Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Stolen Art Watch, Art Crime Never Sleeps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Persian Bas Relief Seized at European Art Fair

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

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

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

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Stolen Art Watch, October 2017

Irish National Pleads Guilty to Rhino-Horn Smuggling Scheme

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How did they do it?

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

What happened to the art?

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

Not all attempts pay off

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

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Stolen Art Watch, Bulmer Art Heist, Corrupt Dick Ellis Gets Away With Double Cross Yet Again, Art Crime Round Up August 2017

Corrupt ex-cop Richard (Dick) Ellis

Paintings Recovery Back-story:

One of them, Dick Ellis, told The Mail on Sunday: ‘What was very apparent to me was that the robbers had a very good understanding of the layout of the property and good knowledge of the Bulmers themselves. It was very well planned and orchestrated.’
He said his first move was to place an advert in the Antiques Trade Gazette, offering a £50,000 reward for information.
In June this year, 2015, Mr Ellis received a phone call from Mr Hill to say that ‘he had been contacted and told that someone he knew, knew somebody else, who knew somebody else who had information’. What followed was a period of tense negotiation. Mr Ellis said: ‘It is not an easy process. But you can be assured that the money went to those whose information led to the recovery, not the raiders themselves.’
Before the money was wire-transferred, Mr Ellis had to authenticate the pictures at a secret location and the Bulmers were finally given the good news two weeks ago.
Full article linked below:

Gang in court charged with £2.5m art and silver heist at home of Bulmer Somerset cider dynasty

File photo of Esmond Bulmer with his wife Susie and dog Echo outside their home
File photo of Esmond Bulmer with his wife Susie and dog Echo outside their home "The Pavilion" in Bruton, Somerset.

A group of men appeared in court today in connection with a multi-million pound heist at the home of a cider dynasty.The 12 are:
Liam Judge, aged 41, of Foley Close, Tuffley in Gloucestershire; Matthew Evans, aged 40, of Coral Close, Tuffley in Gloucestershire; Mark Regan, aged 45, of no fixed address; Skinder Ali, aged 38, of no fixed address; Donald Maliska, aged 63, of Abbey Place, Priory Road, Dartford; John Morris, aged 55, of Cowper Gardens, London; Jonathan Rees, aged 62, of Village Close, Weighbridge, Surrey; David Price, aged 52, of Virginia Court, London, London TBC; Ike Obiamiwe, aged 55, of Perryn Road, Ealing, London; Nigel Blackburn, aged 60, of Frederick Street, Hockley, Birmingham; Azhar Mir, aged 64, of Halstead Grove, Solihull; and Thomas Lynch, aged 42, of St Benedict’s Road, Small Heath, Birmingham.

The suspects face charges relating to a £2.5 million robbery of art and silver at the stately home belonging to Susie and Esmond Bulmer.

Twleve men were due to appear but a European arrest warrant was issued for one defendant, John Morris, 55.
Somerset County Gazette:

He booked a one-way ticket out of UK after being charged last month, Bristol Magistrates’ Court was told.

The eleven defendants appeared at court and denied involvement in the raid, in Bruton, Somerset, eight years ago.

They also deny having anything to do with valuable stolen goods as recently as 2015.

Somerset County Gazette:

Facing a charge of conspiracy to rob, Liam Judge, 41, and Matthew Evans, 40, both of Tuffley, Gloucester, denied the accusations.

They were released on unconditional bail, along with co-defendant Thomas Lynch, 42, of Birmingham, who was accused of assisting in the realisation of stolen property.

Also accused of conspiracy to rob was Skinder Ali, 38. He denied the charge, along with another of assisting in the realisation of stolen property, relating to 19 paintings.

Mark Regan, 45, denied the same charge of assisting in the realisation of criminal property.
Somerset County Gazette:

David Price, 52, of London, and Donald Maliska, 63, of Dartford, Kent, both denied conspiring to defraud an insurance company and assisting in the realisation of 19 stolen paintings.

Ike Obiamwe, 55, of Sutton, denied the same allegations.

Jonathan Rees, 62, of Weybridge, Surrey, denied perverting the course of justice by giving a false statement to police during an interview on November 25, 2015.

He also denied assisting in the realisation of stolen property, and conspiracy to defraud.

The defendants appeared before District Judge Lynne Matthews at Bristol Magistrates’ Court.

A European arrest warrant for Morris was applied for by prosecutor Ben Samples, who said: "A postal-requisition was sent on July 19.

"Police tell me he bought a one-way ticket out of the country on July 19 and left the country. We believe he is in Europe."

All were sent for trial at Bristol Crown Court and their next court appearance will be September 22.

Liam Judge
Matthew Evans
Liam Judge and Matthew Evans are accused of conspiracy to commit robbery and, like all the defendants, are pleading not guilty
Ike Obianiwe
Azhar Mir
Jonathan Rees
Ike Obianiwe is accused of conspiracy to receive stolen goods and conspiracy to defraud; Azhar Mir of controlling criminal property; and Jonathan Rees of conspiracy to receive stolen goods, conspiracy to defraud and committing a series of acts intending to pervert the course of justice
Donald Maliska
David Price
Donald Maliska and David Price are accused of conspiracy to receive stolen goods and conspiracy to defraud

Bulmers cider family art robbery: Eleven men in court

Eleven men have appeared in court charged in connection with a multi-million pound raid at a cider-making family's luxury home in Somerset.
Esmond and Susie Bulmer's home in Bruton was targeted in 2009 and the couple's housekeeper was allegedly tied to a banister.
A total of 15 paintings worth £1.7m, and £1m of jewellery were stolen.
All the defendants deny any wrongdoing and are due to appear at Bristol Crown Court on 22 September.

Those charged are:
  • Liam Judge, 41, of Crypt Court, Tuffley, Gloucester, accused of conspiracy to commit robbery
  • Matthew Evans, 40, of Coral Close, Tuffley, Gloucester, accused of conspiracy to commit robbery
  • Skinder Ali, 38, whose address was listed as HMP Full Sutton in Yorkshire, accused of conspiracy to commit robbery and conspiracy to receive stolen goods. He appeared by videolink
  • Jonathan Rees, 62, of Village Close, Weybridge, Surrey, accused of conspiracy to receive stolen goods, conspiracy to defraud and committing a series of acts intending to pervert the course of justice
  • Donald Maliska, 62, of Old Brompton Road, London, accused of conspiracy to receive stolen goods and conspiracy to defraud
  • Mark Regan, 45, whose address was listed as HMP Long Lartin in Worcestershire, accused of conspiracy to receive stolen goods. He appeared in court by videolink
  • David Price, 52, of Virginia Court, Camden, London, accused of conspiracy to receive stolen goods and conspiracy to defraud
  • Ike Obiamiwe, 55, of The Drive, Sutton, Surrey, accused of conspiracy to receive stolen goods and conspiracy to defraud
  • Thomas Lynch, 42, of St Benedict's Road, Small Heath, Birmingham, accused of conspiracy to receive stolen goods
  • Nigel Blackburn, 60, of Broad Street, Birmingham, accused of controlling criminal property
  • Azhar Mir, 64, of Bufferys Close, Hillfield, Solihull, West Midlands, accused of controlling criminal property

At Bristol Magistrates' Court, all 11 indicated through their lawyers that they would be pleading not guilty to the charges.
A 12th defendant, John Morris, 56, of Cowper Gardens, Enfield, London, did not attend court and a warrant for his arrest without bail was issued by the judge. He is accused of conspiracy to receive stolen goods.

A Green Light for Art Criminals?

LONDON — The horrific Grenfell Tower fire, which claimed the lives of about 80 residents of an apartment block here in June, has had a number of unforeseen consequences.
Among them is the Metropolitan Police’s decision to temporarily transfer the three officers in its art and antiques unit to the team investigating the blaze. The redeployment of Detective Constables Sophie Hayes, Ray Swan and Philip Clare, first reported last month in The Art Newspaper, leaves London, the world’s second-largest market for art and antiques, after New York, unsupervised by any specialist police officers — for the moment, at least. In 2016, the British market, dominated by London’s auction houses and dealers, was estimated to be worth $12 billion in sales, according to a report compiled by Art Basel and UBS.
“It’s the wheel turning full circle,” said Richard Ellis, a former officer at the Met, as the police force is known, who founded the unit in 1989. His art and antiques squad of then-four permanent detectives revived a section that had been disbanded in 1984.
“It seems hugely irresponsible to close the unit at a time when terrorist activity is being funded at least to some extent by the illegal trade in antiquities,” he added. “We’re at a completely opposite pole from America.”
Mr. Ellis contrasted the Met’s three reassigned art crime detectives with the 16 special agents in the F.B.I.’s Art Crime Team. A further 6,000 special agents are deployed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, to protect cultural property from trafficking.
ICE contends that the Islamic State militant group has established “systematic procedures” in Iraq and Syria to “extort illegal excavation operations to generate revenue.” This illegal traffic has therefore become a hot-button issue for the Department of Homeland Security in Washington and for international bodies such as Unesco. But reputable antiquities dealers, while wary of handling looted works, remain sanguine.
“In 2011, we asked our members to report if they were offered anything suspicious,” said Vincent Geerling, a trader in Amsterdam who is chairman of the International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art. Seven of its 32 members are based in London. “To our astonishment, it just hasn’t happened,” said Mr. Geerling, who cited just two examples of suspicious items being offered to the association’s members.
But according to Édouard Planche of Unesco’s secretariat, looters are simply playing a waiting game.
“You don’t see the most valuable illegal pieces on the open market,” Mr. Planche said. “But we’ve seen the extent of the illegal excavations. Where does this stuff go? It either goes into private collections or is put in storage. Sooner or later, it will appear on the market, maybe in 20 years’ time.”
The United Nations Security Council announced in February 2015 a ban on all trade in looted antiquities from Iraq and Syria. The moratorium appears to have been effective, at least in the experience of London’s police force.
“The Met’s Art and Antiques Unit have had no referrals to support the claim that the London art market is experiencing an upsurge in artifacts emanating from conflict zones in Syria and Iraq,” said Asim Bashir, a Met communications officer, in an email. He said the Met was currently dealing with “a very small number” of investigations relating to illicitly excavated antiquities from those regions.
“Information gathered shows that the items left the source countries a number of years ago,” he added.
Martin Finkelnberg, head of the Art and Antiques Crime Unit of the Dutch police, said he had seen “no evidence” of antiquities being sold to fund terrorism. And he sympathized with the Met’s decision to reassign its art and antiques specialists. “When something major happens, it has to be all hands on deck,” he said. “Police forces only have so many officers.”
Originally founded in 1969, the Metropolitan Police’s art and antiques unit has accumulated specialist expertise in a range of art-related crimes including theft, forgery and fraud. Its London Stolen Arts Database contains details and images of 54,000 items. .
The Met declined to provide overall statistics about the unit’s recent investigations or prosecutions, and just one art-related prosecution features in the Met’s searchable news releases. In June, Nadeem Malick was sentenced to 18 months in prison for dealing in stolen watches.
Mr. Ellis, the former leader of the Met’s art and antiques squad, said that in the 1980s and ’90s, police resources were further stretched by fakes. Investigating master forgers such as John Myatt and Shaun Greenhalgh required the unit to take on five extra officers, according to Mr. Ellis.
“There’s less good faking now,” said Mr. Greenhalgh, who in 2007 was sentenced to four years and eight months in prison after making and selling forgeries of historic artworks. These included an “ancient Egyptian” alabaster statue of a princess that was bought in 2003 by the Bolton Museum in northern England in 2003 for 440,000 pounds, or about $700,000 at the time.
“It’s far more difficult to do with the science being what it is,” said Mr. Greenhalgh, 57. “Painting fake old masters is just not possible now. But any confident art student can do 20th century.”
Mr. Greenhalgh’s privately printed autobiography, “A Forger’s Tale,” was reissued by a mainstream publisher in June and has so far sold 5,000 copies in hardback. In the book, he controversially claims to have forged “La Bella Principessa,” a drawing, purportedly by Leonardo da Vinci, that has been valued at as much as $150 million.
The former faker described the Met’s specialist art and antiques detectives as an “occupational hazard” when he was active. He said he thinks that genuine artifacts, rather than forgeries, now present a bigger challenge to the police.
“Plundering antiquities in the Middle East and South America and legitimizing them with false provenances, that’s the major problem in the art world today,” Mr. Greenhalgh said.
Janet Ulph, a professor of commercial law at the University of Leicester in England, takes a similar view. “Cultural property is a specialist area,” she said. “You do need police experts who understand all the different laws relating to the illicit trade.”
She said she is concerned that Britain might be unable to fulfill its obligations to international agreements, such as a recent United Nations resolution which urges governments to take effective measures against trafficking in cultural property. “The absence of the unit cuts away at the U.K.’s response,” Professor Ulph said.
It might be too much to say that the scaling back of the Met’s art and antiques unit is a green light to criminals. But right now, there is no officer on the art beat keeping an eye on the traffic.

The Art World Calls This Man When Masterpieces Go Missing

Did you just discover your priceless family heirloom is about to be sold at auction? Has your church’s centuries-old relic gone missing? Christopher Marinello has got you covered.
Marinello has been dubbed the “Sherlock Holmes of Nazi-looted art,” and with good reason. A lawyer who cut his teeth as a litigator in New York, he is best known for founding Art Recovery International in 2013, a private company that negotiates title disputes over stolen and lost art. Art Recovery has helped negotiate some of the most high profile restitution cases in recent years, such as the discovery and return of Matisse’s 1921 painting Seated Woman/Woman Sitting in Armchair, a Nazi-looted masterpiece discovered in a trove of art inside German collector Cornelius Gurlitt’s Munich apartment in 2012. In 2015, Marinello helped negotiate the painting’s return to its rightful owners: the descendants of famed modern art dealer, Paul Rosenberg. That same year, the company also helped recover and return a sculpture by Auguste Rodin which had been stolen and missing for 24 years. And most recently, he oversaw the return of The Mark Provincial Sword of Kent, a stolen Masonic sword that popped up at an auction house in London.
We spoke with the stolen art expert about founding Art Recovery International, why due diligence is an important (and unavoidable) step for everyone in the art world and what he loves most about his job.

Chris Marinello, CEO of Art Recovery International. Art Recovery International
How did you begin working in art law?A very long time ago I was an artist and not a very good one. My art teacher encouraged me to become a lawyer as an alternative profession. But it was also something that I had always wanted to do. So, I became a lawyer, and I was a litigator in New York City for 20 years and developed an art practice as well. In this way, I was able to mix my love of art and the law. My very first case was representing an art gallery on the ground floor of 70 Pine Street.
What types of cases do you most like to take on? The company you founded, Art Recovery, does a lot of work in the cultural heritage sector and resolving claims of stolen art.We’ve been very successful in some of the restitution cases we’ve handled, and we represent a large number of insurance companies. Given the success we’ve had, it’s put us in a good position where we can do pro bono work for churches, museums and artists. We do a great number of pro bono cases, so we’re able to pick and choose what we want to work on, and we’re fortunate that we can do that. I’m a sucker for a charity, a church, religious institution or an artist’s studio that has suffered a theft. I know that funds are hard to come by, and I don’t mind taking on that challenge to help them get their property back.
Tell us about a recent case that you found particularly challenging, and one that exemplifies what Art Recovery does well.I would say it was the Gurlitt case—that case had everything. Our specialty is avoiding litigation and coming up with creative methods to resolve title disputes over found art. We think that there are so many lawyers out there who work in art law that love to pull the trigger on litigation, but we don’t believe that litigation is in the best interest of our clients. Many people who come to me either don’t want the publicity that comes with a court proceeding…or they are afraid that the object or the painting that they’re litigating over will be burned in the marketplace because of the litigation—which often happens. They don’t want it to affect other deals and relationships, and they want to protect their anonymity. Not to mention, the frightening cost of litigating a case today, and the time it consumes. We try to develop creative methods to resolve cases, and that we consider a specialty.

Marinello with The Mark Provincial Sword of Kent. Art Recovery International
Can you expand a little on those creative methods?I don’t want to give away any secrets, but for example: in the Gurlitt case, we had the German authorities insisting that we follow the German process. When they told us that the Gurlitt family had filed a claim in the probate court, we went to the Gurlitt family directly and reached an agreement with them: if they were successful in challenging Gurlitt’s will, they would return the Rosenberg Matisse to the family. We made that same agreement with the Kunstmuseum in Bern. We essentially were going to receive the painting no matter which side won. We said to the German authorities, ‘You can’t expect us to wait seven years for the probate court to make a ruling…Because if the Gurlitt family wins we get the painting back and if the Kunstmuseum Bern wins we get the painting back—so give us the painting now!’ And that was something they were not prepared for and was quite surprising. That’s sort of an example of the things that we do. We try to think outside the normal processes.
What are some timely issues you’ve encountered in recent cases through Art Recovery? And are there areas where you feel the process for handling cases related to the illegal trade of antiquities can be improved?With respect to antiquities, I think the obvious answer is not to buy anything that doesn’t have a complete provenance. And that seems to be the problem and the message that needs to be put across. It’s shocking that Hobby Lobby didn’t get that message, nor did they listen to the advisors that they hired to help them with that acquisition. What we see here is people buying things without doing any kind of due diligence, and when they do due diligence, they’re not listening to their advisors. So, obviously, it’s a problem. The FBI tried to scare everybody by saying if you buy an unprovenanced antiquity and it came from Syria, you could be charged with aiding international terrorism. That’s enough to scare anybody with any sense. But apparently not enough people have heard this and they continue to buy unprovenanced objects. At the same time, I don’t side with the academics that believe every object of antiquity should not be traded in the marketplace. That’s completely absurd. There are fragments or Roman glass you can buy for $20; they have no contextual importance, no historical importance and no museum of collector really wants them. But to ban their sale is extremist. Just as it’s extremist to think there should be no regulation in the antiquities market. There needs to be a middle ground like anything else.
What about on the side of Nazi-looted art?With Nazi-looted art, it’s a totally different position. I feel that people are hiding Nazi looted works of art, hoping that the victims or the claimants will go away, that they will lose interest, or lose their records, that the claim itself will change or that the law will change—and that’s wrong. I can tell you many cases—I know of looted works of art in Mexico, Austria, Switzerland, Germany and in America. People know they are in possession of Nazi-looted art but they’re hiding them.

Auguste Rodin’s Young Girl With Serpent. Art Recovery International
Do you make spreading the word about due diligence a personal mission in your work?Every time I recover something there’s always a message. [With] the sword case, the auction house in London, if they had done a simple Google search: “stolen Masonic sword”…Up pops an ad that another group of Masons put out for this particular sword, saying it was stolen….
Every case I have has a message to the trade, or to the collector, to the auction houses, that they need to do something. It’s not just that I’m hard on the trade, I’m hard on collectors as well. Theft victims need to report their thefts; you can’t expect an auction house or an art gallery to do due diligence if you’re not reporting your thefts. They need to report things to a central database like Artive, which doesn’t charge anybody to report a theft…If your sword was stolen, you need to report it to Artive so that an auction house can check it and make sure they’re not selling something they shouldn’t be selling. It works both ways, it’s a message for everybody.
What is it that you enjoy most about what you do?I thoroughly enjoy the negotiating process. I love the give and take, and developing a strategy so that both parties will come to the table and work out an agreement. When that happens I take great pride in knowing that I avoided a major court case, which I know none of the parties really want. But the best part of my job is in that photograph that you saw with the sword, or in the Saint Olave’s church case, where I’m able to return an object to a church, museum, theft victim or charity; I get to talk to them about the object, and they tell me how important it is to their family, their organization or to their church, and what it means to have these objects back. That’s the best part of the job.

Meet 'Good Samaritans' who got stolen de Kooning painting back to UA

A painting worth millions, stolen in a brazen, movie-style heist has resurfaced after being missing for 31 years.
The iconic stolen painting worth as much as $160 million. In 1985, Willem de Kooning’s “Woman-ochre” disappeared from the University of Arizona’s Museum of Art.
Police believe a couple walked in and cut the iconic painting from its frame. It remained missing for more than 31 years. Then, in August, a man called the museum saying he’d found the painting at an estate sale.
Museum officials confirmed its authenticity and brought the piece back to UA, where, after some restoration, it will finally find its home once again.

University of Arizona officials hailed as heroes and Good Samaritans the three owners of an antiques store who returned a $100 million painting after it was stolen from the school 31 years ago.
But David Van Auker, who alerted authorities, was having none of that. He said he’s humble, he’s thrilled, but he’s not a hero.
“We returned something that was stolen, and that’s something everyone should do,” he said. “It absolutely had to come back.”
Van Auker, Buck Burns and Rick Johnson own Manzanita Ridge Furniture & Antiques, a store they’ve operated for about 15 years in Silver City, New Mexico.
They were honored at a press conference on Monday in Tucson just days after they inadvertently purchased the valuable painting as part of an estate sale.
The oil painting was none other than “Woman-Ochre,” a Willem de Kooning masterpiece that was looted in a daring heist in 1985 from the University of Arizona Museum of Art in Tucson.
Since the UA announced the painting's recovery last week, university associates who remember the devastating theft firsthand, such as UA Police Chief Brian Seastone, have been smiling nonstop.
“Somebody saw something, they said something, and today she’s home,” said Seastone, who was a young officer assigned to the case three decades ago.

'Wow, what a horrible frame'

Facing a room full of local and national media on Monday, Van Auker recounted the tense days that led up to the valuable artwork being returned.
Van Auker took an immediate liking to the painting when he spotted it in early August in an estate sale of a ranch-style home about 30 miles outside Silver City. He, Burns and Johnson inspected the contents of the home and decided to buy the lot, which included furniture and African art objects.
Van Auker opened the master bedroom and was struck by an abstract painting of a nude woman just behind the door.
He called Burns in to take a look.
Burns liked the colors and the rich, thick paint strokes. He did not like the cheap, gold frame that encased the painting, however.
“My first thought was, ‘Wow, what a horrible frame,' ” Burns said.
But frames can be changed.
So they decided to take the painting home.
They loaded the painting into a truck on top of some mid-century modern furniture. Back at the store, they took the painting out and propped it against a coffee table. They intended to hang it in their guesthouse.

'Is that a de Kooning?'

The next day, about 15 minutes after opening, a man who had just moved to the community saw the painting and asked, “Is that a de Kooning?”
Two more visitors had similar inquiries.
Burns got nervous; he took the painting and hid it in the store’s bathroom.
Van Auker went online and discovered a 2015 article on about the de Kooning painting that had been stolen from the UA museum without a trace.
The photo online matched the painting he had in the store. He said he got a sinking feeling. He wasn’t sure what to do.
Realizing he probably “sounded like a crazy person,” he called the UA art museum, The Republic reporter who had written the 2015 story and the FBI.
He sent photos and measurements to Olivia Miller, the museum’s curator, and with each photo that arrived, she became more and more excited.
Van Auker took the painting home that night and hid it behind the sofa.

'We are so grateful'

The next day, Friday, Aug. 4, the museum curator and a group of museum staff made the 200-mile drive from Tucson to Silver City.
Once they saw the painting in person, there was no doubt.
By the following Monday, Aug. 7, the painting was back at the university. By Wednesday, Aug. 9, a university conservationist said preliminary authentication showed it was “Woman-Ochre.”
On Monday, Aug. 14, the antiques store owners made a trip to the art museum at the university’s invitation for a special ceremony to thank them, and the university unveiled the oil painting to the media.
“I’m so glad she’s back home,” whispered Johnson, before the ceremony began.
UA officials won’t put a price tag on the painting.
But a similar work in de Kooning’s “Woman” series sold for $137.5 million a decade ago. The university can't sell its de Kooning, though, because of a stipulation by the donor, architect and businessman Edward Gallagher Jr.
Once restored, the painting will be on display for generations to come.
“We all felt its loss, and we all wanted it recovered,” said Miller, the museum’s curator.
“We are so grateful — to David, to Buck, to Rick.”

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Stolen Art Watch, Brighton Antiques Knocker Boy Lee Collins Gets Four Years Jailtime. July 2017 Art Crime Round Up

Brighton Antiques Knocker Boy Lee Collins appeared at Portsmouth Crown Court on June 23rd 2017 where he was convicted on two counts. He received two years six months for the first count and eighteen months for the second count. A total of four years in prison.
Subsequently, Lee Collins aka Lee Kendall appeared at Aylesbury Crown Court and after a trial was convicted and sentenced on June 29th 2017 to a further eighteen months in prison. Not sure if this means he will serve the whole five years six months for the three convictions or the last sentence will be concurrent?

Update: JAILED: Man, Lee Collins, posing as tradesman stole from elderly couple's home in Great Missenden

A man who posed as a tradesman to steal from an elderly couple’s home in Great Missenden has been jailed for 18 months.
In July last year 50-year-old Lee Collins, of The Heights in Brighton, visited the couple's home claiming to work for ‘Clarences of Sussex’ – and asked to buy antiques.
While the victims were distracted, Collins, who is also known as Lee Kendall, stole an Omega watch from the house.
He was later stopped by police in High Wycombe and a number of items were seized from his vehicle.
Collins was charged on October 25 last year and appeared at Aylesbury Crown Court on Thursday, June 29 where he was sentenced.
Investigating officer PC Chris Jamieson, from Taplow Police Station, said: "This case related to a burglary targeted at vulnerable members of the community. I am pleased that Collins has been convicted and will be serving time in prison.
"Thames Valley Police will strive to work to bring offenders to justice in this way, especially for offences such as this which cause a lot of concern and impact to the public.
"We will ensure justice is brought to those attempting to target vulnerable members of our communities."

 Although the companies website, twitter and fb pages are still active, a letter was served today, July 4th 2017,to strike this company in two months and any assets or money will be paid to the crown.

Lee Collins relation pleads guilty to distrction buglary

Police release transcript made between pensioner and man who was later sentenced for distraction burglary

Jack Collins has been sentenced for carrying out a distraction burglary at an elderly woman’s home in Gerrards Cross
This is the transcript of a conversation between a pensioner and a man who was sentenced for a distraction burglary at her home.
Thames Valley Police have released the CCTV recording of the elderly woman's conversation with Jack Collins, 21, of The Heights, Brighton, made on the doorstep of the 88-year-old's Gerrards Cross home.
Collins purported to be a clock repair man and using the trading name "Clarences of Sussex" paid a visit to the victim's address at 3pm on July 6 2016.
He asked to be let in to examine a clock at the property, stating that the victim had previously asked him to attend for repairs, but the victim has no memory of this.

The victim and witness were happy for this transcript to be released:
Jack Collins (JC) – “Good afternoon, sorry to trouble you, it’s about the brochure I dropped in last week, did you have a chance to read the brochure at all?”
Victim (V) – “What was it about?”
(JC) – “We’ve found out some good news about your clock for you, do you remember? We came a while back, and I just needed to have another quick look, that’s all.”
(V) opens the door – “If it’s anywhere it’ll be… look… do you see it?”
(JC) “Yes, it’s the wall clock, the grandmother”
(V) – “The big one?”
(JC) – “Yes! Do you remember we looked at it a while ago now?”
(V) – “I don’t remember”
(JC) – “Um, is it all right to have a quick look?” (after a 10 second gap in the CCTV) “…to get it repaired for you”
(V) – “I don’t particularly want it repaired”
(JC) – “No, that’s fine. I’ll leave that. Um do you remember the beads that you showed me upstairs? Because I found out about them for you and they’re going to be worth several hundred pounds. Is it alright to have another look?
(V) – “Yes”
(JC) – “Come on then”
JC goes up the stairs and is out of sight. The victim attempts to follow, but is slow climbing the stairs on her own.
Shortly after Collins goes upstairs a neighbour of the victim arrives, asking Collins who he is and for his business card. Collins agrees to go out to his car and collect the card for the neighbour, however he does not return to the property.
It is not believed that Collins actually took anything from the property.

He pleaded guilty at Amersham Crown Court on Wednesday May 17 and was sentenced to 21 months imprisonment (suspended for 2 years), 250 hours unpaid work and £500 compensation.
Investigating officer PC Chris Jamieson, from Taplow Police Station, said: “I am grateful for the hard work undertaken to convict the offender and protect the vulnerable victim.
"I also particularly commend the brave neighbour who the challenged the offender during the burglary, causing him to flee.
“I hope this promotes a message that we will robustly investigate these kinds of offences and ensure justice is brought to those attempting to target vulnerable members of our communities.
“This is a particularly disturbing case of an offender targeting an elderly victim and taking advantage of her vulnerabilities.
"We would also advise all elderly or vulnerable residents to be on their guard when people call at their door, even if they are expecting someone – care should still be taken.”
 Advice for how to deal with callers is available here

The Cézanne Stolen In The Perfect Art Heist For a New Millennium

As the world celebrated the dawn of a new millennium in 2000, a thief broke into Oxford's Ashmolean Museum and stole a Cézanne painting. It, and the thief, have never been found

As the clock struck midnight on January 1, 2000, crowds around the world went wild. It was not only a new year, worthy of all the celebration that entails, but also a new millennium, one that many believed would start in 'Y2K' disaster.
But the crisis was averted, the clocks and computers rolled back to zero with nary a hiccup, and the revelry began in full force in towns like Oxford, England.
While many had been preparing for the evening by stocking up on canned goods and bottled water (just in case), one person in the U.K. had a different idea of preparation.
Sometime after 1 a.m. on New Year’s Day, while fireworks were blasting and revelers carousing in the surrounding streets—a thief successfully carried out his plan to steal Paul Cézanne’s 'View of Auvers-sur-Oise' from the University of Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum.
The history of art theft is littered with amateurs who have royally bungled their ill-considered attempts at a get-rich-quick scheme (hint: stealing art is complicated and rarely lucrative), and heists that are successful are often attributed to woefully inadequate security.
But neither of these plot lines applied to the Cézanne-napping. The thief who broke into the Ashmolean on New Year’s Eve carried out a professional, highly planned heist that many have likened to that of The Thomas Crown Affair.
The plan was meticulously executed. Using the construction scaffolding at nearby Oxford University Library, the thief climbed onto the roof and then hopped across several buildings to get to the museum.
The thief then broke through a skylight, lowered a rope into the gallery below, and shimmied their way down.
The real evil genius of the plan was in their next move. As the thief entered the gallery, they activated a smoke canister and, using a fan, spread a fog that obscured the view of the security cameras—one of the reasons the thief has never been identified—and set off the fire alarm.
While most would consider tripping an alarm in the middle of a crime a deal-breaker, in this case, it bought the thief an extra couple of minutes. While security guards waited for the fire department to arrive, the thief was able to grab the Cézanne from a nearby gallery, shimmy back up the rope, reverse their roof hopping, and disappear into the surrounding crowd.
The whole heist took less than ten minutes and, by the time the authorities had cleared the building and determined that the only emergency was the empty space where the Cézanne had once hung, the thief was gone without a trace.
“'It is the only Cézanne we have in the Ashmolean, and it is very important as an example of late 19th-century painting,” Dr. Christopher Brown, then-director of the Ashmolean, told the Guardian. “This is not just a criminal act but a very selfish act.”'View of Auvers-sur-Oise' was painted by the artist sometime between 1879 and 1882, and it represents a key step in Cézanne’s career as he transitioned from his early, darker work to the Post-Impressionist style that he would become known for. Cézanne may now be considered one of the most important artists of the 19th century, paving the way for Modernism and gaining followers of the likes of Matisse, Picasso, and Kandinsky, but he was ignored and even rejected for most of his career (his first solo show wasn’t until the age of 56).
While he was struggling in his early 30’s to gain a toehold in the artistic community, the artist decided to move his family to Auvers-sur-Oise in France at the suggestion of his dear friend and fellow painter Camille Pissarro.
“Our Cézanne gives us hope, and I’ve seen some paintings; I have at home one of remarkable vigor and power,” Pissarro wrote in a letter to Antoine Guillemet in early 1872. “If, as I hope, he remains for awhile in Auvers, where he’s going to live, he’ll astonish a lot of artists who were too quick to condemn him.”
He would astonish artists, although their condemnation lasted for several more decades, but the year and a half that Cézanne spent in the small town to the northwest of Paris would continue to influence him for a long time.
“Cézanne mightn't have been Cézanne without [Pissarro],” Jerry Saltz wrote in a 2005 review of an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art called “Cézanne and Pissarro: Pioneering Modern Painting.” “It was Pissarro who pulled Cézanne toward nature, away from expressionist painting, the palette knife excesses of Courbet, and what art historian Roger Fry called ‘artistic madness.’”
Well after he left town in early 1874, Cézanne would continue to paint landscapes inspired by Auvers-sur-Oise. One of these was the painting that ended up in the Ashmolean collection.
As the smoke cleared in the early morning hours of the new Millennium, detectives on the scene started looking at the case as a “stolen-to-order” job. The Cézanne was in the very same gallery as a van Gogh, a Picasso, a Manet, and a Monet, but none of the other paintings were touched; the culprit clearly had a mission when they broke through the skylight.
But in an interview he gave to NPR several days after the theft, Dr. Brown, the museum’s director, said that he wasn’t sure that was the case. He told NPR's Liane Hansen that earlier in December, a Cézanne had sold at an auction in London for £18 million. He thought the man responsible had learned about the sale and saw an opportunity to cash in.
Beyond being a devastating loss for the museum, the theft was particularly hurtful to Brown because of the path it took to get to Oxford.
The Cézanne was part of a group of paintings donated to the museum by Richard and Sophie Walzer, who had come to the U.K. as German refugees fleeing Hitler during World War II.
“In giving this group of pictures to the Ashmolean, they were thanking the British people for taking them in at this terrible time, and particularly the people of Oxford,” Brown told NPR. “So there is a real sentimental link between this picture and Oxford. And it is profoundly upsetting to me, as it is to many of us here, that that link has been broken by this criminal act.”
As the confetti settled from the New Year’s celebrations and the world got back to their lives, word of the theft began to hit papers around the globe. Worth a reported $4.8 million, 'View of Auvers-sur-Oise' was one of the most significant art heists in recent decades, and that distinction earned it a not-so-prized spot on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Art Crimes list, where it remains today.
But despite the publicity, no break has come in the case of the missing Cézanne and the painting’s whereabouts remain just as hidden as the identity of the person who took it in the first place.
But wherever the perpetrator is—whether enjoying the spoils of their made-for-hire job or sneaking glances at the famous painting that is not so easy to sell—the joke may be on them.
In February 2016, new guidelines were passed in the U.K. that demand a more severe punishment for offenses deemed “heritage crimes,” a designation for which the New Year’s Eve theft more than qualifies. Had the thief been discovered before that date, they would have faced a less severe sentence.
If the thief is ever caught they may find themselves wishing that, on that momentous Millennium night, they too had had no greater plans than to enjoy a raucous display of fireworks just like everyone else.
Art Hostage Comments:
Please listen to this radio show featuring Charlie Hill explaining how he was offered the Cezanne back for 20,000 euros, but the museum and police refused to engage with him.

Artful Dodger

Irish Monet vandal Andrew Shannon is back to his old tricks as he’s spotted on prowl at ANOTHER art gallery in England

Our pictures also show him and his older cohort mingling with other visitors as they appear to identify items for theft
IRELAND’S most notorious art thief and convicted masterpiece vandal is refusing to give up his place in Rogues’ Gallery.
Our exclusive CCTV stills show Andrew Shannon on the prowl inside Kiplin Hall in North Yorkshire, England, with another man and a teenage lad.

Shannon looks up at the camera
Shannon looks up at the camera
In the first snap, the 51-year-old is captured looking directly at a security camera in the 16th century Jacobean house, near Northallerton.
Our pictures also show him and his older cohort mingling with other visitors as they appear to identify items for theft.
And in another, the trio are seen walking down the stairs after entering the historic property’s private bedrooms.
Although he was spotted acting suspiciously by the stately home’s guides, staff were unable to prevent the theft of five antique books.
And cops were left frustrated in their attempts to charge the trio with theft after they failed to recover any of the stolen tomes.

Shannon walks around the gallery
Shannon walks around the gallery
Shannon, who provided legal advice to lags while inside Dublin’s Cloverhill Prison, swooped on the property in April 2016 after his early release from a six-year sentence for damaging a €10million painting in Dublin in 2012.
Our exclusive CCTV grabs show Shannon in the National Gallery of Ireland at the moment he lunged at the Monet masterpiece.
The thief — who has 48 previous convictions — is pictured mingling with visitors and admiring other works of art.
But onlookers were left stunned after he jumped at the artwork before punching a hole through the canvas.
The damaged painting — the Argenteuil Basin with a Single Sail Boat — is now back on display after it was repaired.
Passing sentence in December 2014, Mr Justice Martin Nolan said the Monet attack was a “peculiar crime”, adding the way the damage had been caused was “abnormal”.
He suspended the final 15 months of Shannon’s six-year term on condition he does not enter art ­galleries.

Shannon punches a hole in Monet painting as stunned onlookers stand watching in horror
Shannon punches a hole in Monet painting as stunned onlookers stand watching in horror
Today’s special investigation by the Irish Sun into one of Europe’s most prolific art and antique thieves reveals how he’s now back behind bars.
He is serving a sentence at HM Prison Preston after he was lifted by cops there in April of this year.
He was wanted by detectives in the UK after he failed to return to complete a theft sentence there after he previously received temporary release.
The thief — who was again released from prison in October over a one-year sentence for possessing 57 stolen antique books taken from Carton House, Co Kildare — was arrested after his Ford Focus was identified by the Automatic Numberplate Recognition System.
We understand UK cops swooped after they received a tip-off from the Gardai that he was travelling to England.
Shannon, who also failed in his appeal to have his conviction for the Monet attack overturned after pleading his innocence, will now spend the next 15 months in the UK slammer.
A source said: “It’s great news for the art world to have this man back behind bars again.
“Even when he received temporary release he came back to Ireland to target more stately homes.
“He will steal anything he gets his hands on and just doesn’t want other people enjoying fine art or antiques. He even stole a wedding photographer’s album in Co Monaghan even though it was worth nothing. He just did it for badness.”

The damaged Claude Monet painting
Collins Courts
The damaged Claude Monet painting
Although he’s now back behind bars, owners of vintage estates across England, Scotland and Wales will be on high alert when he’s released next year.
One owner of a UK pad told us: “Shannon has been one of our most prolific offenders. He’s a suspect in stealing items from five homes in the last year.
“He’s not even stealing anything substantial.
“On one of his visits he’s suspected of stealing an ashtray and little figures that don’t have any monetary value.
“The whole thing seems to be a dare to him and it looks as if he’s taunting us because he’s looking directly at the camera in one of the images.
“He seldom leaves empty-handed and doesn’t work alone. It looks as if he’s now passing on his experience to a younger criminal.
“The problems for us start when he comes over here and we know he’s been operating here for a very long time.”

It took 18 months to repair the damage Shannon caused to the painting
It took 18 months to repair the damage Shannon caused to the painting
The investigation into Shannon’s exploits in Ireland was run by Sergeant Eugene McCarthy and his team, including Detective Garda David Ganly, under the command of Superintendent Joe Gannon.
Supt Gannon welcomed Shannon’s jail sentence in England and said: “It’s good to see there is no safe refuge for people who engage in criminality. This individual targets paintings and antiquities for some ulterior motive known only to himself.
“Thankfully, the law has finally caught up and dealt with him.
“A very thorough and diligent investigation into this man was conducted by the investigating officers. He poses a serious threat to the world of art and antiquities.
“He attempted to deny the general public the pleasure of preserving and viewing the legacy of history.”
We can also reveal that during a search of his home last year, officers also recovered thousands of toothbrushes and Star Wars toys.
Our latest revelations come after we revealed exclusive images from inside Shannon’s secret art gallery at his home.
A €100,000 haul — including 43 paintings and ten rare books — was found at the thief’s home after it was raided.

Shannon walking down stairs in gallery
Shannon and two associates walk down stairs in gallery
We showed how every wall in the tiny two-bedroom duplex in Ongar, west Dublin, was peppered with fine art. The pictures also illustrated how Shannon dished out a fortune on revamping the pad. His decorations included installing a TV inside the property’s bathroom.
Officers also found an antique chiropodist kit, three medals and a Georgian door lock — with the most expensive item a €10,000 Wooded River Landscape with Peasants by Irish-based artist William Ashford.
A source added: “Shannon’s property was like something from the Titanic or Gone With The Wind — every wall was completely covered. On the one hand you have him destroying historic works of art and on the other admiring them privately at his home.
“Every room had a painting hanging and he was clearly very proud of his collection. It was like a professional art gallery.
“The house didn’t look like much on the outside but a lot of money went into it.
“Shannon was unemployed and yet he still had paintings in every corner of his house.”
Since the recovery of the items from Shannon’s pad, over €30,000 worth of artworks and antiques have been returned to their owners.
They include three paintings returned to the Culloden Hotel in Northern Ireland, books to Maynooth University and a painting to the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin.
One of the items found belonged to Slane Castle owner Lord Henry Mountcharles.
Gardai believe the €4,000 item was swiped from Beau Parc House in Navan, Co Meath, in 1986. But others who have yet to come forward and collect their treasures.