Ajaccio, 20 October 2011, Art Media Agency, (AMA).
Investigators from Office Central de lutte contre le trafic des Biens Culturels (OCBC) have questioned eleven suspects, including important Corsicans, in the Ajaccio and Porto-Vecchio regions on Tuesday 18 October. All suspects were accused of participating in a robbery committed at Palais Fesch- Musée des Beaux-Arts in Ajaccio last February, and are all being kept in custody at the police station.
Four paintings including Mariotto di Nardo, Bellini and Poussin pieces, were stolen. Antoine Mocellini, the night guard of the museum, was arrested immediately after the incident. Mocellini stated that he acted alone in order to put pressure on police chiefs because he was about to be evicted and was looking for a place to stay. The pieces, believed to be hidden in his car, disappeared when police arrived and Mocellini has been examined for attempted robbery and robbery committed by an organised gang and to date, is detained in the Ajaccio prison. This new progress concerning the investigation gives new hopes to find the stolen paintings.
A GUARD at one of France’s top art museums was charged with organised theft yesterday (Feb 2011).
He admitted on television that he had spirited away four priceless masterpieces as a protest, then appeared to lose them to thieves.
Prosecutors in Corsica did not believe Antoine Mocellini, a divorced father in his early 40s, who walked out of the Palais Fesch in Ajaccio on Saturday morning with renowned art from the 15th to 17th centuries.
The stolen paintings were Midas at the Source of the River Pactole by Poussin, Virgin and Child by Bellini, Pentecost by Di Nardo and another Virgin and Child by a 17th-century Umbrian painter.
No one had noticed their absence from the Fesch until Mr Mocellini appeared at a police station early on Saturday with a television crew.
“I am turning myself in. I have stolen art works. I will given (sic) them back once I have talked to the mayor and the prefect,” he said. He wanted them to rescind an order to leave his museum lodgings.
Mr Mocellini led police to a hillside where he said he had left his car with the paintings inside. However, the rear window was broken and there were no paintings.
“I swear I left them there,” Mr Mocellini said.
“This affair lacks clarity,” said Thomas Pison, the chief prosecutor.
After questioning Mr Mocellini for two days and giving him a psychiatric evaluation, he was charged with theft with an organised gang as well as attempted theft. The charges also applied to the L’Homme au Gant by Titian, which someone had tried to unhook from a wall in the gallery.
The paintings could be worth millions of euros on the black market or in ransom from an insurance company. Police said that if the theft were professional the art could have left on an early morning ferry.
Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand said he was appalled and vowed to solve the case. Philippe Costamagna, the director of the museum, said: “These works are unsellable because they are catalogued throughout the whole world.”
The Palais Fesch has the biggest French collection of Italian art outside the Louvre.
Mr Mocellini took three of its four most prized works.