Amherst College, FBI reopen 1975 Mead Art Museum heist investigation
- JASON PICARD
Mead Art Museum Director Elizabeth Barker, left, and Director of Security Heath Cummings are seen in front of the Pieter Lastman painting "St. John the Baptist," which was stolen from the museum in February 1975 but recovered in January 1989.
12-page list details drugs seized from apartment where stolen artifact sat for years
Simon Metke, 33, kept an ancient artifact worth $1.2-million on a bookshelf for two years.
Alberta RCMP assisted Quebec RCMP’s Integrated Art Crime Investigation Team on Jan. 22 in recovering the artifact stolen from Montreal’s Museum of Fine Arts in September 2011. When RCMP entered the 14th-floor suite shortly before 9 a.m., Simon Metke showed investigators where the stolen artifact was in his bedroom, an application to obtain a search warrant says.
Metke, 33, previously told the Edmonton Journal the artifact, dating from the fifth century BC, sat on an Ikea bookshelf for two years, displayed above a plastic Star Wars spaceship, flanked by crystals and a small collection of stuffed animals. He bought the sculpture from the neighbour of a friend in Montreal for $1,400.
“I’m not really happy with the way that I found out what it was, but ... I’m really honoured to have been able to look after it,” he said.
As Metke and his girlfriend Jana Lang, 25, were escorted out of the apartment and taken to RCMP headquarters, officers began searching the suite for documents related to the stolen artifact. Police sought a second search warrant for drugs and seized what they believed to be 1.072 kilograms of marijuana, 11.1 grams of hash, one gram of heroin, 64.8 grams of psilocybin, 18.1 grams of opium, LSD, “score sheets,” scales, and packaging material.
The items found are detailed in a 12-page list.
Police also seized an undetermined amount of cash in 19 bundles and numerous unidentified drugs, including a plastic margarine container with various suspected drugs inside and unknown plant matter in small plastic baggies.
“I noticed two white coffee grinders on the kitchen counter in plain view,” wrote RCMP Const. Brent Clarke in an application to obtain a search warrant. One coffee grinder contained ground-up marijuana, and a kitchen drawer Clarke opened contained small containers with various drugs, as well as rolling papers, a metal grinder and scissors.
Clarke also noticed two pieces of paper, believed to be score sheets. “Score sheets record how much the drug trafficker is selling the drugs for and the amounts. I noticed code names and prices consistent with that of a cannabis marijuana trafficker,” the document says.
Metke previously told the Journal he had been working on getting his medical marijuana licence, and that the money seized by RCMP were donations and savings to start a business teaching children about ecology.
Metke and Lang have been charged with trafficking marijuana and possession of money obtained by crime. Metke has also been charged with possession of stolen property. They are slated to appear in Edmonton provincial court on March 19.
Man charged over Edinburgh antiques theft
He made no plea or declaration and was remanded in custody.
Police Scotland said about £100,000 worth of items were taken from Shapes on Bankhead Medway early on 7 December, 2013.
Officers confirmed they are still attempting to trace the stolen goods and have appealed for anyone with information to contact them.
The theft was investigated as part of Operation RAC, which was established to target housebreaking and other crimes against property.
Det Insp John Kavanagh said: "Since these items were stolen during a break-in last year, officers in Edinburgh have been pursuing numerous lines of inquiry to identify those responsible.
"These inquiries, undertaken as part of Operation RAC, have culminated in an arrest, while we continue with our efforts to trace the stolen antiques.
"Anyone who believes they have information that can assist with our investigation should contact police immediately."
|Kingpin’ of Wafi Mall jewellery heist held|
|DUBAI: Dubai Police have confirmed the news
reported by Kuna news agency from Madrid that the Spanish police
arrested on Feb.3 a new member of the “Pink Panther” gang. The gang had
robbed jewellery worth three million euros from a shopping mall in Dubai
According to Kuna agency, the Spanish TV news quoted the Spanish police that they had arrested a 33-year-old Serbian, Borok Leinshitesh, one of the members of the “Pink Panther” gang, who is wanted in more than 20 countries and purportedly the gang leader.
The Spanish police confirmed that Leinshitesh was arrested in the city of Alkala de Henares in Madrid, while he was driving a rented car checking out of a hotel. They said he was sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment by the Dubai Police.
It is mentioned that this gang consists of 200 people, and they had committed more than 210 robberies all over the world, most recent of which was in the French city of Cannes, during the Cannes Film Festival.
A security source said they had already arrested about two members of the “Pink Panther” gang after their identity was revealed by the Dubai Police for the first time in the world, and they had issued charges against them on the request of Interpol.
An official arrest warrant against the suspects was issued by the Dubai Interpol Police since committing the theft in a famous jewellery store in Wafi Mall. An extradition order has been sent to the Spanish authorities to extradite the accused to the Dubai police.
It was noted that the Dubai Police had a great role to play in detecting the case of the jewellery store theft by four suspects, including a woman.
Dubai Police also revealed the identities of these criminals.
The police confirmed that the suspects were members of a gang which was called the “Pink Panther.”
The police chased them and they were able to detect the place where they hid the jewellery a few days after the theft, and arrested one member of the gang.
The most well-known work taken by the art thieves is the “Cuadro de Auvers” by Peruvian abstract artist Fernando de Szyszlo. The two other paintings that were taken were “Aves de totorita” by Gerardo Chavez and “Sueño de Fuego” by Venancio Shinki.
Eduardo Ugarte, director of the Arequipa Museum of Contemporary art told EFE “We’re asking for international help in distributing [images] of the paintings so they won’t be sold, as we think what we’re dealing with is an international art trafficking network, because one of the criminals had a foreign accent.”
“These three painting are very important for us,” explained the director.
EFE reports that the burglary appears to have been a well-organized operation. “They studied the routine and [knew] how to do it,” said Ugarte.
According to EFE, the paintings were cut from their frames with a razor blade. Two members of the three-person team worked to distract museum staff while the third went alone to remove the paintings from their frames. They were able to leave before museum security realized what had happened.
EFE reports that Interpol has been notified of the theft.
Theft of $1.8 million in baroque paintings a blow to Guatemalan art world
Late on the afternoon of Feb. 7, two men entered the historic church, tied up groundskeeper Feliciano Chávez hand and foot, and, joined by accomplices, cut the six paintings from their frames, one by one.
Experts have valued the paintings at about $300,000 each, or $1.8 million total. But for Miguel Torres, an academic fellow at the Guatemalan Academy of Geography and History, “it’s impossible to assign a monetary value to any of the paintings.”
“It’s ridiculous,” Torres lamented. “The paintings are part of our history.”
The stolen works, which depict the Passion of Christ and were commissioned after the 1717 San Miguel earthquakes to adorn the walls of El Calvario, represent a crucial component of Guatemala’s 18th century art.
In a recent story in the daily Prensa Libre, historian Haroldo Rodas called the theft “intolerable,” while art historian Guillermo Monsanto said the “heart of baroque Guatemala was stolen.”
Art theft is sadly not uncommon in Guatemala, and the Museum of Colonial Art in La Antigua has targeted before. In 2004, a large painting by Cristóbal de Villalpando was stolen and cut into pieces. A museum guard was killed in that heist. Both halves of the painting were later recovered in Mexico.
Guatemala hosts vast quantities of cultural patrimony, from ancient Mayan artifacts to the treasures of the colonial Catholic Church. Much of the Central American country’s fine art, like De Merlo’s paintings in El Calvario, originally was commissioned by the Catholic Church, and it is still largely under the church’s purview.
But the theft of the De Merlo paintings was preventable, Torres said.
“I personally recommended that [they] put in an alarm [on each painting],” Torres said. Security firms were solicited for bids on an alarm system, but in the end, “we never got the money.”
While El Calvario did have an alarm, it was only activated when the church was closed, and individual paintings were not wired.
Now, finger-pointing has begun, with the Guatemalan Culture Ministry pinning the blame on the local Catholic Church. According to Eduardo Hernández, who polices the illicit traffic of cultural goods for the ministry, the paintings were stolen because of a “lack of cautiousness” and a “dearth of finances for a new alarm.”
Even Torres has admitted that many experts in the art world, including himself, were naive in thinking the large scale of the paintings would prevent their theft.
Experts say the biggest markets for stolen colonial Guatemalan art are Mexico and Spain, and according to Torres, the De Merlo paintings are likely in the hands of a private collector. Investigators have alerted Interpol and major auction houses and museums.
Meanwhile, the investigation continues, and a crime-scene squad from the Prosecutor’s Office closed the church for a day last week. Investigators also have requested polygraphs for church employees, and the government is offering a $13,000 reward for information leading to the paintings’ safe return.
Police say anyone with information should call +(502) 2239-2100.
Benjamin Reeves is a freelance journalist based in Antigua, Guatemala. Follow him on Twitter and on his blog.
More of the stolen paintings: