Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Stolen Art Watch, Picasso Thief Spiderman Tomic On Trial, Hatton Garden Heist Value Doubles, Bacon Pursuit Continues, Chinese Pink Panda's & More..


Picasso, Matisse and other art from 2010 Paris heist may be in Israel

‘Spiderman’ burglar on trial over $100m haul of five paintings; one accomplice suspected of selling them to Israeli collector

PARIS — A burglar dubbed “Spiderman,” notorious for daring acrobatic heists, went on trial here this week for a $100 million art heist in 2010 that saw works by Picasso and Matisse stolen from a Paris gallery.
Investigators reportedly believe the works may have been smuggled to Israel by one of two other defendants in the trial, for sale to an Israeli collector.
Vjeran Tomic, a 49-year-old who is a skilled rock climber, faces up to 20 years in jail if convicted of the robbery. His co-defendants face up to 10 years.
The second defendant, antiques dealer Jean-Michel Corvez, is accused of ordering one of the paintings, by Fernand Léger, on behalf of a “Moroccan or Saudi” collector.
And the third defendant, Yonathan Birn, a rare watch dealer, is accused of concealing all five paintings after the heist, and suspected of having brougth them to Israel, Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported.
Vjeran Tomic, the main suspect in the 2010 theft of five masterpieces from the Paris Modern Art Museum, arrives at his trial on January 30, 2017, at the courthouse in Paris. (AFP PHOTO / BERTRAND GUAY)
Vjeran Tomic, the main suspect in the 2010 theft of five masterpieces from the Paris Modern Art Museum, arrives at his trial on January 30, 2017, at the courthouse in Paris. (AFP PHOTO / BERTRAND GUAY)
When questioned in court, Birn claimed he had panicked and thrown all the artwork away. “I’m crying because it’s monstrous what I’ve done,” he said according to the indictment. “I was overcome with panic. I lost all reason and decided to take the paintings out of my workplace and from a safe.”
Birn said in court that he “understands that nobody believes” his claim that he destroyed the works. And investigators suspect that he smuggled the paintings out of the country, perhaps to Israel, which he recently visited. Investigators “believe that the works were sold to a collector — perhaps in Israel, which Mr Birn visited,” the Telegraph said.
Tomic arrived in a blue overcoat and sweatshirt for his trial in Paris and admitted to carrying out the heist after being arrested in May 2011 and compared himself to a famed thief from French literature as he spoke to reporters on Monday.
“What role did I have? Arsene Lupin,” he told reporters with a smile, referring to the sly but charming character who ransacked rich Parisians’ homes in stories published at the start of the 20th century.
Tomic and the two alleged accomplices have been charged over the May 2010 robbery at the Modern Art Museum of five paintings by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Ferdinand Leger and Amedeo Modigliani. All the artworks are still missing.
Tomic is suspected of cutting through a padlocked gate and breaking a window to get into the gallery, one of the most-visited museums in Paris on the banks of the Seine.
The museum’s alarms had been awaiting repair for several weeks and Tomic is alleged to have somehow knocked out a security camera.
Three guards were on duty that night, but the paintings were only found to be missing from their frames just as the museum prepared to open to the public the next day.
When police arrested the Serb in May 2011, Tomic told them he had initially broken into the museum for Leger’s “Still Life with Candlestick” from 1922, not thinking he would also be able to steal another four.
Besides the Leger canvas, the other works stolen were Picasso’s cubist “Dove with Green Peas” from 1912 — alone worth an estimated 25 million euros ($26.8 million) — French contemporary Matisse’s “Pastoral” from 1905, Braque’s “Olive Tree near Estaque” from 1906, and Modigliani’s “Woman with a Fan” from 1919.
All but the Modigliani were hung in the same room in the museum, located in the well-heeled 16th district of Paris, which is run by the city and is home to more than 8,000 works of 20th century art.

‘Liked’ paintings

Tomic, who has a criminal record of 14 previous offenses, said he took them all because he “liked” the paintings.
Authorities put the total value of the haul at 100 million euros ($107 million), but some experts said they were worth twice that, while admitting it would be impossible to sell such artworks on the open market.
The presiding judge at the trial on Monday, Peimane Ghaleh-Marzban, said the value of the masterworks was “far higher than their market value.”
They have still not been recovered.
Ghaleh-Marzban also criticized the security “failures” which enabled the heist to be carried out with “disconcerting ease.”
The defendants face a 10-year jail term if convicted for the theft or re-sale of the artworks, but Tomic’s sentence could be double that given his criminal record.
Athletically built and 1.90 meters (6 foot 2 inches) tall, he earned his nickname for clambering into posh Parisian apartments and museums to steal valuable gems and works of art.
Prosecutors claim he was spotted by a homeless man as he roamed around the museum in the days leading to the theft.
Police arrested him after receiving an anonymous tip and tracking his mobile phone. Surveillance cameras from the night of the heist recorded only one person entering through a window who could not be identified.
An art dealer who admitted to having the paintings for a short time said he dumped them in a garbage can, which authorities do not believe.
International police body Interpol put out an alert to its 188 member countries in the hope of recovering the five paintings, but so far they all remain missing.
There has been a spate of art thefts in Europe in recent years.
The most recent, in 2015, involved the theft of five paintings worth 25 million euros by renowned British artist Francis Bacon in Madrid.
Spanish police arrested seven people last year suspected of being involved in that theft.

Hatton Garden heist value has 'DOUBLED since the raid and now stands at £29million'

It was originally thought that £10million in cash and jewellery had been taken during the raid by a gang of elderly criminals

The estimated value of loot stolen in the Hatton Garden heist has more than doubled to £29m, a court heard.
It was originally thought that £10million in cash and jewellery had been taken during the raid by a gang of elderly criminals.
But at a confiscation hearing at Woolwich Crown Court, barristers said detectives are now claiming the amount stolen totalled £25m, plus £4million worth of gear that was recovered.
If the raiders do not pay back what the judge rules they gained from the crime, they could face up to a maximum of 14 years of jail time being added to their sentences, without parole.
Denis Barry, representing gang member Daniel Jones, said: “The Crown says it is £25 million between five and that really is one of the issues we are going to have to wrestle with. That’s what makes this case exceptional.”
The true value of the stolen goods will never be known because there was no record of what was stored in the vault.
It is in the interests of the police and the alleged victims to over inflate the figure to get longer sentences for the gang and higher insurance payouts.
Earlier this month it emerged a woman came forward more than a year after the raid to claim she had £7million worth of valuables stolen.
The alleged victim spoke to police last June, 15 months after the break-in. She said that was when she realised her valuables had been stolen, after coverage of the raiders’ trial, which ended in January.
The gang, with a combined age of 448, carried out the “sophisticated” and meticulously planned break-in over the 2015 Easter holiday.
Using a diamond tipped drill they bored into the vault and ransacked 73 deposit boxes for gold, diamonds and sapphires.
John “Kenny” Collins, 76, Daniel Jones, 62, Terry Perkins, 68, and the group’s oldest member, Brian Reader, 78, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary.
A biography of mastermind Brian Reader revealed he is the nation’s most prolific thief, having been involved in raids worth £200million.
The book, One Last Job, details how he planned the Hatton Garden theft with a burglar alarm expert known as Basil or The Ghost, who is still at large.
Tom Wainwright, for Reader, asked for a QC to be appointed to his client’s case, stating they would have the required skill to deal with proceedings of this length and Reader’s health.
He said: “The case is made more complex because Mr Reader is not in good health.
“He is likely to be in worse health come December or January.”
A full confiscation hearing, under the Proceeds of Crime Act, will determine how each of the defendants benefited from the raid and is expected to take place in 2018.

Art thieves suspected of Francis Bacon heist arrested in Madrid

Art thieves suspected of Francis Bacon heist arrested in Madrid
Photo: Policia Nacional
Spanish police have arrested three people in connection with the theft of five paintings by the Irish-born artist Francis Bacon valued at €25 million.
Police raided six properties in the Madrid region and seized a gun, ammunition, manuals to cracking safes, laser devices and oxy-fuel cylinders used to cut metal, Spain’s National Police said in a statement on Tuesday.
The three people were “directly connected” to the robbery and were part of a group that burgled homes across Spain, the statement said. Five other members of the gang were also arrested for a further 15 robberies.
The five paintings by Francis Bacon were stolen from the Madrid home of an art collector in June, 2015, who had reportedly been a close friend of the artist.
They were valued at around €25 million, ($26.88 million).
The thieves, who left no trace of their handiwork, had tracked the owner's movements to ensure he did not return to his apartment to catch them red-handed.Irish-born Bacon died in Madrid in 1992 aged 82 and his expressionist-surrealist works, which are often raw and emotional, remain hugely sought after.
Bacon's death only enhanced his reputation and the 2013 sale of his 1969 work "Three Studies of Lucien Freud" fetched $142,405,000 at auction, a world record at the time.
The theft occurred in June 2015, when J. C. B.—a Spanish friend of the legendary painter who inherited the artworks when Bacon died in 1992—left his residence, in an affluent area in the center of Madrid, for a few hours.
Besides the five paintings, said to be of medium to small size, the thieves stole a safe containing several collections of coins, jewels, and other valuable goods.
At the time, ABC reported that the initials J. C. B. correspond to José Capelo Blanco, and that he was Bacon’s last lover during a relationship that lasted four years, until Bacon’s death in Madrid.
Art market information leader Artprice lists Bacon as one of 10 frontline modern artists alongside the likes of Picasso and Andy Warhol Warhol whose works comprise 18 percent of global sales.

Antiques dealer jailed for stealing painting from Chester Cathedral

Latvian Vasilijs Apilats, 61, sentenced to nine months for stealing painting worth about £2,000 in August 2014
A Latvian antiques dealer who stole a 19th-century religious painting from a cathedral because he was besotted with the artwork has been jailed for nine months.
The Raising Of Lazarus was torn from its easel on the altar in the chapel of Saint Anselm in Chester Cathedral, a quiet corner intended for prayer and reflection. In its place a cheap Christmas tree decoration of an angel was left behind.
The icon, worth about £2,000, was stolen by talented artist and experienced restorer, Vasilijs Apilats, 61.
Chester crown court heard Apilats stole the item not for greed but because he was besotted by such artwork and his actions were “akin to the instinct of a magpie”.The Greek painting was donated to the historic cathedral seven years ago by the family of a former dean of Chester, Ingram Cleasby.
The recorder, Eric Lamb, told the court as he jailed the defendant: “Having seen photos of your home, I have formed the view that you committed this crime out of a simple desire to acquire the icon, rather than having any specific monetary gain in mind.”
Apilats had denied stealing the icon, dating from about 1870, in August 2014. During his trial last year he professed his orthodox Christian faith and claimed he was offered it for sale by an unidentified man at the cathedral.
He said he placed the icon into black bin liners and was told by the man he had to leave the cathedral through a back door and a metal fence.
But Apilats, who followed proceedings through a Russian interpreter, was convicted by the jury of the theft.
During the hunt for the painting officers searched the Cheshire home of the art collector and found the icon wrapped inside a bin bag and hidden among a haul of dozens of other religious artefacts.Apilats, was tracked down through his DNA from swabs taken from the easel that the painting had been screwed upon.
The following month in his terraced home in Crewe officers found paintings mostly depicting Jesus, religious books, crucifixes, busts and other church-related ornaments. Three other men – aged 31, 34 and 36 – and a 57-year-old woman were arrested but freed without charge.
After his conviction Apilats, who was given indefinite leave to remain in the UK after moving from Latvia in 1990, wrote a “gushing” apology letter to the cathedral and the general public, begging for forgiveness.
In a victim impact statement, Peter Howell-Jones, the vice-dean of Chester Cathedral, said the icon was “hugely important”, used as an aid for prayer and its theft had upset the congregation.
It emerged Apilats had previously been made the subject of a restraining order after pleading guilty to harassing the Crewe and Nantwich Tory MP, Edward Timpson, after he attended his constituency office and threatened him and members of staff during a row over housing.
Apilats claimed he had been allowed to settle in the UK in 1990 after claiming he had to flee the Russian mafia over his antique deals in Latvia.
During his trial, Apilats claimed he had bought the painting for “restoration purposes” in good faith. He said he was approached by two men he claimed worked at the cathedral and said they offered it to him for £250 before negotiating a sale price of £135 in cash. His solicitor, Peter Moss, said Apilats had a mental disorder. He claimed it was from ill-treatment suffered at the hands of the Russian mafia. The defendant was also ordered to pay a £100 victim surcharge.
However, Sgt Neil Doleman, of Cheshire constabulary, said: “Apilats is a man who appears to be obsessed with religious artefacts. He selfishly took an icon, which was not only of significant value but was also of huge importance to Chester Cathedral and the public who used it as an aid to pray.”
Chester Cathedral constable Chris Jones said: “We are delighted to be able to re-instate the stolen 18th century icon here at the cathedral. It has now been returned to its rightful place in St Anselm’s chapel, a place used for prayer and refection.
“The icon was gifted to the cathedral by a former dean of Chester, Ingram Cleasby, so it is a very meaningful part of the history of the building.
“We would like to thank everyone involved in the search for the icon, especially the Cheshire constabulary for their careful and dedicated work. We were very saddened when the icon was taken and thought it had gone forever so to see it returned is very special.”

3 Chinese linked to 'Pink Panda' theft group nabbed over diamond ring heist
The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) arrested three Chinese nationals on Jan. 24 on suspicion of stealing a diamond ring worth 2.8 million yen, the department announced.
The three are thought to be members of the Chinese theft group "Pink Panda," and include Yang Manwan, 47, of unknown occupation.
The three are accused of stealing a diamond ring from a jewelry store's booth at an international jewelry exhibition at Tokyo Big Sight in Koto Ward, Tokyo, before noon on Jan. 20 last year. All three are denying the allegations, the MPD says.
According to the MPD, the three suspects came to the attention of investigators after they examined security footage of the exhibition. Investigators were issued warrants for the arrest of the three and were searching for them, when they showed up at a jewelry exhibition that began this month on Jan. 23. They were then arrested by investigators.
Pink Panda is composed of people from China's Hunan Province. The gang was given the name by French police after the "Pink Panther" group, which is another international jewelry thief group.

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