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.
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.
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
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
“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.
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.
"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.
“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’.
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.
“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
- Nazi-looted masterpiece up for auction (24 Jun 15)
- Hitler watercolours to go under the hammer (10 Jun 15)
- 102-year old finally earns Nazi-denied doctorate (05 Jun 15)
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 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
The Chinese Want Their Art Back
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
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 allegationSTONINGTON, 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 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 HeistsMost 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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
PreventionThe 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 GangThe 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.
On 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.
Cannes jewellery heist adds to trail of Pink Panther-style raids
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 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.
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.
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. Photo: AP
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 since A Cavalier (self portrait) was last seen in public.
Eight years ago person(s) unknown stole this Dutch masterpiece.
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.
Husband and Wife Arrested for Stealing $350,000 Worth of Art From Coral Gables Mansion
Erbiti and Rojas.
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.
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."
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.
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
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.
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.
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."
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
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.
Read more: Spot the masterpiece amid $1bn of hype
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.
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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)
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
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.”
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.
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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
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.
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 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.