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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Art Hostage

Art Hostage, Hat-trick of Artworld Deaths, Stolen Vermeer

Hat-trick of Artworld deaths, a Thief, a Cop, and a Dealer

Hat-trick of Artworld Deaths !!
Pittsburgh Area man held for murder of Wealthy Antiques Dealer

By Jeff Oliver
Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A 39-year-old Elizabeth man was charged with criminal homicide Tuesday in the murder of a New Eagle man at his home.

Orville Leland Trail has been charged with criminal homicide, aggravated assault, theft and robbery in the death of Ira Wyne, 62, of 444 First Ave., state police from the Belle Vernon barracks revealed at a press conference yesterday afternoon.

Wyne's body had been discovered Monday at 7:15 p.m. and state police immediately began searching for a white box truck that was allegedly stolen from Wyne's home.

A criminal complaint in the case stated that Trail and Wyne were friends and that Wyne allegedly owed Trail money for work he had done for him.

On Monday, Wyne picked up Trail and brought him to Wyne's home to help unload antique items from a truck, according to the complaint. Wyne was an antique dealer.

At approximately 6 p.m., Holly Szedon, 18, came to the house to borrow Wyne's sport utility vehicle. While she was there, Wyne told her "an old friend named Orville" was visiting, the complaint states.

Szedon told authorities that, while she was at the house, she heard a man's voice in the basement.

The girl returned to the home approximately 90 minutes later and knocked at the door

After receiving no answer, she noticed that Wayne's white box truck was missing police said.

However, she heard a television inside the house and discovered the door was unlocked, so she decided to go inside, according to police.

After Szedon went into the home, she discovered Wyne's body naked in a pool of blood at the bottom of the steps in the basement, the complaint states.

Wyne, who was face down in the blood, had suffered a large laceration on the back of his head. He also had cuts to his shoulder and arms.

State police began looking for Trail and the truck Monday evening.

The truck was found abandoned before dawn Tuesday in Elizabeth, near Route 51.

Trail was discovered at the home of his girlfriend in Elizabeth Township sometime after midnight Tuesday morning.

He was hiding under a bed, still covered with blood.

Trail claimed, according to the affidavit, that Wyne owed him money.

He asked Wyne for $100 for cleaning and repairing some silver for the victim, the affidavit said.

Trail said that Wyne told him he could not pay and then made sexual advances toward him while naked.

Trail told police that Wyne came too close to him and that Trail pushed him away and started hitting him with various articles, including a candelabra, a pitcher and a vase.

Trail said he then began searching for the keys to Wyne's box truck and found them in the victim's pants and fled the scene. The box truck allegedly contained antiques valued at approximately $500,000.

Wyne was pronounced dead at 8:53 p.m. by Washington County Deputy Coroner Timothy Kegel. Cause of death was ruled as blunt force trauma to the head and manner was listed as homicide.

Trail was arraigned before Magisterial District Judge Mark Wilson, of Monongahela, and placed in the Washington County Jail without bond.

A preliminary hearing will be held 9:30 a.m. Dec. 6 at Central Court in Washington County.

State police were assisted in the investigation by Monongahela police.

Art Hostage comments:

These three deaths come from different sides of the art world but yet all have some connection, the power of art to steal, investigate, or deal !!!

Art Hostage

Art Hostage, Broken Hearted Art Cop succumbs to Heart Attack !!

Tragic Death for renowned Art Cop, A Broken Heart??

`Art cop' and author Robert Volpe dies at 63

11/30/2006, 11:13 a.m. ET
The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Robert Volpe, a retired NYPD detective renowned for tracking down art fraud and theft — and the father of the officer imprisoned for the notorious attack on Abner Louima — has died at the age of 63.

Volpe, who wrote "Art Cop," a book about his experiences, died of a heart attack on Tuesday. He attained fame in the 1970s as the only detective in the country assigned to investigate art fraud and theft.

Volpe, who lived on Staten Island, was a graduate of Manhattan's High School of Art and Design, and had his first gallery showing in his late teens. After serving in the Army in the early 1960s, he briefly worked as a graphic designer before joining the New York Police Department.

He spent 10 years working undercover before becoming the department's art-theft expert. After his retirement in the early 1980s, he lectured at universities and government forums, including the FBI training facility in Quantico, Va.

Justin Volpe, the youngest of his three sons, pleaded guilty in 1997 to sodomizing the handcuffed Louima with a broken broomstick. Two other officers were convicted of obstructing the investigation into the brutal attack.

Robert Volpe is survived by his wife, Grace; two other sons, Rob and Damian; two brothers, Andrew and John; and a sister, Jane Graziano.

A viewing was scheduled for Thursday and Friday at the Scalia Funeral Home on Staten Island. A funeral Mass will be held Saturday morning at Holy Child Church, with burial at the Resurrection Cemetery.

Information from: New York Post,

Art Hostage

Art Hostage, Scream Thief, Overdose, or Mickey Finn ??

Scream Thief, Overdose, or Mickey Finn ??

"The Scream" thief died of overdose, police say

OSLO (Reuters) - One of three thieves who stole Edvard Munch's masterpiece "The Scream" and another of his paintings has died of an apparent drug overdose while still at large, Oslo police said on Thursday.

"The Scream" and "Madonna" were stolen in August 2004 by two masked gunmen in an audacious raid on Oslo's Munch Museum in front of stunned tourists. The artworks were recovered by police this August.

The raiders forced visitors to lie on the floor, yanked the paintings off the wall, and escaped in a getaway car driven by a third man.

The dead 27-year-old was identified as one of the thieves by an undercover police officer who infiltrated a group of drug users, police district said in a statement.

It said the man died on November 3, presumably of an overdose of heroin, but they were still waiting for the autopsy results.

"Through the information obtained in this operation, police believe that the third thief has been identified with a high degree of certainty," it said.

In May three men -- one who drove the getaway car and two who were involved in providing the car -- were convicted by an Oslo court and sentenced to four to eight years in jail. They have lodged appeals.

The court acquitted three other men accused of involvement in the theft.

Police Inspector Iver Stensrud declined to say what role the dead man played in the theft or to identify him by name. "Most of this information will be used in February next year in the appeals court," he said.

Police have also declined to reveal how they recovered the paintings in August.

Stensrud said he hoped the police investigation was now closer to getting to the bottom of the theft "but we have to wait and see because there still will be a lot of questions during the (appeals) court case".

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Art Hostage

Art Hostage Doing the Honourable Thing in a Vacuous World, Stolen Vermeer

Stolen Art, Forget About It !!!

Letters to the Editor

The Times November 28, 2006

Stolen art works
Sir, We are deeply concerned at the Government’s proposal to give complete immunity to those who wish to display stolen and looted art works by making them available for exhibition in this country. The proposed legislation, buried in the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Bill, would provide automatic protection from seizure to lenders outside Britain, making them safe from the legitimate claims of the rightful owners.

The justification is that the UK’s position as a leading centre for world-class exhibitions will be jeopardised unless all loans are protected from seizure. This reasoning results from pressure exerted by museums and those overseas whose concern for the provenance of art works owned by them is at best cavalier. In fact, the result will be that Britain will become one of the few countries in the West where such ill-gotten gains can be displayed with impunity and where the rights of the true owners will be so easily frustrated.

The public interest must surely be in upholding the rule of law, rather than promoting an international free-for-all through the unrestricted circulation of tainted works of art. Do we really wish to educate our children to have no respect for history, legality and ethical values by providing museums with the opportunity freely to exhibit stolen property?

The morally correct and legally responsible approach, adopted by many countries, is for objects proposed for loan to galleries and museums to be subject to rigorous inquiries to determine their provenance and that rightful owners have the opportunity to recover works surfacing in this way. The current proposals, giving automatic and indiscriminate protection against seizure mean that otherwise respectable institutions in this country will have no reason to make such inquiries. This legislation shames us and should be opposed rigorously.

Liberal Democrat




Liberal Democrat



Liberal Democrat

Liberal Democrat



Art Hostage comments:

A line in the sand must be drawn, societies in general have a duty to set an example to its citizens.

In the US, anti-seizure provisions do not always apply to stolen works. In New York, the Arts and Cultural Affairs Law 12.03, was changed in 2000 to limit its scope to civil proceedings only. Similarly, the Texas anti-seizure legislation adopted in 1999 under the Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code dictates that works of art on loan may not be seized, except for stolen artworks. In addition, the Federal Immunity from Seizure Act, 22 U.S.C. Section 2459 requires applicants seeking protection to certify that it has no reason to know of any circumstances with respect to the potential for competing ownership claims.

Pandora's box has been opened and who knows where the chips will fall.

Works of art imported into the United States by dubious means, even if that was during the nineteenth century/Twentieth century may be held up to scrutiny unless there is a cut off date agreed, because if not then issues such as the Elgin Marbles will become prominant and if they were to be handed back to their rightful home, Greece, then any works of art illegally exported and imported after this date, 1806, will become targets.

This could, in the years ahead create a whole re-sale of some of the worlds most valuable works of art.

There is historic documentation in archives that quote art collectors from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries almost boasting about, "How they smuggled certain Vermeer's, Rubins, etc out of 19/20th century Europe, by stashing them at the bottom of their luggage trunks,"

If the transit of artworks is called into question dating back Two hundred years, it will certainly provide a spectical and merry-go-round of art collections to rival any art collecting period.

The one thing that I would have reservations about is if artworks were not on public display and hidden in private collections.

The Honourable Ronald S. Lauder has set a benchmark, and this should be the gold standard of future art collecting, a true example of humanity rarely seen in todays vacuous world.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Art Hostage

Art Hostage Tate Turners Recovery May Have Been illegal !!

Recovery of Tate Turners Investigated By German Authorities

Row over Tate's stolen Turners

By Dayla Alberge

German police suspect gallery may have broken federal law in the recovery of £24 million paintings

German police are investigating how the Tate secured the return of two Turner paintings stolen from an exhibition in Frankfurt, where they had been on loan.

The gallery announced two years ago that it had recovered Shade and Darkness — the Evening of the Deluge, and Light and Colour (Goethe’s theory), which were stolen in 1994.

The Times learnt yesterday that German police are investigating whether the Tate had broken German federal law.

One source said that the police were outraged when they discovered that the Tate had not only paid €3 million (£2 million) for information that led to the recovery of the paintings but, they believe, had put at risk investigations into the Serbian underworld figures thought to have staged the robbery.

The source said that German police had tried for years to catch the gangsters, who are also believed to be involved in drugs and arms.

Through the stolen Turners, detectives thought that they were getting close to catching the gangsters. Then they discovered that they had not been involved in the final negotiations for the recovery of the paintings.

Disclosing that German police had contacted the Tate’s insurers about the case, the source said: “In a situation like this, the gallery should have worked with the police.

“They failed to involve the police sufficiently, which is what has made the authorities so angry.”

The Tate has said that it paid only for “information” and the costs of the investigation leading to the recovery of the paintings. But experts say that paying money to get stolen property back could encourage other thefts.

The paintings were stolen from the Schirn Kunsthalle, in Frankfurt. A security guard was tied up in the raid.

The two thieves and their getaway driver, who were caught in 1999, were given sentences ranging from three to eleven years. The mastermind behind the theft remains free, however.

The insurers and the Tate are said to remain angry over revelations about the case in the autobiography of Geoffrey Robinson, the former Paymaster General. Before the paintings were recovered he disclosed that they were insured for £24 million, confirming their value to the gangsters, who were then able to use the figure when making their ransom demands.

The paintings were fully insured. The insurers included Hiscox and AXA Art, who paid the £24 million in full.

But in 1998, before the works were recovered, the Tate paid the insurers £8 million to buy back the rights, leaving it with a potential profit of £16 million if the pictures were recovered. Soon afterwards one was. The second turned up in 2002. As the millions generated interest, the Tate not only got its paintings back but also an extraordinary windfall from the insurance payout.

The German police have contacted Hiscox and AXA Art.

The German police and the Tate declined to comment. But a spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office in Frankfurt confirmed that an investigation was taking place.

Selby Whittingham, a Turner scholar and editor of the journal J.M.W. Turner, RA, welcomed the news. He said: “We’ve never got to the truth of the matter about the payments.”

An art expert who declined to be identified said: “A lot of people will be pleased to learn about an investigation. It’s been smoke and mirrors until now.”

Art Hostage comments:

This really was a case of "The Foxes Guarding the Hen House"

The two Scotland Yard Detectives, Detective Superintendent Mick Lawrence and Detective Sergeant Jurek Rokoszynski (known as Rocky) were working on the Turner case before they suddenly retired, subsequently, they were employed by the Tate Gallery as private detectives.

They were instrumental in the recovery, but along the way billed the Tate Gallery for nearly $2 million dollars for security.

The scam was to hire Polish bodyguards, who were friends of the now ex-Scotland Yard detective, Sergeant Jurek Rokoszynski (known as Rocky), for $100 dollars a day per man, then bill the Tate Gallery for $2,000 a day per man, sometimes there were up to Ten bodyguards used, round the clock, the false bills were presented to the Tate, Sandy Nairne, and these were duly paid by the Tate Gallery.

The Tate Gallery knew that one painting was about to be returned and that recovery was delayed whilst the Tate negociated the settlement with the insurers. Once the Tate had bought back legal title to the Turners for $16 million it left the Tate with $32 million dollars in the bank.

The first Turner came back within a short time, as previously promised to the Tate, and so the Tate had one picture, $32 million and was ready to recover the other Turner.

The lawyer for the Serbian mastermind of this plot, German Edgar Liebrucks signed a contract with the Tate gallery, (who had gone to the British High Court to seek judical approval for the deal to take place in Germany), but also asked the Frankfurt public prosecutor's office for legal immunity and, according to Liebrucks, this was granted. He received in total $6 million approx and the other Turner duly surfaced.

The immoral part of this unsavoury story is the dishonest dealings by the Tate towards the insurers, Hiscox, AXA, and their shareholders, coupled by the dishonest billing for $2 million dollars by Detective Superintendent Mick Lawrence and Detective Sergeant Jurek Rokoszynski (known as Rocky) who were the original official police officers to investigate the case.

There is a case for recovering stolen art by making payments, however, the Tate and the ex-cops seem to pose the question:

"who are the bad guys, and who are the good guys"

Another person to do well out of the Turners theft is Sandy Nairne, he was rewarded by being given the Directorship of the National Portrait Gallery.

As for "Old Nick" Serota the Demonic Director of the Tate, since this all transpired, he has had the balls to try and use the ill gotten gains from the Turners theft to buy Modern art, circumventing the wishes and terms of the Turner bequest, which stipulates that any monies from the bequest be only, I repeat only, be used to purchase further works by Joseph William Mallard Turner.

His excuse at the time was there are not many Turners out there to buy.

He failed to mention the several Turners that have been sold on the open market recently, they fetched some tens of millions of Dollars.

Why, this April 6th,2006, Steve "Mr Magoo" Wynn, yes him of the "Elbow through the Picasso" paid $35.8m (£20.5 m) for JMW Turner, Giudecca, La Donna della Salute and San Giorgio.

Two Venice scenes in watercolor have been sold this year for nearly $20 million.

If "Old Nick" was sincere, he would have used the insurance money to buy these Turners, not go off galavanting and buying his own modern art tastes for the Tate collection.

To be continued........

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Art Hostage

Art Hostage, Valuable Racing Trophies Stolen !!

News from England : Original Racing Trophies Stolen !!

Racing trophies snatched in raid on Brit Aristocrat's Country Manor !!

POLICE have released photographs of part of Newmarket's racing heritage stolen in a burglary at Lord and Lady Fairhaven's home near the town.

The original trophies given for the 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas races were among antiques and other items believed to be worth hundreds of thousands of pounds taken from the couple's home at Kirtling Tower near Newmarket.

As reported in later editions of yesterday (Tuesday, 21 November)'s News, Lord Fairhaven, a former Jockey Club steward and chairman of Newmarket's National Horseracing Museum, said he and his wife were "extremely distressed" at the theft.

Detectives believe the raid could be linked with a burglary at top jockey Frankie Dettori's home in Stetchworth in August. The jockey's MBE, an Italian state award and various trophies were stolen while he was on holiday.

Lisa Hancock, managing director of Newmarket racecourses, said: "I am so sorry Lord Fairhaven, like Frankie Dettori, has suffered at the hands of thieves.

It's very sad indeed these trophies have been stolen.

"The 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas, which take place at Newmarket's NatWest Rowley Miles each spring, are Newmarket's most historic races. As they approach their 200th anniversaries their importance in the international flat racing calendar remains undiminished.

"I hope very much they will soon be recovered."

A lone burglar was disturbed by a member of Lord and Lady Fairhaven's staff. But he still managed to get away with a haul, which included antique silver candlesticks.

Police have appealed for anyone offered the historic cups or any other items in suspicious circumstance to contact them.

Det Sgt Chris Wilson, who is heading the inquiry, said: "Kirtling Tower is relatively isolated, but I would urge anyone who saw or heard anything suspicious in the area on Saturday evening to call police."

The trophies would only realise a fraction of their value if they were melted down.

Lord and Lady Fairhaven suffered a previous burglary at their family home at Anglesey Abbey, at Lode, when valuable antiques were taken. Anglesey Abbey is now a National Trust property.

Racing trophies stolen from widow

Thieves have stolen major racing trophies won by legendary National Hunt trainer Fred Rimell.

Burglars took Grand National and Champion Hurdle trophies from the home of Mr Rimell's widow in Ryall, near Upton-upon-Severn, Worcestershire.

Jewellery, including Mrs Rimell's engagement ring, were also stolen in the burglary on Monday evening.

The thieves ransacked rooms before they were disturbed. They are thought to have run off toward the River Severn.

Mr Rimell, who died in 1981, trained four Grand National winners, a feat only equalled this year by Ginger McCain.

He started his run of success with E.S.B. in 1956, then followed that up with Nicolaus Silver (1961), Gay Trip (1970) and Rag Trade (1976).

'Sentimental value'

Among the jewellery taken in the robbery were a diamond ring specially commissioned by Mr Rimell for his wife and a diamond brooch, in the shape of a horse, presented to Mrs Rimell by a grateful owner when her husband trained his horse to win the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Police said the thieves also took three equestrian trophies Mrs Rimell had won as a girl and which held "great sentimental value" to her.

A spokesman for south Worcestershire police, said: "We would very much like to hear from anyone who saw any unusual or suspicious activity in the vicinity of Ryall on Monday evening, or who spotted a car being driven away rapidly from fields, lanes or tracks near Ryall or the Severn at Upton.

Art Hostage comments:

The period leading up to Hanukkah/Christmas/Holidays is traditionally busy for the Brighton Antiques Mafia, now that the Johnson Gang are behind bars, this year will be extra busy, therefore we can expect more high value art and antiques thefts in the coming weeks.

These trophies will not be melted down, although the initial price paid to the burglars will be scrap value plus a small premium, the Brighton buyer will look to sell them on to a criminal venture capitalist, a Brighton Godfather, who will wrap them up, to be handed back at a later stage for a ransom, or other legal favours.

This whole criminal operation starts and finishes in Brighton, in the county of East Sussex, Southern England.

Upon another note, it will be interesting to see the timescale of recovery compared to that of the Goya stolen and recovered by the FBI Art Crime Team within a week.

Art Hostage recommends that The Philadelphia FBI Art Crime Team, headed by the supremely talented Robert Wittman, go to England and teach Brit law enforcement how to address high value art theft.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Art Hostage

Art Hostage, Stolen Vermeer, Gotcha Goya !!

Gotcha, Goya !! Good News to Report, at Last !!

Gotcha Goya !!

Missing Goya Painting Is Recovered

Staff Reporter of the Sun
November 20, 2006 posted 3:15 pm EST

The Francisco de Goya y Lucientes painting stolen as it was transported to a museum in New York was recovered in New Jersey, FBI officials said today.

The painting, "Children with a Cart," (1778), was taken from a truck that was parked overnight in a parking lot in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, on November 8. The truck was bringing the painting to the Solomon R. Guggenheim museum from the Toledo Museum of Art for an exhibition on Spanish art that opened last Friday.

The FBI said the painting was found through tips that came about because of the extensive press coverage of the theft. Because the investigation is ongoing, the FBI isn't immediately providing information about the recovery or "possible criminal charges resulting from the investigation," according to a statement.

The painting was insured for $1 million. The company that insured it offered a $50,000 reward after the theft was first announced.

The FBI said the painting appeared to be undamaged.

Museum officials said the painting would be returned to the Toledo Museum of Art, where it has been part of the museum's permanent collection since 1959.

"We are ecstatic that the painting has been recovered, and we look forward to brining the Goya home and sharing it again with our community," the art director of the Toledo Museum of Art, Don Bacigalupi, said.

Art Hostage comments:

Upon relection, this must go down as one of the dumbest art thefts in recent history.
Why, because of the direct involvement of the Philadelphia FBI Art Crime Team.

The crooks could not have known but the FBI Agents in Philly are the most talented, revered Agents in the FBI, and so swift in their investigations that frankly, I am surprised it took this long to recover the Goya.

Talk about walking into the Lions Den, these crooks were on a loser from the start.

Before anyone else even contemplates stealing high value art in transit, I want to offer a warning.

This art is now protected in such a manner that the FBI will track it down within a matter of days, as proved in this case. This new technology has now been tested and proved to be successful.

If those engaged in criminal activity must commit crime, and I am not endorsing any crime, then look elsewhere for easier targets,

"Stealing art, Forget about it"

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Art Hostage

Art Hostage: "In The Name Of Humanity, Do The Right Thing Germany !!" Stolen Vermeer

In The Name Of Humanity, Do The Right Thing Germany !!

Germany Aims for Better Restitution Process for Nazi-Looted Art

The German government has invited museum directors and legal experts to Berlin on Monday to discuss claims for art bought or seized by the Nazis. Museums hope to play a more active role in the restitution process.

Germany's Culture Minister Bernd Neumann has invited leading museum representatives and legal experts to the Berlin Chancellery on Monday. A government spokesman said Neumann wanted to get an idea of the situation facing German museums for artwork unfairly bought or confiscated by the Nazis before and during World War Two.

Museum directors have said they are going into the meeting with no demands, but rather suggestions on the major problems at hand concerning restitution. A top item on their list is so-called "provenance" research, which traces the origins of a piece of art.

"We believe more funds need to be invested into this kind of research," said Mechtild Kronenberg, director of the German Museum Association -- a sentiment shared by the Jewish Claims Conference. It said that provenance research was a key factor to help come to terms with the consequences of the Nazi's art theft.

"But German institutions in particular should not lag behind internationally established standards," the Conference said in a position paper, such as those of US and British museums.

However, there is only one researcher working full-time on provenance, Ute Haug at the Hamburg Kunsthalle. Two other museums, the Dresden State Art Collections and the Städel Museum in Frankfurt, have art historians investigating their collections, but in part-time or temporary positions. It is a small contribution to this kind of research considering Germany is home to several thousand museums.

Promises aren't footing the bill

Haug said she hoped the Berlin meeting would make the situation more transparent for Neumann, as the problem itself is nothing new. Already in 1998, the "Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets" took place, which addressed issues surrounding the restitution of assets confiscated between 1933 and 1945.

"For eight years, these difficulties have been known, for eight years there has been no money for provenance research, and for eight years there have been restitutions which could have gone better," Haug said.

Art Hostage comments:

The bottom line is: " every work of art deemed unlawfully obtained by any institution must be handed over to the aggrieved party"

If the said institution wants to purchase the work of art back, it must be funded by a special restitution fund and they must buy it back publicly, thereby acting in good faith and in a transparent manner.

The cost may well run into hundreds of millions for the German Govt, but will, I am sure be worth Billions in positive publicity.

A study worth researching would be the cost of buying all the disputed works of art back via public auction, against the benefit of a positive publicity generated by a campaign to promote the New Germany.

Anything less will be viewed by academics, the media, and the general populace, as a feeble attempt to "Airbrush" history and avoid Germany's International obligations.

Furthermore, any attempt by the German authorities to deny one cent of the true value of the disputed works of art will result in a political backlash, not least by the Jewish lobby in America.

Rather than just the cost of buying these works of art back publicly, the backlash will cost the German economy billions, and the goodwill built up over many years post 1945.

This is not just a question of honourable restitution, it is a matter of principal that offers to the world the true meaning of 21st century Germany,God forbid, the "Sonderweg" in the cellar, whose name is "German Nationalism?"

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Art Hostage

Art Hostage Stolen Vermeer, Three Steps Redeem FBI

Law Enforcement as a Whole, Has Big Problems With Corruption in Boston !!

Saturday Musings

Trial to weigh cost of being framed

Cash compensation sought for lost years

By Shelley Murphy, Globe Staff | November 13, 2006

When small-time hoodlum Edward "Teddy" Deegan was gunned down in a Chelsea alley on March 12, 1965, the FBI had a pretty good idea who did it.

Agents knew from an illegal bug that notorious hitman Joseph "The Animal" Barboza and FBI informant Vincent "Jimmy" Flemmi had sought permission from the boss of the New England Mafia to kill Deegan, according to FBI reports. And other informants named Barboza, Flemmi, and two other men as Deegan's killers, according to FBI memos.

But the case took a dramatically different turn when the FBI recruited Barboza to testify in a series of Mafia-related trials under a deal that gave him leniency for his own crimes. He admitted his role in Deegan's slaying and implicated others -- but not Flemmi -- leading to the wrongful convictions of four men who spent decades in prison before they were exonerated.

In a lawsuit that could cost the government more than $100 million in damages if it loses, lawyers allege the FBI sat on documents that would have helped those four men prove they were framed by Barboza. The suit is scheduled to go to trial Thursday in US District Court in Boston.

Peter Limone, now 72, and Joseph Salvati , 74, who were each in their early 30s with four children when convicted in 1968, spent more than 30 years in prison. Louis Greco and Henry Tameleo died in prison before being vindicated.

"It was like a perfect lie," said Boston attorney Juliane Balliro , who represents Limone, his family, and Tameleo's wife and children. "The feds insulated Barboza from any meaningful investigation in this case."

The lawsuit alleges the FBI failed to disclose critical evidence to state prosecutors, who tried the four men for murder, or to defense lawyers. It accuses the federal government of malicious prosecution, false imprisonment, conspiracy, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and depriving the men's families of their companionship. The suit was filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which does not allow a jury trial. The trial, expected to last four to six weeks, will be heard by US District Judge Nancy Gertner .

It's the second of a series of lawsuits alleging FBI negligence to go to trial this year in Boston. In September, a federal judge found that the FBI's mishandling of longtime informants James "Whitey" Bulger and Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi caused the 1984 murder of a Quincy fisherman. The judge ordered the government to pay $3.2 million to the victim's family.

Stephen and Vincent Flemmi, who died in prison in 1979, were brothers.

In their trial brief, lawyers for the men cite a series of wrongful-death convictions around the country in which more than $1 million in damages was awarded for each year of wrongful imprisonment.

By that calculation, the government would be forced to pay at least $109 million, just on the wrongful imprisonment claim. Limone spent 33 years in prison, Salvati 30 years, Greco 28 years before he died in 1995, and Tameleo 18 years before dying in 1985.

The lawyers said they are unaware of any other cases in which wrongful imprisonment lasted as long, and argued that the award should be high because the four "suffered phenomenally."

Charles Miller , a spokesman for the Department of Justice, declined to comment on the case last week. But in their pretrial memorandum, Justice Department lawyers argue that the federal government cannot be held responsible because the 1968 murder trial was prosecuted in state court by Suffolk County prosecutors who conducted their own investigation.

Justice Department lawyer Bridget Bailey Lipscomb wrote that the plaintiffs "cannot establish that the FBI owed them a duty to disclose to state authorities any information it had received from its informants or from electronic surveillance."

The FBI turned over some informant information about Deegan's slaying to state and local police, according to Lipscomb.

"I think it is totally outrageous that the federal government has had evidence in their files that my client has been innocent for over 40 years, and we have to put the family through a trial so they can rekindle the agony of all the years they had to visit him in prison," said attorney Victor Garo, who represents Salvati.

The FBI gave leniency to Barboza, who confessed to 26 killings, in exchange for his testimony against Mafia leaders. The federal Witness Protection Program was created to keep him safe.

The FBI memos that cast doubt on Barboza's credibility were uncovered six years ago by a Justice Department Task Force formed to investigate FBI corruption, after federal court hearings into the FBI's mishandling of Bulger and Stephen Flemmi.

One FBI report revealed that Barboza, who was killed in 1976, agreed to cooperate but told agents he would never provide information that would allow his close friend Vincent Flemmi to "fry." Lawyers for the four men say the document would have helped them prove that Barboza protected his friend Flemmi while falsely accusing the others.

Gail Marcinkiewicz , a spokeswoman for the FBI in Boston, declined to comment on the lawsuit, but said the agency's informant guidelines had been tightened as a result of the Bulger case. Currently, she said, "we have better oversight" on informants.

A state judge freed Limone from prison in January 2001 after the FBI memos about Barboza surfaced. Salvati was freed from prison in 1997 after then-Governor William F. Weld pardoned him.

Former governor Michael S. Dukakis , who rejected a recommendation from the state Parole Board in 1983 to grant Limone clemency, is expected to be called as a witness at the trial.

In the cases of Greco and Tameleo, the government contends that malicious prosecution claims died with them, and that their families are not entitled to any damages for their years of imprisonment.

But attorney Howard Friedman , who represents Greco's son, Edward, said it would be unfair for the government to avoid paying damages to Greco's family just because he died in prison. "If you were to keep a cover-up going long enough for a person to die, you shouldn't benefit," Friedman said.

Civil trial begins for men framed in mob killing
Millions sought from government

By Shelley Murphy, Globe Staff | November 17, 2006

There's no question that the FBI recruited notorious hit man Joseph "The Animal" Barboza as a witness against local Mafia leaders, then turned him over to state prosecutors in a case that led to the wrongful conviction of four men for a 1965 gangland murder in Chelsea.

But yesterday, on the first day of a civil trial seeking more than $100 million in damages from the federal government, a Justice Department lawyer asserted the FBI can't be blamed because state prosecutors were responsible for investigating and trying the case.

"The FBI is not liable," said the government lawyer, Bridget Bailey Lipscomb .

But lawyers for Peter Limone , Joseph Salvati , Henry Tameleo, and Louis Greco accused the FBI of making a "mockery" of justice by failing to tell state prosecutors or defense lawyers about evidence that suggested Barboza had framed the four men for the slaying of small-time hoodlum Edward "Teddy" Deegan.

Limone, 72, and Salvati, 74, spent more than 30 years in prison before they were exonerated five years ago, while Greco and Tameleo both died in prison.

"The FBI initiated the prosecution by delivering a perjurious witness to the state prosecutor, knowing his testimony was false," said Boston lawyer Juliane Balliro , who represents the families of Limone and Tameleo . "But for the deliberate misconduct of the FBI, these men would not even have been indicted, let alone convicted for the murder of Edward Deegan."

The lawsuit accuses the government of malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent supervision of FBI agents, conspiracy, and loss of consortium by the men and their families.

Deegan was gunned down in a Chelsea alley in March 1965, but local police were unable to solve the slaying until the FBI struck a deal with Barboza. He was sentenced to a year in prison for his role in Deegan's murder and his testimony led to the 1968 conviction of the four men. Tameleo, Limone, and Greco were initially given the death penalty, then later sentenced to life. Salvati was also sentenced to life in prison.

Lawyers for the four men allege the FBI failed to disclose that agents listening in on an illegal bug planted in the offices of New England Mafia boss Raymond L.S. Patriarca overheard Barboza and his sidekick, Vincent "Jimmy" Flemmi, seeking permission to kill Deegan several days before the murder, according to lawyers.

The FBI also didn't disclose internal memos that suggested Barboza was framing the four men, while protecting Flemmi. Barboza was killed in 1976 and Flemmi died in prison in 1979.

Vincent Flemmi was an FBI informant at the time of Deegan's slaying, according to FBI memos.

Hartford lawyer Austin J. McGuigan, who represents the Salvatis, said FBI memos reveal that the FBI believed Vincent Flemmi had killed seven people, including Deegan, yet agents continued to use him because "his value as an informant outweighed the risk."

During opening statements yesterday before US District Judge Nancy Gertner, Lipscomb asserted the FBI "had no obligation" to share internal documents with state prosecutors, but also said agents provided some information about the Deegan murder to state and local police.

She also said that two of the defense lawyers involved in the state trial had previously been involved in another case where they were given access to some of the evidence gathered from the Patriarca bugging operation.

However, lawyers for the four men said the internal FBI documents didn't surface until six years ago, when they were found by a Justice Department task force investigating the FBI's mishandling of longtime informants James "Whitey" Bulger and Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi -- brother of Vincent Flemmi.

The new evidence prompted a state judge to free Limone from prison in 2001. Salvati was freed from prison in 1997 after he was pardoned.

After yesterday's court session, Limone, who was with his wife and four children, said he couldn't understand how the government could claim that they had no obligation to turn over the documents or that it wasn't critical to the case.

"It was their paperwork that got me out," said Limone, noting that it was obviously crucial since it led to his release after 33 years in prison.

Art Hostage comments:

Whilst acknowledging the FBI has had problems with corrruption and collusion historicaly, other Law Enforcement branches in Boston don't fair too well in the honesty stakes.

There is universal acceptance that the FBI has cleaned up it's act over recent years, especially in Boston, the appointment of Ken Kaiser, (who looks like the next FBI Director, heir apparent), sterilised the Boston Office and offered an Olive branch to the State Police and local agencies. I am told that inter-departmental co-operation is considered at an all time high and many investigations are ongoing collectively.

For the FBI, there remains just three outstanding requirements before the whole FBI gets a "Universal" Clean bill of health.

First, the Gardner Art needs to be recovered, a pragmatic approach will ensure, at least, the Vermeer surfaces in the near future.

Second, the FBI must demand that all outstanding collusion/corruption lawsuits be settled in one big payment by the Government, this will take the issue of historic FBI corruption and Collusion out of the public eye, off the political agenda, off the front pages and out of the public's mind, allowing the critical work of the FBI to go on unhindered by current perceptions based on "Historic" institutionalised Corruption/collusion.

Third, the Whitey Bulger issue must resolved, either by a full-scale search to apprehend Mr Bulger, bringing him to justice, handing the prosecutions to the Justice Dept, allowing the full historical story of FBI corruption and collusion to come out, or Brigadier Gordon Kerr and the P2OD Death Squad can be recruited to assassinate Whitey Bulger, ending this once and for all.

Whitey Bulger and the Gardner art hang over the FBI like the "Sword of Damocles"
It saps moral when it is bought up in the media and prevents all the good work conducted by the FBI being reported or commented on.

Below are just examples that show corruption and collusion are an evil that still lurks in dark corners of Boston Law Enforcement.

Time to lay off the FBI me thinks, give them assistance, if they help themselves by implementing the three stage Universal Sterilisation above.

Boston Officers Eyed in Drug Thefts

Courtesy of The Boston Herald

The Boston police anti-corruption unit is investigating whether cops stole the drugs that are missing from a Hyde Park evidence warehouse - jeopardizing ongoing criminal cases in the latest embarrassing blow to a department already rocked by scandal.

Earlier this month, the Herald reported drugs had gone missing as police moved mountains of seized cocaine, heroin, marijuana and other drugs from one section of the warehouse to another.

While some of those drugs were later found, acting police commissioner Al Goslin said at the time an audit was under way to determine whether more drugs had been stolen or were misplaced.

Late yesterday, Boston police acknowledged that drugs are in fact missing.

“As a result of the audit that had been ordered by the commissioner, anti-corruption is investigating and the audit continues,” said police spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll.

Police would not say what quantity or kind of drugs are missing or how many prosecutions could be affected. Driscoll confirmed that only police officers and department employees have access to the warehouse and the anti-corruption unit is looking at whether someone with legal access stole the drugs.

Suffolk District Attorney spokesman Jake Wark would not comment on what steps prosecutors are taking to preserve criminal cases, but he said they are working with police.

Former prosecutor Jerry Leone, who is running for Middlesex District Attorney, said if drugs are destroyed in a fire or flood, prosecutors can use as evidence a written chain of custody, lab reports and police testimony to overcome that at trial. But if the evidence is tainted by theft or tampering, cases are harder to prove.

“If it is corruption ... the trial doesn’t become about the fact that it’s missing. It becomes a trial about the process and the people and the integrity of what is being represented to the court,” he said. “If you have a cop who either lied about the evidence or stole evidence, that hurts the case itself, but it also gets tied to other cases that cop has handled.”

The possibility a cop stole drugs hits a department reeling from federal drug conspiracy charges against three of its own, as well as charges against Officer Paul Durkin for allegedly shooting a fellow cop after a night of heavy drinking.

One veteran cop said last night it tarnishes the entire department.

“I think the biggest thing is when something like this hits the papers, you look at all the cars going by and you say to yourself, ‘I wonder what these guys are thinking about me?’ ” he said. “Do the citizens still have confidence in you?”

Boston Cops Indicted on Drug Charges
Jim Kouri

Three veteran officers from the Boston Police Department were indicted Friday by a federal grand jury for conspiring to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and heroin. One of the officers was charged with framing an innocent businessman, as well.

In July, the men were arrested in an FBI undercover sting operation after they had traveled to Miami, Florida to receive a $35,000 payment for protecting what they believed to be 100 kilograms of cocaine.

Roberto "Kiko" Pulido, age 41, Carlos Pizarro,age 36, and Nelson Carrasquillo, age 35, were charged in an indictment with one count of conspiring to possess with intent to distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine and more than 1 kilogram of heroin.

Pulido and Carrasquillo were charged in a second count with attempting to aid and abet the possession of cocaine with intent to distribute on or about April 23, 2006. And the three police officers were charged in a third count with attempting to aid and abet the possession of cocaine with intent to distribute on June 8, 2006.

Pulido and Pizarro have been Boston Police officers since 1996 and Carrasquillo since 1999. Both Pulido and Carrasquillo were most recently assigned to the Special Operations Division, Mobile Operations Patrol. Pizarro is a patrol officer in Area D-4 (South End). All three were placed on administrative leave shortly after their arrest in July 2006.

According to the Indictment, documents previously filed with the Court, and testimony at hearings in August 2006, it is alleged that Pulido came under federal scrutiny in November 2003 when it was discovered that he engaged in a scheme to buy and distribute retail store gift cards, which had been obtained by an identity theft ring.

Over the course of a two and one-half year investigation, agents from the FBI, working in cooperation with the Boston Police Department's Anti-Corruption Squad, allegedly discovered that Pulido routinely engaged in a wide range of criminal activities including: identity theft; drug dealing; sponsoring and protecting illegal after-hours parties at which prostitutes routinely worked; robbery; threats; insurance fraud; money laundering; illegal alien smuggling; and trafficking in stolen goods.

Pulido also framed a business partner on drug and weapons charges. It is alleged that both Pizarro and Carrasquillo joined in some of this illegal conduct.

In December 2005, the FBI developed an undercover sting operation aimed at revealing the extent of Pulido's criminal contacts within the BPD. As part of that undercover operation -- which took place in Boston, Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Miami, Florida -- in April 2006, Pulido and Carrasquillo were paid $20,000 to provide protection for the sale of 40 kilograms of cocaine.

The sale, which they agreed to protect from detection by the BPD, was actually from one FBI undercover group to another. It is alleged that the sale took place in a garage in Jamaica Plain operated by Pulido.

A second sting operation took place in early June 2006. In this operation, Pulido and Carrasquillo were joined by Pizarro in allegedly protecting the transport and sale of what they believed to be 100 kilograms of cocaine. It is alleged that on June 8, 2006, the three officers escorted a truck they believed to be carrying 100 kilograms of cocaine from western Massachusetts to Boston, and oversaw and protected the transfer of the narcotics at Pulido's garage.

During the transfer, it is alleged that Pulido was actively monitoring the BPD radio traffic while Carrasquillo and Pizarro escorted the drug transport vehicles and provided perimeter security. That day, Pulido was paid a $15,000 down payment for the police protection provided by himself and the two other cops. The remainder -- $35,000 -- was to be paid in a celebratory meeting scheduled to take place in Miami.

In July 2006, the three police officers traveled to Miami to meet with the undercover agents to receive the additional $35,000 owed to them for protecting the June shipment, and to plan the next operation. In recorded meetings in July 2006, the men agreed to protect much larger quantities of cocaine, including two shipments totaling 1000 kilograms in August 2006 (with a street value of approximately $20 million). They also agreed to protect 5 kilograms of heroin. On July 20, 2006, following their receipt of $36,000 from the undercover agents, the defendants were arrested. They have been in federal custody since that time.

The indictment also seeks the forfeiture of the money paid to the defendants during the course of the undercover investigation.

If convicted, the three police officers face a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years in prison up to a maximum of life, and a $4 million fine on each of the three counts.

The on-going investigation is being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in cooperation with the Boston Police Department's Anti-Corruption Squad. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John T. McNeil in Sullivan's Public Corruption Unit.

Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he's a staff writer for the New Media Alliance ( He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for several major organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Art Hostage

Art Hostage: "Brighton Antiques Mafia Strike Again With Impunity !!"

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Art Hostage

Art Hostage Italian Lost Masterpieces Discovered

Lost Masterpieces Discovered In Modest House

One of the most important Art Discoveries in a Generation

LONDON (Reuters) - Two lost paintings by Italian Renaissance master Fra Angelico have turned up in a modest house in Oxford in a discovery hailed as one of the most exciting art finds for a generation.

The works -- two panels each painted with the standing figure of a Dominican saint in tempera on a gold background -- are expected to fetch more than 1 million pounds/$1.9 million at auction.

They were discovered behind a bedroom door in a terraced house when art auctioneer Guy Schwinge was called in to carry out a valuation after the owner of the house. librarian Jean Preston, died in July.

They were commissioned by Florentine ruler Cosimo de' Medici and his brother Lorenzo, major Renaissance art patrons, in the late 1430s for the high altar at the Church and Convent of San Marco in Florence, where Fra Angelico, a Dominican monk, lived.

"We are dealing with two works of art painted by one of the 'greats', intended for his own church and commissioned by one of the greatest art patrons in history," Schwinge said in a statement. "It simply does not get much better than that."

The main panel from the altarpiece remains at San Marco, but the frame was broken up 200 years ago as a result of Napoleon's invasion of Italy. The subsidiary panels from the altarpiece are now scattered in museums around the world.

Media reports said Preston found the paintings in a box of odds and ends when she was working as a manuscript curator at a museum in Huntington, California, in the 1960s. She did not identify them but thought they were "quite nice" and persuaded her father to buy them for a few hundred pounds.

Dillian Gordon, curator of early Italian paintings at the National Gallery in London, described the find as "quite breathtaking".

"It never ceases to amaze me how these things come to light," she said in a statement.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Art Hostage

Art Hostage: "Goya Stolen En Route to Guggenheim"

Goya Stolen En Route to Guggenheim

Goya Stolen En Route to Guggenheim

By - New York Sun Staff
November 13, 2006 updated 8:46 pm EST

A 1778 painting by Francisco de Goya, "Children With Cart," has been stolen near Scranton, Penn., on its way to the Guggenheim Museum of Art. It was to be included in the exhibit "Spanish Painting from El Greco to Picasso: Time, Truth, and History," opening Friday. The painting, which depicts four young children playing with musical instruments, was en route from the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio, which had lent the painting to the Guggenheim.

The painting is valued at $1.1 million. The FBI has launched an investigation, and a reward of up to $50,000 has been offered by the painting's insurers.

This theft in transit seems to becoming more common.

However, as inside information is often needed, the recovery rate is good.

Hopefully, FBI Agent Robert Wittman will be ahead of the game.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Art Hostage

Art Hostage Nazi Looted Art Liberator Passes Away aged 98

Nazi Art Liberator Passes Away, aged 98

S. Lane Faison, professor who oversaw return of art looted by Nazis, dies at 98
The Associated Press
Published: November 12, 2006
WILLIAMSTOWN, Massachusetts: S. Lane Faison Jr., a professor who oversaw the return of art stolen by Nazis after World War II, has died, according to the president of the university where he taught. Faison was 98.

Faison died on Saturday at his Williamstown home, Williams College president Morton Owen Schapiro said Sunday. The cause of death was not immediately known. There was no answer at Faison's home phone.

A Navy Reservist during WWII, Faison was transferred in 1945 to the U.S. Office of Strategic Services as a member of the Art Looting Investigation Unit. He wrote the official report on the creation of Adolf Hitler's stolen art collection. Five years later, the U.S. State Department appointed him to supervise the return of stolen art.

At Williams College, Faison was the art department chair from 1940 to 1969, taught until 1976 and directed the Williams College Museum of Art from 1948 to 1976. His essays appeared in The New York Times and Saturday Review. In the early 1950s he wrote art and book reviews for The Nation.

Schapiro called Faison "a sharp intellectual, an inspired and inspiring teacher, an able administrator, an incisive writer, a person of natural warmth and wit, and a mentor whose legacy will forever spread far and wide through the countless students he turned on to art."

Among those who studied under Faison and Williams colleagues Whitney S. Stoddard and William H. Pierson were Thomas Krens, director of the Guggenheim Foundation, Glenn D. Lowry, director of the Museum of Modern Art, and Earl A. Powell III, director of the National Gallery of Art.

Faison, who retired in 1976, remained active on campus by visiting galleries and giving presentations until just a few months ago, according to the college's statement Sunday. Faison graduated from Williams College in 1929, and he also received graduate degrees from Harvard and Princeton.

Faison's wife, Virginia Gordon Weed, died in 1997. He is survived by sons Gordon, George, Christopher, and Samson; seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Art Hostage

Art Hostage: "38 million Reasons For Brit Communist to Become a Capitalist"

38 million Reasons For Brit Communist to Become a Capitalist

Red in the black: British Communist nets £20m from 'Nazi theft' painting

By Caroline Davies
Last Updated: 2:11am GMT 11/11/2006

A leading British communist is £20 million/$38 million richer after the controversial sale of an important Expressionist painting given to her under Germany's Nazi restitution laws.

Anita Halpin, 62, a stalwart Left-winger and chairman of the Communist Party of Britain, was given Ernst Ludwig Kirchner's 1913 Berliner Strassenszene (Berlin street scene) by the Berlin state senate in July.

The move followed two years of secret negotiations after claims that it was stolen from her Jewish grandparents by the Gestapo in 1936.

The painting had hung in Berlin's Brücke Museum for 26 years and formed the cornerstone of its Expressionist collection.

After frenzied bidding at Christie's Manhattan auction room this week, it was sold for £20.5 million to the Neue Galerie in New York. Attempts to keep in it Berlin had failed through lack of money.

Mrs Halpin, who is also treasurer of the National Union of Journalists and sits on the TUC general council, was unwilling to discuss the sale yesterday. She also declined to comment on whether she would be pursuing claims for other paintings from the large collection said to have been taken from her grandparents, Alfred and Tekla Hess, the owners of a shoe factory.

Asked what she would do with the windfall, Mrs Halpin, of Bow, east London, replied: "It's too early to call, let's leave it at that."

But the return of the painting to the Hess family heir and its subsequent sale have provoked a fierce restitution debate.

Some German politicians and art professionals have claimed that the painting, which has been described as one of Kirchner's most important works, may not have been Nazi-looted art. They say it was sold willingly by the Hess family to Carl Hagemann, an influential Frankfurt collector, in 1936-37 after the Hess shoe factory went bankrupt in 1929.

They also argue that not enough research into the painting had been done before the Berlin senate agreed to return it. Passions run high in Berlin because the painting is strongly connected to the city and it had been bought in good faith for the Brücke Museum using public funds.

However, the lawyers representing Mrs Halpin's interests, Peter Schink from Schink & Studzinski in Germany and David J Rowland from Rowland & Associates in New York, have denied the claims.

They say that Alfred Hess, his wife and their son Hans, a once wealthy Jewish family who lived in Erfurt, Germany, built up one of the most comprehensive collections of German Expressionist art, consisting of around 4,000 works, including some 80 paintings by the premier artists of the Expressionist period in Germany.

"Alfred Hess died in late 1931. Following the rise of Hitler in 1933, the Hess family was eventually forced to leave Germany," they said when the painting was returned to Mrs Halpin.

Mrs Halpin's father, Hans, lost his job at the Ullstein publishing house in Berlin when it fired its Jewish employees, then fled to Paris and later to London. His mother moved to Bavaria where she was questioned by Gestapo agents about the whereabouts of the Hess collection.

The lawyers have produced an affidavit signed by Tekla Hess in 1958 in which she stated that she had been coerced under threat by the Gestapo to return seven pictures in the Hess collection from the Swiss gallery where they were being kept to Germany.

The collection was broken up and many other works remain lost. In the 1960s Hans Hess was found to be a Nazi persecutee and awarded 75,000 German marks for the loss of the collection — a mere fraction of its worth but the largest amount that could be awarded at that time.

Negotiations to return the painting to his daughter began in September 2004. In their statement, the lawyers said the Hess family commended Berlin for "its courage in making a principled and correct decision" to return the painting. The city of Berlin "correctly determined that the Kirchner painting was lost due to Nazi persecution".

They added: "The matter was thoroughly researched and all relevant archives were consulted.

"The Hess heirs and the city of Berlin tried during their negotiations to reach an agreement to keep the painting in Berlin. However, they were not able to do so due to financial constraints."

Art Hostage can think of 38 million reasons for this lady to become a little more pragmatic in her political thoughts !!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Art Hostage

Queen Liz of Britain and her $125 million lost masterpiece in the Cellar, Art Hostage

Brit Queen Liz Discovers $125 million lost masterpiece in her Cellar

The Times November 10, 2006

Queen's dirty 'copy' comes clean as a real $125 million Caravaggio
By Dalya Alberge, Arts Correspondent

For more than a century it was relegated to a storeroom of the Royal Collection, dismissed as a copy of a lost painting by Caravaggio.

Now the picture will receive pride of place in a major exhibition at Buckingham Palace because experts have discovered that it is the original of The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew by the 17th-century master.

Centuries after it was bought for Charles I, it had become so obscured by varnish and dirt that it was assumed to be a copy of a Caravaggio original.

A complete clean, prompted by Professor Maurizio Marini, an Italian scholar who sensed its potential, has led to it being seen in a dramatic new light.

Some of the world’s most distinguished scholars have confirmed the attribution to Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610), whose extraordinary skills altered the course of Western art.

Sir Denis Mahon, the Old Masters connoisseur, told The Times: “It’s been stripped down and cleaned. It’s pretty clear it’s the original.”

The painting, an oil on canvas measuring 140cm by 166cm (55in by 66in) will be displayed in next year’s exhibition, The Art of Italy, at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace.

Caravaggio, revered for brilliant effects of light and shadow and strong narrative, is described as the first modern artist. In 1606, when he was in his mid-thirties, he was Rome’s most celebrated painter, but his career was blighted by his temper, drinking and duelling. This picture was painted shortly before he had to flee Rome after killing a man. On his way to Rome in 1610, with the promise of a papal pardon, Caravaggio died in mysterious circumstances.

Desmond Shawe-Taylor, Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures, said of the discovery, which gives the Royal Collection its first Caravaggio: “It’s a huge addition to the collection.” He had been among the doubters, but said: “The dirt, old glue, and varnish layers obscured the details and the painting appeared almost monochrome, in varying shades of brown . . . It looked like nothing.”

The Art of Italy will be at Buckingham Palace from March 30, 2007, until January 20, 2008, before moving to The Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, in Edinburgh, from April 2008.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Art Hostage

$1 million Stolen Painting Traced to Europe, Art Hostage

Waterford police follow trail of $1M painting to Europe

$1 million Stolen Painting Traced to Europe !!

Associated Press

Published November 9 2006

WATERFORD, Conn. -- A handyman has been arrested in the theft of a $1 million painting that sent Waterford police on a European odyssey to retrieve it.

Charles R. McDougal Jr., 44, of Niantic, is charged with first-degree larceny and is scheduled to appear Nov. 30 in New London Superior Court. Police have called it the largest larceny investigation in the history of department, one that included help from the FBI, an international stolen arts registry and authorities in the Netherlands

The small painting of chrysanthemums, an Henri Fatin-Latour original from the 1800s called "Bouquet D'Hiver", was taken from the shed of a Waterford man for whom McDougal had been doing electrical work. Police have not identified the owner.

Bernadina Blais, an Old Saybrook antiques dealer, said McDougal was selling the painting and other items out of his trunk last year. She bought the lot for $100. Her lawyer, John Bennett, said she had no idea the painting was so valuable. After she hung it in her shop, a savvy customer spotted it and suggested she have appraised.

The appraisal came back at $150,000. Blais then sent it to an auction in Greenwich in May and it sold for $1 million to a buyer in the Netherlands. A Waterford detective brought it back late last month.

Blais' attorney said the money the antique dealer made off the painting will be returned to the buyer. She also is suing McDougal for damages.

Police said McDougal likely didn't know how valuable the painting was either. He allegedly told authorities he took the painting so he could make a little cash.

The auctioneers, Shannon's Fine Art Auctioneers in Milford, ran a check of the painting before they sold it to make sure it wasn't stolen. But the original owner, who was out of the country at the time, did not notice it missing from his shed until September, months after the auction.

Waterford detectives didn't have a name of the painting, only a photo provided by the original owner, to go on.

"He liked to do flowers, so I looked at a lot of flower paintings," Detective John Davis said.

After some extensive Internet sleuthing, Waterford police not only spotted the missing painting but learned it set a Shannon's record for the highest-selling item.

Next stop for Waterford police was the Netherlands.

The buyer had the painting on an easel in a massive room that included other multi-million-dollar pieces of art.

"We had to sit and have coffee, and we had to chit-chat. There was no rush," Davis said.

The buyer freely relinquished the painting, Davis said. The fact that the painting had been stolen was enough reason for him to have it returned.

"It is not about the money on that level," he said. "It is about the respect and concern for the art. The fact that this painting is so important in the art world was enough."

Information from: The Day,

Art Hostage

Lost Masterpiece goes on Display, No Not The Vermeer, Art Hostage

How St Francis was restored to Grace

Lost Masterpiece Goes on Display,
No Not the Vermeer !!

Guercino's religious masterpiece has been stolen, lost for decades - and torn in two. As it goes on show here,at the Foundling Museum in London, Serena Davies charts its astonishing history.

Today is Sir Denis Mahon's 96th birthday. The eminent art historian, collector and erstwhile thorn in the sides of various British governments will celebrate it with the opening of the fifth exhibition he has overseen this year.

It's a small display focusing on a magnificent painting, St Francis Receiving the Stigmata by his favourite artist, Francesco Barbieri, better known as Guercino.

Displayed at the Foundling Museum in London alongside related drawings, the painting has spent the past six years in restoration. When the team from the Istituto Centrale per il Restauro di Roma bade it farewell earlier this year, they apparently wept.

And it is hard not to be moved by the painting's story, even without intimate acquaintance with its fissured surface and weathered canvas.

"It's had a lot of adventures, unfortunately," says Mahon, a world expert on baroque painting and Guercino in particular, whose collection of the period is one of the finest outside Italy.

Since the painting was stolen from its niche above an altar near Bologna during the Napoleonic wars, it has been twice lost, and twice recovered – taking, as Mahon tells it, "a tremendous battering along the way". Not least, being ripped in half.

The first 150 years of its existence were uneventful. The wall-eyed Guercino (his nickname means "squinter") painted it in the middle of his career, in 1633.

With its serene composition, St Francis's outstretched arms echo the curve of the landscape behind him. It is a fine example of Guercino's mature style, when the artist went for greater robustness rather than the atmospherics of his youth.

By then an international art star, he would be described by the senior Bolognese master Ludovico Carracci as "relegating painters of the first rank to dullness", while both Louis XIII and Charles I clamoured for his services. However, the artist would never leave his native country.

The painting, on the other hand, would become positively peripatetic. It first disappeared at some point between 1796 and 1825 during the chaos of the French invasion of Italy.

It was missing for nearly a century, before inexplicably falling into the hands of a Turin antique-shop owner, who sent it on the back of a donkey to the church of his hometown, Campello Monti, in the region of Piedmont in 1895.

It hung there until 1973, when thieves hack-sawed their way in one night, un-nailed the canvas and returned it to uncharted oblivion for another 25 years.

In 1998, Swiss police found a stash of stolen art in a private house near the Italian border – and there was the Guercino, its vast canvas severed in two, and folded. Its value is uncertain, but the last Guercino to be sold fetched £3 million.

"It was an important picture," says Mahon. "It had to be sorted out after all this performance. It's very important to have done one's best to resuscitate it and make it successful."

The restorers have patched up the damage with breathtaking skill, using a fine cross-hatching so that from afar the painted surface looks unharmed, but up close you can see the restoration work.

"Most people will look at it and see a complete painting," says Rhian Harris, director of the Foundling Museum. "But up close you can still tell which sections were painted by the master."

Mahon's selection of the Foundling Museum as the place for the painting's British display represents a new campaign, of a kind.

For years he has hounded a succession of British governments on the matter of museum charges and other issues of public access to the arts, using as bargaining power the promised gift of his 75-piece art collection to the nation.

But his paintings are all now allotted to museums, the national galleries of England, Scotland and Ireland included, shored up by legalities that mean that the institutions will lose the works if they sell any painting from their permanent collections or introduce museum charges.

"It's all turning out rather successful in the end, if I may say so," he says wryly. So now, in his 10th decade, he is free to take up the cause of the small museum.

"As a great philanthropist," says Rhian Harris, "Sir Denis has supported a lot of the big museums, in terms of donating parts of his collection. Now he has a mission to help the profiles of the smaller museums."

Mahon's is the long view. He first discovered Guercino for himself in the 1930s. At that time, Guercino, and the Italian seicento (17th century) generally, were out of critical and commercial favour. Mahon's advocacy of the period was vital in overturning that opinion.

The seicento was rehabilitated and prices sky-rocketed to the degree that, despite having the considerable wealth of the Guinness Mahon banking clan behind him, by the late '60s he felt he could no longer afford to collect the work of the period.

Since then he has discovered rather than collected art – "seeing through the muck" he calls it. He is regularly called in to confirm the authorship of Caravaggios.

And St Francis – now owned by the Diocese of Novara in Piedmont – is merely the latest in a long line of Guercino attributions.

Fond of the understatement, he reckons he's made "a large number" of these. More than 100 have turned up during his lifetime. "They crop up and you attach them to an entry, and so on. It's really rather diverting." Could one even say "thrilling"? "Yes, it is really," the old scholar concedes.
# 'Guercino: St Francis Recovered' is at the Foundling Museum, London WC1 (020 7841 3600), from tomorrow until Jan 28.

Lost masterpieces

The Adoration of the Shepherds with Saints Lawrence and Francis (1609) by Caravaggio

This tender altarpiece for a church in Palermo was stolen in 1969, probably for the Mafia. Some believe it hangs in the home of a local capofamiglia.

The Concert (1660) by Vermeer

A handful of masterpieces, including this Vermeer, went missing when thieves posing as security guards raided the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in 1990.

Auvers-sur-Oise (c1879) by Cézanne

Preventing this expert theft from the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, performed by a robber who lowered himself through a skylight, proved mission impossible.

Buste de femme (1938) by Picasso

The art-pirates who lifted this bust of Dora Maar from the yacht of an Arab millionaire in 1999 knew what they were doing: a Picasso portrait of Maar is the fourth most expensive painting ever sold.

Francis Bacon (1951) by Lucian Freud

The British Council and Freud have tried in vain to get this postcard-sized portrait of his old friend back. But "wanted" posters in the city where it was snatched, Berlin, have failed to bring home the Bacon.

Reclining Figure (1969) by Henry Moore

Controversy surrounds the disappearance of this huge sculpture from parkland at the end of last year. How could thieves store or sell such an item? It may have been melted down for scrap. Or cut into more managable pieces to ransom back through Insurers at a later stage.

Art Hostage

Nazi Picasso Withdrawn at Last Minute From Christies Flagship Auction New York Art Hostage

Nazi Picasso Withdrawn at last Minute From New York Auction

By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters) - British composer Andrew Lloyd Webber's Art Foundation has withdrawn a Picasso painting worth up to $60 million (32 million pounds) from a planned Christie's auction later on Wednesday amid claims by a German man that he owns the piece.

The Lloyd Webber foundation and Christie's said ownership claims by Julius Schoeps meant a "cloud of doubt has been recklessly placed" on the ownership of the painting from Picasso's Blue Period, "Portrait of Angel Fernandez de Soto".

Schoeps is suing the Lloyd Webber foundation, saying in a federal complaint that he was an heir of wealthy Jewish banker Paul von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy from Berlin and that the banker lost the painting in Nazi Germany in a "forced sale."

Schoeps claims Mendelssohn-Bartholdy "never sold any works from his private collection until after the Nazis came to power." Then he began selling his works into a depressed market because many Jewish collectors were selling their art.

A U.S. judge on Monday briefly halted the planned auction, but gave the go ahead for the sale on Tuesday and dismissed Schoeps' case, saying the case lacked federal jurisdiction.

But late Wednesday, lawyers for Schoeps filed a civil complaint in Manhattan Supreme Court seeking damages of $60 million from the foundation and the return of the painting.

The foundation said best evidence suggests the painting was sold after Mendelssohn-Bartholdy's death in 1935 by his second wife, who was not Jewish.

"The joint decision (to withdraw the painting) was the result of 11th-hour claims -- claims that Christie's and the Foundation believe to have no merit -- about title to the picture," the foundation and Christie's said in a statement.

The 1903 painting, also known as "The Absinthe Drinker," was valued by Christie's at between $40 million and $60 million. Proceeds from the sale were to go to charity.

Christie's and the foundation have questioned why the suit was filed now considering that the sale of the painting to the foundation in 1995 for $29 million was widely publicised.

"The Foundation reserves the right to seek damages for the harm caused to the portrait and the charity, which rightfully owns it, by the unfounded and spurious claims brought by Julius Schoeps and his attorneys," the foundation said on Wednesday.

(Additional reporting by Jeanne King)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Art Hostage

Nazi Picasso to be Sold Tonight,
Art Hostage estimates $120 million

Judge Rules Nazi Picasso can be Sold Tonight

Nazi Picasso Can Be Sold Tonight !

NEW YORK (AP) - A judge ruled Tuesday that a Picasso painting can be sold at auction, despite a claim that its former owner was forced by the Nazis to sell it in the 1930s because his family descended from Jews.

U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff issued the order four days after Julius H. Schoeps, an heir to Berlin banker Paul von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, filed a lawsuit in Manhattan to stop the sale.

The judge had temporarily blocked the auction of ``Portrait de Angel Fernandez de Soto.'' The painting, expected to fetch up to $60 million, is scheduled to be sold at Christie's on Wednesday.

The painting of de Soto, who shared a studio with Pablo Picasso, is being sold by the Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber Art Foundation, a London-based charity.

In the lawsuit, Schoeps sought to be declared the lawful owner. A lawyer for Schoeps said outside court Tuesday that he would refile the case in state court on Wednesday.

The oil-on-canvas painting, signed and dated 1903, was described in a Christie's catalog as capturing de Soto's haunting face: ``The elegantly dressed sitter appears to scrutinize the viewer with an intense gaze, his inner agitation suggested by the forceful brushstrokes and the cloud of smoke hovering above him.''

In a statement Tuesday, the foundation dismissed Schoeps' lawsuit as ``utterly spurious without legal or factual substance.'' It said the painting was purchased at a Sotheby's auction in 1995 and exhibited on many occasions since. The foundation said the painting's provenance was never questioned during that 11-year period until now.

Christie's said the painting was being sold by the foundation for income to be spent on a variety of charitable purposes. In a statement issued Tuesday, it called the lawsuit a ``disservice to the restitution community and the restitution process that has been created to serve those with authentic interests in stolen and plundered art.''

The lawsuit said Mendelssohn-Bartholdy was subjected to Nazi intimidation that forced him to flee his mansion and begin selling prized paintings in a depressed art market. He placed five Picassos, including the de Soto painting, on consignment with Berlin art dealer Justin K. Thannhauser in 1934, the lawsuit said. According to the lawsuit, Thannhauser sold the painting in 1936 to M. Knoedler & Co. in New York.

Mendelssohn-Bartholdy died in 1935. The family included composer Felix Mendelssohn, whose father converted to Christianity.

Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber calls Picasso claim "utterly spurious"

LONDON (Reuters) - Theater impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber's art charity has dismissed as "utterly spurious" last-minute legal action that threatens the sale of a Picasso portrait worth up to $60 million.

The picture was due to be auctioned by Christie's in New York on Wednesday, but a U.S. judge temporarily halted the sale of the 1903 painting after German Julius Schoeps sued Lloyd Webber's foundation and laid claim to the picture.

A spokesman for the Andrew Lloyd Webber Art Foundation said on Tuesday that the claim was "utterly spurious (and) without legal or factual substance." The foundation was not made aware of the lawsuit until Monday morning.

"The Picasso is not owned by a private individual. It is owned by a charity whose principal objectives are to advance the education of the public in the knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the arts," he added.

The foundation plans to use the proceeds of the sale for "charitable objectives." It bought the picture "in good faith" in 1995 for $29 million and has exhibited it publicly in Britain and the United States.

"During the 11 years the charity has owned the picture no one has previously raised any questions about the ownership."

The painting from Picasso's Blue Period, "Portrait of Angel Fernandez de Soto," has been valued between $40 million and $60 million by Christie's.

Court documents show Schoeps said he was an heir of a Jewish banker from Berlin who was forced to sell the painting in 1934 as a "consequence of Nazi persecution."

Lloyd Webber's foundation said the painting was first sold by Paul von Mendelssohn-Batholdy in Berlin on August 31st, 1935.

It was subsequently owned by four other owners before its sale in May, 1995.

It is one of the star lots of Christie's impressionist and modern art sale, which is poised to set a record for the largest ever one-evening take.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Art Hostage

Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber and the Nazi Picasso Art Hostage

Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber and the Nazi Picasso

Picasso's $60m painting not for sale
November 7, 2006

An American judge halted the sale of a Picasso artwork valued at $60-million after a German man claimed his ancestor was forced by the Nazis to sell it.

Late on Monday New York judge Jed Rakoff temporarily blocked the art foundation controlled by British composer Andrew Lloyd Webber from selling Pablo Picasso's 1903 The Absinthe Drinker (Angel Fernandez de Soto) at Christies New York auction house after Julius Schoeps claimed he was the rightful owner of the work.

Christies had planned to sell the painting, which it valued at $40-million to $60-million, at auction on Wednesday.

In a lengthy court complaint describing the 1930s German Nazi government's mistreatment of Jews and theft of artwork, Schoeps alleged that an ancestor of his, Berlin banker Paul von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, under Nazi oppression in 1934, was forced to sell the artwork along with several other masterpieces "into a depressed market".

Schoeps argued to the New York federal district court in the suit that the sale constituted giving up the artworks under duress related to Nazi persecution of Jews and that gives him claim to the painting, as an heir of Mendelssohn-Bartholdy.

Rakoff ordered representatives of the current owners of the painting, the Andrew Lloyd Webber Art Foundation, to appear in court on Tuesday to defend their right to sell the painting.

- Sapa-AFP