Art detective eyes IRA in Gardner art heist
Arthur Brand, dubbed “The Indiana Jones of the art world,” tells me that he’s spoken with sources in direct contact with what’s left of the IRA.
They have convinced him some of the missing paintings are stashed away in Ireland, and the reason that no one has come forward to claim the $10 million reward offered by the museum is that those now in possession of the art do not trust the FBI to simply let them walk away with a windfall of cash with no questions asked.
“Members of the IRA only trust their mothers. That’s about it, so there’s a high level of skepticism,” Brand told me in a telephone interview from his home in the Netherlands. “The IRA and the Irish mob have been known to hold art hostage and use it as collateral to get prisoners out of jail. It’s what they do best.”
Recently, Brand made international headlines for finding and returning a $28 million dollar Picasso that was stolen 20 years ago from a luxury yacht in the French Riviera.
It was 29 years ago, in March 1990 that two thieves disguised as Boston police officers stole 13 art works from the Gardner museum including Vermeer’s “The Concert” and Rembrandt’s “Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee.” According the museum, it’s the single largest property theft in the world. It’s also Boston’s most enduring crime mystery, now that Whitey Bulger’s been captured and was subsequently killed in prison.
Despite the potential IRA connection, the Irish mob boss had nothing to do with this one. Bulger’s protégé Kevin Weeks once told me that the gang wasn’t involved in the theft but shook every tree and beat down a few people in an effort to find the loot and cash in on it themselves.
Brand agrees that Bulger wasn’t the guy.
“At the time of the theft, the IRA was running guns from Boston to Ireland with and without Bulger’s knowledge,” Brand said. “The paintings were hidden on one of the vessels and they would remain in Ireland today.”
Brand’s theory isn’t shared by the FBI, which has gone to great lengths in its effort to recover the paintings. The feds launched a billboard campaign in 2014 to solicit the public’s help and have chased after a geriatric, wheelchair bound Connecticut gangster named Robert Gentile, who they have dubbed as a person of interest in the case.
“Gentile had every opportunity to cooperate with authorities and he has not,” Brand says. “That tells me the FBI is going after the wrong man.”
Some critics believe Brand is the wrong man for art enthusiasts to pin their hopes on. The art detective is not above getting his hands dirty and negotiating directly with underworld figures to recover stolen art. Naysayers claim Brand’s approach will encourage more art theft.
But aren’t Brand’s methods one in the same with those of the Gardner Museum?
The museum doubled its reward to $10 million for the safe return of the masterpieces, guaranteeing both confidentiality and anonymity to anyone who steps forward.
If that person is eventually Arthur Brand, you can bet it won’t be anonymous.
The art sleuth, who once recovered two missing bronze horses sculpted for Adolf Hitler, has cultivated a persona of derring do, using false identities to cozy up with hardened criminals who have led him to stolen art.
“Those who are hiding the Gardner paintings and are still distrustful of American law enforcement can contact me and I would be more than happy to return this world heritage to Boston,” Brand says.
The Boston office of the FBI will not comment on Brand’s theories, but encourage anyone who is knowingly in possession of the stolen artwork to return it to the museum and collect the $10 million reward.
Casey Sherman is the author of 10 books including “12: The Inside Story of Tom Brady’s Fight for Redemption.” Follow him on Twitter @caseysherman123
Art Hostage comments:
Personally, I wish Arthur Brand all the luck in the world in recovering the stolen Gardner art, however, I reserve my right to question the ethics, morality and legality of the other stolen art recoveries Arthur Brand and his criminal gang have made and continue to make.
I am sure the Irish Republican movement, IRA old and new, will not welcome the accusations from Arthur Brand, that they have the stolen Gardner art stashed away until they get paid the $10 million reward.
more to follow..................