Paintings Recovery Back-story:
Gang in court charged with £2.5m art and silver heist at home of Bulmer Somerset cider dynasty
A group of men appeared in court today in connection with a multi-million pound heist at the home of a cider dynasty.The 12 are:
Liam Judge, aged 41, of Foley Close, Tuffley in Gloucestershire; Matthew Evans, aged 40, of Coral Close, Tuffley in Gloucestershire; Mark Regan, aged 45, of no fixed address; Skinder Ali, aged 38, of no fixed address; Donald Maliska, aged 63, of Abbey Place, Priory Road, Dartford; John Morris, aged 55, of Cowper Gardens, London; Jonathan Rees, aged 62, of Village Close, Weighbridge, Surrey; David Price, aged 52, of Virginia Court, London, London TBC; Ike Obiamiwe, aged 55, of Perryn Road, Ealing, London; Nigel Blackburn, aged 60, of Frederick Street, Hockley, Birmingham; Azhar Mir, aged 64, of Halstead Grove, Solihull; and Thomas Lynch, aged 42, of St Benedict’s Road, Small Heath, Birmingham.
The suspects face charges relating to a £2.5 million robbery of art and silver at the stately home belonging to Susie and Esmond Bulmer.
Twleve men were due to appear but a European arrest warrant was issued for one defendant, John Morris, 55.
He booked a one-way ticket out of UK after being charged last month, Bristol Magistrates’ Court was told.
The eleven defendants appeared at court and denied involvement in the raid, in Bruton, Somerset, eight years ago.
They also deny having anything to do with valuable stolen goods as recently as 2015.
Facing a charge of conspiracy to rob, Liam Judge, 41, and Matthew Evans, 40, both of Tuffley, Gloucester, denied the accusations.
They were released on unconditional bail, along with co-defendant Thomas Lynch, 42, of Birmingham, who was accused of assisting in the realisation of stolen property.
Also accused of conspiracy to rob was Skinder Ali, 38. He denied the charge, along with another of assisting in the realisation of stolen property, relating to 19 paintings.
Mark Regan, 45, denied the same charge of assisting in the realisation of criminal property.
David Price, 52, of London, and Donald Maliska, 63, of Dartford, Kent, both denied conspiring to defraud an insurance company and assisting in the realisation of 19 stolen paintings.
Ike Obiamwe, 55, of Sutton, denied the same allegations.
Jonathan Rees, 62, of Weybridge, Surrey, denied perverting the course of justice by giving a false statement to police during an interview on November 25, 2015.
He also denied assisting in the realisation of stolen property, and conspiracy to defraud.
The defendants appeared before District Judge Lynne Matthews at Bristol Magistrates’ Court.
A European arrest warrant for Morris was applied for by prosecutor Ben Samples, who said: "A postal-requisition was sent on July 19.
"Police tell me he bought a one-way ticket out of the country on July 19 and left the country. We believe he is in Europe."
All were sent for trial at Bristol Crown Court and their next court appearance will be September 22.
Bulmers cider family art robbery: Eleven men in court
A total of 15 paintings worth £1.7m, and £1m of jewellery were stolen.
All the defendants deny any wrongdoing and are due to appear at Bristol Crown Court on 22 September.
Those charged are:
- Liam Judge, 41, of Crypt Court, Tuffley, Gloucester, accused of conspiracy to commit robbery
- Matthew Evans, 40, of Coral Close, Tuffley, Gloucester, accused of conspiracy to commit robbery
- Skinder Ali, 38, whose address was listed as HMP Full Sutton in Yorkshire, accused of conspiracy to commit robbery and conspiracy to receive stolen goods. He appeared by videolink
- Jonathan Rees, 62, of Village Close, Weybridge, Surrey, accused of conspiracy to receive stolen goods, conspiracy to defraud and committing a series of acts intending to pervert the course of justice
- Donald Maliska, 62, of Old Brompton Road, London, accused of conspiracy to receive stolen goods and conspiracy to defraud
- Mark Regan, 45, whose address was listed as HMP Long Lartin in Worcestershire, accused of conspiracy to receive stolen goods. He appeared in court by videolink
- David Price, 52, of Virginia Court, Camden, London, accused of conspiracy to receive stolen goods and conspiracy to defraud
- Ike Obiamiwe, 55, of The Drive, Sutton, Surrey, accused of conspiracy to receive stolen goods and conspiracy to defraud
- Thomas Lynch, 42, of St Benedict's Road, Small Heath, Birmingham, accused of conspiracy to receive stolen goods
- Nigel Blackburn, 60, of Broad Street, Birmingham, accused of controlling criminal property
- Azhar Mir, 64, of Bufferys Close, Hillfield, Solihull, West Midlands, accused of controlling criminal property
At Bristol Magistrates' Court, all 11 indicated through their lawyers that they would be pleading not guilty to the charges.
A 12th defendant, John Morris, 56, of Cowper Gardens, Enfield, London, did not attend court and a warrant for his arrest without bail was issued by the judge. He is accused of conspiracy to receive stolen goods.
A Green Light for Art Criminals?
The Art World Calls This Man When Masterpieces Go MissingDid you just discover your priceless family heirloom is about to be sold at auction? Has your church’s centuries-old relic gone missing? Christopher Marinello has got you covered.
Marinello has been dubbed the “Sherlock Holmes of Nazi-looted art,” and with good reason. A lawyer who cut his teeth as a litigator in New York, he is best known for founding Art Recovery International in 2013, a private company that negotiates title disputes over stolen and lost art. Art Recovery has helped negotiate some of the most high profile restitution cases in recent years, such as the discovery and return of Matisse’s 1921 painting Seated Woman/Woman Sitting in Armchair, a Nazi-looted masterpiece discovered in a trove of art inside German collector Cornelius Gurlitt’s Munich apartment in 2012. In 2015, Marinello helped negotiate the painting’s return to its rightful owners: the descendants of famed modern art dealer, Paul Rosenberg. That same year, the company also helped recover and return a sculpture by Auguste Rodin which had been stolen and missing for 24 years. And most recently, he oversaw the return of The Mark Provincial Sword of Kent, a stolen Masonic sword that popped up at an auction house in London.
We spoke with the stolen art expert about founding Art Recovery International, why due diligence is an important (and unavoidable) step for everyone in the art world and what he loves most about his job.
How did you begin working in art law?A very long time ago I was an artist and not a very good one. My art teacher encouraged me to become a lawyer as an alternative profession. But it was also something that I had always wanted to do. So, I became a lawyer, and I was a litigator in New York City for 20 years and developed an art practice as well. In this way, I was able to mix my love of art and the law. My very first case was representing an art gallery on the ground floor of 70 Pine Street.
What types of cases do you most like to take on? The company you founded, Art Recovery, does a lot of work in the cultural heritage sector and resolving claims of stolen art.We’ve been very successful in some of the restitution cases we’ve handled, and we represent a large number of insurance companies. Given the success we’ve had, it’s put us in a good position where we can do pro bono work for churches, museums and artists. We do a great number of pro bono cases, so we’re able to pick and choose what we want to work on, and we’re fortunate that we can do that. I’m a sucker for a charity, a church, religious institution or an artist’s studio that has suffered a theft. I know that funds are hard to come by, and I don’t mind taking on that challenge to help them get their property back.
Tell us about a recent case that you found particularly challenging, and one that exemplifies what Art Recovery does well.I would say it was the Gurlitt case—that case had everything. Our specialty is avoiding litigation and coming up with creative methods to resolve title disputes over found art. We think that there are so many lawyers out there who work in art law that love to pull the trigger on litigation, but we don’t believe that litigation is in the best interest of our clients. Many people who come to me either don’t want the publicity that comes with a court proceeding…or they are afraid that the object or the painting that they’re litigating over will be burned in the marketplace because of the litigation—which often happens. They don’t want it to affect other deals and relationships, and they want to protect their anonymity. Not to mention, the frightening cost of litigating a case today, and the time it consumes. We try to develop creative methods to resolve cases, and that we consider a specialty.
Can you expand a little on those creative methods?I don’t want to give away any secrets, but for example: in the Gurlitt case, we had the German authorities insisting that we follow the German process. When they told us that the Gurlitt family had filed a claim in the probate court, we went to the Gurlitt family directly and reached an agreement with them: if they were successful in challenging Gurlitt’s will, they would return the Rosenberg Matisse to the family. We made that same agreement with the Kunstmuseum in Bern. We essentially were going to receive the painting no matter which side won. We said to the German authorities, ‘You can’t expect us to wait seven years for the probate court to make a ruling…Because if the Gurlitt family wins we get the painting back and if the Kunstmuseum Bern wins we get the painting back—so give us the painting now!’ And that was something they were not prepared for and was quite surprising. That’s sort of an example of the things that we do. We try to think outside the normal processes.
What are some timely issues you’ve encountered in recent cases through Art Recovery? And are there areas where you feel the process for handling cases related to the illegal trade of antiquities can be improved?With respect to antiquities, I think the obvious answer is not to buy anything that doesn’t have a complete provenance. And that seems to be the problem and the message that needs to be put across. It’s shocking that Hobby Lobby didn’t get that message, nor did they listen to the advisors that they hired to help them with that acquisition. What we see here is people buying things without doing any kind of due diligence, and when they do due diligence, they’re not listening to their advisors. So, obviously, it’s a problem. The FBI tried to scare everybody by saying if you buy an unprovenanced antiquity and it came from Syria, you could be charged with aiding international terrorism. That’s enough to scare anybody with any sense. But apparently not enough people have heard this and they continue to buy unprovenanced objects. At the same time, I don’t side with the academics that believe every object of antiquity should not be traded in the marketplace. That’s completely absurd. There are fragments or Roman glass you can buy for $20; they have no contextual importance, no historical importance and no museum of collector really wants them. But to ban their sale is extremist. Just as it’s extremist to think there should be no regulation in the antiquities market. There needs to be a middle ground like anything else.
What about on the side of Nazi-looted art?With Nazi-looted art, it’s a totally different position. I feel that people are hiding Nazi looted works of art, hoping that the victims or the claimants will go away, that they will lose interest, or lose their records, that the claim itself will change or that the law will change—and that’s wrong. I can tell you many cases—I know of looted works of art in Mexico, Austria, Switzerland, Germany and in America. People know they are in possession of Nazi-looted art but they’re hiding them.
Do you make spreading the word about due diligence a personal mission in your work?Every time I recover something there’s always a message. [With] the sword case, the auction house in London, if they had done a simple Google search: “stolen Masonic sword”…Up pops an ad that another group of Masons put out for this particular sword, saying it was stolen….
Every case I have has a message to the trade, or to the collector, to the auction houses, that they need to do something. It’s not just that I’m hard on the trade, I’m hard on collectors as well. Theft victims need to report their thefts; you can’t expect an auction house or an art gallery to do due diligence if you’re not reporting your thefts. They need to report things to a central database like Artive, which doesn’t charge anybody to report a theft…If your sword was stolen, you need to report it to Artive so that an auction house can check it and make sure they’re not selling something they shouldn’t be selling. It works both ways, it’s a message for everybody.
What is it that you enjoy most about what you do?I thoroughly enjoy the negotiating process. I love the give and take, and developing a strategy so that both parties will come to the table and work out an agreement. When that happens I take great pride in knowing that I avoided a major court case, which I know none of the parties really want. But the best part of my job is in that photograph that you saw with the sword, or in the Saint Olave’s church case, where I’m able to return an object to a church, museum, theft victim or charity; I get to talk to them about the object, and they tell me how important it is to their family, their organization or to their church, and what it means to have these objects back. That’s the best part of the job.
Meet 'Good Samaritans' who got stolen de Kooning painting back to UAA painting worth millions, stolen in a brazen, movie-style heist has resurfaced after being missing for 31 years.
The iconic stolen painting worth as much as $160 million. In 1985, Willem de Kooning’s “Woman-ochre” disappeared from the University of Arizona’s Museum of Art.
Police believe a couple walked in and cut the iconic painting from its frame. It remained missing for more than 31 years. Then, in August, a man called the museum saying he’d found the painting at an estate sale.
Museum officials confirmed its authenticity and brought the piece back to UA, where, after some restoration, it will finally find its home once again.