Sunday, January 08, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, New Year Around The World Of Stolen Art

A new breed of burglar is on the job In Bhutan

They’re better dressed and operate during daylight hours
A woman in Motithang was babysitting her grandchildren, when a man came by and asked where the gas cylinders were. He told the woman that her son, who was at office, had asked him to change the cylinders.

When her son returned home in the evening, they realised they had been robbed off their gas cylinders.

Residents of a building in Babesa saw a well-dressed man, with a clean pair of lageys, enter the building and leave a few hours later. He had robbed one apartment of its jewelry and antiques worth Nu 400,000. “Everyone thought that he was a guest of the tenant,” the building owner said.

With more than 350 reported larceny and burglary cases in Thimphu city, theft was one of the most common crimes in 2011.

Records with the Thimphu police show that more theft cases occur during the daytime than at night. This, police officials say, is because of the increased intensity of their night patrolling.

Although Thimphu city stretches from Babesa to Dechencholing, it’s the main town, especially in Chubachu, Hongkong market and vegetable market area that are more prone to theft cases.

But residents say that burglars today operate in groups, dress smartly and drive posh vehicles. “It’s difficult to make them out,” a resident, Nima, said.

Burglars nabbed by police said they used iron rods to break into houses. “Most of the offenders say they put the rod inside and pulled the door,” a police officer said.

Auto stripping was another common case Thimphu police dealt in the past year. About 124 vehicles were stripped off parts.

Lack of proper parking and irresponsibility, police said, led to auto stripping. “People don’t bother to take their things, but leave it in the vehicle, which tempt people to break into the car,” an officer said.

But the women and child protection unit recorded maximum number of battery cases. In 2011 alone, 321 battery cases were reported. Alcohol and domestic violence were the main cause for battery. Most of the offenders, record shows, are youth aged between 18 and 25.

Lack of proper source of income, insufficient money and proper guidance led youth to commit such acts.

“Cooperation from the public can reduce the crime,” an officer said. “Most of it happens because people are careless and irresponsible.”

Turkey: Istanbul a Hub for Islamic Art Theft

Under the elegant, soaring arches of Istanbul’s newly restored, 16th century Süleymaniye Mosque, dozens of security cameras keep an eye on visitors’ every move. Vigilant security guards patrol indoors and out. Turkey, police say, is becoming the epicenter of an international market for stolen Islamic art, and Turkish mosques and museums alike are on high alert.

That means the responsibilities of the imam at Süleymaniye Mosque, widely considered the city’s most magnificent, now include not only looking after the people's faith, but, increasingly, the valuable contents of the mosque itself.

"We are more comfortable with the presence of the security guards. We feel this place is secure," said Imam Ayhan Mansiz. "Thank God, we didn't experience any theft. Our mosque is safe. The restoration has just been completed and everything is listed and categorized, and the most valuable items are now in museums."

The tight security provisions are all part of the Turkish state's battle against the growing scourge of thefts of Islamic art from Turkish mosques and museums. Be it historic Korans, intricate wall tiles or even wooden paneling, all items are potential candidates for theft, an unwelcome by-product of an international boom in demand for Islamic art. There are no official figures for losses, but anecdotal evidence suggests they are significant.

"The overall turnover in the market has risen hugely," commented William Robinson, director of the Islamic Art and Carpet Departments at the London-based auction house, Christie’s. Robinson traces the heightened interest in Islamic art back to 1997, “when Qatar entered the market.”

In the years since, “the overall trend has been very strongly upward, particularly in the last two or three years,” he continued. “I think it could be even a 30 or 40-percent-a-year increase, which is huge.”

Such activity has not gone unnoticed by organized crime. Turkish officials claim that Istanbul is now a regional hub for stolen Islamic art, with the city’s famed Grand Bazaar the epicenter for the trade.

Deep within the Bazaar’s labyrinth of streets and alleyways, packed with vendors selling fake Gucci bags and cheap T-shirts, are people who can find, for the right price, prized Islamic artifacts -- as long as there are no questions asked about where and how the items are secured, said one Turkish police detective.

"You have gangs of three or four people stealing from museums or mosques and they bring the artifacts to the Grand Bazaar, where there are dealers who have contacts in Europe,” said detective Ismail Sahin, who, until 2011, headed the Istanbul Police’s department for ancient stolen artifacts. “The Bazaar also deals with stolen artifacts from across the region."

Sahin, who holds a master’s degree in archaeology, has led many successful raids on the Bazaar. That experience, along with his retrieval of numerous stolen artifacts, helped him outline how Turkey fits into the international trade in stolen Islamic art.

"In many cases, specific orders come from Europe. Sometimes the [Bazaar] middle-men will get an order from Europe for a specific item, and they will then commission a gang to steal it,” he continued. “It is very difficult for us, as most mosques and even some museums don’t even have inventories or proper protection."

Despite Sahin's zeal for his work, he was reassigned last year to an Istanbul suburb to solve mundane local crimes. “Maybe one too many raids on the Bazaar,” he speculated. “There are many powerful people operating there.”

Security forces are claiming increased success in tracking down artifacts being smuggled out of the country. In 2010, official records show that 68,000 historical artifacts were recovered from nearly 5,000 people. Those convicted of theft is such cases could face up to 20-year prison terms.

But the museums and foundations responsible for the protection of Turkey’s cultural heritage also are mobilizing to stop the thefts of Islamic art. Last May, the first international meeting in Istanbul on illegal trafficking in historical artifacts brought art experts, police and auction houses together to discuss ways to tackle the problem.

Despite repeated attempts to speak to a representative of Turkish museums responsible for combating thefts, all requests were rejected. No reason was given.

Joachim Gierlich, former curator of the Qatar Islamic Art Museum, looks to social networking, computer technologies and old-fashioned human cooperation to curb the trade. "I believe one can only win the fight if one uses modern technologies, having a very good and complete documentation to know what actually is in the museums and what is in the foundations and so on, and make this accessible,” Gierlich said. “If there is extensive use of [a] database, put it to the extreme and place it even on Facebook."

International auction houses, too, are becoming increasingly concerned, "It's a very serious issue because it's completely against our interests for illegal things to appear on the market, let alone with us. Because it knocks the whole market," said Robinson of Christie’s.

Yet despite the growing recognition of the problem, an ostrich mentality does appear to persist among some governments. Robinson recounted one instance when “for reasons of national pride,” the an ambassador denied to him that a major theft of Islamic art had occurred in the envoy’s home nation, even though Robinson already had confirmation elsewhere about the incident. “That attitude is never going to be helpful in the long term," Robinson warned.

Back at the Süleymanie mosque, the faithful express awareness of the problem and its magnitude. "This is the reality of life in Istanbul. Today people even steal your shoes from a mosque,” one worshipper, a 40-year-old shopkeeper, commented angrily. “There are many desperate people in the city, who will do anything, however evil, for money. But they will get their punishment in this life or the next."

Man admits drunken theft of valuable oil painting in Cheltenham

A VALUABLE oil painting stolen from a Cheltenham gallery has been found after the man who took it admitted the theft, saying he was drunk at the time.

The piece was taken between midnight and 3.25am on New Year's Day when the window was smashed at James Fine Art in Prestbury Road.

The signed painting, pictured, of a bottle of wine with two glasses is by Peter Kokta and is valued at around £3,900.

Yesterday, Gloucestershire police said officers had recovered the painting and arrested a 24-year-old man on suspicion of burglary after he called the police having seen an appeal for information.

A police spokesman said: "He made a full admission to the crime, stating he had been intoxicated at the time of the offence and had no previous convictions. Police are now able to return the item to its rightful owners.

"The man was therefore eligible to receive a formal caution, which was issued for non-dwelling burglary."

Yesterday, owner of the gallery, Ric James, said he was relieved. He added: "I'm not sure what state it is in at the moment because it hasn't been returned to me. I thought it was probably highly unlikely that I would see it again. It was in the lap of the gods."

Antique lectern found after theft in August

A BRASS lectern stolen from a village church near Swindon has been spotted at an antiques fair in Romania.

The 4ft eagle-shaped lectern was stolen from the Holy Cross Church, in Ashton Keynes, in August and churchgoers feared it would be melted down for scrap.

But the precious artefact has since been found by a man in a Romanian village who saw a plaque engraved with the name of the church.

He later contacted Wiltshire Police after an internet search revealed the lectern, understood to be worth more than £1,500, had been stolen.

PC Steve Harvey, who received the email, said he was hopeful the item could be returned and agents from Interpol were investigating.

“A few days after it was stolen we received this email, which we thought was a spoof. But it had a mobile number on it so I called the person,” he said.

“He didn't speak very good English, but he had good written English and so we spoke over email. He said he’d seen this unusual piece in a village in Romania and when he looked at it he noticed the Ashton Keynes engraving.

“He searched the internet for some sort of news report and eventually ended up emailing me. I got hold of Interpol and some local Romanian officers went to visit the man.

“He didn’t buy the lectern but most people at the antiques fair are regulars, so they will be making enquiries with the organisers. I’m hopeful of getting it back.

“It is a totally bizarre chain of events.”

Church warden David Clover said parishioners thought they would never see the antique again.

“I don’t know how long it had been there but it was certainly a long time. We didn’t even notice at first because it was in the mind’s eye,” he said.

“We did think it was gone – the eagle had flown, never to be seen again. We only found out through the parish council that the police had discovered a sighting of it in Romania.

“The nice thing is that someone very vigilant and with the use of the internet realised something was not as it should be.

“From an early age I was led to believe Interpol was the pinnacle of policing throughout Europe, more associated with organised crime.

“But parishioners will be pleased to know they are investigating and that it is still out there. It is part of the heritage of the church and we would like it back.”

Police release images of York antique theft suspects

Police in York have released images of two men they would like to trace following the theft of antiques.

They were caught on camera in the antique shop at about 1.20pm on Saturday 12 November 2011. The men are suspected of forcing open a display case before stealing its contents.

The stolen property includes a 12in silver shell tray, five sets of silver sugar tongs, a rectangular Georgian silver tray, a 0.33 carat diamond ring and two diamond ring each with three stones.

PC Hazel Simms, of York Safer Neighbourhood Team, said: "I would like to speak to anyone who either recognises the men featured in the images or has been offered any property matching the description of the stolen items.

"If you can help with this investigation I ask that you contact the police or Crimestoppers as soon as possible."

Anyone who can help the police with this enquiry is asked to contact Sergeant Martin Metcalfe of York Police on 101. Press option 2 and ask for Martin Metcalfe by name.

Theft of paintings puzzles store owner

Whoever stole the five paintings from Country Lane Antiques in Fort Langley had to be a small person to squeeze through the narrow window they used to gain access to the business at 9179 Glover Road, owner Shirley Rempel said.

“There’s not a lot of of room,” Rempel told The Times.

The theft took place some time between Sunday night (Jan. 1) and Monday morning.

Someone smashed in a window to gain entry and fled before police could arrive.

It was the first break-in at the Fort Langley store in the six years its been operating.

What puzzles Rempel is the thief ignored other easy-to-sell items in the store and went straight to the wall where three Al Colton paintings were hanging.

The diminutive thief also stole a painting by Jack Turpin and a limited-edition Alan Wylie, one of 25 prints.

Each measured about 24 by 20 inches.

The original works of art will not be easy to dispose of, because any buyer willing to pay the proper price of about $700 per will almost certainly know they were stolen.

The Colton paintings have his distinctive West Coast style.

The Wylie is called “Let it Snow” and features a little boy all bundled up, standing at the back of a caboose.

The Turpin shows an aging shed with a moss-covered roof illuminated by the sun.

Anyone with information about this robbery is asked to call Langley RCMP at 604-532-3200 or, if you need to to remain anonymous, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

Stolen $80,000 cello returned to owner Kirsty Hunt after roadside theft

Rosy Hunt and cello

Rosy Hunt with her $80,000 cello which was returned after she posted a $4000 reward. Picture: Chris Scott Source: Herald Sun

AN irreplaceable antique cello, stolen from its owner more than three months ago, has been recovered.

Renowned Melbourne cellist Rosy Hunt embarked on a tireless campaign to find the rare French family heirloom after it was taken just minutes before she was due to set off for a performance in September.

Ms Hunt had rested the $80,000 instrument on a nature strip in North Caulfield while she buckled her young daughter into the car when it was taken by a passing motorist.

"I turned around for less than 30 seconds and then it was gone," Ms Hunt said.

"The moment it was stolen, there was just this sort of gut-wrenching panic.

"It's heart wrenching when you lose your beautiful tool of trade ... it's not like a power drill, it has a soul."

Ms Hunt's mother, also a professional cellist, bought the prized possession while she was studying in Paris in the 1950s - and has remained in the family ever since.

On her return to Melbourne, she taught her three daughters to play the instrument and handed it down to Ms Hunt, who has played the cello in the grandest concert halls around the world.

"It has performed with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, has toured internationally and has been used in some competition winning peformances," she said.

"It's a very special piece."

With the help of family, friends and a collective of classical musicians throughout Melbourne, Ms Hunt launched her own bid to track down the cello.

Ms Hunt said she spoke to "almost every" second-hand dealer and instrument maker in the state, hunted for it on eBay, distributed flyers throughout the city and Geelong, tapped into social media and created her own website.

She said she worked into the early hours every morning and wouldn't rest until she got the instrument home.

"My adrenaline kept me going ... I just wanted it back," she said.

The cello was returned this week after Ms Hunt boosted a reward offer to $4000.

"It was in Bendigo, of all places," she said.

It is believed the person who took the instrument had kept it and then arranged for its return when the reward was increased.

"The important thing is it's back, and it came back in perfect condition," Ms Hunt said. "I'm not going to take my eye off the cello any more."

Antique treasures found at Coast Rockhampton
January 8, 2012
POLICE may have uncovered a thief with a taste for antiques after they searched a house and found a number of items and collectables they allege were stolen.

Some of the items police believe were stolen from Capricorn Coast homes.

Nikita Watts

A THIEF with a taste for antiques.

This is what police may have uncovered when they searched a Yeppoon house yesterday and found a number of odd items and collectables they allege were stolen from homes on the Capricorn Coast in the past few months.

A man was arrested yesterday in relation to another matter, however, when police searched his home, they had to carefully move delicate items believed to have been stolen property.

From marble chess boards and expensive silverware, to a China soup tureen, large lamps and antique dolls; the line-up of items looked more like an antique sale than criminal evidence.

Plainclothes Constable Dorinda Bice said it was an unusual case.

And now the difficult part for her and the CIB team is identifying the owners.

They want people to come forward if they recognise any of these pieces; which includes large, clustered rings, a hard-drive, tools, a projector, tyres, bullets, and a clock and sports memorabilia.

Charged: Sean McNab faces a prison sentence after he tried to sell a bag full of stolen bronze memorial plaques

A scrap metal dealer was branded ‘beyond contempt’ after trying to sell bronze plaques ripped from a cemetery memorial garden.

Horrified relatives discovered the memorials were stolen when they turned up at the cemetery to lay flowers for their loved ones.

But Sean McNab’s attempts to profit from the theft were thwarted when diligent staff at a scrapyard refused to buy them and alerted police.

The crime follows a dramatic increase in metal thefts across the country which has seen thieves targeting war memorials, railway lines, street signs and manhole covers.

McNab, 44, is facing jail after he admitted handling ten memorial plaques stolen from the Garden of Remembrance at Blackley Cemetery, Manchester, in November.

The plaques were paid for by families to remember those who have been cremated at the cemetery to mark the spot where their ashes have been buried.

The financial worth was put at £600, but Bernard Begley, prosecuting, told Manchester Magistrates’ Court: ‘The actual value of the plaques, in terms of sentimental value, is far greater than their worth.’

After the theft, police visited Howarth Metals in Blackley, Manchester where staff said they recalled McNab trying to sell the plaques two days earlier.

The court heard CCTV cameras were checked and McNab was seen to ‘come and go’ in a car.

Nine of the plaques have now been recovered, but one is missing.

The court was told that McNab has offered to compensate the family who own the outstanding plaque.

Suzanne Saverimuttu, defending, said he claimed he was offered a bag containing the plaques by two youths and agreed to buy it without looking inside.

Memorable: The plaques which were stolen have now been recovered after diligent staff refused to buy them and told police

Memorable: The plaques which were stolen have now been recovered after diligent staff refused to buy them and told police

She said that once he realised what the metal was and the scrapyard refused to buy it, he threw the bag away.

Miss Saverimuttu said: ‘He is very ashamed about what he has done.

‘He is concerned about the fact that these are memorial plaques that were taken. He wants the court to know that.’

McNab was initially accused of theft but denied the charge and pleaded guilty to an alternative charge of handling stolen goods on the day his theft trial was due to begin.

Barbara Amuzu, chairman of the Bench, said: ‘This is a very serious matter. It is so serious that custody cannot be ruled out.’

McNab was bailed to be sentenced on January 16.


The limited-edition bronze statue called Dancers Stretching has been stolen

Police are appealing for witnesses after thieves stole a limited- edition bronze statue worth more than £5,000 from a gallery.

The piece, called Dancers Stretching, above, is one of 50 made by Tom Greenshields, a well-known sculptor.

Police are now appealing for information about the theft of the statue, which is believed to have happened between December 21 and Christmas Eve.

Pc James Wood, from West Mercia Police, said: 'The statue is made by Tom Greenshields and is a limited-edition piece of art valued at over £5,000.

'It is in an unusual item and I would appeal to anyone who has been offered it, or has seen it advertised for sale anywhere, to get in touch.'

Anyone with information about this incident is urged to contact the police on 0300 333 3000 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

At the time of the theft police described the incident as ‘deplorable’ and said it was ‘beyond contempt’ to desecrate a person’s memory by stealing their memorial plaque.

Police estimate the rise in metal thefts, which is fuelled by rising prices for copper, lead and bronze is costing the economy more than £700million a year.

Yesterday it emerged that thugs smashed a painting of Christ and a war memorial and stole 18th century silver candlesticks and plates after storming a church.

The intruders struck at St Mary the Virgin Church in Ilford, Essex, between Boxing Day evening and December 28.

Father Gareth Jones ended his festive holiday to assess the damage when a churchwarden gave him the grim news.

He said: ‘We are insured, but these items are irreplaceable.

‘The 18th century plates and candlesticks were given to the church when it opened in 1831.

‘All we can do is find out if replicas can be made.’

The destroyed painting of Christ had just been donated to the church by a parishioner.

The marble and wood memorial honouring the fallen heroes of the First and Second World Wars was ripped off the wall and shattered.

The Wildenstein scandal Crystal screen, Liuba reveals a secret arrangement
January 5, 2012
Bwhile that case Bettencourt adds a few chapters to his saga between the kicks of the octogenarian milliardairecontre his guardianship and the passage behind the locks of François-Marie Banier and his companion, the Wildenstein, another tax and judicial scandal indeterminate matter, back in the news. Better, it pops the screen, literally.
France 3 will be in effect, this Wednesday, January 4 at 23: 05, a number of parts magazine exhibits dedicated to the life and times of the most famous French dynasty of art dealers: the incredible treasure hidden in the Wildenstein. The title of the report, signed by journalist Magali greenhouse at the price of a work of investigation for three years, is explicitly reference to recent events in date, including the discovery last January about 30 works of art reported missing or stolen in the fief of the family in the heart of Paris, rue de la Boétie. And its dissemination, by "serendipitous", coincides with the revelation that day by the magazine of new elements - a "secret pact" - support for Guy Wildenstein (see below), already the subject of an indictment.
A succession of problems...
Real empire that takes root at the end of the 19th century, in the Gallery Paris of his grandfather Nathan perpetuated by his father Georges, transformed into a showcase of the world of art by fire Daniel Wildenstein, charismatic collector, the Wildenstein institution is in full wandering since the death of his captain in 2001.
His death, Daniel Wildenstein bequeathed his activity and his heritage to his son, Alec (died in 2008) and Guy, which crowd out the last wife of their father, Sylvia Roth-Wildenstein, of the estate, making just that her husband was ruined for its part the signing of a cessation to the legacy. Become suspicious over time, Sylvia Roth had materialized its presumptions in legal action. "It has betrayed me, on me was stolen, it has taken me!" Was just my husband dead that my sons-in-law made me believe that he was broke, I was going to be prosecuted by the tax authorities. I've been to sign papers that I renounce the inheritance, it took me my horses [today to care coach Jean-Paul Gallorini, Editor's note]... ", then proclaimed." Caught in November 2010 in cancer, his action has however not been vain, since its suites play today, and that his counsel Mr. Claude Deumont-Beghi does not loose case Guy Wildenstein, Member of the first circle of donors of the UMP and decorated with the Legion of honour in 2009, in instruction review. "Because the complaints that Sylvia Roth had had time to file before starting, for"abuse of confidence","active and passive bribery","trafficking of influence","money laundering", fraudulent insolvency organization", "forgery and use of forgeries", heard by the judges of the TGI of Paris Guillaume Daieff and Serge Tournaire, had result update questionable practices, information including the presumptions of tax evasion through the existence of trusts in tax havens, and the discovery of an incredible treasure of war, a cave of Ali Baba.
A search - the second in three months - in January 2011 by the police of the police of the OCBC on judge Yves Dando had thus revealed in the premises of the Wildenstein Institute, at 57 rue de la Boétie, "packed from floor to ceiling, hundreds of paintings and sculptures", including "30 reported missing or stolen works"", that were immediately seized by investigators". Among them, found in the trunk of Guy Wildenstein, oil of Impressionist Berthe Morisot, assessed at EUR 800 000: cottage in Normandy. She had disappeared in succession in 1993 Anne-Marie Rouart and Yves Rouart, his descendant, suspected a tower of fraudulent sleight of the executors appointed by his aunt: Olivier Daulte and Guy Wildenstein. His complaint against X for possession of stolen property was soon joined by others, and Guy Wildenstein was indicted for receiving of breach of trust... The statement follows its course.
An explosive document revealed by "the other widow", Liuba
And a new piece has to be paid to the record, a priori that compromising also unexpected. Liuba, "young and beautiful widow" Alec Wildenstein, in the words of, reveals a secret pact less questionable... The former girlfriend of the deceased eldest son of Daniel Wildenstein, which has always supported Sylvia Roth in his battle against the son of the late husband, had thrown a keypad in the pool early in the year, stating investigators: "since the beginning, the"

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