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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Stolen Art Watch, Saturday Snapshot Into The Revolving World Of Stolen Art

Burglar Graham Harkin has appeal turned down

A burglar who targeted country houses in Cumbria, Sussex and Shropshire has had an appeal against his sentence turned down.

Graham Harkin was jailed for nine years in March 2011 after admitting the theft of antiques worth more than £1.2m.

The 59-year-old from West Yorkshire was caught when he tried to claim a reward for a stolen clock.

Mr Justice Parker told London's Criminal Appeal Court the sentence was "not manifestly excessive".

The court was told Harkin, from Chestnut Walk in Wakefield, had pleaded guilty to two burglaries and one count of handling stolen goods.

The National Trust member had taken a nationally important collection of porcelain from Firle Place in East Sussex which has never been recovered. He also stole porcelain valued at £27,000 from Longnor Hall near Shrewsbury in Shropshire.

He was arrested after meeting undercover police officers at services on the M62 near Rochdale in Greater Manchester to claim a £20,000 reward for a Thomas Tompion clock valued at £200,000 which had been stolen from Levens Hall near Kendal in Cumbria.

Dismissing the appeal, Judge Parker said Harker had deliberately targeted high value items.

"He did guided tours first, posing as an ordinary visitor. These items were cherished not just by their owners, but by members of the public.

"He could have given police information that would have led to the recovery of the stolen items, but he chose not to do so. He was playing for high stakes and he lost," he said.

Stolen antique table returned safely to Newby Hall

A unique and highly valuable Chippendale table that was stolen from Newby Hall, near Ripon, four years ago has been returned to its rightful owners.

The twin-leaf Pembroke table, which has world-wide importance, was commissioned by estate owner Richard Compton’s ancestor William Weddell in 1775.

It was stolen from the stately home in June 2007.

A painstaking investigation was launched by North Yorkshire Police and subsequently taken on by the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Intelligence and Special Operations Units.

This effort culminated in the recovery of the table and 13 other antiques – worth an estimated £5m in total – following raids at two residential properties in South and West Yorkshire last month.

The table was returned to Newby Hall at the beginning of October and is now back in its original place after being cleaned and polished.

Chief Constable Grahame Maxwell was invited to Newby Hall by Mr Compton to view the return of the antique table.

Mr Maxwell said:

It is very pleasing that the substantial amount of police work to track down the Chippendale table and the other stolen antiques has resulted in the safe return of these historically important and valuable items.

This effort has highlighted the strength of specialist policing units working in collaboration in the Yorkshire and Humber region. The sheer tenacity and determination of the teams to locate the items and seek justice on behalf of Mr Compton and the other owners is very commendable indeed.

Mr Compton said:

As a family, we are very relieved and delighted that the table is back in its rightful place. It has been in our family since 1775 and is unique. I simply do not know why anybody would want to steal such a thing as it is unsaleable on the open market.

When a piece like this is stolen from a house that is open to the public, the real loss is a public one, as it has been seen by hundreds of thousands of visitors. Thanks to the work of the police, it will once again be on public display when Newby Hall re-opens after the winter break.

As well as the Chippendale table from Newby Hall, another of the recovered antiques was an embellished bracket clock made by Daniel Delander of London in around 1710. It is believed to be the same clock that was reported as stolen from Sion Hill Hall near Thirsk in February 2009. The remaining antiques are believed to have been stolen from Firle Place in Sussex.

A 68-year-old man from Tankersley, South Yorkshire and a 44-year-old man from Middleton, Leeds, West Yorkshire, have been arrested and bailed in connection with the investigation.

French billionaire, 76, shot dead in 'professional hit' in his Paris mansion

  • Claude Dray's body was found in home in suburb where Nicolas Sarkozy forged his political career
  • Police said gunman used silencer
  • Wife Simone was away in the U.S.

A billionaire French hotelier has been shot dead 'in a professional hit' in the Paris mansion he bought to showcase his Art Deco collection.

Claude Dray, 76, was found with three bullet holes in the neck in Neuilly-sur-Seine, the Paris suburb where President Nicolas Sarkozy built his career and still owns property.

He was found by his butler dressed only in a T-shirt and shorts, in his bedroom at 9am on Tuesday.

Bullet cartridges were found next to Mr Dray, with detectives saying they were fired from a pistol which was around 15 years old. No weapon was found.

There were no signs of a struggle and nothing was stolen from the palatial 'Villa Madrid’, which is considered to be one of the most secure houses the French capital.

Police said it had the hallmarks of a ‘professional hit.'

‘Somebody got in and fired three bullets into the victim's neck,’ said one detective at the scene, adding that a silencer had likely been used as domestic staff heard nothing.

His wife, Simone, was in the US, where four years ago her husband bought the famous National Hotel in South Beach, Miami.

Mr Dray, one of the most prominent Jews in France, also owned the Hotel de Paris in St Tropez, one of the most popular celebrity institutions on the French Riviera, as well as a string of other hotels around the world.

He had bought Villa Madrid in 1990 as he and his wife built up a vast Art Deco collection of furniture and other objects, which featured some 25 pieces by Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann alone.

Most of it was sold at auction in 2007, fetching a record-breaking £55million. The couple said all the proceeds were for their four daughters and seven grandchildren.

Mr Dray had been the subject of threats in the past, and his home, which was equipped with anti-intruder measures including cameras and infra-red alarms, was regularly surrounded by police and private security guards.

The most recent extortion threats were in 2009, into which the Paris Prosecutor's Office opened an inquiry.

An autopsy on Mr Dray’s body was today being carried out at the Medical-Legal institute in Paris, with results expected to be made public within the next few days.

Mr Dray was born and brought up in Oran, Algeria, before founding the Cidotel hotel chain in the 1960s.

Mr Sarkozy was the mayor of Neuilly for many years, and built up close friendships with its super-rich residents, who, along with Mr Dray, include Liliane Bettencourt, the L'Oreal heiress who is France's wealthiest woman. Mr Sarkozy has lived in Neuilly for most of his life.

He still owns flats there, but now divides his time between his quarters at the Elysee Palace and a town house belonging to his third wife, the Italian heiress Carla Bruni.

The Art Deco design style began in Paris in the 1920s, and soon spread abroad to countries including Britain and America.

Man who stole Picasso sketch sentenced

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 28 (UPI) -- A former New York City wine sommelier has pleaded guilty to walking out of a San Francisco gallery with a Pablo Picasso sketch under his arm.

Mark Lugo was sentenced to 16 months in state prison Thursday, with credit for time already served, as part of a plea agreement. He will be sent to New York in November to face additional theft charges, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday.

Lugo was arrested in San Francisco July 6, the day after he stole a 1965 Picasso sketch, "Tete de Femme (Head of a Woman)," from the Weinstein Gallery in San Francisco.

A police raid on Lugo's apartment in Hoboken, N.J., following his arrest turned up 11 pieces of art allegedly stolen from galleries and hotels in Manhattan, including a Picasso etching from 1933, a Jean-Michel Basquiat photo and a Fernand Leger sketch. The art was estimated to be worth about $500,000, the newspaper said.

He had been charged in April with stealing three bottles of wine worth $6,000 from a store in New Jersey.

Document thief's bail reduced after guilty plea

Jason Savedoff's bail was reduced and his travel restrictions were eased after he pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court this week to conspiracy and theft of major art, according to a court order made public Friday.

Savedoff, 24, was indicted in July along with Barry Landau, 63, on charges that they stole dozens of historic documents worth more than $1 million from museums along the East Coast, including the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore. Landau is still awaiting trial, but Savedoff pleaded guilty Thursday. He faces a maximum of 15 years in prison at his sentencing, scheduled for Feb. 10.

According to a court order signed after his plea, but filed Friday, Savedoff's bond has been reduced from $250,000 to $150,000, with the difference to be paid to his mother, Antonia Schang, who has acted as her son's custodian during the court proceedings.
The order said Savedoff can also live with his father, Charles Savedoff, or an unidentified woman named Jill Franklin. His travel and residences are restricted to Maryland, D.C. and Northern Virginia. Savedoff has been co-operatring with authorities and will become the prosecutions star witness if Landau pleads not guilty.

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