovic said.
Jusufovic argued that in order to tackle the illegal trafficking of artworks in the country, a centralised registry for all stolen works should be set up as soon as possible.
"It's necessary to create a central database in order to track all stolen artworks and increase cooperation at all levels of Bosnian government, including the police and prosecutors," he said.
The Bosnian Ministry of Civil Affairs, which is responsible for cultural issues at the state level, confirmed to BIRN that there is still no centralised authority dealing with the problem of art trafficking in the country.
"Our ministry doesn't have any regulations [allowing it to act] in this field, it only coordinates its activities with the two entities in order to implement the UNESCO Convention [against art trafficking]," the ministry said in a written response.
It said that combatting art trafficking requires coordination between several official bodies and ministries.
"We are working to ensure the correct cooperation and the exchange of information between all these levels of government," it said.
- See more at:

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Stolen Art Watch, David Henty's Road To Damascus

 David Henty Artist
Mr Henty has a website dedicated to his art,
see link:
Perhaps Mr Henty needs to work on his public speaking voice, hire a voice coach to lower the octave a notch, currently rather squeaky like a teenager lol
Margaret Thatcher had the same problem in her early days, she lowered her voice and became Prime Minister.

Notorious art forger coining it in as debut exhibition opens

WHEN the notorious art forger David Henty hosts the opening night party of his debut exhibition at a Brighton gallery later this month there will be an unlikely guest in attendance

David Henty will open his debut exhibition in Brighton later this month
As the city’s former chief superintendent, Graham Bartlett was the man who arrested Henty for a £1million passport scam 25 years ago but over the past few months the detective and the villain have struck up an improbable friendship.
Both have co-operated with the bestselling author Peter James on his new book Death Comes Knocking, a history of Brighton crime to be published in July.
The chapter dealing with Henty revolves around his plan to produce thousands of fake passports to be sold to Hong Kong citizens desperate to find a new homeland ahead of the handover to communist China in 1997.
I had a house right in the centre of Brighton and I looked out my window one afternoon and I saw all these policemen running up the road
David Henty
The scam might have worked if the term “Her Britannic Majesty” on the inside cover had not been mis-spelt as “Her Britanic Magesty”.
As it was, the police were soon on his case. “I had a house right in the centre of Brighton and I looked out my window one afternoon and I saw all these policemen running up the road,” recalls Henty.
“I thought, Oh God. Anyway I ran out the back but there was no way out of the house and I think there were about 40 policemen. They stopped the traffic and everything and I was on News At Ten. It was a really big thing.
“They only found a few passports. They knew there were 3,000 but they didn’t know where they were. My dad burnt them when I was on remand. He found them and made a big bonfire out of them – much to my chagrin because I thought I could sell them!” Henty was sent down for five years and in many ways it was the best thing that could have happened to him.
“I went to the art class,” he says.
“I’ve always been good at drawing and the first time I picked up a brush I did a Walter Sickert painting I’d seen in a newspaper. By my tenth painting I was doing Rosettis, Renoirs, everyone.
“My art teacher said you’re not supposed to do it like that. But I said it works for me and I’ve been doing it to this day.”
It would be uplifting to report that Henty went straight as a jobbing artist on his release but, when he found that the world wasn’t ready for the Henty school of portraiture, he resorted to forgery.
David Henty
The man who arrested the copycat for a passport scam will attend the opening
For years he sold paintings on eBay taking care not to claim that they were definitely originals by using the legal construct “after” followed by the name of the artist. His marketing of a signed oil painting in the style of the artist Duncan Grant in early 2015 was typical of his disingenuous approach.
Offered for £1,260 under the heading “Duncan Grant Ballet Dancers 1934”, its description read: “Beautiful spontaneous painting of the ballet, I bought this from a collector of the Bloomsbury artists, there are no gallery receipts with the painting, I think it has been in private hands for years, I am very reluctantly offering the painting as after Duncan Grant”. Sometimes Henty came close to giving himself away. As he was packing one possible original, he spotted just in time a giveaway sign.
“I noticed a globule of paint in the corner was still soft,” he said.
“I had to bake it quickly. I used a hair dryer on it for half an hour. Henty’s paintings sold so well that he became one of eBay’s select band of “power sellers” but it was too good to last. When a newspaper rumbled him in 2014, he initially denied painting the pictures before coming clean and offering the journalist a tour of his fakes factory.
An underground storage room was a trove of ageing canvases, which he would paint over, and frames bought in junk shops to give his pictures added authenticity. Henty was handed a lifetime ban by eBay and, while he was able to get round this by various bits of IT sleight of hand, a year ago he decided to go respectable.
He now describes himself as one of Britain’s best “copyist artists”.
Van Gogh self portrait
The artist has copied many of the greats including Van Gogh
The website blurb continues: “He researches each artist thoroughly and spends days and sometimes weeks studying his subject to make sure each brushstroke is correct, each canvas is perfectly honed to how the original would have been and visiting as many works by the particular artist as he can.
“His eye for detail is unsurpassed as is his commitment for making sure the finished article is as close to the original as can be. Each masterpiece comes in its own bespoke, handmade frame and is signed on the reverse by David.”
Henty has spent the past eight months producing 40 canvases for his forthcoming exhibition from the £500,000 home overlooking the Channel in the Brighton suburb of Saltdean that he shares with his long-term girlfriend Natania.
“I’m up really early in the morning and painting,” he says.
“I love it. When it’s warm I paint on the balcony. When it’s raining I paint behind the big bay window overlooking the sea.
Henty went to great effort to ensure his copies appeared legitimate
“My attention span is not that great so I do two to three-hour spurts and then I go for a wander, walk the dogs [father and son Jack Russells Rocky and Rambo], maybe have some breakfast. We’ve all got different ways of working.”
One of his most ambitious works for the exhibition was a copy of Picasso’s Women Of Algiers, a Cubist masterpiece that was sold at auction in New York a year ago for £124million. But following an appearance on Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday, an eager buyer snapped up Henty’s version for £5,500.
Another work missing from his show will be a copy of Picasso’s The Weeping Woman – that too has already gone for £4,900. “The original’s in the Tate,” says Henty.
“You could never buy it now. It’s priceless.” He reckons he will make £70- £80,000 from his exhibition but is quick to point out that the cost of canvases, paint and frames will take up a significant chunk of this.
Meanwhile, new work is already flooding in. Another customer has commissioned a copy of LS Lowry’s The Match. But Henty won’t be able to make a start on that until the weekend because he is doing some filming for a new TV show.
The concept appears to revolve around one of Henty’s fakes being hung among genuine masterpieces in a gallery. Contestants are then asked to spot the forgery. “I’m not allowed to mention it,” he says guiltily.
“I’ve been told off for mentioning it. It’s being kept under wraps until the big launch.”
Sounds like this isn’t the last we’ll hear of the charming ducker and diver from Brighton, who drives around town in a convertible with the number plate V9OGH, a homage to his skills as a counterfeiter of the works of Van Gogh.
Mr Henty's BBC Radio Four interview:

Convicted forger David Henty


 Art forger goes straight selling £5,000 fakes

These masterpieces should be worth in the region of a half a billion pounds. Except they are fakes produced by David Henty, a convicted forger who produced them in the living room of his house by the seaside Brighton.
Mr Henty was exposed by The Telegraph a little over a year ago for selling his copies on eBay, duping hundreds, if not thousands, of the internet auction site’s customers in the process.
But proving there’s no such thing as bad publicity, Mr Henty has turned the notoriety to his advantage.
"Since you did those stories, I have had quite a few commissions. I can’t thank The Telegraph enough.”David Henty, master forger on going straight
The Telegraph investigation, which prompted interest from newspapers and television stations around the world, has led to Mr Henty going straight.
At the end of the month, an art gallery will stage an exhibition of his copies of masterpieces by the likes of van Gogh, Picasso and Modigliani.
With paintings priced at up to £5,000 a time, Mr Henty is expecting to do decent business.

Convicted forger David Henty
David Henty Credit: Andrew Hasson for The Telegraph
“Since you did those stories, I have had quite a few commissions,” Mr Henty said. “People read about me in The Telegraph and elsewhere and sent me letters requesting I do copies for them of masterpieces.
“As a result, I decided to go straight and business is brilliant. I can’t thank The Telegraph enough.”
At the age of 58, and after a career in crime, the admission from Mr Henty is a bold one.
He was jailed for five years in the mid 1990s for forging thousands of fake British passports which he planned to sell to anxious Hong Kong citizens ahead of the handover to China.
The scam would have earned him a £1 million and might have worked, not least if he hadn’t mis-spelt the words 'Britanic’ and 'Magesty’. He went to jail a second time in Spain for selling stolen cars.

Convicted forger David Henty
David Henty Credit: Andrew Hasson for The Telegraph
His eBay scam involved copying works by slightly less famous - and usually dead - artists, luring buyers in with claims that the paintings had been found in attics and in house clearance sales and that the authenticity could not be guaranteed.
In fact, Mr Henty knew the artwork couldn’t be genuine because he was churning the paintings out in his living room, as he later confessed when confronted by The Telegraph.
It was hard for him to conceal he was the artist behind the fakes, not least because he drives around in a car with the personalised number plate “V9OGH” in self-recognition of his skills as a counterfeiter of van Gogh’s work.
“I think eBay has had its day for fake art,” he said, “For the last few months I have been concentrating on these masterpiece copies. I have done a lot of research. I have been to the galleries and studied them in the flesh. The paintings are all the exact size of the originals.

Convicted forger David Henty
David Henty Credit: Andrew Hasson for The Telegraph
“I have got 30 or 40 paintings for the exhibition. I have just done a 6ft Francis bacon that I am really pleased with. I have tried to get them as accurate as possible.”
The exhibition at the No Walls Gallery in Brighton will be his first as a legitimate copier. The opening night will be attended by Peter James, the best-selling author of crime fiction who has just completed a book about real life criminals in Brighton written in conjunction with Graham Bartlett, the city’s former chief superintendent, who arrested Mr Henty for the passport scam.

Convicted forger David Henty
David Henty Credit: Andrew Hasson for The Telegraph
The pair - detective and villain - have struck up an unlikely friendship in recent months. Mr Henty’s passport scam is a chapter in the book, entitled 'Death Comes Knocking’ and which is published in the summer.
The endorsement of Mr Henty’s art by Mr James, who has sold 17 million books worldwide, will further boost his chances of artistic success.
A satellite television channel is also planning to make a programme around Mr Henty in which one of his fakes will hang with genuine masterpieces in a gallery.
Contestants have to spot the forgery. Whether they succeed or not will be testament to Mr Henty’s skills as a master forger.

Copycat artist is definitely a master of his trade...

David Henty at work on his version of Monet's Haystacks.  Picture: Liz Finlayson  
David Henty at work on his version of Monet's Haystacks.
AN ART catalogue lies on David Henty’s kitchen table splayed open on a portrait by the celebrated late Italian painter Amadeo Modigliano.
Mr Henty has been studying the painting – the distinctive elongated face, the black, pupil-less eyes – and working out how the paint is laid on, which colours to use.
Once he has done all that, he will head for his balcony overlooking the Channel, and paint a replica.
He might even add the artist’s inky black signature in the corner.
His final step is to stick it for sale online. Quite possibly before the light fades over his Saltdean view, he will have made several hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds.
“It’s a great life,” says the self-described forger, who has been making a living for at least the past five years selling his knock-offs of works by Monet, Vettriano, L S Lowry and other masters via the internet.
“One day I knocked out three little Lowrys by eleven o’clock.”
This is not the living the 56-year-old would ever have imagined for himself. Raised in Brighton, his first job was dealing antiques and cars with his father. Then he was sent briefly to prison in the Eighties, for forging passports, which is where he started learning to paint.
“I had two art teachers there who were really nice,” he recalled. “If I saw a picture, I would just paint it straight on. They would say, ‘you cannot do it like that, it is not the way to do it’.”
Outside of prison, he carried on. For his mother, he painted a copy of the world-famous Proserpine, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. He also did his own work, often portraits, but sales never really took off.
“I did not know how to use the internet and there was not really a great market,” said Mr Henty, who often spends his mornings kick-boxing before returning home to his easel, oils and pet dogs.
“I did a few and I sold a few, I had an exhibition down on the Marina, but there was not really any money. But then my sister’s husband asked me to do a Monet. So I knocked him up a Monet, and I got more money for it.
“And you sort of think, a light comes on and you think, ‘someone else wants it’. Then I did a lot of Van Goghs. People were queuing up; I could not paint them fast enough.”
He got more formal training with a local art teacher, and became very good at what he does. He continued trading locally or giving copies to friends. Then eBay, the online trading site, became a major force.
Mr Henty set up an account to sell his paintings, and orders from all over the world starting pouring in. He has shipped paintings to Australia and Japan. Rooms at home are crammed with canvasses to paint or works ready to go out.
His first sale on eBay, he said, was a Lowry. “I sold it for £3,500,” he recalled.
“And I thought, ‘This is great, what a fantastic way of making a living’.
“I was getting fantastic feedback. I was an eBay power seller.”
The painter does not believe he is doing anything wrong.
He says he does not say the paintings are originals, nor do people realistically think they are, even though he often adds the artist’s ‘signature’. eBay disagrees, however, and recently banned him from selling, saying he was breaching their policies.
“I took advice from a solicitor when I started,” Mr Henty says, “and he said, ‘as long as you put you are selling it as ‘after’ or ‘in the style of’ the artist you can sign it, you can do what you like, but it is not criminal’.
“People are not going to buy a Lowry for a few hundred pounds and think it is worth £400,000. It is just mad.
“The problems come if you try to sell it as real. But if you try to sell it as a copy, that is fine.
“I have seen lots of my paintings in meetings [auctions] as real but that is nothing to do with me. What they do [with them] after they get out of my hands is up to them.”
His prolific output includes copies of work by Winston Churchill and Gillian Ayres.
He is currently learning about Edward Sega. He is happy to admit he has “nothing to say” as an artist himself, but enjoys understanding others’ work.
“I like the technical side of it ,” he said, “Seeing the painting, then de-constructing it. That’s why I like forging because I like working out how the artist has done it. You have to really look at it, look at the colours, work the palette out, then look how they put the paint on. Then what happens is you click into it, into that person’s footsteps, basically.
“If I saw a new artist I would go and find his work somewhere, I would have to see his work before I can copy it.
“I also try and read everything about him I can, soak myself in everything I can find out about the artist. It’s like being obsessed for a little while.”
One master has so far escaped his paintbrush: Lucian Freud. “Most I can get efficiently and can paint,” said Mr Henty, thumbing through a catalogue of the artist’s works.
“But Lucian so far has evaded me. I have not quite mastered it yet, his work. When he paints he is really slow and builds up bits and pieces and it probably took him about a year or 18 months.
“One of his paintings went for £16 million. And here, the woman looks like a man and I thought, if I painted that... It’s a funny picture and I thought, ‘I could not get away with it’.”
Mr Henty, who has a copy of ‘Buy the $12 million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art’, by Don Thompson, on the kitchen table, does not lose sleep over artists missing out because he is capitalising on their work.
“I don’t do many people who are alive, I try and wait until they have gone,” he said.
“Most ordinary people are not going to be able to put a quarter of a million pound painting on their wall. But for a few hundred quid you can own one that looks like it. I am just bringing art to the masses, affordable art.”
If anything, the zany world of art prices bolsters his sense that it is all fair game.
“You can have a really crap painting that you would not want to give to your family, but if they have got ‘that’ name it will go for millions,” he said.
“I went to a couple of Charles Saatchi shows and I came out and thought they were absolutely crap.
“But he is such a powerful character that if he says, ‘I like that,’ then you have got about 20 dealers behind him saying, ‘I will buy that’.”
Despite eBay’s ban, Mr Henty is still very much in business, selling elsewhere online, and with a big grin on his face.
“I just really like my life,” he said. “I get up in the morning, paint. It’s down to practice – some people have got a lot of talent but have not got perseverance.”

Art Hostage Comments:
David Henty has undoubted artistic talent, as does his sibling Steven Henty.
In fact, Steven Henty's talent extends far beyond the paintbrush, creating stain glass and woodwork, including restorations of period architecture. The paintings of Steven Henty evoke memories of youthful summer days spent on the beach in a simliar vain to those of Sir William Orpen, Robert Gemmell Hutchison and Dorothea Sharp.
After a generation on the wrong side of the tracks, the Henty clan can evolve into a family of artistic talent in the vain of the 19th century Earp family, to compliment the culturally rich tapestry of Brighton & Hove.
A true measure of the talent is to be able to reproduce photo realistic paintings such as those by Norman Rockwell.
A previous critic of David Henty, Art Hostage applauds his Road to Damascus moment and wishes him well in lawful endeavours.