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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Stolen Art Watch, Diamonds Worth Millions Reported Stolen at BaselWorld

Basel - Four diamonds worth millions have been stolen from a stand at the world's biggest jewellery fair in Basel.
A spokesman for Basel's prosecutor's office, Markus Melzl, said the robbery occurred at around 11am this morning when "three diverted the attention of the diamond trader's employees, while two others opened the showcase".
The Israeli trader, whose identity has not yet been revealed, first realised that the four diamonds worth millions of euro had been stolen some fifteen minutes later.
After the robbery, the exhibition hall was closed for half an hour, but the thieves had already run away. According to the local police, the theft may have involved 4-5 'professionals' who are thought to have checked out the showcase several times over the past few days.

Four diamonds worth millions were reportedly stolen Wednesday from a diamond trader exhibiting at the BaselWorld watch and jewelry show in Basel, Switzerland, news outlets report.

A spokesman for the Basel prosecutor's office, Markus Melzl, issued a statement to the following effect: "On Wednesday, 30 March 2011, at around 11:00 am, one of the as yet still unidentified perpetrators distracted an employee of a diamond trader in the exhibition hall 3.0, and stole four diamonds worth millions from the display window."

The trader noticed the theft only about 15 minutes after the diamonds had been taken, and the hall was closed for half an hour. Nevertheless, the suspects apparently managed to leave the premises with the diamonds.

Melzl noted that the theft was "carried out in a very professional manner."

Police were examining security camera footage from the expo and search for possible DNA traces and fingerprints that the suspects might have left behind.

BaselWorld 2011, the largest event of its kind in Europe, opened on March 24 and runs through today. Over 1,800 exhibitors – including luxury watch manufacturers, diamond manufacturers, and diamond jewelry designers – are showing at this year's event.
Art Hostage Comments:

At the same venue last year thieves attempted to steal diamonds worth $10 million but were apprehended in the viewing hall before they could escape.
On that occasion only one or two of thieves were caught, leaving the rest of the gang to return this year and be more successful on their escape.
, and the current value for the stolen four diamonds, $10 million.
Take Your Pick
On the other hand you could always go Pink, as in Pink Panthers, with this remarkable insight by David Samuels:

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Stolen Art Watch, Art Theft Season 2011

Police in Bridgwater are appealing for information following the theft of antiques from a property in Bridgwater.

Sometime between 10.25am and 2.30pm on Monday March 28, unknown offenders have forced their way into a property in the Polden Hills area of Bridgwater and made off with antiques worth tens of thousands of pounds.

Police would now like to speak to anyone who may have been in the area and noticed anyone acting suspiciously or anyone who may have been offered items similar to those pictured.

Anyone who may have information is asked to call Bridgwater police on 0845 456 7000 or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. We never ask your name or trace your call.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Stolen Art Watch, Picasso, Kuwait, Turkey, Here we go Again !!

Picasso's stolen canvas found in Turkey
A stolen canvas by world-famous Spanish painter Pablo Picasso has been found and confiscated in Turkey, the Turkish newspaper Radikal reported. After a month of police operations in Balikesir town, the Turkish law enforcers arrested citizen Z G, 41, who held the canvas. The canvas worth $10 million was reportedly stolen from the Kuwait museum in 1991 during the Gulf War.

Art Hostage Comments:
This is the second/third Picasso, allegedly stolen from the Kuwait Museum to turn up. The first one was recovered in Iraq a couple of years ago and that supposedly turned out to be a fake.
See Iraq Picasso story below:

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Stolen Art Watch, Swans Take Flight !!

Art thieves stole two pictures by German modern artist Joseph Beuys from the art collection of Deutsche Bank, the police reported Saturday.

The robbery took place on February 9 at Deutsche Bank's headquarters in Frankfurt, but the bank only told the police this week, after internal investigations proved fruitless.

Bank spokesman Christian Streckert confirmed the robbery, but refused to add any further details.

Frankfurt police said the two water-colours, entitled "Swans" and painted in 1953, had an estimated value of €200,000. "Our investigations have so far had no results," a police spokesman said.

The Deutsche Bank's art collection was founded in the 1970s and now comprises over 56,000 works, mainly paintings and drawings, which are displayed all over the world.

Beuys, who died in 1986, is considered one of the most important German artists of the 20th century.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Stolen Art Watch, Graham Harkin, Firle Place Raid, Nine Years Jailtime !!

A West Yorkshire man has been sentenced to nine years imprisonment at Carlisle Crown Court today for being involved in a series of high profile thefts from Kendal, Sussex and Shrewsbury.

Graham Geoffrey Harkin, 57, of Chestnut Walk, Wakefield, West Yorkshire received three sentences today following a police investigation into the theft of the ancient timepieces from Cumbria last year.

The three sentences Harkin received are: Five years for handling stolen goods at Levens Hall, Kendal Nine years for burglary in Sussex Seven years for the burglary in Shrewsbury These three sentences, totalling 21 years, are to run concurrently.

Burglar jailed for mansion raids found with £200,000 clock
A country house burglar who took porcelain worth £1 million in one raid and was found with a £200,000 clock taken in another was jailed for nine years today.

Career criminal Graham Harkin tried to claim a £25,000 reward for returning a Thomas Tompion clock stolen from Levens Hall, near Kendal, Cumbria and thought he was dealing with an agent of its real owner.

But the exchange at Birch Services on the M62 was with a police officer, and when he was arrested officers found the clock - more than 300 years old - in the boot of his BMW.

It had been stolen in September 2009 by an intruder who used a ladder to smash a window.

Detectives from Cumbria Police liaised with other forces and linked Harkin's mobile phone with other high value thefts elsewhere.

This week at Carlisle Crown Court he admitted burgling Firle Place, near Lewes, Sussex, where 18th century Sevres porcelain worth more than £1 million was stolen in a night break-in.

The country house has been in Lord Gage's family for more than 500 years and is also used as judges' lodgings when they are sitting at Lewes Crown Court.

Detectives also placed Harkin at a break-in at Longnor Hall, Shropshire, partly because of the thief's lack of sophistication.

The court heard he used the pseudonym Graham Parkin and his real postcode when he signed in during a visit to the country house, which the prosecution said was his chance to "case the joint".

Harkin's mobile phone - used in dealings over claiming the reward for the ebony clock - was traced to both Firle Place and Longnor Hall around the times of the break-ins.

He was a National Trust member and would visit country houses to look for weaknesses in security, the court heard.

Harkin, a 58-year-old grandfather, from Chestnut Walk, Wakefield, West Yorkshire, looked shaken when he was jailed for nine years.

He admitted two counts of burglary in relation to the Sussex and Shropshire break-ins and one count of handling the clock.

Judge Peter Hughes said: "That superb collection of Sevres porcelain is now lost.

"Over £1 million worth of delicate items passed down through succeeding generations now totally unaccounted for.

"A collection which is unlikely ever to be put back together again.

"Harkin, you have chosen not to say what happened to that porcelain."

Gary Swindell, also 58, of Cunliff Road, Bradford, West Yorkshire, was jailed for three years for handling porcelain stolen from Longnor Hall.

He was caught at a car boot sale selling some of the Shropshire items stolen by his associate.

Police managed to stop some porcelain - sold on eBay in good faith by genuine antiques dealers - from being sent to China.

After the sentencing, Senior Crown Prosecutor Peter Kelly, from CPS Cumbria, said: "Graham Harkin was hoping to make significant profit for himself by targeting valuable items that were on show to the public in country houses. However, he was caught out in the end by his own greed when he tried to claim the reward for one of the antiques.

"The prosecution estimates that, in only a matter of a few weeks, Graham Harkin dealt with well over £1 million worth of stolen antiques.

"Antique thefts such as these often result in items of significant historical interest being lost to public view forever and his convictions and sentence send a clear message that police and prosecutors will take these offences seriously."

CCTV footage below showing Graham Harkin staking out the grounds of Firle

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Stolen Art Watch, Graham Harkin Trial, March 21st 2011

Daily List for Monday 21 March 2011 at CARLISLE Crown Court

Court 2 - sitting at 10:30 am HIS HONOUR JUDGE PETER HUGHES QC

For Trial

T20100259 HARKIN Graham G 03ZA0156010

T20100471 HARKIN Graham G 47EE3009810

T20100519 HARKIN Graham G 22FA4502410

T20110043 SWINDELL Gary 13GA1144310

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Stolen Art Watch, Brighton Knocker Boys, Like Hitting Corks in a Barrel of Water !!

Warning over Camden dodgy antiques dealers

DODGY antique dealers who try to trick often vulnerable victims into selling precious heirlooms are targeting Hampstead and Belsize Park.

The crooks, known as ‘Brighton knocker boys’, cold call their victims and persuade them to let them into their homes so they can check out valuable items.

They then convince their unwitting customers to sell on their goods for a fraction of their actual value.

Brighton has been blighted by this practice for decades and in 2006 an aristocrat who lived in the seaside town, the Earl of Lauderdale, was conned out of possessions worth £680,000. Now the con artists appear to have moved on to north London.

Residents in the Frognal and Fitzjohns ward in Hampstead have been receiving hand-delivered personally addressed letters to their homes.

The senders of the notes are offering to visit their properties to look at antiques, paintings and books with the view to buying unwanted items for cash.

But Frognal and Fitzjohns Safer Neighbourhood Team has warned homeowners that these letters are likely to be a scam.

In an email sent out to residents, the local SNT officers warned: “This is known to be used as a ploy to distract your attention, gain entry to your home and steal from within.

“Another scenario is that they may view your cherished antiques and come back in the future as burglars. Whilst we don’t mean to alarm, some of these companies are genuine but some are not.”

In the case that residents do decide to take up the offer made in the letters, the SNT police advised them to have someone with them during any appointment and not to leave their visitor alone in their home at any time.

It is also suspected that ‘knocker boys’ could be working in Belsize Park.

Sgt Ian Gilks, from Belsize SNT, said that he had been tipped off about the swindle by officers from Hampstead.

He said: “If you have any concerns which Belsize SNT may be able to help with please don’t hesitate to contact us,” he said.

PC Martin Betts, from Frognal and Fitzjohns SNT, said: “This happens in all the wealthy areas of London. The vulnerable and elderly are targeted.

“In this area we’ve managed to get in before they carry out their crimes. The companies who are operating are very well known to police.

“If any elderly people are approached they should contact their local SNT or the police and we’ll do some checks for them.”

Friday, March 18, 2011

Stolen Art Watch, Mears Brothers Jailed For Lapland Trickery

Notorious Brighton Antiques Knocker Boy's Victor and Henry Mears today were sentenced to 13 months jail time for the Lapland debacle.

This means they will be eligible for release after 14 weeks under Home Detention Curfew.

However, an appeal is likely to succeed not least because of the juror who was texting her boyfriend during the trial.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Stolen Art Watch, Brighton Antiques Knocker Jailed and Banned From Knocking Doors !!

Brighton Antiques Knockers, They Haven't Gone Away You Know !!!

Kevin Douglas, (Dob: 07-03-1957) of Shirley Drive, Hove.

On Monday 15th December 2009 Brighton Antiques Knocker Kevin Douglas cold called the home of an elderly couple, a 76 year old female and her 84 year old husband along St Peter's Square, Hammersmith.

He claimed that he was looking to buy old books and was invited in. Once inside Kevin Douglas took advantage of the age of his victims and without invitation, proceeded to walk into several private areas, including the victim's bedrooms.

He then rummaged through their personal possessions and managed to steal two sentimental antique watches that have not been recovered.

After a trial Kevin Douglas, 54 years (Dob 07-03-1957) of Shirley Drive, Hove, East Sussex was convicted on Monday 21st February at Kingston Crown Court and remanded in custody.

On Tuesday March 15th 2011 Kevin Douglas was sentenced to three and a half years jailtime at Kingston Crown Court following a distraction burglary in Hammersmith. He was given an ASBO to run indefinitely and ordered to pay compensation costs of £100 to his elderly victims.

Douglas will not be allowed to enter any private dwelling unless belonging to family or friends without prior written permission from the owner.

Furthermore if any sale takes place, Douglas is to provide the vendor with a receipt and retain an exact copy of the receipt for 5 years from date of issue.

Detective Sergeant Paul Mitchell, of the Metropolitan Police’s burglary squad at Hammersmith Police Station, said: "This is a satisfying conclusion to what was a particularly nasty crime perpetrated against a thoroughly decent, elderly couple.

“Kevin Douglas deliberately targeted what he thought would be easy prey and his actions were despicable.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the victims of this crime who have showed dignity, courage and patience in a protracted case that saw them giving evidence over two years after the offence was committed".

Police advise people not to let cold callers into their homes and check their identities if they are from a company.

DS Mitchell said: “If you have antiques to sell go to a reputable dealer and don't run the risk of being duped by unscrupulous individuals like Mr Douglas.”

Tricked out of £40,000

A VULNERABLE 85-year-old woman was talked into selling a £40,000 family heirloom for just £600 to a door-knocking antiques dealer.
And now the family of the Comberton pensioner have taken the dealer to court over the sale and won back both the furniture and £10,000 court costs.
The dealer bought the 18th Century table along with two chairs and some antique porcelain from Lady Janetta Huntingfield after visiting her home.
After finding out about the sale, the family - who once occupied a mansion estate in Suffolk - served a writ against Brighton antiques dealer Kevin Douglas, claiming the sale was an "unconscionable purchase".
The items have now been returned and a civil court has agreed that Mr Douglas will pay the family's court costs.
Lady Huntingfield has a bad memory and the family were unable to track down the dealer, so they put an advert in an antiques journal. They soon got a call from an auction house in Sussex saying the table was coming up in a sale.
After finding the dealer they found he had sold the chairs and he was forced to buy them back so they could be taken to Christie's in London for safekeeping while the case was decided by the courts.
Lady Huntingfield's son, Lord Joshua Huntingfield, told the News: "Some people knocked on my mother's door saying, 'Would you like to sell some books?' and she let them in on that basis. The next thing she found she was selling the furniture but she should never have let them in.
"He paid in cash without a receipt so there was no way we could find out who he was. The furniture was not hers to sell and it was a great shock."
Police looked into the deal but the Crown Prosecution Service said it was unable to build a case against Mr Douglas and it was taken to a civil court.
Lord Huntingfield added: "Some old people are vulnerable to being pestered to sell their own possessions to complete strangers.
"I can't imagine a lot of old ladies finding £10,000 to try to get furniture back. There seems to be a gap in protecting old people from this sort of manipulation."
Kevin Douglas's solicitors said he had not tricked Lady Huntingfield and that she was fully aware of what she was doing.
Mr Douglas was unavailable for comment.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Stolen Art Watch, Harry Winston Diamonds Down The Drain As Art Hostage Returns !!

Paris police find $25M in stolen jewels in sewer

French investigators from the elite BRB have found jewels valued at euro18 million ($25 million) hidden in a Paris rain sewer — part of the spectacular 2008 heist from luxury jeweler Harry Winston's Paris boutique.

Nineteen rings and three sets of earrings — one pair valued at euro14 million ($19.5 million)

— were dug up from a drain at a house in the working class Paris suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis, police said, confirming a report on Europe-1 radio.

The jewels were hidden in a plastic container set in a cement mold inside the sewer, police said. The house belonged to one of the nine people charged in the heist.

The bold Harry Winston robbery on Dec. 5, 2008, netted the thieves — some dressed as women and wearing wigs — gems and bejeweled watches worth up to euro85 million ($118.1 million), police said. More recently, police have set the figure at $85 million.

The Harry Winston boutique is on a street off Paris' famed Champs-Elysees Avenue dotted with fashion houses and fashionable cafes. The robbery, carried out while Christmas shoppers strolled outside, was among the most audacious in France in recent memory.

Some stolen rings, necklaces and watches were recovered when police rounded up 25 people in a June 2009 sweep and eventually charged nine of them.

Among those charged was the heist's suspected mastermind, Daoudi Yahiaoui, who had been sentenced to 15 years in prison in a drug trafficking case two months before the Harry Winston raid in December 2008, see story below:

Drug trafficker sentenced to 15 years

A drug kingpin charged with trafficking 1.65 tons of heroin from Turkey has been sentenced to 15 years in a Swiss prison.

Thursday October 30th 2008 Federal judge Jean-Luc Bacher handed down the highest penalty for drug trafficking in the history of the Federal Court to the 42-year-old Kosovar.

Prosecutors had accused him of playing a key role within a crime family that has supplied Western Europe with heroin since the mid-1990s.

The verdict on Thursday October 30th 2008 wraped up the largest trail for drug trafficking to unfold in Switzerland.

The man, who was not named in Swiss media, had posed as a car salesman. His 28-year-old brother, who worked as a car washer, faced a four-year prison term for money laundering. He received a two-year suspended sentence.

Police in Switzerland, Kosovo, Italy, Austria, Germany, France, Slovenia and Hungary had seized the heroin shipments worth SFr25 million ($22 million).

French BRB Police found stolen jewelry and euro760,000 ($1.1 million) at the house of Daoudi Yahiaoui previously.

A guard at the Harry Winston boutique put police on the trail of the suspects. When investigators learned that an Israeli was expected in Paris to buy some of the stolen jewels, police moved in to make the arrests.

Doreen Carvajal, in the New York Times writes:

Don't know whether to laugh or cry at this story below:

Interesting to note the 500 Euro note is the preffered denomination of drug traffickers and criminals.

The Italian Job, below, as thieves steal £3million in gold:

In other news, notorious Brighton Antiques Knocker Alan Roser was sentenced yesterday, March 8th 2011, to Five years in jail for sexual offences against children.