Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Stolen Art Watch, Kunsthal Museum Art Theft, No Reward, No Fee, Undercover Sting, Arrests Required, Net Result, Art Destroyed

Stolen artworks from Picasso, Money and Matisse may now just be ashes

 INVESTIGATORS are analysing ashes found in the house of a suspect charged for the Dutch museum heist amid fears the seven artworks have been burnt.

"Tests are underway, they will take some time," Gabriela Neagu, a spokeswoman for the Romanian prosecutor's office, told AFP.
"The ash tests are a stage in the ongoing probe, investigators have to take every hypothesis into account", she added.
Investigators fear that the suspects may have set fire to their haul after realising that they could not sell the paintings, which included works by Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet and Henri Matisse.
The ashes were taken from the house of Olga Dogaru, mother of one of the suspects and herself charged with "complicity to theft."
Her son's lawyer, Doina Lupu, said the tests "were inconclusive" so far.
Ms Dogaru was arrested in March after her house in eastern Romania was thoroughly searched. An empty suitcase which had presumably served to store the stolen paintings was unearthed during the operation.
Seven Romanians, including Ms Dogaru, have been charged in connection with the theft of the paintings from Rotterdam's Kunsthal museum on October 16.
Experts have estimated their value at more than 100 million euros ($133 million).
The heist gripped the Netherlands and the art world as police struggled to solve the crime, despite putting 25 officers on the case.
The works stolen include Picasso's Tete d'Arlequin, Monet's Waterloo Bridge and Lucian Freud's Woman with Eyes Closed.

An empty space left by a painting from French artist Henri Matisse that was stolen at the Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam.

Art Hostage Comments:

I hope those who took the supposed moral high ground and demanded no reward offer, no fee offer for the recovery of these stolen artworks are happy with themselves upon hearing this news.

Thieves have stolen art for thousands of years and will continue to do so and the best form of defense is security that means the possibility of theft is diminished.

By being rigid in not allowing any fees or rewards to be paid provokes this kind of action.

Looks like the insurance company has taken a hit to the tune of tens of millions and the public are denied the chance to admire these artworks, not to forget the Triton Foundation losing some of its most coveted artworks.

The fee charged by The Art Loss Register looks very cheap now in light of this news, so getting Chris Marinello on board from the start could, should and would have prevented this. By being so cheap, so mean-spirited and tight fisted, the net result could prove to be the loss of these iconic artworks forever !!

Still, perhaps a few outcomes of this kind will provoke the insurance industry to call for ever increased security and perhaps the loosening of monies being paid for the recovery of stolen art?
Sadly, the message this sends is

"When in doubt about realizing on stolen art..... destroy"

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Stolen Art Watch, Fitzwilliam Chinese Jade Theft, Aquittal Sees Bogus Reward Offer Renewed

Fitzwilliam Chinese art theft: Man found not guilty
A man charged in connection with the theft of Chinese art worth millions of pounds from a museum has been cleared.
Thomas Kiely, 21, of Giraud Street in Tower Hamlets, London, was found not guilty of conspiracy to commit burglary by a jury at Cambridge Crown Court.
The 18 artworks were stolen from the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge last April and have still not been traced.
Four men were sentenced over the burglary in September.
Mr Kiely was acquitted of the charge on Friday.
Police have since renewed their appeal for information regarding the whereabouts of the missing items - mainly jade artefacts from the Ming and Qing dynasties.
Det Insp Becky Tipping, of Cambridgeshire Police, said: "Sadly the items, which are of huge cultural significance, have still not been traced but we still have a team of detectives working to trace [them].
"The museum would dearly love to secure the return of these artefacts and there is a reward on offer to anyone who has information which leads to their recovery."

Fresh appeal for priceless Cambridge museum objects

Detectives have launched a fresh appeal for information in a bid to recover priceless Chinese artefacts stolen from a Cambridge museum.
Eighteen Chinese artefacts Ming and Qing dynasties were taken by a gang of burglars from the Fitzwilliam Museum on April 13, last year.
Three people have each been jailed for six years for their roles in the burglary, a teenage boy was also locked up after admitting burglary.
A substantial reward has been issued by the loss adjusters, for information which leads to the recovery of the stolen property.
Detective Inspector Becky Tipping said: “Sadly the items, which are of huge cultural significance, have still not been traced but we still have a team of detectives working to trace those items and would urge anyone with information to call police.
“The museum would dearly love to secure the return of these artefacts and there is a reward on offer to anyone who has information which leads to their recovery.”
The loss adjusters have issued a “substantial” reward for information which leads to the recovery of the stolen property.

Art Hostage Comments:

Anyone attempting to offer information that leads to the recovery of these Chinese  Jade artworks will come under scrutiny, 24/7 surveillance, and ultimately arrest. There is no reward on offer just a bogus offer of a "Substantial reward", meaning a token gesture, a few hundred pounds, maybe a couple of thousand pounds, if the person stepping forward sets up, goes along with a sting operation to entrap and expose themselves to a violent blow-back from those who will end up arrested. The only thing that awaits anyone who tries to offer information is, arrest, criminal charges, conviction and jail time. Therefore the only conclusion is to contact Art Hostage for the only legal, legitimate pathway forward.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Stolen Art Watch, Fitzwilliam Museum Jade Theft, Thomas "The Kid" Kiely Taking The Fifth, Trial Focuses On Theft, Not Recovery


Fifth defendant in dock for £15m Fitzwilliam Museum raid

There can be no innocent explanation for why a London man was captured on CCTV in Cambridge with the conspirators behind a £15 million raid on the Fitzwilliam Museum, a jury was told.
Thomas Kiely, 21, is on trial at Cambridge Crown Court accused of being involved in the successful plot to steal Chinese artefacts, including Ming dynasty jade, from the Cambridge University museum on April 13 last year.
Three men, including Kiely’s brother, admitted their part in the raid last year, while 15-year-old Marvin Simos pleaded guilty to burglary.
Charles Myatt, prosecuting, said the defendant was seen on CCTV with those men near the museum on a reconnaissance mission the day before the raid.
Mr Myatt said: “It’s the Crown’s case that there can be no innocent explanation for his presence on that day.
“The people he is with are clearly taking great pains in planning a sophisticated burglary. They are far away from home and going back and forth into the museum.”
He added: “Why bring Thomas Kiely along if he has got nothing to do with it? The only reasonable explanation of him being there is because he was playing his part.”
Mr Myatt added it could not be a coincidence that the van used in the burglary was stolen “just literally around the corner” from where Kiely lived in Giraud Street, Tower Hamlets, on April 7, minutes before “relevant mobile phone traffic” between a phone he used and conspirators.
He added the words “Ming”, “Cambridge and “fizzywilliam” had been typed into an iPad Kiely had in his possession.
None of the items, which are valued at between £5-15 million, have been recovered and they may well be in the hands of “unscrupulous” private collectors in China, the court heard.
In a statement made to police, which was read to the court, Kiely said he had family in the Cambridge area. He denies conspiracy to commit burglary. The trial continues.

Fitzwilliam Museum burglary accused 'spoke to plotters'

A man accused of conspiring to commit the £15m Fitzwilliam Museum raid was in phone contact hundreds of times with one of the plotters around the time of the crime.
A phone used by Thomas Kiely was in contact with a mobile attributed to his brother, Patrick, 385 times between March 26 and April 18, Cambridge Crown Court heard yesterday.
The court heard that the mobile used by, but not belonging to, Thomas Kiely was also in contact with a phone attributed to Fitzwilliam conspirator Robert Smith on more than 35 occasions between March 16 and the day after the April 13 raid.
Smith, Patrick Kiely and Steven Coughlan were each sentenced to six years in prison in September after admitting conspiracy to burgle. Marvin Simos had admitted burglary and was sentenced to a four-month detention and training order.
Chinese artefacts valued at between £5m and £15m were taken in the raid.
Charles Myatt, prosecuting, yesterday showed the jury CCTV of Kiely walking past The Fitzwilliam on April 12 while his brother, Coughlan and Smith were inside.
Kiely was also captured on CCTV with Smith in Lensfield Road that afternoon.
Mr Myatt said: “There is no evidence or CCTV footage showing Thomas Kiely at any stage anywhere other than on public streets.”
He told the jury on Monday the Crown’s case was that there can be no innocent explanation for Kiely’s presence.
The court heard the van used in the raid had been stolen on April 7 from the outside a Londis store close to Kiely’s home in Giraud Street, Tower Hamlets.
Kiely had said in a statement prepared for a police interview that he had been at home on April 13 and this could be checked using CCTV.
The court heard the footage in question was only kept for 28 days and had been deleted.
Kiely denies conspiracy to commit burglary. The trial continues.

£15m Fitzwilliam Museum heist was "out of my league"

A convicted thief has denied playing any part in the £15 million Fitzwilliam Museum heist, telling a jury it was “out of my league”.
Giving evidence at his trial, Thomas Kiely, a traveller who lives in London, said he merely tagged along for the ride because he was bored when his brother Patrick and two other conspirators decided to go on a reconnaissance mission to Cambridge the day before the raid on April 13 last year.
The 21-year-old admitted he was an “opportunistic thief”, whose previous convictions include burglary and aggravated vehicle taking, but added he was a “dumb blond” and thought the Cambridge University museum was a castle when he walked past it to find a McDonald’s.
He said he knew nothing of the plot and added: “It’s a bit out of my league, you can tell by my previous convictions.”
The prosecution says Kiely stole a van for the raid as it sat yards away from the home he shared with his girlfriend Grace in Giraud Street, Tower Hamlets, on April 7. Kiely told the court it would be “a bit silly” to rob a van outside his local shop which he visits every morning.
The father-of-one said his brother only told him he would be meeting someone in Cambridge and asked no further questions because it was not his business.
Charles Myatt, cross-examining at Cambridge Crown Court, told Kiely: “You became involved when you stole that caddy van from just around the corner from where Grace lived. You knew why they wanted the van because it would be used in the burglary the following week.”
He added Kiely was in Cambridge to help with the “final stages of planning”, an accusation Kiely denied.
His brother Patrick Kiely, Steven Coughlan, both of Tower Hamlets, and Robert Smith, of Swanley, Kent, were jailed for six years each for their role in the burglary, while Marvin Simos, who was 15 at the time of the burglary, was given a four-month detention and training order.
None of the items, which detectives believe were stolen to order, have been recovered. The most popular theory is they are back in China in the hands of private collectors. Kiely denies conspiracy to commit burglary. The trial continues.

Art Hostage Comments:
 Memo to Helena Kiely
Don't listen to those who may try to entrap you, sweet talk you, or offer false promises of rewards, better conditions in jail for the boys etc. Contact Art Hostage for details on how to negotiate a way through this minefield of double dealing, duplicitous false offers, that are Chinese whispers about Chinese Jade.

Forget the Bulgarian Traveller connection as this will lead to arrests like with the fake Stradivarius violin undercover sting operation when old Hristo Varbanov was set up. Also the German clue is a dead end.

Anyone attempting to offer information that leads to the recovery of these Chinese  Jade artworks will come under scrutiny, 24/7 surveillance, and ultimately arrest. There is no reward on offer just a bogus offer of a "Substantial reward", meaning a token gesture, a few hundred pounds, maybe a couple of thousand pounds, if the person stepping forward sets up, goes along with a sting operation to entrap and expose themselves to a violent blow-back from those who will end up arrested. The only thing that awaits anyone who tries to offer information is, arrest, criminal charges, conviction and jail time. Therefore the only conclusion is to contact Art Hostage for the only legal, legitimate pathway forward.

 Ashmolean Cezanne/Oudry White Duck

Upon another note, the Cezanne stolen from the Ashmolean Museum on New Years Eve 2000 (above) is in play again, as well as the Oudry White Duck taken from Houghton Hall in 1992,(below) and again, as soon as either painting see's the light of day, Police will swoop and arrests made, no reward will be paid, you have been warned.

Second jewel theft strikes Cannes film festival

Model wearing the necklace later stolen from Eden-Roc hotel  
The necklace, modelled here, had been under tight security
A necklace reportedly worth 1.9m euros (£1.6m) has been stolen during the Cannes film festival, in the second such theft to hit this year's event.
The expensive piece by Swiss jeweller De Grisogono vanished after a celebrity party at a five-star hotel in the resort town of Cap d'Antibes.
The theft occurred despite "large security measures", including 80 security guards, the jeweller said.
Last week, thieves ripped a safe with jewels from the wall of a hotel room.
The latest robbery happened after an exclusive gala held at the exclusive Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc on Tuesday night.
The high-profile event celebrated De Grisogono's 20th anniversary, and was attended by international movie stars like Sharon Stone and Ornella Muti.
The jeweller house regularly loans its jewels to celebrities, including Paris Hilton and Cameron Diaz.
"It is actually the first time it has happened in our 20-year history," the company said in a statement.
It added that the theft occurred "despite the large security measures set in place: over 80 security guards plus police".
Last Friday, thieves stole jewels by Swiss jewellers Chopard from the Novotel hotel.
The precious goods were worth more than 770,000 euros.
Chopard is an official sponsor of the festival and also makes its top award, the Palme d'Or. But the trophy was not among the stolen items.
At least two apartments rented by film executives have also been burgled during the festival, according to the AFP news agency.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Stolen Art Watch, Jail Break For Famous Five Pink Panthers & Panthers Car Displayed Dubai Museum & Art Crime Round Up

5 inmates make dramatic freedom dash

FIVE prisoners have made a dramatic escape from a Swiss jail, using weapons passed from accomplices on the outside to threaten guards and other inmates before scaling the prison wall and disappearing, police say.
"There is an active manhunt for them, and they are listed as wanted both at a national and an international level," police in the canton of Vaud said in a statement.
The five men, one Frenchman, an Albanian, a Bosnian, a Kosovar, as well as Serbian member of the "Pink Panther" gang of international jewel thieves, took just five minutes to get away, the investigators said.
Around 10.20am on Tuesday they were in the walled in courtyard at the Bois-Mermet prison on the outskirts of Lausanne with some 30 other inmates when three masked accomplices on the outside climbed a ladder and threw a bag filled with weapons and other items into the yard.
Grabbing the gun from the bag, the five men threatened the other detainees and the guards and sprayed them with some kind of irritant to keep them away as they used pliers from the bag to cut a hole in the fence blocking their access to the prison wall, which they then climbed using a ladder provided by their accomplices, police said.
A sixth inmate tried to follow them, but guards managed to hold him back as he was climbing the ladder.
The escapees and their accomplices fled the scene in two vehicles.

Car used in Wafi City robbery on show at Dubai Police Museum

Police chief wants the public to view the car used in one of the most professional robberies in Dubai Police’s history.

 The car used in the Wafi City mall robbery
Image Credit: Dubai Police
The Pink Panther gang used this car during a high-profile robbery in Wafi City mall in Dubai. It will be on display at the Dubai Police Museum.
  The car used in the Wafi City mall robbery
Image Credit: Courtesy: Dubai Police
Dubai police are displaying at the Dubai police museum the car used during the armed robbery that happened at Wafi mall, this car used by the robbers to hid the jewelries inside. The car was found later on in Al Muraqabbat area. The jeweleries were kept in the right door of the car.

Dubai: Seven years after the daring armed robbery that took place at Wafi City, Dubai Police are to display the car used by the gang at the Dubai Police Museum.
Following the police’s purchase of the car from the rental company who owned it, the Commander in Chief of Dubai Police, Lieutenant General Dahi Khalfan Tamim, has given instructions to allow the local community and museum-goers to view the car used in one of the most professional robberies in Dubai Police’s history. The robbers belonged to the notorious Pink Panther gang.
Fake jewellery, similar to the goods stolen, are displayed inside the car.
Brigadier Khalil Ebrahim Al Mansouri, Director of the Dubai Police Criminal and Investigation Department (CID), said the robbers hid jewellery worth millions of dirhams from Graff jewellers, one of the most expensive outlets in Dubai, inside the car.

Brigadier Al Mansouri said the robbers, who fled the country, kept the jewellery inside the rented car and parked it under a building in Al Muraqqabat.
Brigadier Al Mansouri said the police suspected the car had been used by the gang. He added what made police suspicious was the gang extended the car rental and paid for it using credit card accounts abroad.
Unique pieces
He added the police mobilised 32 police patrols to monitor the car round the clock. “A few weeks after the monitoring of the car, one of the gang members who was sent back to Dubai by the gang to collect the stolen jewellery was caught by police as he was trying to open the car,” said Brigadier Al Mansouri.
He added that after arresting the suspect and searching the vehicle, the police were unable to find any jewellery. However, with an additional search and after dismantling parts of the car, they spotted it.
Brigadier Al Mansouri said the jewellery had been hidden inside the car’s left front door.
“Any car that has been used in similar robberies will not have its registration renewed and the car will not be used again. However, this car has become one of the unique pieces kept on display at the Dubai Police Museum to reflect the efforts of Dubai Police in arresting one of the most dangerous and organised gangs in modern history,” he said.
The museum is located at Dubai Police Headquarters, Al Twar.

A Look Inside The Crimes Of The World’s Most Powerful Thieves

A Look Inside The Crimes Of The World’s Most Powerful Thieves

Clandestine societies have existed for centuries, conducting their business behind the scenes of the public eye. One of these societies is the Pink Panthers – a secret group of elite thieves that originate from the Eastern European countries of Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia.
The Pink Panthers are a gang of jewel thieves responsible for some of the most glamorous armed robberies in history. Criminologists even refer to their bold style and intricate planning as artistry. They have targeted various countries, and have Japan’s most successful robbery on their theft resume. Within a span of six years during the 21st century, the Pink Panthers have burglarized 120 stores in twenty different countries
In 1993, the gang gained prominence when they stole an $800,000 diamond from a jeweler in London. The name “Pink Panther” was awarded to the thieves by Interpol after they hid the diamond in a jar of face cream resembling an act from the film: “Return of the Pink Panther.” Their attention to detail and efficient execution of their plans is the reason behind their high success rate. For example, before a heist in Biarritz, the gang coated a bench adjacent to the jewelry store in fresh paint to deter people from sitting on – a clever way to keep away potential witnesses to the heist.

Although the Pink Panthers are not only known for their successful rate of robberies. They have also been notarized for their daring break-ins as well as their creative escapes. For example, in St. Tropez they burglarized a store dressed in flowery shirts and then escaped on a speed boat. In another one high-profile heist, the gang drove a pair of stolen limousines through a window into a Dubai mall, taking watches and other valuables worth over $12.5 million.
In another robbery, they dressed up as women and stole over $100 million worth of jewelry from a Harry Winston store in Paris, using Mission Impossible-style prosthetic make-up as a disguise. The most interesting feature of the Pink Panthers is that they do not use weapons. Many of their heists are below 45 seconds, and are done without the use of guns – this leaves the civilians around them untouched. This is truly a considerate group of thieves: why hurt anyone that has nothing to do with the heist?

The Pink Panthers are such a secretive group of thieves that only continues to expand throughout Eastern Europe and make record breaking heists. Although several gang members have been imprisoned, the identity of the majority of the members still remains questionary. Interpol is having trouble dealing with the organization.
How can you catch someone that you do not know really exists? The alleged leader of the gang, Dragan Mikic, was arrested in the early 2000′s. However, in true Pink Panther fashion Dragan escaped from prison in 2005. He scaled a rope ladder while Pink Panthers fired machine guns at the prison wall. Thus, Dragan completed a successful escape. He has been on the run ever since.
The group is thought to consist of over two hundred members. Therefore, it is safe to say that a majority of their heists have been successful and many of the members have simply gotten away with their crimes. Their total haul is believed to be in the billions of dollars.

The real Bling Ring? Life imitates art at Cannes as expensive jewellery is stolen

Chopard is one of Cannes Film Festival’s official sponsors
Or should that be life imitating art imitating life? Either way, thousands of pounds worth of jewellery has been stolen at Cannes Film Festival, around the same time that The Bling Ring premiered, a film about a gang stealing thousands of pounds worth of jewellery.
Surely this is a particularly elaborate PR stunt I hear you cry? Not so, with French police confirming the burglary, which took place at a Novotel hotel room.
A safe was ripped off the wall and carried away, according to police sources, its $1m (£650,ooo) contents belonging to Swiss jeweller Chopard.

(From L) British actress Emma Watson, US director Sofia Coppola and US actors Taissa Farmiga, Katie Chang, Israel Broussard and Claire Julien pose on May 16, 2013 as they arrive for the screening of their film "The Bling Ring" presented in the Un Certain Regard section at the 66th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes. Cannes, one of the world's top film festivals, opened on May 15 and will climax on May 26 with awards selected by a jury headed this year by Hollywood legend Steven Spielberg. AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHE        (Photo credit should read VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
The Bling Ring premiered in Cannes yesterday (May 16)
The jewellery was intended to be loaned to celebrities attending the annual film festival.
The Bling Ring is based on a Vanity Fair article that profiled a gang of teenagers who immersed themselves in celebrity life before using the opportunities it presented to steal expensive jewels and possessions from stars, with Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and more allegedly being stung.
The BBC reports that the robbery has all the hallmarks of a classic Riviera heist.

Cannes jewel heist: Notorious 'Pink Panthers' gang suspected of million-dollar raid

Cops believe a mob - who have targeted the awards ceremony before - were behind the theft of gems worth over £656,000

Crime scene: A police car is parked outside the Novotel Hotel, Cannes
Crime scene: A police car is parked outside the Novotel Hotel, Cannes

A notorious international gang of thieves are suspected of pulling a million-dollar jewel heist at the Cannes Film Festival.
Detectives in the South of France believe a mob called the Pink Panthers – who have targeted the awards ceremony before – were behind yesterday’s theft of gems worth over £656,000.
The daring raid was carried out right under the noses of detectives as the jewels were stolen from a hotel directly opposite Cannes’ main police station.
The necklaces, bracelets and other valuable pieces, were destined to be worn by celebrities including British model Cara Delevingne, singer Cheryl Cole and actress Carey Mulligan.
It is believed the crime ring targeted a room at the Novotel, where the gems were being kept in a safe by an employee of Swiss luxury jewellers Chopard.
The metal strongbox was ripped from the wall at around 5am yesterday morning.
The female employee staying in the room was yesterday being quizzed by detectives, but has not been arrested.

Cara Delevingne
Bling: Cara Delevingne was due to wear some of the jewels

 She was part of a 40-strong Chopard team, responsible for loaning valuables to stars for red carpet events and A-list parties at the film festival.
The woman had a meal out with friends and colleagues on Thursday evening until the early hours.
A police source on the French Riviera yesterday revealed: “The room was said to be empty.”
Commandant Bernard Mascarelli, of the Nice police force, said the safe must have been hidden from view as it left the second-floor room.
Detectives suspect the jewels have been transported to a safe house or yacht in the Mediterranean harbour or may even have been shipped to another country already.
Forces across Europe were last night placed on high alert for any information linked to the theft.
Chopard is one of the Cannes Film Festival’s key sponsors.
It designs the prestigious Palme d’Or award handed out to the director of the best film at each year’s event.
The firm yesterday declined to comment on the theft, but as police combed the hotel and scrutinised CCTV footage for clues, sources speculated that the Pink Panthers were behind the heist.

The crack gang of thieves, responsible for over £253million worth of jewellery thefts since 1999, has been linked to several previous raids on Cannes’ boutiques and hotels.
Many take place while celebs are walking the red carpet at the annual festival, where stars this year included supermodel Cindy Crawford and Hollywood actress Julianne Moore – who wore a Chopard ring to Leonardo DiCaprio’s Great Gatsby premiere.
Some detectives suspect the gang may have watched last year’s glittering event as they planned for yesterday’s heist.
It bears some resemblance to the plot of movie The Bling Ring, which was premiered the same night as the raid.
The crime drama, starring Harry Potter actress Emma Watson and directed by Sofia Coppola, is based on a true story about teenagers who use the internet to track celebs so they can raid their homes.

Last year, French footballer Souleymane Diawara and Turkish ace Mamadou Niang lost jewels and watches worth £350,000 after thieves broke into their rented villa while they were out enjoying the festivities.
In 2011, Argentinian film producer and Cannes judge Martina Gusman, had cash and valuables stolen from her room at the Marriott hotel.
In 2009, the Cannes’ Cartier boutique had more than £15million worth of jewels stolen by robbers wearing Hawaiian shirts.
That same year a Chopard store on the Place Vendome was also raided for over £6million worth of jewels.
The Pink Panthers are named after the elusive jewellery thief in Peter Sellers’ famous Inspector Clouseau movies.
They are said to have hundreds of members based across the globe, who are prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to pull off a job.
In 2007 they drove two speeding cars into a Dubai shopping centre and stole a staggering £8million worth of jewels in less than one minute.
Many of the Pink Panthers are believed to originate from former Yugoslavia, but they have proved hugely difficult to track down because of their movements across dozens of countries and several continents.
Among their formidable ranks are meticulous heist planners and experienced organised-crime lords, as well as jewellery experts and specialist salesman who deal in black market valuables.
Police believe the close connection to the prestigious festival may help the Panthers push up the price of yesterday’s loot.
More than 90 individuals with links to the Pink Panthers were arrested by Interpol member states in 2011, but hundreds more are still believed to be at large.
And, despite members being jailed in connection with the robberies, many millions of pounds worth of jewels stolen in previous raids have never been recovered.

500 working for Serb gems gang

Pink Panthers Interpol poster
Notorious: Interpol page on the Pink Panthers gang

 The Pink Panthers are one of the most notorious criminal gangs in the world and have masterminded robberies from Monaco to Dubai.
They have up to 500 members, mostly based in Serbia, and are thought to be led by Dragan Mikic.
He has been on the run since 2005 when he broke out of jail in a hail of machine gun fire.
Interpol has a website page about the gang.
In 2008 the Pink Panthers carried out their biggest-ever heist stealing £55million of jewellery from a Paris store.
And only on Tuesday a member of the gang escaped from a Swiss prison and is on the run.

Kerber and Black on the jewel heist

Cannes jewellery heist 18.5.2013
Cannes jewellery heist 18.5.2013

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Stolen Art Watch, Brussels Busted Diamond Gang, Picasso Pilfered, Antiquities Apprehended, Madonna Cleans Up, Cleaning Lady Locked Up

Belgian police arrest 31 after major diamond heist

A Belgian prosecutor has said that a total of 31 people were arrested, most of them in Belgium, in connection with the February diamond heist at Brussels Airport. She said money and stones were seized in the raids.

The raids in Switzerland and Belgium were made when it was discovered that an “important gangster” was in Geneva. Police and the organized crime unit/brigade de rĂ©pression du banditisme (BRB) have been working closely with police in Brussels for the past two months to uncover the trail of the diamonds, estimated by Belgian police at the time of the robbery to be worth 40 million euros.

Belgian, French and Swiss police conducted a series of raids and arrested 31 suspects in connection with February's major diamond robbery from a plane set to leave Brussels Airport.
Belgian prosecutor Anja Bijnens said at a news conference that one person was arrested in France, six in Switzerland and a further 24 in Belgium.

A suspected member of the eight-man gang, who posed as armed police and seized the stones from a cargo plane on the runway, was picked up in France on Tuesday. This was apparently the catalyst for further mobilization.

"The probe led to a big police operation yesterday," a spokesman for the Brussels prosecutor's office, Jean-Marc Meilleur, said on Wednesday. Subsequent early morning raids involved more than 200 Belgian police officers and "recovered big amounts of cash," he said.

His colleague Bijnens said that as well as the seizure of currency in Belgium, some of the diamonds were recovered in Switzerland, neither of them went into detail on the amounts.

The Antwerp World Diamond Center had estimated the value of the gems stolen on February 18 at $50 million (38.1 million euros). The northern Belgian city of Antwerp is one of the world's key diamond hubs.
The group of eight men had cut a hole in a fence at the Zavantem airport in Brussels. They drove through in imitation police vehicles with flashing sirens and themselves wore mock police uniforms and masks. The armed men then snatched 120 parcels from a diamond shipment that was being loaded from a security truck onto a plane bound for Switzerland.
The apparently professional band made it in and out within minutes and never fired a shot.
Prosecutor Meilleur said the man initially arrested in France was thought to be among the airport robbers.
"This person has a very heavy judicial background in France and his extradition to Belgium has been requested, Meilleur said.
msh/jm (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

 Exclusive: Britain's largest seize of stolen artifacts since Egypt's revolution

British police arrest a UK-based businessman on suspicion of looting Egyptian antiquities.
The Scotland Yard's Art & Antiquities Squad (AAS) made the arrest on Friday, 3 May when international arts auction house, Christie's, reported that it had identified some antiquities which are almost certainly stolen from Egypt recently.
This is one of the biggest operations of its kind since the Egyptian revolution exploded in 2011, well-informed sources confirm to Ahram Online.
Christie's experts, the British museum's Egyptology department, the Egyptian embassy in London and the Art Loss Register worked closely for weeks to identify six stolen objects. The AAS is now trying to determine how these objects left Egypt, how the seller came to possess them and who his accomplices are.
Ahram Online understands that the seller (now in custody) claims he had inherited the Egyptian objects from his uncle.
He told the international auctioneer that his uncle served in Egypt during WWII and stayed on for a few years before returning to the UK in the '50s.
These objects were due to be sold at a Christie's auction on 2 May in London.
"Christie's works closely with international authorities and organisations towards our shared objective of preventing the illicit trade in improperly exported or stolen works of art," Christie's Director of Communications Matthew Paton tells Ahram Online. Paton pledged extra vigilance considering Egyptian antiquities authorities' concerns after the 2011 revolution and also to do their utmost to get these objects back to Egypt.
He also emphasised that Christie's believes in strict internal policies to thoroughly research the provenance of any item consigned for sale.
The Egyptian Embassy in London confirmed to Ahram Online it is in constant contact with the Egyptian Ministry of State for Antiquities in order to file the proper documents to repatriate the stolen antiquities.
One of the stolen objects is a recent find from Amenhotep III in Western Thebes. Made of Egyptian red granite, the relief fragment depicts a Nubian prisoner, facing right, with short hair and wearing heavy hooped earrings and a collar necklace (1550 - 1069 BC).
Another is an Egyptian painted limestone relief fragment depicting a male figure with his head facing left. Experts say it is very likely to have originated from a recently-rediscovered and excavated tomb, again in Thebes.
Egyptian Ambassador to the UK Ashraf El-kholy praised Christie's vigilance and willingness to investigate the provenance of the Egyptian objects.
"Without their support and cooperation, we would not have been able to spot and get these invaluable antiquities back," he told Ahram Online.

Operation 'to catch a thief’ catches art theft on video 

Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes and Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen M. Rice on Monday announced the indictment of Joselito Vega, 42, for money laundering as part of a stolen art scheme.
Vega, from Eastern Pennsylvania, allegedly stole the paintings from a Kings Point, Long Island, estate that he was hired to paint and selling at least one of them.  Then, he laundered the money he received by getting his ex-sister-in-law to cash the check in Brooklyn, according to the charges.
Vega was indicted in the Brooklyn case on charges of money laundering, identity theft and grand larceny. In Nassau County, Vega faces separate charges of grand larceny.
Hynes said, “The defendant tried to launder the proceeds from the stolen art in Brooklyn.  Investigators were able to track down one of the works in an Oakland art gallery.  It obviously raises a red flag when you are selling a $50,000 painting for less than $10,000.”
“The Schulhof Estate spent decades gathering and protecting hundreds of pieces of artwork, yet where others saw incredible beauty in these paintings, Joselito Vega only saw the opportunity to make a quick buck,” Rice said.
In March 2011, Vega was working for Zimmer Painting, Inc, and was assigned to a job at the Schulhof Estate in Kings Point.  The Schulhof Collection includes more than 300 works of art.  Approximately one year later, when the Schulhof Estate performed an inventory, they realized that three works were missing.
An investigation, dubbed Operation To Catch a Thief, found that one painting was given to the Clars Auction Gallery in Oakland, Calif., to sell. Throughout the interactions between the defendant and the art gallery, he used his ex-sister-in-law’s name without her knowledge, and had the check for the sale of the work addressed to her and sent to a private mailbox in Bay Ridge, according to the DA’s Office.
Further investigation revealed that the Bay Ridge mailbox belonged to Vega under the name Danny Vega.
Vega then asked his ex-sister-in-law to set up a bank account in her name so that she could cash the check for him. He used the excuse that he receives Social Security benefits and did not want to lose the benefits if the state found out that he received that sum of money.
Detectives from the Kings County District Attorney’s Office set up a sting operation to catch him in the act.  On April 29, Vega was hired to do another job at the estate in Kings Point. Works of art were placed in the home, and hidden cameras were set up.  Vega was caught on video taking three works, including a $10,000 Pablo Picasso etching, “Three Graces II.”
He was soon arrested by detective investigators.  In total, the six paintings that Vega is alleged to have stolen are worth over $100,000.

Antiques worth £30,000 stolen from Birdlip

POLICE are urging collectors and traders to be on the lookout after antiques valued at £30,000 were stolen in an overnight burglary at a house in Birdlip.
The items, including a plate, two teapot creamers and sugar bowls, a toast rack, two holders and a ladle – all made from silver – were taken after the house was broken into between 11pm on April 25 and 8am the following day.
Once inside, the thieves also stole two Chinese figurines and a canteen of cutlery, along with a Sony laptop, a handbag and a wallet.
Investigating officers are urging antique collectors and traders to keep an eye out for the antiques and to contact police if they see them or are offered any for sale.

Antiques worth millions stolen from ex-minister

Colombo: Robbers have stolen nearly Rs5.4million [Dh0.1million] worth 300-years-old wall clock and an antique oil lamp (6.5ft) also worth a few millions from the residence of former finance minister Ronie de Mel residence at Geekiyanakandawatte, Matara.

Police had found those expensive time piece and the lamp to be sold to a hardware shop for mere Rs 8,000.
The police found them the antiques being discarded in the iron warehouse.
The suspects, the hardware stores owner and few others have been arrested.

Madonna sells Leger painting for $7.2m

Leger's Trois Femmes a la Table Rouge and Madonna  
Madonna bought Leger's Trois Femmes a la Table Rouge for £2.2m in 1990

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A painting by Fernand Leger owned by Madonna has been sold for $7.2 million (£4.7m) in New York.
The singer bought the 1921 Cubist work, Three Women at the Red Table, in 1990 for $3.4m (£2.2m).
According to Sotheby's, proceeds from the sale "will benefit Madonna's Ray of Light Foundation, supporting girls' education projects in the Middle East and South Asia".
"Thanks to everyone who helped make it happen!" said the pop star on Facebook.
Before Tuesday's sale, Madonna said she wanted "to trade something valuable for something invaluable - educating girls".
Cezanne's Les Pommes  
Cezanne's Les Pommes fetched the highest price in the Sotheby's spring sale
The sale formed part of a Sotheby's sale of Impressionist and modern art that took more than $230m (£148.6m).
Les Pommes, a still life from by French artist Paul Cezanne, fetched the highest price, selling for $41.6m (£26.9m).
L'Amazone, a portrait of French socialite Baroness Marguerite de Hasse de Villers by Amedeo Modigliani, went for $25.9m (£16.7m).
A Pablo Picasso sculpture of his young muse Sylvette, meanwhile, sold for $13.6m (£8.8m).
Overall the auction failed to live up to last year's event, which saw a version of Edvard Munch's The Scream sell for a world record $119.9m (£77.4m).

Cleaning lady pleads guilty in $3M Montco art theft

A former cleaning lady Monday admitted to her role in the theft of what prosecutors described as a “priceless” porcelain Ben Franklin bust that was in pieces when authorities took her into custody. The owner of the art said its value is at least $3 million.
Andrea Lawton, 47, formerly of Philadelphia, entered an open guilty plea in Montgomery County Court to charges of theft and burglary. An open plea means there is no agreement on a sentence between the prosecution and the defense and that Lawton is essentially throwing herself on the mercy of the court.
Judge Carolyn T. Carluccio postponed sentencing until she can learn more about Lawton’s background.
Lawton and an accomplice she has repeatedly refused to name broke into a Lower Merion home in the 600 block of Black Rock Road, Lower Merion, on Aug. 24.
While Lawton waited outside in the car, she directed the accomplice to the 25-pound bust, one of only four created in 1778 by French sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon while Franklin was visiting Paris.
Lawton, who previously had performed cleaning services at the home, knew the bust was valuable because all members of the cleaning crews sent to the home by the service that had employed her were advised of its value, according to court documents.
Also missing from the home was a framed autograph picture of composer Victor Herbert that included one of his conductor batons and a handwritten listing of his compositions, according to court documents. Lawton has never admitted to the theft of this item, which has an estimated value of $80,000.
Lawton, who was nabbed by authorities on Sept. 21 on her way to sell the bust to an unknown party in Elkton, Md., said she stole the bust because she wanted to “get back” at the head of the cleaning service and “get her fired” because the agency head had fired Lawton, according to court documents.
“She broke a priceless piece of artwork that was made while Benjamin Franklin was still alive,” said county First Assistant District Attorney Kevin R. Steele, who said he would be seeking a “significant” sentence for Lawton.
The bust, which its owner estimated had a value of at least $3 million, is now at a New York museum where work is under way to repair it, said Steele.
Two other reasons for seeking a stiff sentence, said Steele, are the second item still has not been recovered nor has Lawton named her accomplice.
Montgomery County Defense attorney Michael John said he will recommend that any county sentence his client receives be served concurrently with the federal sentence she is handed next month.
Lawton is facing a maximum 20-year federal sentence after pleading guilty in that court to transporting stolen artwork across state lines.
“This is all one event,” said John, adding that his client is remorseful for her actions and that the two guilty pleas reflect her willingness to take responsibility for her actions.