Monday, July 30, 2007
Stolen Art Watch, Breaking news, breaking news, Small London Museum hit by Thieves, Haul runs into Hundreds of Thousands Sterling !!
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Bamberg, Germany - Four old-master paintings by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553) have been discovered in a German antique dealership, 27 years after thieves ripped them from a church in communist-run East Germany. The fold-out pictures on wood, each about 1 metre tall, apparently depict the birth of Saint John the Baptist.
The set would be worth several hundred thousand euros, art experts said. The thieves who took the paintings from the Lutheran church at Klieken near Wittenberg in 1980 were never caught.
The dealer had bought the colourful unsigned paintings on wood without suspecting they were stolen or by Cranach, the police said. An art expert noticed them on July 18 while shopping.
According to art professors consulted by detectives in Bamberg, only four or five experts in Germany could recognize Cranach's full range of work, so the dealer's ignorance was not surprising.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
A one tonne, £200,000 bronze statue stolen for scrap has been found safe in Streatham.
Officers from the Met's art and antiques unit found the Transformation-Tree of life statue by artist Helaine Blumenfield chained to fire escape railings in the garden of a block of flats on July 10, two years after it was stolen from a fine art trader in 2005.
Detective Constable Michelle Roycroft said officers believed the thieves had taken the statue to sell it for scrap metal but it had somehow escaped destruction.
"This is a significant recovery of valuable bronze sculpture," she said.
"We can never underestimate the monetary and emotional value of pieces like this to the art world and we would encourage the public to always make the appropriate checks when purchasing works of art."
Artist Helaine Blumenfield said she had been devastated when the work disappeared in 2005.
"I am absolutely delighted that the Met police's art and antiques unit have managed to find and return this work to me," she said.
"This piece was a labour of love for me and I was devastated when it disappeared in 2005.
"The police have saved this work from being melted down and being lost forever to the art world and to me.
"Starting in July 2005 with the theft of my sculpture Transformation, a bronze sculpture weighing over a tonne and standing more than seven feet tall, the London art world has been plagued by a series of sculptural thefts: Henry Moore, Lynn Chadwick bronzes stolen after this one have yet to be recovered.
"I hope this will lead to the recovery of other pieces as well and I am full of admiration for the detective work that has managed to recover my sculpture."
There have so far been no arrests in relation to the statue find and DC Roycroft said inquiries were continuing.
£200k statue chained to fire escape for 2 years
Jul 23 2007
A 7FT-TALL stolen statue worth £200,000 has been found chained to a fire escape - after residents failed to notice it for TWO YEARS.
Thieves left the piece of modern art in full view on a communal patch of grass at the back of a block of flats in Streatham.
But as police scoured South London for the one-tonne bronze sculpture no one living in Manor Court thought to report it.
Mavis Brown, who lives on the estate, said: "Yes there was a big metal thing. It's been there for at least two years, I think, and I've walked past it every day.
"But one day it just wasn't there."
When told how much the statue was worth, she said: "I had absolutely no idea."
The Helaine Blumenfeld sculpture - named Transformation - went missing after it was stolen from a South London fine art deal-ership in July 2005.
Thieves broke into a secure yard where it was stored ready for shipment and managed to lift it out of a locked storage crate and over the walls.
Artist Helaine - the vice-president of the Royal British Society of Sculptors - was devastated.
She said: "I could not believe it. I couldn't understand how they managed to get away with it and I still can't.
"But, for some reason I always thought I would see it again - I just had a feeling.
"When the police called me to say they were standing right next to it I was overjoyed."
Her work was finally recovered after officers from the Met's Art and Antiques Unit traced a suspicious call to a London gallery offering to sell a sculpture that matched the description of Transformation.
Officers searched the Streatham estate on July 10 and found the sculpture chained to fire escape railings.It had suffered only minor surface damage to one side.
A resident, who did not want to be named, said: "I've seen it around and always wondered why it was there.
"I thought it had been chained there to keep it safe."
Police believe the statue was one of a number of highly valuable pieces stolen to be sold on as scrap metal. But for some reason this one escaped destruction.
Detective Constable Michelle Roycroft, from the Art and Antiques Unit, said: "We can never underestimate the monetary and emotional value of pieces like this to the art world and we would encourage the public to always make the appropriate checks when buying works of art."
So far no arrests have been made in connection with the theft but enquiries are continuing.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Jul 18 2007
CALLOUS thieves have stolen a pair of sandstone eagles from Gracefield Arts Centre.
The three-foot ornamental birds — which could be worth up to £1,500 — are believed to have been chiselled off their perch in Edinburgh Road at some time during Friday night.
Mark Devlin, gallery technician, said: “We are shocked. Shocked that it’s happened and shocked that someone has had the brass neck to do it.
“They are a hefty weight and sit on a plinth that is about five feet high.
“It would definitely have taken two or three guys to get them off. And it would have taken some time.
“We’ve been asking all the neighbours if they saw or heard anything but it was quite a rough night on Friday, it was really wet so there wouldn’t have been many people hanging about.
“Whoever took them, clearly had them earmarked, they have obviously turned up with chisels and they must have had a van or something to take them away.
“The birds are very much associated with the arts centre.
“People use the griffins as a guide to find the entrance.
“The worrying thing is, what if these people had been challenged? They clearly had no regard whatsoever.”
The unique ornaments have been a welcoming piece of the arts centre for more than 50-years, since it was an art gallery.
The eagles could date back to the 19th century when the house was built but nobody is sure if they were added later.
Kate Davies, temporary arts officer, added: “One of the entrance pillars is now fairly well covered by a tree and leaves which would have meant that anyone taking them would have been hidden slightly on that side — but the opposite side is in full view of the road and pavement which is lit by street lamps.
“It would have taken some time, heavy lifting and a large vehicle to carry out the theft and therefore we hope that any passing traffic or pedestrians may have noticed something unusual even late at night or early in the morning.”
Anyone with any information should contact police on 0845 6005701.
Prince saves jewel in Scots crown
£45m raised to keep Dumfries House - and its unique Chippendale collection - from being sold and split up
Severin Carrell and Maev Kennedy
Thursday June 28, 2007
One of Britain's most significant architectural jewels, a stately home near Glasgow which boasts a unique collection of Chippendale furniture, has been saved for the nation after a last-minute intervention by Prince Charles.
He engineered a £45m deal to prevent Dumfries House in East Ayrshire and its contents from being split up and sold off by its owner, the Marquess of Bute.
David Barrie, the director of the Art Fund, which launched a national fundraising campaign backed by its largest ever grant, of £2.5m, said: "This is an extraordinarily unique survivor. It's an intact house with contents from the 1750s of the highest quality. When it's opened to the public, it will be absolutely jaw-dropping. Everybody said that saving it was impossible, but we've proved it could be done. We've just saved it at the 11th hour, the 59th minute and the 59th second."
Mr Barrie described the house as a sleeping giant. "It's an absolute jewel of architecture - designed by the Adam brothers. Its original contents represent the absolute height of taste and fashion of the 1750s." The building - a Palladian masterpiece designed in the 1750s by John, Robert and James Adam, the pre-eminent architects of the Scottish Enlightenment - was due to have been sold by private auction yesterday along with 1,945 acres of landscaped grounds and farmland.
Yesterday it emerged that the prince guaranteed a £20m loan which was raised by his charitable trust, enabling the campaign fund originally set up by heritage activists to find the £45m needed and stop the sale.
The last piece of the funding jigsaw - a £5m grant from Historic Scotland - only came in on Monday night. Campaigners originally estimated they would need to raise at least £35m to stop the house and its furniture being sold off. Increasingly frantic efforts to prevent its sale by Save Britain's Heritage - which originally audaciously offered to buy the whole estate without any notion of how to pay for it - and the Art Fund seemed doomed to failure.
The deal, which is expected to see the house opened to the public for the first time next year, includes the purchase of its entire contents, the house and grounds, and a 66-acre plot of development land where the prince hopes to build a new village to help pay off the loan, adjoining land he already owns. The £45m cost, which includes the expense of running the property and opening it to the public, was reached after several independent valuations.
Despite its significance and rarity, Dumfries House was barely known outside architectural circles - and even most historians only knew the interiors from a set of black and white photographs taken over half a century ago. Clive Aslet, the architectural historian and editor of Country Life, spent 30 years trying to get in to see it - and described the threatened sale as the greatest heritage disaster in decades.
The marquess, Johnny Bute, a former racing driver whose main home is on the Isle of Bute, announced plans to sell the building in 2004, saying it was no longer financially tenable for his family to maintain a property they so rarely used.
Negotiations with the Scottish National Trust collapsed, and it seemed inevitable that the estate would be broken up and the collection scattered: since the Christie's auction was announced, inquiries have come in from all over the world.
The house was described by Marcus Binney, president of Save Britain's Heritage, as "exquisitely built and perfectly symmetrical in plan". Its furniture spanned "the full range of kit that could be bought or commissioned from England's most famous cabinet maker."
The threatened loss of the house was seen as a heritage disaster on the scale of Mentmore: the palatial Buckinghamshire house and its sumptuous contents were offered to the nation in the 1970s in lieu of death duties, but rejected by the government. They were then scattered at auction for 10 times the amount owed in taxes.
This time, a £7m grant came from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, which was set up as a fund of last resort in the wake of the Mentmore fiasco; the Garfield Weston foundation gave £1m, and the Monuments Fund charity first offered £4m, and then more than doubled that when it looked as if the funding gap was unbridgeable. More than £1,000 and 1,000 signatures were also collected in two afternoons from passersby in the high street of the nearby town of Cumnock.
Prince Charles's deputy private secretary, Mark Leishman, said the prince was worried that unless it was saved, Dumfries House could suffer the same fate as other great buildings - being dismantled, neglected or even destroyed.
The prince now wanted the property to become an "engine" for economic regeneration in the area, helping to create new craft-based enterprises as well as the tourism spin-offs for local businesses. It was not seen as part of his often controversial campaign to protect classical British architecture.
The Adam Brothers, Robert, James and John, are credited with shaping some of the finest buildings of the 18th century across Britain. Robert arguably left the greatest architectural legacy . He was the second son of William Adam, an eminent Scottish architect of his time. When Robert's father died his eldest brother, John, tutored Robert. As well as building Fort George on the Moray Firth, Inverness, the Adam brothers introduced Scotland to a new, lighter, almost rococo style of building. A significant commission of their early partnership was Dumfries House, Ayrshire, for the Earl of Dumfries. Robert then embarked on a grand tour of Europe, where he studied Roman ruins and learned draughting skills. When he returned, he moved to London and became one of the most sought-after architects of the time. One of his finest design achievements on his return was Culzean Castle in Ayrshire. Other designs include Airthrey Castle near Stirling.
Chippendale furniture by the roomful
Date: July 14 2007
£6.75m Dumfries House
£4m bookcase (above)
£1m oval mirrors
£800,000 overmantel mirror
£600,000 dining chairs
£500,000 card tables
TO USE a mining analogy, Britain's official reserves of Chippendale furniture seem to have risen by around one-third - possibly more.
The upgrade is thanks to the purchase for the nation of the Scottish mansion Dumfries House, designed by the Adam brothers and complete with roomfuls of furniture from Thomas Chippendale's important "Director" period. The era is so named because it immediately followed the first publication of his landmark book of designs, the Gentleman and Cabinet Maker's Directory in 1754.
Chippendale's name lives on, of course, in references to furniture made in styles he pioneered - rococo, chinoiserie etc - but actual pieces documented as having come from the great man's London workshop are as rare as hen's teeth.
As this column has noted, the purchase of the property, which is set on 810 hectares in Ayrshire, along with its copious contents was secured by a number of bodies headed by Britain's Art Fund, on the promptings of Prince Charles.
The purchase came virtually on the eve of a major auction of the Dumfries House contents by Christie's in London. The firm's meticulous and highly detailed two-volume catalogue for the sale gives an insight into the styles of the day, building and furnishing of the property, and what it all cost.
Indeed Lord Dumfries, who owned it, had trouble paying some of his bills. Best of all, it throws light on a vast and important collection that had long remained out of the public view.
Dumfries House features princely drawing and dining rooms and grand bedrooms, plus any amount of minor bedrooms, dressing rooms, closets and servants' rooms.
Among the major pieces that can be directly attributed to Thomas Chippendale - via inventories and actual receipts from his workshops in London - is the grand padouk wood bookcase illustrated here last month.
Of course, it and all the rest of the remarkable Dumfries contents is no longer on the market.
Other fine Chippendale pieces catalogued include:
■ A pair of giltwood pier glasses with pagoda crestings that were supplied in 1759 at a cost of £36.15 which Christie's estimated would fetch up to £1 million ($2.36 million).
■ A giltwood overmantel mirror with Savonnerie tapestry panel which cost £17, estimated at up to £800,000.
■ A double-sided library table with drawers and folding reading slope supplied for £22, estimated at up to £500,000.
■ A japanned clothes press with Chinese lacquer panels, also supplied for £17, estimated at up to £250,000.
Then there's the set of elaborate giltwood pelmets 2 metres wide, four-poster beds, a pair of concertina-action mahogany card tables, numerous sets of chairs and sets of serpentine carved library armchairs, carved and upholstered sofas, carved mahogany pole screens - the list goes on.
In addition to the items than can be directly sourced to Thomas Chippendale, a host of items have been catalogued as "attributed to" or "possibly by" him. For these, documentary evidence is less unequivocal, but with such a time capsule as Dumfries House the connection is clear and adds considerable value.
In all, it lists perhaps 100 pieces of furniture by the man regarded as Britain's greatest and most influential cabinet maker that are now part of the nation's heritage.
Clearly it's a major boost, given that Nostell Priory and Harewood House, regarded as among Chippendale's major commissions, have less than 100 works apiece, and many of those are picture frames rather than actual furniture.
Meanwhile, Christie's has confirmed that its catalogue for the Dumfries House sale, a two-volume bumper issue that surely ranks among the great country house catalogues, is on sale at £20 plus postage and packing - perhaps among the cheapest books offering such detailed insights into Chippendale and several prominent Scottish makers.
Art Hostage Comments:
Monday, July 16, 2007
Stolen Art Watch, Lowry Gang Strike Again, Fatality Moves Closer, could have been Pop Star Kerry Katona Murdered !!
Raiders held a knife to the throat of former Atomic Kitten Kerry Katona and threatened to kill her during a robbery at her home.
The singer, her baby daughter Heidi and husband Mark Croft were held captive by three masked thugs during the attack at their mansion in Wilmslow, Cheshire.
The gang struck at around midnight, forcing their way into the beautiful red-brick property armed with a crowbar, sledgehammer and the blade.
Her publicist Max Clifford said 26-year-old Katona was "in floods of tears" and "distraught" following the ordeal.
Katona, five-month-old Heidi and Mr Croft, 36, were not hurt in the attack but left shaken, Cheshire Constabulary said.
While two of the men held Kerry and her baby captive, the third forced Mr Croft to show him around the house while he decided what to steal.
The family was then locked in a room while the men escaped with the couple's luxury blue BMW M5 car and thousands of pounds worth of jewellery and electrical equipment.
Katona and her husband freed themselves at around 12.30am and called police.
Mr Clifford said: "Kerry is in a terrible state. When I spoke to her this morning she was in floods of tears and absolutely distraught.
"My understanding is they held the knife to her throat.
"It was a terrifying experience. Luckily they weren't hurt, but Kerry was held at knifepoint and the robbers threatened to kill them. It was such a horrible thing to happen.
"Kerry and Mark managed to raise the alarm afterwards although the men had taken their mobile phones.
"They are staying with family now and I'm not sure when they will go back to the house.
"But as Kerry pointed out, a lot of people who carry knives use them, so we have to count our blessings."
The robbers stole around £150,000 of belongings, Clifford said.
The couple moved to the £1.5 million property only a few months ago.
Katona's two daughters by former Westlife star Brian McFadden, Molly and Lilly-Sue, were not in the house at the time as they were staying with McFadden's parents.
A Cheshire Constabulary spokeswoman said: "Shortly before midnight, Mark Croft, 36, his wife, Kerry Katona, 26, and their young baby Heidi, who was five months old, were confronted in their home by three masked men.
"All the intruders were wearing balaclavas and they were armed with a sledgehammer, crowbar and large knife similar to a kitchen knife.
"This experience was extremely alarming to the family.
"One of the offenders remained in a downstairs room with the mother and baby while the other two offenders made Mr Croft accompany them through the house while they identified property to steal.
"They were not harmed but were left shaken by their ordeal."
Kerry Katona held in armed raid on house
Kerry Katona, the former pop star in Atomic Kittten, was taken hostage today by armed robbers, who held a knife to her throat while other gang members ransacked the house.
The 2004 winner of I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here was at home with her baby daughter and her husband when a masked gang armed with a sledgehammer, crowbar and large kitchen knife threatened to kill her.
Raiders held Katona, 26, and her five-month-old daughter Heidi in a downstairs room from around midnight last night, while Mark Croft, 36, her husband, was forced to lead the burglars through the house in Cheshire.
Three robbers stole £150,000 worth of valuables including a new BMW sports car, laptop computers, televisions and jewellery, according to Max Clifford, the publicist who represents the singer.
“Kerry is in a terrible state. When I spoke to her this morning she was in floods of tears and absolutely distraught,” Clifford said. “It was a terrifying experience. Luckily they weren’t hurt, but Kerry was held at knifepoint and the robbers threatened to kill them. It was such a horrible thing to happen.”
The family had moved into the £1.5 million house in Wilmslow, Cheshire only a few months ago. Katona’s two daughters from her previous marriage to Brian McFadden, the lead singer of Irish boy band Westlife, were not in the house during the ordeal.
Her marriage to McFadden ended acrimoniously after two years and the OK magazine favourite married Mr Croft, a former taxi driver, on Valentine's Day this year. Their wedding was held in Gretna Green, six days before the birth of Heidi.
The three of them were locked in a room while the robbers made their escape this morning. Mr Croft joined his wife and child once he had been forced to show the burglars around the house. They managed to free themselves and raise the alarm at around 12.30am.
Cheshire police said the family were “extremely alarmed” by the robbery. "They had not been harmed but were left shaken," a spokesman said.
The house is monitored by CCTV cameras but the three men wore balaclavas throughout the raid. Police today appealed for witnesses and information about the robbery, they released details of the stolen car - a blue BMW M5 with the registration number WF06 KMM.
Burglars who held 'Kitten' Kerry at knifepoint got in through unlocked door
The armed burglars who held former pop star Kerry Katona and her baby daughter hostage at knife point let themselves in through an unlocked door, it has emerged.
The 26-year-old singer, her husband, Mark Croft, 36, and their five-month-old daughter, Heidi, were subjected to a terrifying ordeal by three masked raiders who stole more than £150,000 worth of property from her Cheshire mansion.
Police were initially baffled as to how the gang, who were armed with a sledge-hammer, crow bar and a large kitchen knife, got into the £1.5million five-bedroomed home, which has a state-of-the-art security system and CCTV cameras in every room.
But it has been revealed that neither Miss Katona or Mr Croft, who were watching a film in their basement cinema when the burglars struck, had bothered to lock the house or turn on the alarm.
It meant that the men, who were all wearing balaclavas and are unlikely to be identifiable from any CCTV footage, simply walked in through a side door.
Last night PR man Max Clifford, who represents Miss Katona, said: "We think the men got in through a side door which wasn't locked.
"Kerry and Mark didn't have the alarm on because they were in - they were downstairs in the cinema.
"It looks like the burglars thought no-one was in because there were no lights on upstairs and saw an opportunity."
The theft is the latest misfortune to befall Miss Katona, a self-confessed cocaine addict, whose problematic personal life has been played out in the media spotlight - and her own magazine column - since she first rose to fame with girl band Atomic Kitten in the late 1990s.
Following her split from boy band singer Brian McFadden, 27, the father of her two older daughters, Molly, six, and four-year-old, Lilly-Sue, in 2004, she has undergone a very public fall from grace, which culminated in allegations of drug taking and a spell in rehab.
She agreed to marry Mr Croft after a three week courtship and the couple tied the knot on Valentine's Day at Gretna Green this year.
But the union has caused friction between Miss Katona and many of her friends and family in Warrington, Cheshire, where she grew up, who claim Mr Croft is an unsuitable husband.
On top of that, they have sought to profit from her misfortune by taking it in turns to sell stories about her alleged cocaine binges and her unfitness to be a mother to the tabloid press.
Mr Clifford said Miss Katona had been particularly hurt by a recent story in one celebrity magazine which claimed that people in the 'Warrington underworld' hated Miss Katona and Mr Croft, a former taxi driver, and that it was only a matter of time before someone tried to harm her.
However, there was no suggestion Kerry knew the people responsible for Sunday night's raid and the article had been passed onto police, he added.
"Kerry is struggling to come to terms with what has happened," Mr Clifford said.
"She is sedated and is thinking of going away for a while while Mark sorts out the security - she is still terrified of going back to the house at the moment.
"When Kerry was a young girl she had to pull a knife out of her mother's leg that her mother's partner had stabbed her with.
"She's always had a real fear of knives - even in the kitchen the knives are covered up.
"This is bad enough for anybody but for her it was even worse because she has a real phobia about knives.
"As ridiculous as it sounds if it had been a gun it would not have been as frightening for Kerry.
"She has been sobbing uncontrollably and shaking and is in a real state."
Mr Croft has now met with a top security expert, who has provided protection for a string of Hollywood stars, including Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, in a bid to improve his family's safety.
Graham Freeman, a former member of the Army who has Special Forces training, spent just under an hour with Mr Croft at the property, in Wilmslow, an area which boasts some of the most expensive and desirable addresses in Cheshire.
Meanwhile, police continued to dust the home for fingerprints and have yet to recover any of the jewellery or other stolen goods, including the couple's wedding rings and their sporty £65,000 BMW M5.
Art Hostage comments:
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Man arrested in auction company break-in
BY JEFF SCHWEERS
A transient worker is in jail today after Melbourne Police arrested him on suspicion of breaking into an antique store in Melbourne.
Ralph Manuel Garcia, 48, is being held at the Brevard County jail on an $18,000 bond. Police arrested him just after noon Friday at AA Auction at 600 New Haven, records show.
He faces felony charges of burglary, grand theft of property valued at $20,000 to $100,000, trafficking in stolen property and possessing burglary tools, court records show.
According to a police report, someone broke into Betty’s Antiques, 2001 Melbourne Court, between Tuesday night and 8 a.m. Wednesday by removing the metal bars from the windows, then taking more than $20,000 worth of antique and collectible jewelry.
On Friday, police said, Garcia tried selling jewelry to the owner of AA Auction, 600 E. New Haven Ave. The owner recognized the jewelry because she is related to the owner of Betty’s Antiques and recognized the pieces, police said. She contacted police, who contacted Betty Young, the owner of Betty’s Antiques.
Young identified the jewelry, and police gave it back to her, police said.
At the time of his arrest, police said, Garcia was carrying a briefcase with a pry bar, a set of bolt cutters and a pair of socks.
Garcia's next hearing date is Aug. 3.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Thieves stole a collection of rare paintings worth millions of dollars that an elderly Russian had been storing unguarded in his empty apartment, Russian newspapers reported on Tuesday.
The 13 paintings stolen from retired judge Kamo Manukyan included works by Frenchman Georges-Pierre Seurat, the founder of neo-impressionism, Russian seascape painter Ivan Aivazovsky, and Russian expressionist Alexej Jawlenski.
"This is a real nightmare. This is a real fortune stolen, you just don't realise how much all this may cost. Millions," Sofya Chernyak, secretary of the Moscow Fine Arts Collectors' Club, told the Izvestia daily.
"All of these painters are widely known ... A Seurat painting alone costs more than $500,000 (247,000 pounds)."
Manukyan returned home from a trip abroad to find the paintings gone, the newspaper said. An art collector and dealer, Manukyan supplies artworks to clients including Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman, said Izvestia.
Police said they could not understand why the art collector did not have an alarm in his Moscow apartment.
"It only costs around 200 roubles (3.84 pounds) a month," one policeman told Izvestia. "I don't think this would have made a big hole in his pocket."
They arrived at one of London's finest jewellers in a chauffeur-driven Bentley, looking every inch a pair of well-heeled shoppers.
But once inside, the two smartly dressed, middle-aged men - one wearing a distinctive Panama hat - threatened staff at gunpoint and made off with a multi-million-pound haul of more than 100 pieces.
Among the items taken was a necklace decorated with 270 diamonds - with a collective weight of more than 155 carats - which alone is worth more than £1million.
The pair were allowed into the Sloane Street store by a security guard who believed they were genuine customers after they pulled up outside in a dark-blue Bentley Continental Flying Spur worth £118,000.
After brandishing silver handguns and forcing staff to lie face-down on the floor, they stole rings, bracelets, necklaces and earrings.
Images of the robbers have been released by Flying Squad officers investigating the raid on Graff Diamonds in Knightsbridge.
Detective Sergeant Sarah Staff appealed for witnesses to come forward and the store put up a £500,000 reward for information leading to a conviction.
She said: "This was a very unusual robbery. The way they were dressed and how they used the Bentley shows there was some detailed planning and some very meticulous execution.
"They appear to have taken some significant pieces of jewellery, but really all the pieces which are available in that store are of very significant value."
A senior member of staff at the jewellers described the moment the robbers struck.
The 51-year-old was in the shop with two other male staff when the robbers came in last Thursday, just after 5pm. One asked to look at a piece of jewellery and as a member of staff put a key into the display cabinet they were all threatened with guns.
The staff member, who did not want to be named, said: "They made everyone get down on the floor and lie face down.
"One of my colleagues was asked to give him the key to the showcase. They pushed him towards various showcases and they took items from there."
He added: "We just wanted to comply because you never know what would happen. They said: 'Lie down and do as we tell you or we will put one on you.'
"We were shaken at the time and obviously very upset. You would never know them from regular clients. They looked the part and knew what they were doing."
One suspect is described as 5ft 10in, and wore a beige suit with a dark-coloured tie. He was aged about 55 and of stocky build. The other, who was wearing the Panama hat, was 6ft 1in and aged about 40. He also wore a dark blazer and light-coloured trousers.
After the robbery the two men are believed to have left on foot, in the direction of Harriet Street, which is opposite the store.
On Thursday officers will leaflet the area to appeal for information. International diamond houses have been notified, as has the Gemological Institute of America.
In 2003 Graff's Mayfair branch was the site of one of Britain's biggest robberies, with 47 pieces of jewellery worth £23 million stolen.
Anyone with information about last week's raid should contact police on 020 7230 8666, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.
Art Hostage comments:
What is the likelihood of someone calling crimestoppers with information for free?
Stealing History, No End in Sight While Police Stick To Standard Investigating Approach of Head Up Ass or in Sand !!
It is one of Britain's most important coin collections - amassed over 50 years by one of the foremost experts in the field.
However, just as Lord Stewartby had begun to create a catalogue of the unique collection, it was taken from his country home in what is suspected to have been a "stolen-to-order" raid.
The array of coins, valued at more than £500,000, features pieces dating back to 1136, when the first Scottish coins were minted, and was stolen from the home of Lord and Lady Stewartby at Broughton in the Borders.
Detectives said they believe the haul had been specifically targeted with a buyer already in place, meaning the collection may never be seen again.
The timing of the raid, while the family was on holiday, indicates those behind it had knowledge about the Stewartbys' movements as well as the location of the coins.
The collection of nearly 2000 includes some of Scotland's oldest-minted coins, including one struck under the reign of Robert the Bruce 900 years ago. Other specimens were created under David II in the 14th century, and James I and James II in the 1400s.
Lord Stewartby is one of the country's foremost numismatists (coin experts) and spent more than 50 years amassing his collection. He was in the process of creating a catalogue which he planned to complete during his retirement.
Lord Stewartby, who is to offer a six-figure reward for information leading to the recovery of the coins, said: "It was a great shock. Although obviously one has a certain sort of pride in possessing interesting old things, my real sadness about this is that it is such a loss of important historical evidence.
"My collection was put together in order to illustrate what was happening in Scotland in the early centuries and I was going to be working on that in my retirement.
Nick Holmes, senior curator of numismatics at National Museums Scotland, said: "The collection is unique and important both for its quality and quantity. This theft really sets back studies in Scottish coinage. It is a total disaster."
"It wouldn't be putting it mildly to say that this theft has put back the study of numismatics back 50 years."
Lothian and Borders Police said the empty home was broken into between Wednesday, June 6 and Thursday, June 7.
A force spokesman said that details were not released until now for "operational reasons".
The spokesman went on: "This collection is a unique part of Scottish history and its loss cannot be underestimated. We are now appealing to the public for help."
Saturday, July 07, 2007
July 7, 2007
200,000 ‘friends’ inform on tax cheats
Nearly 200,000 people have informed on friends, colleagues and family to the taxman in the year since a confidential hotline was set up, The Times has learnt.
In just over a year, Revenue & Customs has received more than 155,000 telephone calls to its tax evasion hotline, 12,083 items of post (including faxes) and 17,952 e-mails. In addition, 3,819 referrals came from the Customs confidential hotline, set up in October 2005.
Last night the Revenue declined to reveal how many prosecutions had resulted from calls taken by the hotline or how much money had been recovered. The Treasury said that it would publish a costs and benefits report on the hotline in due course. No one calling the hotline receives a reward.
A Revenue spokesman said: “The details of the call are processed and if the risk and intelligence team decides that we should proceed with intervention they will gather information from various places, such as company accounts, employer records, self-assessment forms and tax credit information to support the allegation.
“Interventions can take some time and in some cases we will have to wait until the end of the tax year to see if the person under investigation submits a return to us.”
The scale of the response emerged after a Freedom of Information question submitted by The Times to Revenue & Customs (HMRC) earlier this year and comes only two days after the taxman unveiled proposals to take powers to raid bank accounts of both individuals and companies to recover unpaid taxes without court action.
The Revenue’s hotline is based on the Department for Work and Pensions’ national benefit fraud hotline which opened seven years ago. Last year it received 212,000 calls, which led directly to the prevention of more than £21 million of fraud.
Over the past few years the taxman has used an increasing number of new powers to collect unpaid money in order to meet increased collection targets. From 2005-08 its investigation teams hope to raise an extra £7.25 billion in unpaid income tax and national insurance contributions.
A number of measures are used to target stubborn taxpayers, from unlimited £60 a day fines for persistent self-assessment nonpayers to bonuses for tax inspectors.
Matt Coward, senior tax adviser at Blick Rothenberg, a firm of accountants, said: “In their internal instructions to officers, HMRC have always told their officers to be rather sceptical of anonymous tip-offs, because many of these could be motivated purely by personal spite or malice. Now we see this encouraged by freephone, freepost and e-mail.”
Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman, said: “I have no quarrel with the principle of the tax hotline. But I am immediately sceptical of the ability of the Revenue to handle this wave of information from the public. There is lots of evidence that they are struggling to cope with the work they already have.”
Yesterday it emerged that one million people are taxed wrongly because of errors by the Revenue. The National Audit Office found that in the year to April, mistakes by officials resulted in taxpayers making £157 million of overpayments and £125 million of underpayments.
Mr Coward said: “Nobody should have any qualms about HMRC taking a robust line with the tax evader or the persistently noncompliant. In a sense these individuals could be regarded as stealing from the rest of us. However, anything that alters the balance of rights between taxpayer and Revenue & Customs must be properly thought through and be underpinned by proper procedures and an appeal process.”
Taxpayers in other countries are offered incentives to report friends and family. In the US, a number of hotlines exist for both state and federal taxes and rewards are given. People who report tax cheats in Australia and Canada are entitled to cash benefits. Anyone calling the British hotline will not receive any money. According to the taxman, knowing that they are doing the right thing is reward enough.
Philip Hammond, Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said: “We support legitimate attempts to reduce tax evasion. But it would be helpful if we knew what percentage of these calls were genuinely helpful and what proportion were made maliciously.”
Have your say
I have no issue with the authority rigorously pursuing those evading tax, but there is something unpleasant about this further extension of state powers by turning citizens into informers. Aren't we better than that?
How about informing on those who commit benefit fraud? I know I could name a few...
Sarah Townsend, Newport, Shropshire
For theft and deceipt you still can't beat Gordon Brown's attack on pension schemes and all his stealth taxes.
Where the hotline for this?
Of course, none of us should condone illegality of any kind but it really does say something about a government that encourages members of its society to inform on their fellow citizens.
Every day we are treated to television ads proclaiming the govenments ability to crush our cars should we fail to pay our road fund licence, to send us to prison for non payment of our tv licence, to fine us and to give us a criminal record for not having a licence for a fishing rod and to send us to prison if we fail to disclose any earned income whilst receiving benefits.
It is exactly the kind of abhorrent behaviour that we all so despised in the Soviet Union and Communist China. This is the legacy of ten years of a totalitarian government and the British people have no-one to blame but themselves.
I have to agree. If everyone pays their taxes faithfully, one will find that the honest taxpayer should, if the government is an honest one, eventually end up in paying less in taxes. This is because if everyone pays up, the government's coffers would fill up and it would be able, theoretically, to give tax breaks etc.. or even reduce tax rates. I therefore see it this way. The person who chooses not evade this responsibility affects me as a taxpayer.
R Singh, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
I hope GB is not turning into a real George Orwell Big Brother state!
"Anyone calling the British hotline will not receive any money. According to the taxman, knowing that they are doing the right thing is reward enough".
The right thing is reward enough for me, let's see, how about offshore companies, equity nil tax scams, politicians on Â£100,000 a year claiming tax credit rebates. These suggestions for inquiry would obviously come under the heading of malicious rather than 'helpfull'.
Simon, Leeds, U.K.
Art Hostage comments:
Diamond Heist, Must Be Graff's, inside job ? Once is Happenstance, Twice is Coincidence, Three times is Enemy Action
A DAPPER armed robber sporting a Panama hat made off with diamonds and gems in a £10million raid on a top London jewellers.
The robber and an accomplice posed as customers before threatening staff and escaping with the jewellery.
The robbers had walked into the internationally renowned Graff jewellers in Sloane Street, central London and pretended to be interested in making a purchase. Then they brought out their guns.
They ordered staff on to the floor while they emptied jewels into bags. Then they ran off towards nearby Sloane Square.
It is believed that they may have had accomplices waiting with a getaway vehicle.
It is understood that the haul includes a couple of “exceptional” items of such high value that the robbers may have difficulty finding a buyer.
A source close to the investigation said: “It will be quite difficult to find a fence to handle some of this property.”
The men are thought to be aged 40 to 55 and 5ft 10ins to 6ft tall. One of them wore a light suit, the other a light-coloured Panama hat, dark blazer and light trousers.
Flying Squad officers hunting the robbers want to speak to potential witnesses to the incident which happened on Thursday evening. Last night, detectives were examining CCTV evidence for clues.
A spokeswoman for Graff said: “It was a very distressing incident for all our staff who are very shaken up.
“Thankfully, there were no customers in the shop at the time. We are now open for business again, but the whole thing is very unpleasant.”
The raid was the third on a Graff shop in London in the last four years.
One theory detectives are working on is that the robbery was a “raid to order” carried out by a team from abroad.
In May 2003, three robbers stole jewellery worth more than £1million from the same Sloane Street branch.
It took three minutes for two members of an international crime cartel nicknamed The Pink Panther Gang to steal 47 items worth some £23million, at gunpoint.
Two of the gang, from former Yugoslavia, were caught and jailed.
But the mastermind, Yugoslav Predrag Vujosevic, remains at large – and only 10 per cent of the gems were recovered.
A Scotland Yard spokesman said: “Anyone with information is asked to contact the Squad on 020 7230 8666,
Friday, July 06, 2007
Art Hostage,London 06/07/2007 13:22:52
To obtain the information to apprehend these criminals, Police and the private sector must be prepared to pay fee's to those who take great risk. until then when you pay peanuts you get Monkey's, and art theft will continue unabated and art thieves will act with impunity.
Art Hostage,London 06/07/2007 14:36:33
An Underworld source has claimed to be able to obtain the names of the thieves targeting these Homes In Yorkshire as well as other mansions all over the UK.
This Underworld source also claims to be able to provide the next target enabling Police to be lying in wait to catch this gang red-handed.
For this service, the Underworld source requires £100,000 to be placed with a lawyer on a contingency basis, to be handed to the Underworld source if Police are successful at arresting this art crime gang.
Distasteful as this may be, what other way can Police tempt sources to reveal crucial inside information?
Some say it is a public duty to give information, the Underworld source says, when Police work for minimum wage because of the Public duty aspect of their job, informants will accept minimum wage for their information.
While this Mexican stand-off continues, householders up and down the country who have valuable artworks will continue to be targeted and robbed with impunity.
Time for Police to come down off the fence before the inevitable fatality that will occur sooner rather than later, as these Art Crime Gangs are Cocaine fueled and carry guns during the raids, mainly for bravado, but would be used to make good an escape if confronted by a householder or staff. Very very sad, but true.
GARDAI believe they may have located the 'mother ship' involved in attempting to smuggle €200m worth of cocaine into Ireland.
In a dramatic development last night, Spanish police detained an ocean-going catamaran in the northern port of La Coruna. The boat was detained at sea and escorted to the port where it is now under armed guard.
Two men have also been detained as part of the investigation.
It is believed the catamaran was flying a US flag and gardai have asked Spanish police to examine charts and other maritime documents found on the boat.
It is understood the ship was detained at the request of gardai, who are attempting to source who transferred the 1.5 tonnes of high-grade cocaine to a small dinghy off west Cork earlier this week.
Two men arrested in connection with the cocaine seizure last night had their period of detention extended by a District Court judge for a further 72 hours.
Joe Daly, with an address in Kent, and Perry Wharrie, aka Steven Brown with an address in Essex, appeared before a special sitting of Clonakilty District Court.
Judge James McNulty heard evidence from senior gardai that the extended detention of both men was crucial to their ongoing investigation into the seizure of cocaine floating in 61 bales in waters off the west Cork coast last Monday.
Sgt Jerry Prenderville said that both men are believed to be the two individuals who were spotted near Dunlough Bay on Monday when a dramatic sea rescue led to the cocaine seizure.
- Ralph Riegel
Thursday, July 05, 2007
Hunt for fugitive drug lords
Gang behind huge haul is the most ruthless in Europe
Irish Independent (Ralph Riegel): The international drug gang behind the $200 million cocaine haul off the Irish coast are amongst the most feared and ruthless in Europe.
Based primarily in London and Amsterdam, the gang have connections in Spain, the Caribbean and North Africa. They are one of the prime suppliers of cocaine to the money-spinning London market -- and are feared for the vicious tactics they will employ to protect their smuggling pipeline and drug profits.
Several high-profile gangland murders in Britain and the EU have been attributed to the gang -- and most resulted from attempts by other crime organizations to move onto their turf.
Most of their cocaine is sourced from Central America and the Caribbean -- primarily from Colombia, Venezuela and Haiti. The gang are particularly feared because of their connections to some of the world‘s most notorious drug cartels in Columbia and Haiti. However, they have also handled imports from as far away as South East Asia.
The West Cork operation underlined the vast logistical resources available to the gang and their associates -- and the huge sums of money involved in their smuggling operations. This week's haul at Dunlough Bay -- which is estimated to have a street value in excess of $200 million -- featured a team of four English contractors who were sent to live in West Cork for several weeks before the ‘mother ship‘, carrying the cocaine haul, was due to arrive offshore.
Yacht: This ‘mother ship‘ is believed to have been an ocean-going yacht that entered Irish territorial waters after sailing from the Caribbean with its cargo of 1.5 tonnes of cocaine.
The hunt for this vessel is now one of the primary objects of the Garda-led probe in Ireland‘s biggest ever cocaine seizure. The West Cork smuggling team were equipped with a range of high-powered jeeps and a van -- as well as two state-of-the-art dinghies for liaising with the ‘mother ship‘.
Gardai (Police) and Customs & Excise officials also believe that the team had hi-tech encrypted communications equipment for timing the arrival of the ‘mother ship‘ and their rendezvous.
It is understood the team were also given a generous cash allowance for expenses -- with Gardai convinced they must have been paying for some type of local knowledge and information.
Last night, senior Gardai warned that the two smuggling team members on the run will now be as worried about the reaction of their gang bosses to the loss of the huge shipment as their potential arrest by detectives.
"These guys are not known to take kindly to the loss of drug shipments. They will want to blame someone for the loss of 1.5 tonnes of cocaine and they won‘t be blaming the weather," one detective warned.
Gardai are already liaising with Interpol and British police over the haul -- and the backgrounds of the two English nationals already located in West Cork.
WITH the arrest of two men near Schull on Wednesday morning, on suspicion of involvement in a failed cocaine smuggling operation, there were three in Garda custody and another suspect under armed guard at Bantry General Hospital following a series of dramatic events that unfolded this week on the Mizen Peninsula.
The midweek arrest of two Englishmen in their forties, believed to be brothers with West Cork family connections, took place on a roadway at Gubbeen, Schull. They had been the subject of an intensive Garda manhunt since an abortive drug smuggling operation came to light on Monday morning when a 22-year-old man swam ashore at Dunlough Bay, off the Mizen Head, after a rigid inflatable boat (RIB) capsized, leading to the launch of a massive search and rescue mission in which a man in his forties was taken from the water and also brought to Bantry Hospital suffering from acute hypothermia.
The younger man was arrested on Monday when he discharged himself from hospital and was held for questioning on suspicion of involvement in the smuggling of over 1.5 tonnes of cocaine with an estimated value of ?107m – the largest ever found in this country – which was washed on to the coast around the Mizen Head. At Macroom District Court on Wednesday afternoon, Gardai obtained a 72-hour extension of the time they can detain him, under Section 2 of the Drug Smuggling Act, as they seek to establish his true identity.
Meanwhile, it is believed that the two men arrested on Wednesday morning are second generation Irish with a strong family link to the Mizen Peninsula and over the years have frequently visited the locality where a relative has maintained a holiday home.
Gardai believe that the two men travelled to the Mizen Peninsula three weeks ago on holiday and may have stayed in the family holiday home while putting in place preparations for the major cocaine transhipment which officers believe was destined for the UK market.
The two men would have good local knowledge of both the Mizen Peninsula and the currents in the sea off Dunlough from where a RIB was launched by the drugs smuggling gang in the early hours of Monday morning to rendezvous with the cocaine supply ship off the Cork coast.
As the search for the two men continued throughout Wednesday with gardai mounting checkpoints on a number of roads on the Mizen Peninsula and the Garda helicopter combed the rugged terrain, detectives in Bantry continued to question a 22-year-old man arrested on Monday afternoon.
The man has an Irish name and has given an address in Co Monaghan but has lived in the UK and Spain and Gardai have forwarded fingerprints to police in Britain to try and confirm his identity and make inquiries as to his associates in the UK.
Meanwhile a man in his 40s who was rescued from the sea on Monday morning by Castletownbere Lifeboat remains in a comfortable condition at Bantry General Hospital where he remains under armed escort by Gardai who are continuing to monitor his progress with a view to questioning him about the drugs seizure.
It’s understood the man claims to be a South African national, resident in the UK for several years, but gardai are similarly trying to confirm his identity and his associations with the other man who made it ashore after their 7 metre Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) overturned in rough seas in Dunlough Bay.
Customs officers recovered the partially submerged RIB late on Monday night and on Tuesday Customs officers and gardai recovered a second RIB near Durrus which, along with a small dinghy, they believe also belonged to the English based drugs gang.
Customs officers also recovered another 25 kilo bale of cocaine from rocks in Dunlough Bay on Tuesday afternoon to bring to 61 the number of bales recovered and bring the total haul of cocaine to 1.575 tonnes with a value of just under §107 million.
Det. Supt Tony Quilter who is heading up the Garda investigation into the drug smuggling said that officers are currently focussing on the logistical support that the gang had received or may have put in place to facilitate the drugs shipment.
This involves looking at where they sourced and stored the two RIBS, where they sourced petrol for them and where they have been staying over the past few days as they waited to rendezvous with the supply or mother ship in a coopering operation.
Gardai were continuing to examine three English-registered vehicles seized from near Dunlough Pier and they have begun checking CCTV footage from local petrol stations in West Cork to try and link the vehicles to the arrested man and the other suspected members of the gang.
Gardai have also begun checking CCTV footage from airports and port terminals to try and establish when each of the members of the gang arrived in Ireland and to see if they were accompanied by any others involved in the cocaine smuggling operation.
The discovery of the huge drugs haul began on Monday when a rescue mission was launched after a 22-year-old man managed to swim over a mile ashore and raise the alarm that he and two companions were thrown into the sea when their RIB capsized in heavy seas in Dunlough Bay.
The man made his way to a farmhouse and raised the alarm shortly before 7.45am on Monday and the Goleen Cliff and Coastal Search Unit of the Irish Coastguard under leader Dermot Sheehan was mobilised with Castletownbere Lifeboat under cox, Brian O'Driscoll, was also launched in the emergency operation.
Members of Goleen Cliff and Coastal Search Unit spotted a man wearing a life jacket in the sea at around 9.10am and they notified Castletownbere Lifeboat who recovered the man and the Irish Coastguard Sikorski helicopter which had also been scrambled, airlifted the man ashore to a waiting ambulance.
The man was brought to Bantry General Hospital where his colleague had earlier been brought suffering from hypothermia and while the first man later discharged himself only to be arrested by gardai, the second man continued to treated at the hospital where his condition on Tuesday was described by a HSE South spokeswoman as "comfortable".
Meanwhile members of Goleen Cliff and Coastal Search team along with Castletownbere and Baltimore Lifeboats and Irish Coastguard helicopters from both Shannon and Waterford continued to search the seas around the Mizen Head for the third missing man, only to call off the search shortly before 6 pm on Monday.
Gardai had advised the Irish Coastguard that they didn't believe that there was a third man missing at sea and the search operation was stood down following an afternoon when the Baltimore Lifeboat in the course of the search for the reported missing man helped customs retrieve bales of drugs.
The Customs cutter also joined the drugs recovery operation on Monday which saw some 60 bales of cocaine each weighing 25 kilos recovered from the water and brought ashore by the cutter and Baltimore Lifeboat at Baltmore where customs and gardai began the task of logging the drugs.
This week's discovery of such a huge drugs haul off the West Cork raises the spectre of the area being seen as an easy importation route for drugs from South America and elsewhere into Ireland, the UK and Europe and follows a series of such drug smuggling operations in the 1990s which came to light after being foiled by gardai and customs.
Among these successes was one on July 31, 1991 when Customs officers found 28 bales of cannabis resin worth §9 million when they searched a yacht, The Karma of the East, leading to the arrest and conviction of Cork antiques dealer, Christopher Golly O'Connell who was jailed for eight years.
In September 1996, Customs officers under Customs Enforcement Officer, Paddy O'Sullivan had another success when backed up by the Gardai and the Navy, they searched a converted trawler, the Sea Mist which had been forced into Cork Harbour by stormy weather and located some 599 kilos of cocaine worth over §100 million hidden on board.
Five crew went on trial at Cork Circuit Criminal Court but only one, skipper Gordon Richards was eventually convicted and he was sentenced to 17 years in jail by Judge A. G. Murphy for his part in the drug smuggling operation which it later emerged was organised by Dublin born, British drugs baron, Brian Wright.
Just over two years later, Customs officers and Gardai enjoyed another succcess when they searched a catamaran, The Gemeos in Kinsale Harbour which had just crossed the Atlantic and found that she contained a major stash of 325 kilos of cocaine worth over §60 million.
Skipper, John O'Toole, a native of Enniskerry in Co. Wicklow who had been living in Panama was jailed for 20 years by Judge Patrick Moran at Cork Circuit Criminal Court while his crewman, Michael Tune from Yorkshire was jailed for 14 years for his part in trying to smuggle cocaine into Ireland.
Just over a year later, a trawler, The Posidonia was boarded off the West Cork coast by Naval Service personnel from the LE Ciara accompanied by Customs Officers who found §18 million worth of cannabis resin in huge bales hidden on board.
The consignment had been picked up off Morrocco and due to be offloaded to a boat off the Cork coast for shipment ashore. English skipper Richard Preece was jailed for nine years and two other Englishmen, Barry Court and Matthew Simkins, were each jailed for seven years at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.
Fine Gael Justice spokesman Jim O’Keeffe, TD, has said the find of a massive cocaine haul floating off the Co. Cork coastline gives weight to suggestions that Ireland is being used as a transit point in the international drugs trade, and warned that Ireland’s coastline is effectively an open back door to drug dealers.
“This dramatic find supports claims that Ireland is increasingly being used as a transit point in the international drugs trade. I would like to commend the authorities for their sterling work in this operation, but it is very worrying that this drugs haul was only discovered by chance.
“This incident begs the question: just what else is going on around our coastline? There have long been claims that drugs are being stored around Ireland, using elaborate installations off the coast. This latest find suggests that these claims are not being exaggerated.
“The Fianna Fáil Government appears to have forgotten that Ireland is an island with thousands of miles of unprotected coastline. The coast is effectively a huge open door into the State for drug dealers and other criminals, as well as a depot for drug traffickers. Yet the authorities simply do not have the resources to police the coast effectively. Much greater priority must be given to policing the coastline, which must involve investing in our coastal defences: Gardaí in coastal areas, the coastguard and the Naval Service.
“People in West Cork are shocked by this find, which proves that nowhere is immune from drugs and gangland activity. The sheer size of this haul also demonstrates the scale of the drugs problem which Ireland is now facing. Earlier this year the National Drugs Advisory Committee estimated that there are 75,000 cocaine users in Ireland, and another 300,000 cannabis users.
“Last year some §100 million worth of drugs was seized, and international best practice would suggest that this is just 10% of the total quantity of drugs at large annually. Furthermore, the number of incidents of possession of drugs for supply increased from 2,667 in 2005 to 3,016 last year.
“Drugs are the motor of gangland activity in this country, and all the evidence suggests that the problem is increasing. This has happened during the last ten years of Fianna Fáil administrations, and there is every indication that the problem will continue to grow. Although I welcome the appointment of a Minister of State for drugs, Fianna Fáil’s past record does not bode well for the future.”