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Monday, May 11, 2020

Stolen Art Watch, Terry "Olive" Boyle, 24.08.43 - 06.05.2020, Brighton's Baddest, Badass, Becomes Central Part of Art & Antiques Folklore.


There is so much to say about Terry Boyle, some good, some great and some indifferent.
I shall take time to review my archives to give the whole story of how Terry Boyle went from the Whitehawk gutter to Brighton Antiques trade Hall of Fame.

One quick story:

Back in 1987, at Richards Restaurant Western road Brighton, Terry Boyle, whilst protecting his younger brother Stephan, recieved a Stanley Knife wound to his stomach, which needed 48 stitches for the deep cut. Terry Boyle suffered many years of pain from this Stanley Knife wound, reminding him he was not invincible.

Another story:
When Terry Boyle and his loyal wife Georgina were landlords of the Blue House pub in Brighton when a local bully and gormless thug Micky Douglas was being loud and aggressive.
Terry Boyle stepped in and knocked out Micky Douglas with one punch, causing him to slide down the wall, bang, lights out Micky Douglas.
From then on Terry Boyle was called, amongst other names, Terry "One Punch" Boyle.

Lets go back to May 1984, Terry Boyle was getting ready for his annual four weeks in Lindos Rhodes Greece, when Brian "Herpes" Groves and Danny "The Mong" King burgled a house near Brighton and escaped with several paintings including a Joshua Reynolds. Terry Boyle bought them, offering £5,000 now or £9,000 later, "Herpes" Groves & "The Mong" King took the £5,000 now lol

News report of art theft comitted by Herpes Groves and The Mong King

Brian "Herpes" Groves

Terry Boyle sold them on quickly for £10,000, doubling his money,  to, wait for it, guess who lol

These paintings were later sold, the Joshua Reynolds sold in 1988 for £135,000, then sold on by Colnaghi art dealers for £500,000 and now hangs in Japan in a museum who refuse the hand it back to the rightful owners heirs.

Anyone with stories to tell about Terry Boyle can message me in confidence on twitter:

Art Hostage on twitter: @ArtHostage

or e-mail me at:

turbopaul@btinternet.com


Thursday, April 23, 2020

Stolen Art Watch, Justin Rohrlich, Van Gogh & the Art Crime World



 
AP Photo/Peter Dejong
The damaged front door of the Singer Laren Museum, where Van Gogh’s “Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring” was recently pilfered.
VAN GONE

Art detectives go deep inside the criminal underworld on hunt for stolen Van Gogh


When a thief stole a multimillion-dollar painting by Vincent van Gogh from a small museum in the Netherlands last month, Octave Durham almost immediately found himself a person of interest.
“It’s not a coincidence, because most of the time I did it,” Durham, who spent 25 months in prison for his own Van Gogh heist, told Quartz. “But now I’m retired.”
The nighttime smash-and-grab robbery at the Singer Laren Museum, committed in late March after it was closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, bore many of the hallmarks of Durham’s infamous 2002 burglary at the nearby Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, during which he stole two priceless paintings by the renowned artist. This time, the bandit broke through a pane of glass with a sledgehammer and was in and out in minutes.
“They knew what they were doing, going straight for the famous master,” Jan Rudolph de Lorm, the Singer Laren’s director, told reporters.
The thief escaped the museum with Van Gogh’s Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring, a painting valued at about $6 million. Dutch authorities this week released security video taken the night of the burglary, which shows the thief arriving by motorbike.
Roughly $6 billion worth of art is stolen each year, according to an FBI estimate, making it the third-most lucrative criminal enterprise in the world after narcotics and the arms trade. Some 30 Van Gogh paintings alone have been stolen in the Netherlands since 1988. Police and insurance agents have recovered all but the most recent. Parsonage Garden, which was on loan from another Dutch museum about two hours away, was stolen on what would have been the painter’s 167th birthday.
“Octave was the first thing I checked,” Arthur Brand, a freelance art crime detective known as the “Indiana Jones of the art world,” told Quartz. He is now helping Dutch police with the investigation. Brand had tracked Durham for years and after Durham left prison in 2006, the two struck up an unlikely friendship. “I thought, ‘Oh my god, Octave—where the fuck are you?’ I gave him a call and couldn’t reach him and thought, ‘Oh fuck.’”
Durham swears he had nothing to do with it, and Brand says he has a strong alibi: Durham was in the hospital when the painting was taken. Durham says he’s been out of the game for about seven years. The risk-reward ratio for stolen art is just not worth it anymore, he told Quartz. He is presently pursuing movie deals and planning a speaking tour with Brand across Europe. There will be no US leg because Durham, 47, is barred from entering the country.


 
Courtesy Octave Durham
Octave Durham

In search of the Parsonage Garden, Dutch authorities are now combing the dark corners of a criminal underground where stolen art can be used to feed egos and leverage power. Where the thief went next, and the painting’s intended destination, remains unknown. But Durham, Brand, and others who are intimately familiar with the world of art theft have some ideas.

What they know

Dutch police are still on duty during the coronavirus lockdown, but museum staff are not and there were few potential witnesses on the streets. Even before the pandemic, security guards at the Singer Laren never worked overnight. A central alarm system instead flags a nearby police station, which gives a thief some time to get in, get out, and get away.
Robert Wittman, a retired FBI agent who started the bureau’s Art Crime Team in 2004, said criminals are always on the lookout for such weaknesses. In the early morning hours of March 30—about two weeks after museums in the Netherlands closed to slow the spread of coronavirus—circumstances were pretty much ideal for a burglary.
“It gives an opportunity for certain individuals…to go after certain high-value assets, and that Van Gogh is certainly a high-value asset,” Wittman told Quartz.



REUTERS/Piroschka Van De Wouw
A picture of Van Gogh’s Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring.

For law enforcement, the investigation always begins with the basics, Wittman said. Once any fingerprints are lifted, and security camera footage reviewed, museum staff and other insiders are brought in for interviews. About 90% of art thefts in the US are inside jobs, he noted.
“You’re [usually] going to find that somewhere along the line, somebody tipped somebody off or was involved in some way,” Wittman said.
Museums generally tend to “have terrible security” because it’s expensive and “people like to donate to sexy things like buying new paintings, not upgrading the security camera system,” Erin Thompson, a professor of art crime at New York City’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told Quartz. Being located in historic buildings can make it difficult for many museums to meet modern security standards.
A Van Gogh watercolor stolen in 2003 from the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester, England—along with works by Picasso and Gauguin—turned up three days later with a note saying the heist was simply an attempt to expose the space’s “woeful security.”
“Turbo” Paul Hendry, a British stolen-art-handler-turned-consultant who today advises buyers, insurers, and investigators, told Quartz the thief “must have done their homework to know the Van Gogh was there,” as it was on loan and not a permanent fixture at the Singer Laren. “Loan paintings are protected, but not in a permanent manner, so gaps appear,” he said.
So far, Thompson said, there are few obvious clues as to why the thief targeted Parsonage Garden, a little-known work from Van Gogh’s early period. If you’re going to risk of stealing something that will grab international headlines and be hard to sell, “at least do it for Starry Night and have a really great one instead of this murky, bottom-of-the-garden, depressing one,” she said.


 
Courtesy "Turbo" Paul Hendry
“Turbo” Paul Hendry

Where to look

Stealing priceless art is the easy part, Durham says. In his words, it’s “like taking candy from a kid.” The hard part is selling the piece for even a tiny fraction of its value when the whole world knows it’s stolen, he said.
“The big problem in all these situations is not the stealing, it’s the selling,” Wittman agreed. “What do you do with it once you have it? […] What are you going to do with a Van Gogh that’s famous, that’s stolen from a museum in the Netherlands? Is that worth 10 kilos of heroin? You can sell [drugs] on the street and make some money. A Van Gogh? What good is that?”
For some, it’s not about money. It’s about leverage.
After the murder of his original buyer on the day of the planned sale, Durham managed to offload his pair of stolen Van Goghs to Neapolitan mobster Raffaele Imperiale, who paid less than $400,000 for the two paintings—a tiny fraction of their estimated market value.


 
AP Photo/Peter Dejong
People outside the closed Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam after Durham’s 2002 theft.

Imperiale, who claimed he bought them because he was fond of art, stashed them away in the country house where his mother lived. When Italian police finally caught up with him for drug trafficking, he offered the paintings’ location as a trade for a lighter punishment. Cops found the paintings wrapped in cloth, stuffed in a hidden wall space near the kitchen. Prosecutors agreed to a deal, reducing Imperiale’s sentence from 18 years to nine. He is reportedly now in Dubai fighting extradition. The Dutch drug lord Kees Houtman also tried in 2002 to trade three Van Goghs stolen a decade earlier for less time behind bars.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility, Brand said, that the latest Van Gogh theft was ordered by someone with a similar plan. Some criminals view paintings simply as “get-out-of-jail-free” cards, and so commission thieves to steal them. “If these guys who stole the Van Gogh have a buyer already, it’s most likely a drug lord or mobster—maybe someday he’ll need it to make a deal,” he said. “But it could also be they [did] it like Octave did: they just steal it and then they try to find someone willing to buy it.”


 
AP Photo/Peter Dejong
The two Van Gogh masterpieces stolen by Durham, after their return in 2017.

Drug traffickers have also used stolen artwork as collateral. When ordering a shipment of cocaine from Colombia, the Dutch mafia might send their narco counterparts a masterpiece as a guarantee that they’re good for the money, Durham said. “They know you want that painting back because if you are in legal problems, this painting can help you. There is no money that can help you but this painting will, so just make sure you pay your bills and if you’ve paid them all, you get the painting back.”
This has actually spawned a new market for fakes, according to Brand, who says shady art handlers have begun offering counterfeits of stolen masterworks to underworld buyers looking to ease future legal troubles.
“It’s a crazy business,” Brand said.


 
Courtesy Robert Wittman
A Rembrandt valued at $35 million that Wittman recovered, pictured with $250,000 used to lure the suspects.

Wittman scoffs at the idea that a super-criminal might be trying to get their hands on a stolen masterpiece to add to their own collection. He argues that the last thing rich gangsters want is something on their wall that can add years onto a criminal sentence if found in a police raid.
Some, however, disagree. For crime bosses, ego can overcome cold logic, Hendry said. “I think you will find [the] human nature of wanting to own beautiful trophy things is universal,” Hendry said. “Authorities always like to play down art crime as a haphazard crime of opportunity, with no structure, when the opposite is true in many cases.”
French businessman Jean Michel Corvez is now doing time for his role in ordering a major 2010 Paris heist. And Durham says he knows of wealthy criminals who fill hidden rooms with pilfered treasures. “Now and then, they smoke a big cigar and [look at] all these paintings and stuff they have, and say, ‘You fuckers, you’ve been looking for this all over the world—I’ve got it,’” he said.
While the typical buyer “may not be a reclusive billionaire on an island like Dr. No,” Hendry said stolen art has turned up in the collections of apparently unwitting buyers like film director Steven Spielberg, singer Boy George, Swiss industrialist Baron Heini Thyssen, and late designer Gianni Versace. Earlier this year, authorities fined Spanish billionaire Jaime Botín, the largest shareholder in Santander bank, $58 million for trying to smuggle an “unexportable” Picasso out of the country.



REUTERS/Piroschka Van De Wouw
The Singer Laren Museum, where the latest Van Gogh heist took place.

A stolen artwork usually passes through many hands, Hendry said. It can be smuggled in various ways, whether hidden inside a shipping container, sent through the mail, or helped by corrupt customs officials. Wittman once recovered a stolen Renoir—called “Young Parisienne”—that had been sewn into a coat and smuggled into the US through Los Angeles International Airport.
Stolen art is typically “laid down” for a couple of weeks, then taken across the nearest border, Hendry said. But he believes the Van Gogh stolen from the Singer Laren is still in the area due to the coronavirus lockdown. With checkpoints in place and regional security tightened, Hendry thinks moving it now would be “foolhardy, to say the least.”
But the Singer Laren theft was unusual, Thompson said—thieves rarely target museum galleries. Normally, stolen art is lifted less dramatically from the homes of private collectors or museum storage, which may not be inventoried for years.
“It’s tricky because people have to know that something is missing,” Thompson said. “So if you’re a museum and you haven’t gotten into that storeroom for a couple of decades, you might not have any idea—which happens more often than you might think.”


 
AP Photo/Peter Dejong

Recovering art stolen in this way is often more difficult. A private owner might not keep strong documentation, or even a photograph of the work to publicize in a recovery attempt. “You have to be really careful in recovering art to make sure you’re not getting sold a forgery,” Thompson said. “And that’s why it’s important for museums to always have photographs of the backs of paintings.”
If the painting was taken on a whim, and not by a sophisticated criminal, there’s a chance it will meet a more tragic end. “[You] get the sort of clueless thief who knows that art is valuable and takes it and then panics,” Thompson said. “Sadly, sometimes they destroy the paintings to get rid of the evidence.”
In 2006, Mireille Breitwieser took extreme measures in an apparent attempt to protect her son, prolific French art thief Stephane Breitwieser, whose personal stash was valued at $1.4 billion. She was sentenced to 18 months in prison in 2006 for throwing dozens of old masters, including works by Brueghel, Cranach, Watteau, and Boucher, into the Rhine-Rhone canal.

The insurance angle

In his 2011 memoir, Wittman described posing as a corrupt art broker to make deals with international drug kingpins on mega-yachts in Miami and well-connected Corsican mobsters in Geneva. A likelier outcome for the Singer Laren’s Van Gogh, Thompson argued, is that it will be recovered in a more prosaic fashion—by its insurer.
“It’s always the least exciting thing to say that the art world is about taxes or insurance, but it’s true in this case,” she said.
Many European museums have insurance policies offering about 15% of the value of a stolen painting to anyone who returns it, with no questions asked, she said. “You steal a Van Gogh. You know that if you ever need to recover 10% or 15% of its value, you can give it to your girlfriend or your mom or something, and they can be like, ‘I found this on the street,’ to the insurance company,” Thompson said. “And then you get that money.”
American museums tend to eschew the policy because they think it encourages theft—and it’s not always a sure thing in Europe since museums don’t tend to advertise having this insurance clause. “You must be taking a risk. Either that or you have cultivated some sort of insider information on who has what policy,” Thompson said.
The insurance companies themselves tend to pay out fairly fast once they’ve confirmed the policy was properly followed and there was no “hanky panky,” said William Fleischer, principal of Art Insurance Now, a New York-based broker. “There’s a small amount of insurers that do art, so if you do something in a negative way, people will find about that and say, ‘We don’t want that carrier.’” Fleischer estimated the annual insurance premium for the recently stolen Van Gogh would have been somewhere between $6,000 and $8,000.
Insurance firms usually keep paintings that are recovered. “There are a lot of companies that have amazing collections,” Fleischer told Quartz.
In some cases, the original owner can do some arbitrage once their painting is found. A Picasso that Brand recovered last year in the Netherlands was insured at the time of its theft in 1999 for $4.5 million, the purchase price paid 20 years prior by Sheikh Abdul Mohsen Abdulmalik Al-Sheikh of Saudi Arabia. After it turned up again, Hendry said Al-Sheikh used a clause written into his insurance policy to buy the Picasso back from his insurer for the original $4.5 million, plus expenses. In the two decades that passed, the Picasso had increased in value dramatically. “The sheik now has a $70 million Picasso, a real happy ending for him,” Hendry said.

What comes next

Wittman is certain Parsonage Garden will eventually resurface, most likely when someone tries to bring it to market. Whether that will be during an undercover police operation, with a cop posing as a buyer, or a sharp-eyed gallery owner who calls authorities after being approached for a sale, no one knows.
Durham believes the police already have a solid lead, declining to provide further details for fear of interfering with the investigation. “These guys made a big mistake,” he said. “When I heard it, I was laughing.”
For Brand, the Van Gogh theft at the Singer Laren is almost something of a “personal attack,” since it was swiped virtually in his own backyard.
“Sooner or later—it can take one year or it can take 10 years—somebody’s going to talk,” Brand said. “I have people in the criminal underworld all over the world from mobsters in Italy to drug lords and other people and sooner or later I might get a call.”
Incredibly, this isn’t a movie plot: A Van Gogh was stolen in a late-night smash-and-grab job. The most obvious suspect says he’s retired from the art heist game. So whodunit? Justin Rohrlich and Max de Haldevang take us on a wild ride through a world inhabited by thieves, drug traffickers, counterfeiters, rich gangsters, art detectives, museum security, and insurance companies. My question is, who will option this article for the screen?

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Stolen Art Watch, Casey Sherman Destroys Gardner Art Heist Myth

It’s now been thirty years since two thieves dressed as police officers stole 13 artworks worth $500 million from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum on March 18, 1990 and we are still no closer to solving this enduring mystery.
But there’s always a story within the story and that is certainly the case with the Gardner heist which has more layers than a Russian nesting doll.
The investigation gets curiouser and curiouser with a cast of characters that appears to have jumped off the screen from a Guy Ritchie film.
First, there's "Turbo" Paul Hendry, a former art thief turned sleuth living in England who has been following the case since it broke three decades ago when Vermeer’s “The Concert” and Rembrandt’s “Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee” vanished into thin air. 

Hendry is a popular voice in the Gardner Heist community, having been featured in the 2005 documentary Stolen. He had a bone to pick with me when I gave celebrated Dutch art investigator
sole credit for a proposal to offer individual rewards for the missing pieces in my
column. He's right...  Turbo Paul came up with the original idea years ago. 

Nevertheless, he shared my article on social media He's been working this case like a dog with a bone for years and has been a vocal critic of Anthony Amore, the museum's longtime director of security.

This criticism reportedly prompted an angry phone call from *******, . Hendry alleges that ******* threatened to “destroy” him if he didn’t remove more than 30 tweets from his Twitter profile “Art Hostage” criticizing Amore’s lack of results.
Is the museum security director using a proxy to crush any dissent of his investigation? I asked that question to ****** himself by phone. He calls Hendry’s accusations “ridiculous”. I also reached out to the museum for comment. “The allegations that the Gardner Museum or Mr. Amore are encouraging or condoning any intimidation or pressure efforts by ***** toward the recipient are categorically false," said Griff McNerney, Museum Communications Manager. 
The museum’s cocksure declaration was curious as no one at the institution ever even asked to speak to the alleged victim in this case.
If this is the way the investigation into the stolen artwork is being conducted also, it’s no wonder they haven’t recovered anything in thirty years.
Is this the image the Gardner Museum wishes to project to the world?
If thuggery and intimidation are tactics being used to quash criticism of the Gardner investigation, museum director Peggy Fogelman should step in and make changes immediately. 
First, it’s time to fire security director Anthony Amore who has been leading the museum’s investigation for the past 15 years. He’s never recovered a piece of stolen art in his life.
Imagine if Bill Belichick had never won a playoff game in 15 years? He’d have been out of a job a long time ago.
Instead of chasing leads, Amore spends more time on social media on any given work day than Perez Hilton. 
He’s also used his position to launch a disastrous run for Massachusetts Secretary of State and has published four books about stolen art including two coloring books. It seems that the only person that has profited from the art heist, outside of the thieves, is Anthony Amore.
Arthur Brand, dubbed “The Indiana Jones of the Art World”, has taken to social media calling for Amore to “move over” and let more seasoned investigators take the lead on recovering the stolen art. Brand made headlines last year for finding and returning a $68 million Picasso that was stolen twenty years ago from a luxury yacht in the French Riviera.

 Amore’s dismissed Brand, telling me during an online conversation, 
“We have no comment on some guy’s (bleeping) twitter.” This institutional arrogance is one of the many reasons that not one stolen art work has been recovered on Amore’s watch.
It’s like Inspector Clouseau thumbing his nose at Hercule Poirot. 
Is Anthony Amore the person we want leading the charge to return 13 artworks to its rightful place here in Boston as we mark the 30th anniversary of the notorious heist? I think not.
Casey Sherman is a New York Times bestselling author of 11 books including the upcoming Hunting Whitey: The Inside Story of the Capture and Killing of America's Most Wanted Mob Boss. Follow him on Twitter @caseysherman123

Friday, February 21, 2020

Stolen Art Watch, Short, Sharp, Shock, Pyrrhic Victory in Gold Coin Case, Dresden Jewels Elusive

The Bumbling Thieves Who Pilfered a $4.3 Million, 221-Pound Gold Coin From a Berlin Museum—and Probably Melted It Down—Are Heading to Prison

The high-profile heist involved a skateboard and a wheelbarrow.
Picture taken on December 8, 2010 shows the gold coin "Big Maple Leaf" on display at Berlin's Bode Museum. Courtesy MARCEL METTELSIEFEN/AFP/Getty Images.
Three men who made away with one of the world’s largest gold coins from a Berlin Museum have been sentenced to prison. 
Cousins Ahmed and Wissam Remmo broke into Berlin’s Bode Museum on the night of March 27, 2017, with the assistance of an inside man: Denis W., a childhood friend who had been hired as a security guard at the institution earlier that month. Using a skateboard and wheelbarrow, the crafty thieves absconded with “Big Maple Leaf,” a commemorative coin weighing in at a whopping 221 pounds that had been issued by the Royal Canadian Mint in 2007.
After a trial that lasted 41 days in court over the span of a year, Ahmed, 21, and Wissam, 23, were each sentenced to four-and-a-half-year prison sentences. (Because the Remmos were, respectively, 18 and 20 years old when the crime occurred, they were sentenced as juveniles.) Denis W. received a sentence of three years and four months. A fourth defendant was acquitted. 
The Bode Museum in Berlin. Photo: Thomas Wolf via Wikimedia Commons.
The Bode Museum in Berlin. Photo: Thomas Wolf via Wikimedia Commons.
The 99% pure gold coin, valued at roughly €3.3 million ($4.3 million), was on loan from a private collector at the time of the theft. It hasn’t been seen since. Gold particles in the convicts’ getaway car and on their clothes led experts to believe it was broken down, melted, and sold soon after the incident. Another dead giveaway: Investigators also found a history of detailed searches on how to break down pieces of gold on Wissam’s phone.
Other evidence that led to the arrest of the men included security footage of three black-clad figures who matched their measurements walking the escape route outside of the Bode on a night prior to the theft. A rare Armani jacket identified in the footage was found in Wissam’s apartment, as was a pair of gloves that contained shards of glass matching those of the window through which the thieves entered the building. 
Two of the defendants sit next to their lawyers in the courtroom and cover their faces on February 20, 2020 in Berlin. Photo: Paul Zinken/dpa via Getty Images.
Two of the defendants sit next to their lawyers in the courtroom and cover their faces on February 20, 2020 in Berlin. Photo: Paul Zinken/dpa via Getty Images.
Denis W., who worked the night shift on the days leading up to the robbery, was seen shopping for high-end cars and jewelry shortly thereafter. In addition to the prison sentence, he was fined €100,000 ($108,000)—the amount of money authorities believe he was paid for abetting the crime. The Remmos were each fined €3.3 million—the price of the coin.
A fourth defendant, Wayci Remmo, was acquitted of all charges after the judge ruled the evidence against him to be inconclusive. 
Following the case’s conclusion, lead prosecutor Thomas Schulz-Spirohn promised to continue his investigation into the Remmo family, which is believed to be connected to one of Germany’s largest organized crime operations.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Stolen Art Watch, "Victory is mine, victory is mine, great day in the morning, people, victory is mine ... I drink from the keg of glory, Turbo. Bring me the finest muffins and bagels in all the land"



Dutch art sleuth finds rare stolen copy of 'Prince of Persian poets'

A stolen 15th-century book by the famed Persian poet Hafez has been recovered by a Dutch art detective after an international "race against time" that drew the alleged interest of Iran's secret service.
The gold-leafed volume worth around one million euros ($1.1 million) was found to be missing from the collection of an Iranian antiques dealer after his death in Germany in 2007.
It sparked a decade-long search for one of the oldest surviving copies of the "Divan of Hafez" -- the collected works of the poet who remains extremely popular in Iran and has inspired artists worldwide.
But Arthur Brand, dubbed the "Indiana Jones of the Art World" for tracing a series of lost works, finally tracked down the tome via the murky stolen arts underworld.
"This is a hugely important find for me, because this is such an important book," Brand said as he showed AFP the recovered book at an Amsterdam apartment.
Along with Rumi, Hafez -- full name Shams al-Din Muhammad Hafiz Shirazi -- is one of the best known mystical bards. American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson called him the "Prince of Persian poets".
Hafez's Divan can still be found in most Iranian homes where it is traditionally read out during family celebrations for the Persian New Year.
- 'Scared and threatened' -
The theft of the manuscript, which dates from 1462 to 1463, was discovered by the family of book dealer Djafar Ghazy after he died in an old people's home in Munich in 2007.
While going through Ghazy's computer, they realised the reclusive pensioner had in fact collected hundreds of ancient manuscripts -- but that they were all gone.
In 2011 German police recovered 174 of them raiding the home of another Iranian pensioner who had befriended Ghazy.
"But the most important piece, one of the earliest and most accurate copies of the famous 'Divan of Hafez', was still missing," said Brand.
German police announced a 50,000-euro reward and issued a flyer describing the book in 2016 but there was still no trace of it, until late 2018.
Brand then received a phone call from an Iranian dealer, asking the Dutchman to "urgently" meet him in Germany.
"The man told me he was visited by two officials who said they were 'linked to the Iranian embassy'." The men -- alleged by the dealer to be Iranian secret agents -- told him to "report any news of the missing Divan", Brand said.
"My informant was clearly scared, felt threatened and decided to call me into the case," Brand told AFP.
Iran had already shown an interest in the case, saying it would take "all legal means" to get back the manuscripts that were found in 2011, after Germany gave two back but decided most of the rest were legally owned by the collector, German news reports said.
"After my informant was contacted, I knew that the Iran was also looking for the missing Divan and I started a race against time to see if I could find it first, as the book belonged to Ghazy's family," Brand said.
- 'Rare and valuable' -
The Dutchman then flew to London to meet an unnamed man "who became extremely nervous" when shown the flyer of the missing book, and confessed he had seen it as a friend of his had sold it to a major buyer.
By then Iranian agents were also in London asking questions about the manuscript, Brand said.
"The buyer was shocked and furious. After all, he was sold a stolen book and now everybody including the Iranian government was looking for it," Brand said.
By now afraid, the buyer flew to Paris to demand his money back from the original seller.
But Brand persuaded him to go back to London and finally the collector handed over the book via an intermediary in late 2019.
Brand said he will travel to Munich next Wednesday to return the Divan to German police.
"The next steps are currently being discussed together with the heirs" of Ghazy, police spokesman Ludwig Waldinger told AFP.
Experts said this edition could be of great historical and literary value for scholars and admirers of Hafez, whose works were published after his death.
The recovered book is "one of a handful still in existence," said Dominic Parviz Brookshaw, assistant professor of Persian literature at Oxford University.
"It's an extremely early edition -- although not the earliest -- which would make it very rare and valuable," Brookshaw told AFP.

Monday, January 06, 2020

Anthony Amore Called Out By Casey Sherman & Arthur Brand, Gardner Art Reward Price List, Olive Branch For Recovery

Art sleuth says it’s time to change strategy on Gardner heist

Indiana Jones of the Art World says offer individual rewards

Art detective Arthur Brand next to a Picasso he recovered. (Courtesy Arthur Brand.)
PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:
Like Rembrandt’s stolen seascape, there is a storm brewing over the direction of the decades-old investigation to recover masterpieces missing from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

The first shot across the bow was fired by celebrated Dutch art detective Arthur Brand who took to Twitter last week to call out investigators while making a direct plea to the thieves who may still be in possession of some of the 13 artworks stolen from Gardner Museum in March 1990.

“Still working on the Isabella Stewart Gardner theft,” Brand wrote. “And don’t believe those who say you can only deal with them. You can always talk with me. The FBI and the museum and their allies are not going to solve this case after 30 years. Move over …”

Brand, dubbed “The Indiana Jones of the Art World,” made international headlines last year for finding and returning a $28 million Picasso painting that was stolen 20 years ago from a luxury yacht in the French Riviera.

Speaking to Brand by phone in Europe, he told me that he fired off the tweet in frustration and has since deleted the message.

Although he praises the FBI and the museum for doing everything they can to recover the stolen works, which include Vermeer’s “The Concert” and Rembrandt’s “Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee,” he believes that investigators are sending the wrong message to anyone with knowledge of the notorious heist.
Rembrandt’s Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee
According to the museum’s website, a $10 million reward is still being offered for information leading to the recovery of all 13 works in good condition.

“But what if thieves only have two or three of the stolen art works?” Brand asks. “They are being dissuaded from coming forward because they don’t have the entire collection. The museum is giving them an all-or-nothing proposition.”

The art detective is calling on the museum to provide separate rewards for the individual art pieces. Brand believes this change in strategy could break the case.

“I’m also concerned about how the museum defines the “good condition” of the art, that’s a very arbitrary statement,” Brand says. “I know how the criminal mind works and language like that sends a big red flag to the thieves.”

The FBI won’t comment on the art detective’s theory but when I reached out to Anthony Amore, the museum’s director of security, during an online conversation, he told me; “We have no comment on some guy’s (bleeping) twitter.”

That no comment speaks volumes and I can understand his frustration. Amore’s been working on the case since 2005, chasing leads around the globe and he’s found nothing.
Now he’s got one of the world’s leading art detectives breathing down his neck and demanding results.

But to call Arthur Brand “some guy” speaks to Amore’s institutional arrogance

As we approach the 30th anniversary of the heist this year, the museum would be better served if it brings in new investigators with fresh ideas and new perspectives.

Brand tells me that he’s spoken with sources in direct contact with the IRA. They have convinced him some of the missing paintings are stashed away in Ireland.

This theory has been dismissed by Amore.

“He (Amore) calls me “some guy,” but I have recovered six stolen art pieces in the past year alone, and what has he found?” Brand says. “I always place myself in the minds of the thieves. I have a track record of success while after nearly 30 years; the museum is still sitting on nothing.”

Casey Sherman is a New York Times best-selling author of 11 books. His latest is the upcoming “Hunting Whitey: The Inside Story of the Capture and Killing of America’s Most Wanted Crime Boss.” Follow him on Twitter @caseysherman123.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Stolen Art Watch, Anthony Amore, Behind the Cloak of the Rose Dugdale Vermeer book, Negociates With Irish Republicans For Gardner Art Recovery


Anthony Amore, for the last two years has been writing a book about Rose Dugdale and the IRA Vermeer theft to give himself cover in finally trying to flush out any Irish Republican influence in recovering the Gardner art.

Anthony has tried, in vain thus far, to convince people of the current reward offer and immunity offer being collectable, therefore negociations are at an impass.

The suggestion of the Gardner Art Reward Price List would go some way to establish the sincerity of the Gardner Museum and be an olive branch to those would could help recover some Gardner art.

Those who hold or control some of the Gardner art fear the clenched fist of the FBI will come crashing down on their houses with God's own thunder if they step forward.

A test balloon of a lesser valued Gardner artwork being handed back would also give confidence to follow through with the future recoveries of the Vermeer and Rembrandts.

Much more will be revealed in the months ahead as we move towards the thirty years since the Gardner Art Heist March 1990- March 2020.

Whomever holds any Gardner art must be terrified of stepping forward, so reassurances should be given by the FBI and Gardner Museum, such as a Gardner Art Reward Price List, to cover the distinct possibility the thirteen Gardner artworks are not held together anymore.

Sadly, the assurances of Anthony Amore have rung hollow to those who can facilitate the recovery of some Gardner Art.

They think Anthony Amore is conducting "The Art of The Con" to quote the title of Anthony Amore's last book.

Lets Bring The Gardner Art Home, Change.org Petition:

https://www.change.org/p/let-s-bring-home-the-stolen-isabella-stewart-gardner-museum-art-a-new-approach?recruiter=886928978&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=share_petition

Monday, December 09, 2019

Stolen Art Watch, Gotha, Schloss Friedenstein Art Recovered, Rising Star, Art Cop Rene Allonge Cracks Case


East German Art Heist Mystery Nears Resolution

Forty years ago, thieves swiped five valuable paintings from an East German museum. Now, they have finally been returned, thanks largely to the mayor of the town from which they were taken. But the mystery hasn't yet been solved.
Photo Gallery: The Art Heist from Gotha 
Knut Kreuch can still remember exactly what he was thinking so many years ago when the staircase he was on was suddenly plunged into darkness. He was 13 at the time and his mother's favorite Friday evening show was on TV. Even though they lived in the town of Gotha in East Germany, they were able to tune into the West German equivalent of "Unsolved Mysteries," about crimes that hadn't yet been solved.

After the show ended that night, it was Knut's job to head down to the cellar from the sixth floor in the housing block where they lived to turn off the washing machine. And when the lights went out, leaving young Knut to feel his way along the stairs in the pitch black, he found himself thinking: Thank God you live in walled-in East Germany. All the robbers and murderers from the West can't get you here.

But then, on a Friday morning in December 1979, a rumor suddenly began spreading through the city. His mother, a store manager at the market in Gotha, heard it from her customers. Everybody knew somebody who worked in the palace -- and everybody had heard something.
It became official the next day, with the local newspaper printing a short report from the state-run news agency ADN: "On Thursday night, unknown perpetrators stole five valuable paintings by Old Masters from the Castle Museum. The stolen artworks are valued at several million marks. Police have launched an urgent investigation."

In those December days in 1979, Knut Kreuch's childhood illusion of being insulated from crime was shattered. Now, if the lights went out as he was walking down the stairs to the washing machine, he would know that robbers were everywhere, even on the east side of the wall. What he could not have known is that 40 years later, he would play a decisive role in finally getting back the paintings stolen in the largest art theft in the history of East Germany.

The Stolen Pictures
Last Monday, Kreuch -- a satisfied smile on his face and his hands folded calmly in his lap -- was sitting in his office in Gotha's baroque town hall on the city's central square. A member of the center-left Social Democrats, he has been the mayor of Gotha since 2006. And on Monday, his mood could hardly have been better. After all, it looked as though the five stolen artworks, after having been missing for 40 years, were finally back in safekeeping -- thanks entirely to him. In the several months preceding, he had made a risky wager, but early last week, his confidence was growing that he had won.
What he didn't know last Monday, of course, was that just a few days later, on Thursday, investigators with the Berlin State Criminal Police (LKA) would fan out across the country to search the offices and apartments of three witnesses and two suspects, both of whom are suspected of blackmail and possession of stolen goods. First the artworks reappeared. Now, the focus is on solving the criminal case that was opened so many decades ago.

One of the offices searched last Thursday morning at 9:30 a.m. was that of a lawyer in a southern German city. In recent years, the lawyer has become a specialist in rehabilitating artworks from dubious sources so they can re-enter legal circulation. Kreuch knows the man because he participated in a deal not long ago which saw Gotha buy back a valuable piece of art that had once belonged to the Castle Museum. 

As a result, Kreuch was immediately amenable when the lawyer called him in June 2018 asking for a meeting, a face-to-face which then took place in the town hall of Gotha a short time later. The lawyer told the unsuspecting mayor that he had recently been approached by someone, and then he laid five photos, one after the other, on the table. Kreuch was immediately electrified. He could hardly believe what he was seeing. The stolen pictures from Gotha!

Kreuch was initially speechless. He had launched a media campaign 10 years earlier in a desperate attempt to get the stolen artworks back for the city. At the time, he was worried that an important statute of limitations would expire. But beyond a couple of clues that proved to be dead ends, there was nothing. No trace of the paintings.

On that night way back on Dec. 14, 1979, a temperature and humidity datalogger in the museum recorded a sudden drop in temperatures. The thieves had managed to access a window almost 10 meters (33 feet) off the ground, scaling the outside walls of the castle with the help of climbing spurs and a lightning rod before scoring the pane with a glass cutter, taping the glass and breaking in.

Broken Bits of Frame
The window led them into the gallery where Dutch Masters were on display and they removed four paintings from Frans Hals, Anthonis van Dyck, Jan Brueghel the Elder and Jan Lievens. From the next gallery, the home of Old German Masters, they swiped a piece from Hans Holbein the Elder before lowering all five paintings to the ground using a cord. 

A call from the museum reached the Gotha Volkspolizei (People's Police) at 7:10 a.m. the next morning. Officers would later find picture frame fragments around the base of the lightning rod and along the route the thieves took through the surrounding park as they escaped, leading officials to conclude that the artworks had been damaged. In January 1980, the director of the East Berlin Gemäldegalerie art museum estimated the value of the five works to be 4.5 million West German marks.

The Volkspolizei and the Ministry for State Security (Stasi) immediately assembled a substantial team to investigate the spectacular robbery, with the Stasi launching Operation Old Masters and the Volkspolizei assigning 95 officers to the case. The search for the works of art expanded across all of East Germany, with every possible lead being pursued. In late July 1980, Major Grüner from the criminal investigation department in Gotha wrote a detailed case report in which he noted that 1,027 people who lived or worked near the crime scene had been checked. In addition, he noted that an additional 252 people with some sort of connection to the Castle Museum were being monitored.
Police and Stasi officials checked hundreds of prison inmates and ex-prisoners in addition to interrogating 189 "burglars from the Erfurt district who had been amnestied and released." The homes of 86 of them were likewise searched. In total, investigators interviewed several thousand people in connection with the investigation and searched 1,045 vehicles.

It was exactly the kind of dragnet investigation the police state of East Germany was designed for -- yet they found nothing. The paintings were gone. In the mid-1980s, the Stasi and the Volkspolizei largely abandoned the investigation, leaving the largest art theft in East German history to remain unsolved.

And yet suddenly, last June, here was the lawyer from southern Germany sitting in the town hall of Gotha and offering a deal to the mayor. His clients, the lawyer said, according to Kreuch's recollection, were interested in returning the paintings, but he wanted to learn whether the city of Gotha wanted them back. After all, the lawyer continued, his clients were demanding money.

A Vague Group of Heirs
Kreuch showed interest, but made it clear even during this initial visit that the city was not in a position to buy the paintings. Without a partner, the mayor said, it wouldn't work. He carefully tried to find out who the lawyer's clients might be, but the lawyer remained vague.

It seemed to be a group of heirs who allegedly had no idea as to how their deceased forebears had acquired the paintings, but Kreuch was only able to learn a few pieces of the story during this initial encounter. He was told that the artworks had been taken out of East Germany to the West years after the break-in, but the Gotha mayor was not initially told how many clients the lawyer was representing, what their names were or even where they lived.

It also remained unclear how much money was being demanded in exchange for the paintings, with the lawyer declining to name a price. Kreuch figured he was just trying to get the lay of the land. After an hour or so, he packed up his photos, the quality of which left quite a bit to be desired. They showed the paintings from the front and the back, but the most sensational thing about them was that they were color photographs.

For the last 40 years, only the museum's official inventory photographs had been available -- in black-and-white. But a few years before the lawyer's visit to the mayor of Gotha, a color photo had appeared in a London auction catalogue that looked to be of one of the stolen paintings. It caused quite a commotion in the art world, with many thinking that it might finally offer a clue to the whereabouts of the five stolen paintings. But it didn't. The photo apparently only showed a copy of one of the paintings stolen from Gotha.

Kreuch had three messages he wanted the lawyer to take back with him to southern Germany. First, he was extremely interested in bringing the paintings back to Gotha. Second, he needed to know how the lawyer's clients had come into possession of the paintings and where they had been for the last four decades. And third, he was not interested in legal proceedings but wanted an amicable settlement.

The two men agreed to stay in contact, but the visit left the mayor in a difficult situation. After all, he had no mandate to close such a sensitive deal on his own. But if he had informed his staff and city officials, it was extremely possible that the news would leak, which could have killed the deal.

Reasonable Price?
Kreuch decided to keep his cards close to his chest and told nobody in Gotha of his meeting with the lawyer. Instead, he paid a visit in September to Martin Hoernes, an art historian who was general secretary of the Ernst von Siemens Art Foundation, which supports the purchase of art by public collections.

Hoernes had helped the mayor buy back a valuable ivory tankard that had disappeared out of the Castle Museum and his foundation was experienced in reclaiming artworks that had been stolen. But clear rules applied to such transactions: The foundation never purchased pieces directly from the thieves themselves; the seller had to reveal how they had come into possession of the artwork in question; and the price had to be reasonable.

But what is reasonable? Stolen paintings are not traded on the legal art market. They are registered with Interpol and with various other databases for art that had disappeared. 

Hoernes expressed a willingness to help, so Kreuch remained in touch with the southern German lawyer. The mayor recalls that they would sometimes speak on the phone several times in one week before not having any contact at all for several weeks in a row. They would chat about the weather, about this and that, essentially sizing each other up. Kreuch had the impression that the lawyer was testing him, trying to determine how serious Gotha was about reacquiring the paintings.

The mayor, meanwhile, wanted to do all he could to prevent the contact from breaking off, seeing it as his only chance to get the vanished paintings back. An absurd element of German law holds that an owner's right to return expires after 30 years. If the lawyer had chosen to discontinue talks, Kreuch would have been the clear loser. The Old Masters from Gotha would likely have remained lost forever.

In the talks, Kreuch followed a two-pronged strategy. He did his best to convince the lawyer to have the paintings examined by an evaluator to ensure that they were, in fact, authentic. And he continued to insist that he be told how they came into the possession of those who were selling them, preferably in writing.

Gradually, according to Kreuch's recollections, the numerous conversations began to form the outlines of a story. There were, to be sure, plenty of gaps. Parts of it sounded implausible and elements changed from time to time, but there was one constant of particular legal relevance. The family that possessed the paintings had apparently always known that they had come from the Gotha art heist. But according to law, only those who possess something in good faith -- who don't know that it has been stolen, in other words -- can acquire ownership "by adverse possession," essentially the legalistic term for "squatters rights." This, however, was apparently not the case when it came to the southern German lawyer's clients.

Sidestepping Demands
According to the mayor, the Stasi played an important role in the stories the lawyer told him. Not surprising, Kreuch thought. The lawyer also mentioned a significant sum that had allegedly been paid to an East German agency, but it wasn't clear which one. For Kreuch, it was all too vague. He wanted evidence and the name of the family, but the lawyer, according to Kreuch's impression, continually sidestepped such demands.

Finally, though, after a long period of silence that lasted several months, the lawyer came up with a purchase price for the five paintings. And it wasn't insignificant. He wanted 5.25 million euros.
Kreuch recalls that the lawyer told him toward the end of last year that he wanted to come to Gotha and bring along one of the five paintings so that it could be examined to ensure authenticity. But this time, it was Kreuch who tapped the brakes. No, he said, he wanted all of the paintings at once or none at all. Again, weeks of silence ensued. 

By now, the lawyer knew that Hoernes from the Ernst von Siemens Foundation was involved, but his exclusive negotiation partner remained Mayor Kreuch.

In spring, things started moving more quickly. The lawyer, says Kreuch, suddenly offered to travel to Gotha town hall with all five of the paintings. But Kreuch delayed once again, asking what he was supposed to do with the works of art in the town hall. Instead, he insisted that they be brought to Berlin, where they could be examined in the Rathgen Research Laboratory, part of the German capital's publicly held art collections, known as the Staatlichen Museen.

The lawyer hesitated before ultimately agreeing. He sent Kreuch a five-page settlement agreement that included the 5.25-million-euro purchase price. The contract seemed contestable, but Kreuch signed anyway. As a ruse. What else could he have done? He saw it as the only possibility to get the paintings back and Hoernes had indicated that the Ernst von Siemens Foundation was prepared to cover the outlay should it come to that. 

The plan foresaw the paintings being handed over on Sept. 30 in Berlin, and the Rathgen Laboratory had agreed to be involved, but lawyers from the Staatlichen Museen had their doubts about examining stolen artwork in a state institution. On Sept. 12, they informed the Berlin LKA of the upcoming transfer.

Kreuch and Hoernes would have liked to settle the issue amicably, hoping that doing so would increase their chances of getting other artworks back that had disappeared from Gotha's holdings. But now the police were involved, and they follow their own rules. Over at the LKA, René Allonge took over the case. 

Covert Surveillance
A senior criminal investigator, Allonge enjoyed great respect within the art scene. Back in 2011, he dragged theprolific art forger Wolfgang Beltracchi into court before following up that coup by tracking down thegigantic bronze horses that had stood in front of Hitler's Chancellery in Berlin. Now, he hoped to be able to solve the mystery of the Gotha art heist.

Allonge arranged covert surveillance for the planned handover on Sept. 30 and he also coordinated with Kreuch, Hoernes and the head of the institute to arrange for an undercover investigator to take part in the meeting. The plan called for him to be identified as Hoernes' supervisor, responsible for ultimately approving payment. The lawyer, they felt, would have a hard time refusing his participation.
The handover took place at midday, with the lawyer from southern Germany turning up alone. They chatted for a while before the lawyer then signed the settlement agreement and grabbed his mobile phone. At 1:30 p.m., Allonge's surveillance team watched as a Mercedes Sprinter delivery van drove up to the back of the institute. A man stepped out and unloaded five packed objects. He didn't give his name and seemed anxious, but he remained for the rest of the encounter.

The packages were unpacked and, once the bubble wrap was removed, there they were, the five Old Masters from Gotha that had been missing for 40 years. They were in cheap frames and had apparently been cleaned, but they looked authentic. It was now up to the institute to determine if they were, in fact, real.

As soon as the paintings were secure, the tone of the meeting became less cordial, with the disguised investigator demanding that the unidentified van driver finally tell the story behind the paintings. He said that following the death of his father three years before, he became part of a group of heirs. He and four other heirs had each possessed one of the paintings, which he had collected in the past few days.
Ongoing Investigation
His father, the van driver related, had been a prisoner of war in Russia and had met a man there named "Hans," who later emigrated to Australia. Hans' son was then imprisoned in East Germany, according to the story told by the van driver, whereupon the van driver's father paid a million marks from an inheritance to get Hans' son released, though it's not clear to whom the money was paid. In return for buying Hans' son out of prison, the van driver's father received the paintings as collateral.
The LKA ran a check on the van's license plates and found that it was owned by a medical doctor from northwest Germany and it didn't take long to find pictures of the man on the internet. It turned out to be the man who had, in fact, brought the paintings to Berlin. But his story sounded extremely unlikely to the investigators, and it turns out their skepticism was justified.

Allonge checked out the facts and they weren't true. The doctor's parents had bequeathed almost nothing to their children and there were no indications that the father had ever been a prisoner of war in Russia. Furthermore, he had only died a year-and-a-half earlier, not three.
The upshot is that it remains unclear how the man came into possession of the valuable paintings. Were the thieves from his family? Did relatives of his buy the stolen works of art? And how much of the story did he know?

Police are now investigating the doctor and the lawyer on suspicion of blackmail and possession of stolen goods. DER SPIEGEL was unable to reach the doctor and the lawyer declined comment because of the ongoing investigation. The presumption of innocence until proven guilty, of course, applies to both.

In the raids last Thursday, Berlin investigators seized numerous documents that must now be examined and analyzed. The largest art heist in the history of East Germany is far from being solved. Kreuch, for his part, isn't optimistic: He doesn't think he will ever learn the whole truth about the Gotha break-in. Perhaps it's time for another episode of "Unsolved Mysteries."
Secret negotiations bring return of stolen paintings after 40 years
Oliver Moody, Berlin
December 9 2019, 12:01am, The Times

Among the five paintings stolen from the Schloss Friedenstein was Holy Katharina by Holbein.

Two figures stole up to the west wall of a palace in East Germany, dug their crampons into the masonry and began to climb.

They swiftly reached a gutter on the second floor and pried open a window. Slipping inside, they took precisely what they had come for on that night in December 1979: five masterpieces of the northern Renaissance, including a landscape by Bruegel the Elder and a self-portrait by Anthony van Dyck.

The art robbery of Gotha, as it is known in Germany, was the most spectacular and costly theft of its kind in the communist state and has remained an impenetrable whodunnit for 40 years — until now.

All five of the missing paintings, with a collective value of more than £40 million, have been returned to the authorities under murky circumstances.

Over the past week police have raided several addresses across the country as they try to piece together the story of what happened to the artworks.

All that is known for certain about that night in 1979 is what was taken from the Schloss Friedenstein, a sprawling baroque palace built in the 17th century by distant relatives of the British royal family.

The paintings were all of exceptional quality: beside the Van Dyck and the Bruegel, the thieves also stole Holy Katherina, one of Holbein the Elder’s most admired court portraits, and works by the Flemish Old Masters Frans Hals and Jan Lievens.

Those choices led police to suspect that they were dealing with a theft-to-order commissioned by a wealthy and unscrupulous collector because several Cranach paintings hanging near by — which would have sold for a higher price on the black market — were left untouched.

For a time the list of suspects included the staff of the aristocratic dynasty of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, which built the palace; the Stasi colonel Alexander Schalck-Golodkowski; and the Wisdom siblings, a famous family troupe of trapeze artists.

The modus operandi of the theft bore a strong resemblance to a break-in last month at the Green Vault gallery 150 miles away in Dresden, when diamonds and other jewels worth at least €10 million were stolen in the early hours of the morning.

The trail was cold until last summer when the Schloss Friedenstein foundation was contacted by an unidentified group of people who said that they had the artworks and would return them for a price.
After almost a year and a half of secret negotiations, the paintings have been handed over and are being examined by art historians in Berlin to determine whether they are the real thing or simply clever copies.

Several police forces are attempting to fill in the blanks. Even if the original thieves are alive, they cannot be prosecuted under the statute of limitations.
However, the Berlin constabulary told the newspaper Der Tagesspiegel that it was investigating two men, aged 46 and 54, on suspicion of extortion and handling stolen goods.

If the force’s theory is correct, it would imply that the paintings have changed hands at least once since they were stolen.

A lawyer for the gallery said that the people who approached it with the artworks had given a “quixotic, unverifiable and implausible” account of how they had obtained them.
There is also some dispute over who now owns the paintings because the theft may no longer be recognised as a crime.

Reports suggest that the Schloss Friedenstein foundation has offered to pay a €5 million “finder’s fee” to settle the case and return the paintings to its walls.

Art Hostage Comments:

If authorities allow the 5 million euro finders fee to be paid to anyone other than a "participating Informant", then it sends a terrible message to the art crime world, that buying back stolen art is back on the menu.

This coming at a time when Germany is still reeling from the Dresden Green Vault Heist.
Paying out any finders fee on the Gotha art recovery sends a message to the criminal art underworld that if they wait long enough after an art heist, payments will be made.

It also encourages future art crime, putting a great big target on Museums and public collections, which throughout Europe and beyond are vulnerable to attack.