Sunday, May 27, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Brighton Knocker Boy Nabbed As Wenlok Jug Reward Amount Revealed

Jewellery crook hit with confiscation order after Broadstairs crime

A crooked antiques dealer who is serving a jail term has been told to pay up £4,430 - or face a further three months behind bars.

Canterbury Crown Court issued the confiscation order for Mark Wadey, 52, previously from Westdene, Brighton.

The figures represents the full value of a necklace he was convicted of stealing from a woman in Broadstairs.

He had attended homes in the town on August 8 2011, as an antiques dealer asking if people wanted to sell their jewellery.

On this occasion, he attended the premises of a woman and examined some of her jewellery. She declined to sell and then found it was missing and reported it to police.

Wadey was arrested on August 16 and charged on September 20 with theft.

Some £2,093 in cash was seized from him under the Proceeds of Crime Act on his arrest. This will be used as part payment of the order made for £4,430.

Wadey was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment for the theft earlier this month, May 17th.

The confiscation order was made with Wadey given seven days to pay the balance of the £4,430, or face a further three months in prison.

Reward of £25,000 for recovery of stolen Wenlok Jug

A £25,000 reward has been offered for information leading to the recovery of a medieval jug stolen from a Bedfordshire museum.

Insurance company Zurich, made the offer for the safe return of the Wenlok Jug, which was taken from the Stockwood Discovery Centre in Luton on 12 May.

The bronze creation is decorated with coats-of-arms and inscribed with the words "My Lord Wenlok."

The jug was displayed in a high security cabinet when it was stolen.

'Extremely upsetting'

Paul Redington, from Zurich, which insures the museum, said the jug was important to the museum and to the people of Luton.

Director of Museums Karen Perkins said the theft was "extremely serious and upsetting".

In 2005 the jug was nearly sold abroad, but a temporary export ban provided the opportunity for Luton Museum to raise the £750,000 needed to buy it.

It is thought the jug was made for either William Wenlock, who died in 1391 and was canon of St Paul's Cathedral, or his great-nephew John, the first Lord Wenlock, who was a major figure in the 15th Century.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Joshua Knelman Talks Hot Art As Warhol Goes Walkabout

Warhol Silkscreen Template, Valuable artifact or trifling memorabilia?

Hot Art, Hot Art, Joshua Knelman Talks Hot Art

Owner of Warhol, other missing Corktown art measures loss in sentiment, not dollars

The FBI is trying to figure out what happened between April 27 and April 29, when 19 pieces of art disappeared from a business in Corktown.

The collection included pieces by Andy Warhol, Rene Ricard and Larry Rivers and, according to the owner, probably holds a value of between $1 million and $2 million.

That estimate comes in part from certified appraisals done on the work.

The Warhol piece was appraised at over $1 million, the owner said. Warhol generally is given credit for popularizing screen printing in the U.S. — including his 1962 depiction of actress Marilyn Monroe.

"If everyone wants to have a debate about the financial value, I don't care about the financial value," the owner said, explaining that the sentimental value is a bigger concern because much of the work was passed on from family and friends.

The work was being temporarily stored at a business in Corktown.

Crain's Detroit Business agreed to keep the location of the business and the name of the owner of the art confidential because the FBI is conducting an investigation and asked the owner not to release information.

"We're looking into the strong possibility that these artworks have not only left metro Detroit but even the state and possibly the country," said FBI spokesman Simon Shaykhet.

The collection included a 1954 nude drawing of Frank O'Hara by Rivers, a piece controversial at the time for its outwardly homoerotic depiction, as well as the earliest known artwork of famed art critic Rene Ricard, believed to be a self-portrait.

"It's an unbelievably rare, irreplaceable object," the owner said of the Ricard piece.

The pieces have been entered into the FBI's national database of stolen artwork, and a $5,000 reward is being offered.

The agency is looking at multiple scenarios, Shaykhet said.

"We're considering all possibilities that include someone with prior knowledge about these paintings as well as someone involved in a simple crime of opportunity," he said.

All of the works are obscure, the owner said, and would hold little value on the black market.

"The loss of my personal belongings, which were mostly gifts from friends, was a very sad day for me," the owner said. "I do have a pretty good idea of what happened, but I'm not at liberty to share right now."

Warhol artifact among pilfered pieces in Corktown art heist

In a city known more for carjackings than art heists, the FBI is trying to crack a Corktown caper that cost a collector nearly two dozen pieces of valuable art.

The FBI says that sometime between April 27-29, an Andy Warhol silk screen used to produce "Flowers" and 18 works by other artists were stolen from a business in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood. Authorities would not identify the victim or the business, but said the works were not on display -- or locked up. They pegged the value of the collection at more than $1 million, though one expert said it may be worth considerably less.

FBI spokesman Simon Shaykhet said Tuesday that a reward of $5,000 is being offered for information on the hijacked collection, which includes drawings, prints and paintings by artists such as Larry Rivers, Francesco Clemente, Philip Taaffe, Peter Schuyff and Joseph Beuys.

• Related: See more of the stolen items on the FBI site

• Related: Gallery of more stolen artwork through history

"Whoever is involved may have planned to or may have already transported (the art) outside state lines or possibly outside the country," Shaykhet said. "Given the nature of this crime and the value of the artwork stolen, we're alerting anyone in the art industry, as well as local pawn shops and those who shop online, that thieves could use any of those avenues to try and sell the stolen goods."

An art dealer told the Free Press on Tuesday that the Warhol silk screen that's missing is not actually a piece of art but a studio tool worth no more than $2,000-$3,000.

"Nobody collects these," said Richard Polsky, a dealer and author based in the San Francisco Bay area, who has written two books about Warhol. "The only place it would have value would be to the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh to display alongside a 'Flowers' or to a crook who would want to do something fraudulent.

"It's memorabilia," Polsky said. "Somebody might buy it for a couple grand to say they had it and it was cool."

Polsky reviewed the names of about a dozen of the works the FBI said were stolen and estimated their market value at around $200,000.

"I hate to sound cavalier," he said, "but this is a pretty minor collection."

Given the relatively low profile of the stolen works, Polsky said the thieves might get off scot-free if they wait a couple of years before trying to sell the goods and avoid major auction houses.

"You could dump this stuff in a regional auction house, and you might get away with it," he said.

Shaykhet said the artwork is listed on the National Stolen Art database and can be viewed on the FBI's website,

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Fitzwilliam Jade On Global Art Crime Carousel

Fifth man arrested over Fitzwilliam burglary is bailed

The fifth man to be arrested in connection with the £40 million burglary at the Fitzwilliam Museum has been bailed.

The 24-year-old, from Dartford, (Sheridan Gypsy family Territory) was arrested on suspicion of burglary but has now been bailed until June 21.

Museum thefts: Are budget cuts to blame?

A rare bronze Medieval jug, Chinese treasures and items that once belonged to Admiral Lord Nelson have all been stolen from museums in England this year.

But while the theft of ancient artefacts in Greece has been blamed on austerity measures and the recession, could the financial climate be a factor behind recent crimes in the UK?

Cuts to local authority finances have already resulted in museums across the country having their budgets slashed.

Last year the Museums Association reported 73% of museums that had seen their budgets cut had reduced staffing levels.

The report's authors interviewed staff representing 140 museum services and found many were worried about the future impact on visitors.

But are the cuts already having an effect?

Maurice Davies, head of policy and communication for the Museums Association, said it was too early to say.

"There do seem to have been an alarming number of reports of thefts but that doesn't necessarily mean there are more thefts," he said.

"It may be that museums are getting a high profile for thefts because the press reports on them."

He said many of the items stolen were un-sellable through legitimate auction houses or art dealers because they were featured on registers of stolen art.

He added a drop in staff did not necessarily mean a fall in security.

Outside opening hours

"There is far improved technology in terms of strengthened show cases and more sophisticated CCTV monitoring.

"Most museums have never had staff in every gallery all the time and a lot of these recent thefts happened outside opening hours."

But Christopher Marinello, executive director of the Art Loss Register, said 2012 was looking like a "very big year" for art thefts.

He said in 2011 there had been 283 cases opened of art thefts in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. So far in 2012, 136 cases have been opened.

"Each case could have one to 100 items so we are talking about possibly thousands of items being stolen," he said. "We've never been busier."

He added: "I don't know whether to attribute it to the current appalling economic situation but austerity measures put in place worldwide seem to have affected the security of cultural institutions."

He added that thefts of Chinese art could be down to the "flurry of publicity" around cultural items selling for high prices.

Arts Council England (ACE) provides security advice to museums, galleries and archives across the UK and guidance when cultural objects are loaned and exchanged between venues.

The council had its budget cut by almost 30% in the government's Spending Review.

A spokeswoman said they did not hold statistics on the number of items stolen from museums and galleries and could not comment on whether budget cuts had affected security.

But cuts were blamed for thefts from Norwich Castle.

Admiral Lord Nelson artefacts worth £36,800 were reported stolen from the museum in February.

George Nobbs, vice chair of the museums' board at Norfolk County Council, said interpreters that were recently axed at the museum could have prevented it.

The interpreters, not employed for security, were responsible for explaining the exhibits to visitors and their presence in the room therefore acted as a deterrent.

The director behind the museums' service said staff restructuring was done "with security in mind".

Rhino horn theft

But while museums around the country continue to work under straitened financial circumstances security remains a priority according to Vernon Rapley, former head of the Metropolitan Police's Art and Antiques Unit.

Mr Rapley, who is now the head of security and visitor services at the Victoria & Albert Museum, said he did not think cuts were having the same effect on security in England as they were in countries like Greece.

He said over the last 12 months a big concern for museums was the theft of rhino horn which is used in traditional Chinese medicine.

"Most museums have heeded advice to protect rhino horn and sadly they've had to remove them from display and replace them with synthetic replicas," he said.

"Once you've addressed it and made the crime more difficult there is a shift to other Chinese items and that would suggest to us the criminals have a desire for Chinese objects and are engaged in illicit trade with China."

But he added museums tried to learn from thefts and identify which items were at risk and in need of protection.

"Museums' most primary objectives are to make objects accessible while preserving them," he said.

"I don't think museums in this country are at risk because of cuts at the moment.

"There is a real understanding of the need to preserve things for future generations and that comes first."

The man was arrested in Kent late on Tuesday (22) evening and taken to a police station in Cambridgeshire.

Stolen Art Work Including Work by Oscar Vaz is Recovered by Interpol in Argentina

Interpol recovered 29 works of art stolen in Argentina and arrested one person in six raids conducted on art galleries in Buenos Aires, authorities said Monday.

A total of 37 paintings and sculptures by outstanding national and international artists valued at an average of $400,000 had been stolen on Jan. 7 from a private home, the Argentine Security Ministry said in a communique.

One of the stolen paintings, by Argentine artist Horacio Buttler, was found in the Arroyo art gallery.

Investigators discovered that the man who had turned over the painting to the gallery was an employee of the Buenos Aires art gallery, where stolen works of art by Argentine painter Oscar Vaz were subsequently found.

Also, authorities found stolen artwork in two other galleries and two warehouses of the Zurburan art marketing firm.

The rest of the stolen artwork was recovered in a cafe near the art galleries where investigators found documentation that allowed them to identify Osvaldo Ryszelewski as the person overseeing the sale and distribution of the stolen pieces.

Investigators found that Ryszelewski had 13 arrest warrants outstanding for different crimes and they arrested him.

Police are continuing their work to recover the eight paintings that have not yet been found, the communique said.

Warhol Silkscreen Stolen in Detroit

An unnamed collector operating an unnamed business in Corktown, a Detroit neighborhood, is the victim of a rather hefty—or maybe not so much—art theft.

According the the Detroit Free Press, a silkscreen Warhol used to make the Flowers series, along with 18 works authored by other artists, were stolen sometime over the last weekend of April. Yesterday the FBI announced a $5,000 reward for "information on the hijacked collection"—information directly beneficial to their investigation, presumably.

Quite debatable, it seems, is the estimated value of the stolen works. Since the take included works by artists such as Joseph Beuys, Larry Rivers, Francesco Clemente and Philip Taaffe, some estimates place its dollar value in the millions.

A rather different estimate, namely that of Warhol historian and art dealer Richard Polsky, tops out at around $200,000. The alleged expert sees only scant value in the Warhol screen itself, referring to it as "memorabilia" worth no more than two or three thousand dollars: "The only place it would have value would be to the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh to display alongside a 'Flowers' or to a crook who would want to do something fraudulent."

He also calls the collection, all told, "minor."

Valuable or not, a further note of interest regarding the collection is how the FBI refers to the its latent state at the time of the theft as neither "on display" nor "locked up."

Objects such as artworks might certainly exist in plenty of other states between those two—leaning against a wall, in transit, in process, under restoration, in the recycling bin, etc.—but is it not strange that they weren't stored securely? Perhaps I'm foolish or missing something, but 'not locked up' seems a rather curious way to leave, or refer to, an art collection.

If you'd like to glimpse some of the works lifted therefrom, see the FBI's website.

South Africa: Constantia museum antiques recovered

SOME of the antiques stolen at Manor House Museum at Groot Constantia were recovered yesterday but the police are yet to trace the thieves.

Iziko Museum said the ceramic objects were found by workers at a nearby farm.

Police spokesman November Filander confirmed the items had been recovered but did not disclose the circumstances or the name of the farm. He did not say which items had been found.

“This office is aware that some items were recovered on Wednesday but due to the sensitive stage of the investigation we cannot release any more information at this stage,” Filander said.

“At this stage we have not arrested anyone, but we are hopeful of an arrest (yesterday evening). The officers are busy right now.”

The museum had closed its doors to visitors for two days after a burglary on Monday. The thieves gained access to the museum through a window but it was still unclear how they managed to make off with about 19 porcelain items unnoticed.

Yesterday afternoon 10 of the centuries-old Asian antiques were found by workers at a farm in Constantia, a day after Iziko Museums had released photographs of the stolen antiques.

Iziko chief executive Rooksana Omar said the museum was relieved that the items had been found so soon.

“We extend our thanks to these individuals and police service for their decisive and swift action. We remain optimistic regarding the safe return of the remainder of the items that are missing and appeal to the public to please provide any further information which could lead to their recovery and the arrest of the perpetrators,” Omar said.

The museum is yet to put a value on the items. An antique expert had previously told the Cape Times it would be difficult for the thieves to dispose of the items locally.

The museum had been burgled 10 years ago, through the roof. The burglars were arrested and items they stole recovered when they tried to sell the goods locally.

The Manor House Museum is at Groot Constantia farm, which dates from 1685 when the land was taken by the governor of the then Cape Colony, Simon van der Stel.

Items stolen during the break-in included a lidded porcelain vase decorated in famille rose enamels dating back 300 years, a mid 17th-century Japanese Arita porcelain and a pair of lidded blue-and-white Chinese porcelain vases from the 17th century.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Fitzwilliam Theft, Third Traveller/Gypsy Charged, But Where Is The Jade

Third person charged over Fitzwilliam raid

Police have charged a third person in connection with the theft of Chinese art from the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

25-year-old Steven Coughlan of Eleanor Street Traveller/Gypsy Site in London will appear at Cambridge Magistrates' Court on Monday 21st May charged with theft and conspiracy to burgle.

18 items were taken from the museum, valued at more than ten million pounds. Police have already charged two people in connection with the theft.

Eastern European Antiques dealer who sold stolen gold sent to jail.

AN illegal immigrant who received jewellery stolen from homes all over the country has been jailed for seven years.

Yaroslav Kostenko, aged 30, took the gold jewellery – much of which was custom made for Asian family weddings – to London to be melted down.

Kostenko, from Ukraine, collected the gold from travellers who had carried out the burglaries and in less than 18 months as the price of gold soared, was paid £1.6 million. He used his share of the cash to set up an antiques business with his partner in Chipping Norton, St Albans Crown Court was told last Wednesday

When Kostenko was stopped on the M40 on May 18 last year the police found a large bag full of gold wedding jewellery taken from homes in Essex, Northampton and Slough.

He told officers that he had collected the jewellery from travellers and he was taking it to Hatton Garden, London.

Hertfordshire Police’s Serious Organised Crime Unit searched Kostenko’s antique shop, Victor Creations, West Street, Chipping Norton, and other properties. They found about 5,000 items including jewellery, watches and paintings.

Simon Wilshire, for the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Records from the 18 months prior to Kostenko’s arrest showed he had received £1.629 million of gold.

“He was a significant handler of golden jewellery and other property which came to him from the travelling community,” said the prosecutor.

Kostenko, who has a partner and child, of West Street, Chipping Norton, pleaded guilty to money laundering and possessing criminal property.

He came to the UK on a sixmonth student visa in 2002 and had no work record in the country. His assets will be the subject of confiscation proceedings.

Defence barrister Mohammed Bashir said he was an “educated man who had set up a bona fide antiques business”. He said he had received “little commission”

and had deeply regretted what he had done.

Cat burglar in $34m jewel heist

A CAT Burglar has snatched $34 million in jewellery during a break-in at a diplomat's home in Paris.

Philippe Jones Lhuillier, the ambassador of the Philippines to Portugal and a passionate gem collector, was away when thieves struck at his apartment in the 16th district of Paris, Le Parisien newspaper reported.

The thieves, who broke in through a window, used an angle grinder to prise open a safe containing a case of gems and jewels, the report said.

Vases, watches and other valuables were also taken from the richly decorated 540-square-metre apartment, the report said.

Police are investigating the theft, which was reported by one of the ambassador's staff on Thursday.

Mr Lhuillier is the son of a former French honorary consul to the Philippines.

Significant amount of jewellery taken during break-in at Limerick home

GARDAI are also advising jewellers and cash for gold outlets to be alert a significant amount of jewellery was stolen during a break in at a house in Corbally.

The burglary happened sometime between noon and 2pm on Thursday, May 10 at a house at Janemount Park, Corbally.

According to gardai, the culprits gained entry to the house by forcing open the garage door and then forcing the kitchen door.

Once inside, they stole a number of items of jewellery including a gold bracelet with antique coins on it, a gold bracelet with diamonds, five gold rings, four of which had diamonds on them and one had a ruby stone. A gold watch was also stolen.

“We believe that the culprits made good their escape through an upstairs bedroom window which led out onto a flat roof. They then when out over the rear garden wall,” said Sgt Brian Broderick.

Four get suspended jail terms for 'stolen goods' charges

FOUR men have been given suspended prison sentences after admitting various offences involving 'stolen goods'.

Alex Shepherd, Matthew Mazzoni, Robert Hobbs and Ian Shepherd were all brought before Plymouth Crown Court after they were arrested when police targeted a shop between March and May last year.

The undercover officers were seeking to sell 'stolen' jewellery, games and tobacco at the Devonport Plymouth Easy Cash shop, the court was told.

The investigation led to a raid on several properties, including the Marlborough Street shop.

It was the Crown Prosecutions case that the Easy Cash shop and Mazzoni's nearby flat had been used for selling items.

Robert Hobbs, of Granby Green, was proprietor of the shop at the time of the arrests on June 22.

The 38-year-old pleaded guilty to a count of attempting to handle stolen goods.

He was sentenced by Judge Francis Gilbert QC to 11 months in prison suspended for two years and ordered to complete 200 hours of community service.

Alex Shepherd, of St Aubyn Road, and Matthew Mazzoni, of Albert Road, had both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to handle stolen goods.

The judge gave both men eight month prison sentences suspended for two years and 150 hours of community service each.

Ian Shepherd, who had pleaded guilty to attempting to handle stolen goods, was given nine months in prison suspended for two years and 100 hours of community service.

Woman wanted after £10k jewellery burglary

Police are appealing for information on the woman in these CCTV images in relation to a burglary in which more than £10,000 worth of jewellery was stolen in Lincoln.

This incident took place between 10am and 5.30pm in Broadway, Lincoln, on April 1.

The offender broke into a house through a bathroom window at the back and stole a quantity of jewellery.

Georgians who burgled Dubai, Sharjah flats held

Two Georgian burglars who targeted flats in Dubai and Sharjah when the tenants or owners were out at work have been arrested.

The police also recovered Dh500,000 and jewellery stolen from Sharjah flats and Dh350,000 and jewellery taken from Dubai houses from the pair.

Brigadier Khalil Ibrahim Al Mansouri, Director of the General Department of Criminal Investigation of the Dubai Police, said they received complaints from tenants or owners of seven apartments in different areas, including Muraqqabat and Bur Dubai, from May 5.

The police analysis revealed that the culprits were using a special method to break the locks.

Also, information was received from the Sharjah Police about four similar burglaries in that emirate of late. Colonel Salem Rumaithi, Deputy Director of the General Department of Criminal Investigation, said a police patrol party stopped a car in the Rifa’a area.

The car was rented and the two people inside were Georgians. The suspects came to the UAE on visit visas this month.

One was living in Sharjah and the other in Dubai.

The police found their behaviour suspicious and searched the car. Inside, they found some of the stolen goods.

During interrogation, they confessed that they came to the UAE with the aim of committing thefts and that they chose the apartments carefully.

Lt-Colonel Ahmad Humaid Al Marri, Director of the Criminal Investigation Department, said the duo was moving between Dubai and Sharjah.

They targeted flats in buildings that had no surveillance cameras or security guards.

Maid admits to stealing Dhs1m, gold jewellery

Dubai: A maid stole Dhs1 million and gold jewellery for a fugitive compatriot who had promised to buy her a house, a court heard.

KW, 30, an Ethiopian, on Thursday, admitted before Judge Jassem Ibrahim Al Beloushi at the Dubai Criminal Court, that she stole from her female employer ZC, in Al Quoz last year.

“Yes, but almost all of it was again taken away by a compatriot who lured me with a proposal to buy a house in Ethiopia,” she said.

KW reportedly went into ZC’s bedroom while the latter was in the living room, busy exercising on her jogging machine.

She snatched the keys from her handbag, collected the money and locked the safe before disappearing with the keys and handbag as well.

KW reportedly told prosecutors that at around 2pm, while cleaning ZC’s apartment, MM, the fugitive, contacted her and advised her to steal any available cash and jewellery.

She hid the stolen items in ZC’s handbag and took a taxi to meet MM. She got into contact with MM, who then drove her to a location in the Al Rashidiyah area.

“MM gave me around Dhs200,000 from the bundle that I had stolen, after which I went to a female acquaintance’s apartment.”

“The next day, however, MM came back for the Dhs200,000, claiming he would use it to buy the house. He gave me about Dhs3,000 for personal expenditure,” KW said.

A Emirati police lieutenant said, “After ZC could not find her handbag containing the safe’s key, she suspected KW, because she was the last person to leave the apartment.”

A staff sergeant added that upon arrest, KW admitted to the crime saying that she stole “a huge sum of money along with gold jewellery.” Hearing in the case continues on June 18.

Gang of East European jewel thieves sent to jail

MEMBERS of a smash-and-grab gang which stole almost £200,000 worth of jewellery in a string of raids have been jailed.

Romanians Adrian Ciobanu and George Stinga, together with Lithuanian Sigita Gasiliauskaite, began their campaign against the H.Samuel chain with a nighttime axe attack on the Redhill branch on December 9 last year.

The gang stole £50,000 of stock from the store in the Belfry shopping centre, before going on to take another £133,000-worth from shops in Staines and Bishop's Stortford in Hertfordshire. They also attempted to burgle a store in Corby, Northamptonshire, in the six weeks that followed.

Judge Christopher Critchlow sentenced Stinga, 27, of Salisbury Road, Dagenham, Essex, to four-and-a-half years, at Guildford Crown Court on Friday.

Ciobanu, 28, and Gasiliauskaite, 25, both of High Road, Wood Green, London, were sentenced to five and four years respectively.

Judge Critchlow said: "The trio were all described by their barristers as hard-up. They were part of a wider gang, the other members of which have not been traced."

The three pleaded guilty to conspiracy to burgle, but admitted differing levels of involvement in the raids. The burglars were disguised, the court heard, and could not be identified from CCTV footage of the crimes.

Prosecuting, Jonathan Davies said the Redhill raid took place at 3am.

"Two offenders were seen entering the premises by removing the glass panel on the bottom of the door," he told the court.

"An axe was used to break through and remove the window in order that the two offenders could climb in. Property was stolen to the value of £50,000. CCTV footage, very important, identified what happened: one person on a bike going past having a look, disappearing, coming back."

The other burglaries followed a similar pattern, the court heard.

The gang carried out reconnaissance missions in the days leading up to the crimes, and struck in the middle of the night, using a sledgehammer to break in.

The court heard that police investigating the raids found a scrap of paper with the postcodes of six more H.Samuel stores written on it, which had Gasiliauskaite's fingerprints on it.

Barristers for Ciobanu and Stinga told the court they received a payment of just £300 for carrying out the crimes on behalf of the ringleaders.

A total of £62,000 worth of jewellery was recovered from a car linked to Ciobanu, but the remainder, including the Redhill haul, has not been found.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Wenlok Reward Offer, Fool's Gold, Chasing Rainbows

Reward offered for jug’s safe return

LUTON Culture has offered a reward for the safe return of a rare historic artefact stolen in a raid at the Stockwood Discovery Centre.

The Wenlok Jug, which was bought to Luton for £750,000 in 2006 and has strong connections with the town’s past was taken in a smash and grab raid at the centre on Saturday night.

Police yesterday released CCTV footage of the thief – a man dressed in a light coloured hoodie and a scarf covering his face and a Nike sling bag on his shoulder – smashing into the jug’s security case with what appears to be a gulley cover at around 11pm in what director of Luton Museums Karen Perkins described as an “aggressive attack”.

Despite the jug weighing a solid 6.1kgs, the man managed to throw the jug over the centre’s six foot perimeter fence and into a bush before making off towards Stockwood Park.

Centre bosses are in negotiations with an insurance company as to value of the reward but said that, as the jug is an alloy and not pure bronze, the real value lies in its antiquity and history rather than its scrap metal value.

Maggie Appleton, chief executive of Luton Culture said: “Our plea to the public is that anyone who has seen or heard anything that could help us recover the object rings Crimestoppers anonymously.

“The object is incredibly distinctive, there isn’t another one like it. It’s value is in its importance to Luton people, what it tells us about medieval life in Luton and medieval metalwork.

Karen Perkins, director of Luton museums added: “This is a real shock to the Museum Service and especially for the staff here who work incredibly hard to open this site for free for the people of Luton and visitors, it’s been a centrepiece to a lot of the things we’ve done here and a lot of the things we’ve been able to achieve.

“We hope that people recognise its value and it isn’t melted down, we want to recover it that is our primary aim.”

Despite question marks being raised over the security arrangements surrounding the jug’s display, Ms Perkins said that the case – made with 13.4mm laminated glass and a polycarbonate compound with a dual locking system, alarm system and 24 hour vibrating alarm – was “the very best that we could purchase at the time”.

Museum bosses are investigating whether all the callout procedures envoked by the alarm system worked as they should and will be reviewing security at the centre.

Ms Perkins added: “We do what we can and what we think is reasonable to protect the objects with our alarm systems and everything like that. You can’t ultimately stop everything, the idea is to slow down people as much as possible that’s this high security case was so important and we need to look at the specification of all our cases and say do they give us the delay time we really do need to allow the callout and police to respond in that time or enough that someone attempting to break in to another case in the future will give up after a couple of minutes when they realise they’re running out of time.”

When asked why an exact replica of the jug wasn’t on show in the centre’s foyer instead of the real one, Ms Perkins said that part of the museum’s duty is to allow the public access to authentic historical objects.

She said: “We’re a museum and we’re about making our objects in the collection and the history of Luton available for people to enjoy. If we go round just putting replicas on display then what’s the point in keeping the originals, but there is always this constant conflict between making things accessible and protecting things.”

Brighton Art & Antiques Knocker Boy Retrial

AN antiques dealer is to face a retrial on theft charges.

Lee Collins, 45, of The Heights, off Dyke Road Avenue, Brighton, is accused of stealing from three homes in London between March and June last year.

He stood trial at Harrow Crown Court earlier this month but the jury was discharged after failing to reach a verdict.

At a hearing last Friday the case was listed for a retrial on August 13.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Antiques Crime U.S.A., Daily Occurrence

Rare Coins Valued at Up to $500,000 Stolen from Elderly Couple

After returning from a coin show in Charlottesville last month, an Annandale couple left their collection in the car for 10 minutes after pulling into their driveway. When they returned, everything was gone.

After attending an antique coin show in Charlottesville on Saturday, April 14, an elderly couple returned home to the Annandale area only to have their collection—worth hundreds of thousands of dollars—stolen right out of the car in their own driveway, police said Tuesday.

Detectives believe the victims were targeted and that the suspect may have followed them home from the coin show.

The couple, who live in the 3800 block of Stuart Circle, left the coins and bank notes in the car for "no more than 10 minutes," after they returned home, according to the Fairfax County Police Department.

The items were inside three brown leather briefcases, two document holders and a leather backpack, which were all hidden under a blanket in the rear hatch area of the car.

Some of the items taken were:

  • 1929 National Notes in increments of $5, $10 and $20 dollars. These notes are from but not limited to: The Peoples National Bank of Leesburg, the 2nd National Bank of Culpeper and Fauquier National Bank.
  • There are also additional notes from these selected Virginia locations: Fairfax, Warrenton, Hot Springs, Staunton, Harrisonburg, Waynesburg, Strasburg, Roanoke, Marshall and Charlottesville.
  • Numerous Confederate notes in denominations of $1, $2, $5, $10, $50 and $500 stored in a document book with plastic holders.
  • 1932 Indian Gold piece
  • Numerous commemorative half dollars
  • $1 gold pieces
  • Confederate Obsolete notes (no other specifics)
  • 1922 Plain penny
  • Numerous U.S. small currency notes (no other specifics)
  • 1909-S VBD penny
  • Book of Confederate notes (no other specifics)
  • Box of Indian Head and Lincoln pennies
  • Two 1934 $1,000 notes
  • 1934 $500 note
  • 1928 $500 note
Detectives are hopeful these stolen items may appear on the collectors’ circuit or at a future show.

$100K Worth of Jewelry Stolen from Wilton Home

The owners reported the burglary on May 12, according to Wilton police.

The owners of a residence on Middlebrook Farm Road reported that someone broke into their home on May 12 and stole over $100,000 worth of jewelry, according to Wilton police.

Lt. John Lynch said that the owners returned home just before 1 a.m. and found that someone had gained access to the home by using a ladder to get to the second floor balcony. The couple's 20-year-old son was home at the time of the incident, but told police that he didn't notice or hear anything out of the ordinary other than the family's dog barking.

Lynch said that the department is currently investigating the incident and is in contact with other departments in the area to see if similar burglaries were reported.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Wenlok Whipped

Wenlok Jug stolen from Stockwood Discovery Centre

A "nationally significant" bronze medieval jug has been stolen from a Bedfordshire museum.

The Wenlok Jug was taken from the Stockwood Discovery Centre in Luton at about 23:00 BST on Saturday.

In 2005 it was nearly sold abroad, but a temporary export ban provided the opportunity for Luton Museum to raise the £750,000 needed to buy it.

Director of Museums, Karen Perkins, called the theft "extremely serious and upsetting".

She said: "We are extremely proud that the Wenlok Jug is part of the collections at Stockwood Discovery Centre and are working extremely closely with police and investigators to do all we can to recover it.

"The Wenlok Jug is a nationally significant medieval object."

The jug is a very rare example of metalwork that can be associated with royalty from the 1400s.

It is decorated with coats of arms and badges and is inscribed with the words "My Lord Wenlok".

In May 2005 it went up for sale at Sotheby's and was nearly sold to New York's Metropolitan Museum.

However its export was stopped in October of that year by culture minister David Lammy after experts ruled it was of "outstanding significance" for the study of bronze-working in medieval England.

It is thought the jug was made for either William Wenlock, who died in 1391 and was canon of St Paul's Cathedral, or his great-nephew John, the first Lord Wenlock, who was a major figure in the 15th century.

Police investigating the theft of the Wenlok Jug, a rare medieval jug in Luton are meeting with Detectives from Scotland Yard's specializing in antique thefts.

Civil War sword stolen from Manchester antiques shop

MANCHESTER - A $3,800 Civil War sword was stolen from a local antique store by a man who took it and hid it inside his pants, police said.

The theft happened about 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Antiques on Elm Street, 321 Elm St.

The sword, one of only 814 made, is a Cross & Co. Civil War sword with "USA" and shields stamped on the blade with brushed metal around the handle. It was on display in a booth the owner rents at the store.

Police said two white women with black hair distracted store personnel while the man took the sword.

The thief is described as a white man with a mustache who was wearing a baseball cap, green jacket, blue jeans and brown work boots.

The women, who bear a resemblance to each other and are possibly sisters, are accomplices in the theft, according to police. One wore a white shirt and black pants, while the other wore a white sweatshirt and black pants.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Art Crime, Art Crime, All About Art Crime

Traveller gang targeted over stolen rhino horns

By Cormac O’Keeffe and Kerry Sheridan

Friday, May 11, 2012

A notorious Traveller criminal network which dominates a multi-million dollar global trade in stolen rhino horn is being targeted in a huge police operation in the United States.

A crackdown in the US has resulted so far in the seizure of 37 rhino horns, which authorities there have valued at between $8m (€6m) and $10m (€7.7m).
Operation Crash has not to date arrested any members of the so-called Rathkeale Rovers, a criminal Traveller network, originally from Rathkeale in Co Limerick.

The Rathkeale Rovers have become notorious across Europe and beyond for their involvement in the highly profitable rhino horn trade.

Last July, the EU police agency, Europol, said the Traveller gang was an "organised crime group" which was also heavily involved in tarmac fraud, the distribution of counterfeit goods, organised robbery, money laundering and drug trafficking.

It said their reach spread across North and South America, China and Australia and that they used "intimidation and violence" in their activities.

Europol estimate that rhino horns, which are used in traditional medicine and decoration, were worth between €25,000 and €200,000 each.

The agency said the Irish gang sourced horns by targeting antique dealers, auction houses, art galleries, museums, private collections and zoos.

It said they sold them by "exploiting" international auction houses in France, the US and China.

Europol said the gang had invested "significant proceeds of crime in Ireland — mainly in real estate and other assets".

Rhino horn is sold in Chinese traditional medicine, as an aphrodisiac, as a decoration or to produce luxury products.

Trading in rhino horns is illegal under UN laws as they are an endangered species.

Last February, three agencies in the US — the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Homeland Security Department and the Internal Revenue Service — set up a huge operation to uncover buyers of rhino horn.

Edward Grace of the US Fish and Wildlife Service said 37 rhino horns were seized in the country’s biggest ever operation in this area.

Among eight people arrested were a rodeo cowboy, a Chinese businessman, a Vietnamese nail salon owner and a US antiques expert.

Though no Irish people were arrested in the crackdown, more arrests are expected in the coming months, Mr Grace said.

"This case also involves other Irish buying rhino horns in the US," Mr Grace told AFP. "I can’t go into a lot of details on it."

He said criminals scoured the country for trophies of the animals hunted illegally in South Africa and brought back in the US in recent decades.

It was the activities of two Irish men, Richard O’Brien and Michael Hegarty, from Rathkeale, Co Limerick, that brought the attention of US law enforcement to the trade.

The duo were arrested after paying undercover agents in Colorado some $17,000 for four black rhino horns.

They told agents they planned to hide them in furniture which they would ship to Ireland.

They were charged with conspiracy, smuggling and money laundering, and served six months in a US prison.

Mr Grace said the trade in illegal rhino horn was "really being fuelled by the Irish Travellers", but said Chinese and Vietnamese criminals were also involved.

He likened the crime to the drugs trade: "It is similar to an operation of a drug cartel. You have the higher ups who provide the money, the mid-level lieutenants who get the couriers and the smugglers, so you have the whole organised criminal element here."

In the United States, it is illegal to sell most types of rhino horns across state lines and none may be imported or exported without a special permit.

The maximum penalties are a $250,000 fine and five years in prison for conspiracy and trafficking of endangered species, and $100,000 and one year in prison for violating the Endangered Species Act.

Since illegal trafficking fuels poaching of endangered rhinos abroad, "part of the responsibility worldwide to help protect these species falls on the United States," said Mr Grace

Cash and jewellery found as search for burglar gang continues

Thursday, May 03, 2012

As wide-scale searches continued in West Limerick last night for three members of a Cork City-based burglar gang, gardaí discovered a large quantity of cash and jewellery discarded in a field.

The money and jewellery was stolen in house break-ins earlier this week in Co Limerick.

One member of the Traveller gang, aged 23, who was arrested on Tuesday will appear at Limerick District Court this morning.

He and the three others are suspected of being involved in burglaries on Monday and Tuesday at Martinstown, Ballyneety and Pallsagreen.

Garda search teams were yesterday backed up by the Garda helicopter and armed members of the Regional Support Unit as they combed wide tracts of bogland and forests near the village of Raheenagh.

The three men abandoned a black Volvo with a false ‘D’ registration before they took off through open countryside on Tuesday. They drove into a Garda checkpoint set up under an operation mounted in Cork, Kerry and Limerick to tackle known gangs roaming the three counties.

The car which was originally registered in England, was not stolen and gardaí believe it may yield vital clues in the investigation which is a joint Limerick/Cork operation. It is being forensically examined.

Gangs have been responsible for a spate of burglaries in the Limerick area in recent weeks and gardaí are confident developments this week will help deliver a major blow to mobile criminals drawn from various Traveller families living in Cork City.

A Garda spokesman said: "Our people in Cork and Limerick are working very closely on this investigation and we are confident of more arrests."

Retired L.A. Art Crime detective sentenced to 27 years to life for 1986 murder

Los Angeles (CNN) -- A California judge sentenced a retired Los Angeles Police detective Friday to 27 years to life in prison for murdering her ex-boyfriend's wife in a jealous rage more than two decades ago.

Stephanie Ilene Lazarus, 52, was convicted of biting and shooting Sherri Rasmussen, 29, in her townhouse in the Van Nuys neighborhood of Los Angeles in 1986.

Lazarus, who rose through ranks of the Los Angeles Police Department and became a veteran art theft detective, could be eligible for parole in 22 years. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Perry gave Lazarus credit for time served in jail since her arrest at LAPD headquarters in June 2009.

A jury convicted her in March of first-degree murder.

Friday's sentence was the maximum under state law, prosecutors said.

Lazarus was charged with staging the crime scene to look like a burglary gone bad, and police long believed that Rasmussen was the victim of two male burglars.

The 1986 case went cold for years. Then it was reopened in 2004 and again in 2009, when DNA from a bite mark on the victim's arm came back as a match to the detective.

When Lazarus became a suspect, homicide detectives faced "special challenges as Lazarus' office was located next door to the detectives who were now investigating her," police said in a statement in March.

Rasmussen, a hospital nursing supervisor, was the new bride of John Ruetten, who had been Lazarus' college sweetheart. Married for just three months, Ruetten found his wife's body when he returned home from work. Rasmussen was brutally beaten and shot three times in the chest, authorities said.

Los Angeles County deputy prosecutors Shannon Presby and Paul Nunez submitted a written statement to the court prior to the sentencing, according to the prosecutor's office.

"Lazarus has never taken responsibility for her acts," the prosecutors wrote. "Lazarus has never expressed any regret or remorse for her actions. Lazarus' profound narcissism led her to kill and continues to motivate her denial of responsibility. This unrepentant selfishness poses a real and significant danger to any person whose interests conflict with Lazarus' egotistic desires."

Before the sentencing Friday, Rasmussen' mother, Loretta, told the court that her family has endured "extreme pain" over her daughter's murder.

"Every day we miss her laughter and her love," the mother told the judge.

In his remarks to the judge, a tearful Ruetten said Rasmussen was "just trying to save her own life" on the day of her murder.

"I just can't bear thinking about these moments," Ruetten told the court.

After the sentencing, Lazarus, manacled and dressed in a jail jumpsuit, waved and smiled to an apparent loved one in the courtroom gallery as she was escorted back to jail, carrying a folder.

Following Lazarus' conviction in March, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said the case was "a tragedy on every level."

"Not only did the family of Sherri Rasmussen lose a wife and a daughter, a life that can never be returned, but also the LAPD family felt a sense of betrayal to have an officer commit such a terrible crime," Beck said in a written statement.

"I am also sorry it took us so long to solve this case and bring a measure of justice to this tragedy," he said.

Rasmussen, director of nursing at Glendale Adventist Medical Center, was a tall, athletic 29-year-old with a pretty smile.

At the time of the slaying, Lazarus was in her second year with the Los Angeles Police Department. The killing occurred on February 24, 1986, a Monday. Lazarus had taken the day off; Rasmussen had called in sick that morning. Authorities estimate she died before lunchtime.

Prosecutors argued that Lazarus was in love with Ruetten and distraught when she learned he married someone else.

During the trial, Ruetten testified he casually dated Lazarus after college, but he never considered her a girlfriend and dated other women while seeing her. Lazarus eventually married a Los Angeles Police detective and the couple adopted a daughter.

According to prosecutors, the key to unlocking Lazarus' dark secret lay for years on the back shelf of an evidence freezer in the coroner's office. In a vial inside a sealed evidence envelope was a cotton swab. On that swab, prosecutors say, was DNA taken from saliva from the bite wound on Rasmussen's left forearm.

Testing in 2005 revealed the assailant was a woman. Some detectives, however, clung to the burglary theory and focused their inquiries on known female prowlers.

But from the beginning, the victim's family had pointed to an ex-girlfriend of Ruetten's who was a cop, and as the DNA testing advanced, undercover police followed Lazarus to a Costco store and retrieved a discarded soda from a trash can. Saliva traces from the straw matched the bite mark DNA, and she officially became a suspect.

Lazarus was confronted, and another sample was taken from her shortly before her arrest. Tests revealed the DNA found in the bite mark on Rasmussen's left forearm belonged to Lazarus.

Deputy Assistant District Attorney Presby told jurors during the trial that the chance of the killer being anyone else is "one in 1.7 sextillion."

To avoid botching an undercover investigation of one of their own, LAPD officials carefully devised a plan to arrest Lazarus. On June 5, 2009, Detective Daniel Jaramillo from the department's robbery-homicide division approached Lazarus at her desk in the department's headquarters and asked her to accompany him downstairs to the department's jail facility, where she would not be able to bring her gun.

He told Lazarus he needed her help interrogating a man who claimed to have information on stolen art, Lazarus' specialty in the detectives unit. A nearly hour-long recorded interview followed.

After one of the detectives alludes to the evidence that implicated her in the killing, Lazarus said, "Am I on 'Candid Camera' or something? This is insane. This is absolutely crazy. This is insane."

Minutes later she walked out of the interview room, only to be stopped, handcuffed and told she was under arrest in the murder of Sherri Rae Rasmussen.

Lazarus's attorney, John Overland, has argued in court that the crime scene evidence from 1986 was mishandled and tainted years ago and couldn't be trusted.

Cops unravel New York link to Sringeri idol theft

KOCHI: Three years after the trail turned cold in the sensational robbery of a centuries-old emerald idol of Lord Shiva from Sringeri Mutt in Kalady, Kerala police claim they have cracked the case. State crime branch officials said they suspect Subhash Kapoor, an UP-born US citizen and antique smuggler who runs a gallery in New York, and is the public face of a clandestine international racket in ancient artefacts.

Kapoor is allegedly behind a number of idol heists from Tamil Nadu as well, and police here surmise that he is involved in the burglary of five idols, similar to the Sringeri one, from other temples in Kerala. A report of the economic offences wing of the Tamil Nadu police reveals that Kapoor runs a private museum called Art of the Past and an export company, Nimbus Import Inc, in New York. He specialises in shipping out and selling stolen antiques to museums, private collectors and dealers through a wide network ranging across India, Pakistan, Dubai, Hong Kong, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Cambodia and Thailand.

Kapoor was arrested in Germany in October 2011 following a red corner notice issued by the CBI with the help of Interpol. "We will approach the TN police and are planning to make a joint effort to extradite him from Germany," a senior crime branch official, who requested anonymity, told TOI.

Kapoor is believed to have masterminded the theft of 18 panchaloha idols from the Arulmigu Sundareswarar and Varadharaja Perumal temples at Suthamalli village in Ariyalur district on April 13, 2008. "The TN police are already at his back in connection with the theft of antique idols from various temples in Tamil Nadu. We are now expecting to make a breakthrough in the Sringeri Mutt case also," the official said.

The TN police report points out that antique idols were shipped from Chennai harbour to US in two batches between May and July 2006. Kapoor paid a dollar equivalent of Rs 1,16,37,694 from his account with HSBC Bank in New York to an accomplice identified as Sanjivi Asokan, suspected to be his point man in Chennai. Asokan was earlier arrested by a special team of the Kerala police in connection with the Sringeri case but it is only now that they became aware of his link with Kapoor.

Kidnapped by Pirates at Sea? Here's How Economics Can Save You

Lessons from Plutarch to Planet Money, including the First Rule of kidnapping insurance: Don't tell anybody about your kidnapping insurance

A couple years ago NPR's Planet Money podcast had an episode about Somali pirates. (The pirate part starts at 9:35). There was all sorts of interesting stuff about division of labor, allocation of shares, pirate venture capital, etc. Some of this paralleled early modern piracy (as given a scholarly analysis in Peter Leeson's work and a romantic perspective in innumerable books and movies since Treasure Island) but in other respects it's very different. In particular, whereas early modern piracy was mostly about seizing cargo and the crews were left alone if they surrendered promptly, Somali piracy is more similar to piracy in antiquity in that it's basically maritime kidnapping. The typical instance of Somali piracy isn't that different from what a young Julius Caesar experienced when he was kidnapped by pirates and held for ransom on his way home from political exile in Asia Minor. One interesting detail in Plutarch's report is that, "When these men at first demanded of him twenty talents for his ransom, he laughed at them for not understanding the value of their prisoner, and voluntarily engaged to give them fifty."

It's not entirely clear if we should take Plutarch's report at face value (he also tells us that Caesar constantly insulted his captors as being, for instance, too uncivilized to appreciate his poetry) but for the sake of argument let's accept that Caesar rather brashly gave away too much information in the game of price discovery. According to a hostage negotiator quoted by This American Life, giving away this information is apparently typical of hostages and is counter-productive to their release as it narrows the bid-ask spread. Economists would describe hostage negotiation as a bilateral monopoly price negotiation that is structurally just a special case of chicken. That is, unlike a barrel of oil or a freight car full of soybeans which can trade on an extremely liquid market with innumerable buyers and sellers, a hostage has exactly one seller (the kidnappers) and exactly one buyer (the employer and/or family of the hostage). When there is only one buyer, the opportunity cost for ransoming the hostage is zero. Likewise, the employer and/or family has no realistic alternative means to recover the hostage. In order for everybody to walk away happy, we need a cooperate-cooperate outcome: the kidnapper has to give up the hostage and the employer/family has to give up a ransom. This structure also characterizes art theft, which in practice is not a matter of fencing art on the black market but ransoming art to a museum's insurance company.

If we model a bilateral monopoly negotiation only two things should matter. The first is, as always in a game of chicken, the willingness to accept failure. The more willing you appear to walk away, the more bargaining power you have. In a more protracted game this can cash out as willingness to delay which we can treat as a defect-defect outcome on the installment plan. In fact in the Planet Money episode on Somali piracy, the hostage's party did balk and break off negotiations for weeks at a time until the pirates were willing to come down on price.

The other thing that should matter is the capacity to pay. If the pirate knows for an absolute fact that the hostage's people simply can't raise more than a million dollars then it would be pointless for them to demand two million dollars. Of course there is an issue of information asymmetry in that the hostage's party has much better information on its assets than do the pirates and so the pirates may be skeptical of the hostage's party pleading poverty (especially if the hostage has foolishly told them how much money they can get). We see this at work in the TAL story's point that kidnapping insurance holds the condition that you can't tell anyone you have kidnapping insurance.

Here's something that the econ model tells us shouldn't matter: the going rate. In normal markets the going rate matters, but only because it provides the opportunities for substitutes and this creates the "law of one price." For instance, when I go to a grocery store and see a loaf of bread for $4 I won't buy it. An economist would say I forgo this purchase because I know perfectly well that the going rate for a loaf of bread is about $2.25 and so I can go elsewhere and get bread cheaper. Similarly if I go to the Honda dealer to buy a Honda Accord, it is relevant for me to mention price quotes offered by other Honda dealers for an Accord or even how much Toyota dealers ask for a Camry because it is entirely credible that I'll walk off the lot and go to rival car dealers offering very close substitutes for this dealer's cars. However if my sister is locked in a basement in Ciudad Juarez and the kidnappers can credibly commit to not letting her go unless I raise $x, it is completely irrelevant that in the past kidnappers accepted ransoms of $x/2 since I don't have the relatively good fortune of dealing with a kidnapper who demands $x/2 but am stuck with one who demands $x. There are no other places where I can buy the freedom of my sister and so the only price that matters is the one being demanded by her particular kidnappers. (Note to any cartels reading this: I don't have a sister).

And nonetheless, much like how most people who haven't studied statistics balk at the idea that the ratio of sample size to population size is irrelevant to statistical inference, people seem to have a strong intuition that the "market price" is relevant to a bilateral monopoly even though the whole idea of a bilateral monopoly is that there is not really a market but only a series of discrete one-off transactions. In the absence of substitutability, "comparable" transactions are irrelevant as they don't imply opportunity cost. This is the main thing I found so fascinating about the Planet Money episode, over and over again the hostage's party balked at the pirates demands as unreasonable in being out of line with the "market price." We only get the pirates' story second hand, but apparently at no point did they explain to the hostage's party that "market price" doesn't really exist in a bilateral monopoly. (Maybe Mogadishu University needs a better econ department).

There are two ways, which are only partially incompatible, to look at why people insist that there is a market price. The simple model is to see us as making Bayesian inferences about the price the other party is willing to accept. If a pirate asks me for $10 million when I know that previous ransoms for similar hostages from similar pirates were about $1 million, I face two possibilities. It may be that I'm facing an usually greedy or unreasonable pirate and $10 million really is the price from which he will not budge. However it seems more likely that I'm dealing with a regular pirate, who like most pirates in the past will ultimately settle for about $1 million but who is just floating a high initial figure in case I'm especially bad at this. In this sense the distribution of prices for similar transactions may not be directly relevant in the sense of providing opportunities for substitution (or the credible threat to avail myself of them) but it is still relevant as information about the zone of possible agreement. This is consistent with the Planet Money story in that Filipinos are cheaper to ransom than Europeans by an order of magnitude. Presumably this reflects Bayesian inference on the part of the pirates from the hostage's nationality as to how much the hostage's party should be able to raise. Alternately we could imagine that pirates always start with the same bargaining position but the Filipinos are less able to pay and so the pirates eventually reach this through ad hoc price discovery on a case-by-case basis. This strikes me as implausible though and I think pirates probably learned pretty quickly what they can reasonably expect for each nationality.

This is a nice explanation and it has the appeal of bending but not breaking the economic model of the actor, but it's not clear how seriously we want to take it and even if it's ultimately true it may not reflect the subjective experience. For instance, one of the main explanations for racial discrimination is that it reflects Bayesian inference about aspects of human capital that aren't readily observable. This model was devastated by Devah Pager's audit study showing that employers prefer to hire white men with a criminal record rather than black men without a criminal record, whereas the "statistical discrimination" model predicts that ascriptive discrimination should be weaker than and diminish greatly in the presence of information about relevant traits at the individual level. In the wake of the Pager study the best case you can make for the statistical discrimination model is that our intuitions are Bayesian in the aggregate but are too low level for us to override with directly relevant information (or, for that matter, with the conscious desire to avoid stereotyping on legal or ethical grounds). It's not unlike the argument that evolution made sex feel good so that we will propagate our genes, but it still feels good when you use birth control. So we might prefer a model that is ultimately consistent with people using prevailing price as information in bilateral monopoly negotiations, but is proximately and subjectively more about meaning.

Although the discipline of economics has many valuable things to teach us about how markets work, especially in the long-run, the subjective experience of someone bargaining does not necessarily reflect thinking through how a rational actor would apply price theory (competitive markets) or game theory (monopolistic markets) to the situation. Rather people take moralized approaches to exchange and seem to apply various relational models to exchange, which includes not only market exchange but also gift exchange, patron-client ties, and primitive communism. Moreover, even when people accept that a situation is one of market exchange it does not come naturally to think of price like modern economists think of it, as "market clearing." Rather much as people intuitively expect physical objects to behave by Buridan's impetus rather than Newton's inertia, people's intuitive notions about price can have less to do with how economics thinks of it than how Aristotle, Aquinas, and Marx thought of it, as "just price" or "fair price." We see the Aristotelian/scholastic/Marxist understanding of price institutionalized in price controls and laws against gouging. The intuition many people seem to feel is that the long-run prevailing price has moral weight and deviations from this price (as for instance in a supply or demand shock leading to "gouging") are immoral. Hence historical bread riots often involve not exactly stealing food but rather mobs enacting vigilante price controls. Most recently we saw this is in a class action lawsuit against concession prices in movie theaters. As an American and someone who studies exchange professionally, economics comes naturally enough to me that my immediate reflex to this story is to think this guy needs to understand two-part tariffs and tell him if he doesn't like the theater's prices nobody is forcing him to go there or to eat once he arrives. However the fact that somebody felt sufficiently indignant to sue over being offered the opportunity to buy a bucket of popcorn for $6 shows us that the perspective assumed by academic economics doesn't necessarily come naturally to people. Similarly, when the hostage's party is negotiating a ransom with pirates both the pirates and hostages may be behaving in ways that are ultimately consistent with a game of chicken under conditions of bounded rationality and Bayesian inference about asymmetric information, but in the immediate subjective sense they may simply be feeling that the recent run of ransoms sets an expectation of what it is fair to pay for this particular hostage.

Oh, and one more thing about Caesar. Plutarch tells us that after he was ransomed he got some ships, raided the pirates, and had them all crucified.