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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Duke of Wellington, Art Attack Apsley House, Regiment Disbanded

Artworks stolen from Apsley House in Hyde Park Corner

Three paintings, a bronze sculpture and ceramic objects have been stolen from Apsley House in central London.

The artworks were stolen from the private apartments from the home of the First Duke of Wellington and his family on 14 June, police said.

Among the items stolen were 19th Century paintings by Luigi Eusebi and a bust of the Duke of Wellington.

The Hyde Park Corner house was given to the nation by the seventh Duke in 1947, but the family retain the apartments.

The items stolen were a painting by Luigi Eusebi, After Romano: 'The Madonna and Child'; another painting by Eusebi, After Correggio 'La Zingarella'; a small miniature portrait of the Duke of Wellington painted on ivory and framed in ebony; a bust of the duke mounted on a black marble base and some small ceramic objects.

Police said they were studying CCTV footage from the property.

Apsley House is run by English Heritage.

It was given to Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington to celebrate of his role in the victory of Waterloo in 1815, according to its website.

The website adds: "It boasts one of the finest art collections in London, with paintings by Velazquez and Rubens as well as a wonderful collection of silver and porcelain."

The theft is being investigated by the Metropolitan Police art and antiques unit.

Apsley House was given to the nation by the 7th Duke of Wellington in 1947.

The house is administered by English Heritage on behalf of the government.

Waterloo battalion
‘gets the axe’

Cameron nukes Duke's Regiment

THE Duke of Wellington’s Regiment which has stood up to history’s most fearsome tyrants could finally be beaten — by swingeing cuts to our Armed Forces.

The battalion — whose modern-day heroes are fighting in Afghanistan — is threatened by plans to cut troop numbers from 102,000 to 82,000.

It took its name from the general who led his men to victory over Napoleon in the Battle of Waterloo 197 years ago tomorrow.

And it’s gone into battle against the armies of Kaiser Wilhelm II, Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein.

But now up to 650 soldiers will lose their jobs if David Cameron rubber-stamps plans by Army chiefs to disband the unit.

The PM has put off any announcement while The Dukes — now part of the Yorkshire Regiment — are on active service in Helmand.

Five of their soldiers were killed in an explosion in March and earlier this month Private Gregg Stone, 20, was shot dead by insurgents.

Mr Cameron would face a backlash if he axed the battalion so close to the 200th anniversary of Waterloo.

But he is under pressure to protect Scottish regiments to avoid playing into the hands of nationalists.

Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said: “Many of those who fought in the dust and danger of Afghanistan are being rewarded with P45s

“The country will be worried about the military impact and will want those made redundant to be given opportunities for work elsewhere.” The Dukes, then known as the 33rd Regiment of Foot, were involved in heavy fighting during the defeat of the French at Waterloo in 1815.

After his surrender, Napoleon admitted: “These dogs of English never know when they are beaten.”

The hero troops were given the honour of being renamed The Duke of Wellington’s Regiment on June 18, 1853 — on the anniversary of the battle after Wellington’s death.

In 2006, The Dukes were merged with two other regiments — The Prince of Wales’s Own and the Green Howards — to form the Yorkshire Regiment. Three battalions were set up and each of the old regiments kept its original name.

An MoD spokesman said: “We need to ensure Britain continues to have the best, most adaptable Armed Forces in the world. This means restructuring our Army in a way that has not been done for many years.

“It is right that time is taken to consider the military advice before final decisions are taken on the best structure to meet the Army’s operational needs for the future.”

Centuries of brave heroes

THE Dukes dates back to 1702 when it was known as Huntingdon’s Regiment.

Since it was renamed after the Battle of Waterloo, It has seen action in the Crimea and two world wars.

It was awarded a Battle honour for its part in the Battle of Monte Ceco in 1944.

The 1st Battalion was deployed to Korea in 1952, Bosnia in 1994 and Iraq in 2003, along with tours of Northern Ireland during the troubles. Its soldiers have collected a total of nine Victoria Crosses.

Stolen Art Watch, Boomerang Dali, Publicity Stunt, Fishstein Will Crack Case, Mark My Words

After a Bizarre Journey, a Stolen Dalí Is Returned

The way it was stolen was unusual. So was the way it was returned.

A $150,000 drawing by the Surrealist artist Salvador Dalí that was stolen from a Manhattan gallery last week was sent back to New York from Europe by Express Mail, the United States Postal Inspection Service said Friday. Postal inspectors intercepted it at Kennedy International Airport before it was sorted for delivery, said Donna Harris, a spokeswoman for the inspection service.

The 11-by-14-inch drawing, “Cartel de Don Juan Tenorio,” was taken from the month-old gallery Venus Over Manhattan on June 19 by a thief in a checkered shirt who strolled in with a shopping bag and strolled out with the Dalí. He apparently simply lifted it off the wall of the gallery, at 980 Madison Avenue, near East 77th Street.

It had been hanging alongside more than a dozen other works in the gallery’s first exhibition, “A Rebours.” Also in the exhibition were a portrait of the American Indian activist Russell Means by Andy Warhol and a painting called “I Left My Heart at Wounded Knee” by Llyn Folkes, both from the 1970s, and older works like “Des Esseintes” by the French painter Odilon Redon (1888) and “Fairy Mab” by the Swiss-born British artist Henry Fuseli (1793).

The police released surveillance images last week showing the thief in the checkered shirt.

“There was a security guard standing right there,” the gallery’s owner, Adam Lindemann, said at the time, “so how you don’t see a young, sweaty guy with a shopping bag I don’t understand.”

He also wondered, “What do you do with a stolen drawing by Dalí?”

Ms. Harris said Friday that the answer to that question apparently turned out to be, not much. Typically, she said, art thieves cannot sell stolen paintings “because they’re hot.” She said there had been no arrests in the case.

She said the gallery received an e-mail earlier in the week that said the drawing, “Cartel de Don Juan Tenorio,” had been sent back. The e-mail included an Express Mail tracking number. She said the gallery had told the police, and detectives had contacted the inspection service, which retrieved the package at the airport.

The return of the drawing was reported online by The New York Post on Friday afternoon.

A woman who answered the telephone at Venus Over Manhattan said the gallery would not comment.

Mr. Lindemann, an art collector and writer who said last week that the gallery was cooperating with the police, did not return calls to his home telephone on Friday night.

NEW YORK, June 29 (Reuters) - A Salvador Dali painting stolen last week from a New York City gallery was mailed back in pristine condition, police said on Friday.

Glimmers of hope had been raised earlier this week when the gallery received a brief email message by an unknown person, saying the 1949 ink and watercolor "Cartel de Don Juan Tenirio" is "on its way back to you already," police said.

The package was mailed from a location in Europe, and bore a phony sender name and address, according to Deputy New York Police Commissioner John McCarthy.

A spokesman for the gallery, which opened just this year on Manhattan's fashionable Upper East Side, declined to comment.

A second police source speculated that publicity surrounding the theft had complicated efforts to sell the painting on the black market.

Police detectives, including the department's in-house art expert, Detective Mark K. Fishstein, took possession of the painting from postal inspectors at John F. Kennedy International Airport when it arrived in New York on Thursday.

It was returned on Friday to the gallery, where it is being authenticated, McCarthy said.

Last week, a man visiting the gallery removed the painting from a gallery wall, placed it in a shopping bag, and walked out of the building.

Fishstein, the Brooklyn-born son of two antiques dealers, became the department's "art cop" in 2003 after he caught the attention of his superiors as a young patrol officer, McCarthy said.

Fishstein had been called to the apartment of an Upper East Side woman who had been found dead. His sergeant had just finished an inventory of the apartment's valuables when Fishstein suggested police secure the painting on the wall.

"Why?" his sergeant asked.

"It's an original Picasso," Fishstein replied.

In 2008, Fishstein arrested a couple who had stolen a $100,000 Andy Warhol print of Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong from a frame store.

Art Hostage Comments:

Publicity stunt which will be exposed shortly.

However, shows the power of the media in reporting art crime can make these types of "Headache" art thefts counter-productive to criminal enterprise.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Rodin Recovered, Sealed With a Kiss

Stolen bust of Auguste Rodin recovered after 13 years

A stolen bust of Auguste Rodin, sculpted by his lover, Camille Claudel, has been recovered 13 years after it was stolen from a museum in central France.

The 17.6lb, 23 inch treasure was stolen from the Guéret art and archaeology museum in 1999.

Looking grizzled with a furrowed brow and full beard, the rare, signed bronze portrait of the French sculptor – a precious remnant of his passionate romance with Claudel – is reportedly worth up to one million euros (£800,000).

French detectives were surprised to find it inside the truck of an antique seller who had been under surveillance for weeks.

The suspect in his 50s was being followed in connection to a series of recent burglaries in the Lyon region. He was arrested with another man on June 19 in the town of Montbrison, in the Loire region, where he was found in possession of the Rodin bust, as well as other art objects, all now being investigated by the French unit specialising in stolen art, the OCBC.

"For the moment, the two men are having trouble explaining the origin of the bronze," a police source told the French daily, Le Parisien.

Catherine Wachs-Genest, curator of the Guéret for the last decade, said: "I never imagined I'd ever get to see it. There's a great feeling of satisfaction. We're very happy."

The bust completes the "vision" of the museum's permanent collection, and "shows a historic link between Rodin and Claudelle," said Ms Wachs-Genest.

She said investigators were still in possession of the bust, but it would be returned to its rightful home near Rodin's masterpiece, 1889 "The Kiss," of a couple embracing.

As well as being his lover, Claudel was a talented pupil and the muse of the sculptor. She became a sculptor in her own right, producing some 50 works, but signing relatively few of them.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Stolen Art Watch. Rembrandt Recovered In Police Sting

Missing Rembrandt found in Croydon

Canvas ‘worth £50m’

COPS have seized a suspected Rembrandt masterpiece — in Croydon.

Officers discovered the oil painting in a raid aimed at recovering stolen items.

Experts are to analyse the canvas to determine if it is by the Dutch master. If genuine it could be worth £50million. It was found in the South London suburb during a Proceeds of Crime Act probe into Shaun Stopford-Claremont, 62. He was arrested.

Witnesses said police were “incredibly careful” handling a seized painting. A source mentioned a value of £2million in connection with the discovery.

Police said a man in his 60s had been bailed. Attempts were continuing to “establish the provenance” of seized items. Mr Stopford-Claremont, of Redhill, Surrey, was unavailable for comment.

'Stolen Rembrandt' painting seized in Croydon police raid

A BUSINESSMAN has been arrested in possession of what is believed to be a stolen Rembrandt painting.

The oil on canvas, believed to be worth more than £2 million, was recovered during a special police operation in Croydon High Street on Monday last week.

A man in his sixties was arrested and taken to Croydon Police Station.

Scotland Yard said the arrest was part of an ongoing Proceeds of Crime Act investigation by officers from the Met's specialist crime directorate.

Detectives refused to comment on whether a painting by Dutch master Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was among the items seized during the operation.

But a source told the Advertiser: "The way the officers were handling the painting and keeping it safe, they clearly believed it was a Rembrandt."

It is understood the painting has been sent away to experts to be authenticated.

The arrested businessman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, lives in Surrey.

Rembrandt was the greatest Dutch painter of his age and is one of the most important figures in European art.

He was born on July 15, 1606 in Leiden and is famous for works such as The Night Watch, a group portrait of one of Amsterdam's militia companies and The Syndics of the Clothmakers Guild painted in 1662. Rembrandt's work often fetches huge prices – in December 2009 his Portrait of a Man sold at auction for £29.2 million in Christie's.

There have also been several notable thefts, the most famous of which is The Storm On The Sea Of Galilee which was taken from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, USA, in 1990.

There is no indication this is the picture involved. The Met would not be drawn on details but released a short statement following the arrest.

A spokesman said: "A man in his sixties was arrested in south London on June 11 in connection with an ongoing Proceeds of Crime Act investigation.

"He has been bailed to return to a south London police station on a date in July pending further inquiries. A number of items have been seized in connection with the investigation."

Art Hostage Comments:

Was this a lawyer returning a stolen painting and other stolen artworks as part of a deal?

Recovered from a premises on Croydon High Street suggests a Lawyers office, evoking memories of the Police sting at the Glasgow Lawyers office when the Da Vinci Madonna was recovered back in 2007.

However, in that case all accused were cleared of any wrongdoing.

Croydon High Street has seven Lawyers Offices, so good chance the location of this recovery was indeed a Lawyers Office.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Manhatten Dali ,Join The Polka Dots

$150,000 Dalí Stolen From Adam Lindemann’s Venus Over Manhattan Gallery

NBC News is reporting that a small Salvador Dalí work titled Cartel des Don Juan Tenorio, with an estimated value of $150,000, was stolen on Tuesday from Venus Over Manhattan, the Upper East Side gallery recently started at 980 Madison by Adam Lindemann, an art collector and writer who pens a column for The Observer. A gallery rep reached by Gallerist declined to comment.

This is the latest of a number of thefts to hit New York galleries recently. Last year, a $30,000 Steven Parrino drawing was taken from the Marc Jancou gallery in Chelsea, and in March a thief made off with a number of Ellen Harvey paintings from Rivington Street’s Dodge Gallery, but was stopped when proprietor Kristen Dodge chased the person down and retrieved the works.

VOM’s current show, ”À rebours,” is dimly lit, channeling the decadent interior of the Duc des Esseintes, who stars in J. K. Huysman’s book of the same name, presumably making a Dodge-style apprehension quite a bit more difficult.

From the report:

Police sources say surveillance cameras show a man wearing a dark shirt with white polka dots enter the gallery with a black cloth bag. He is later seen on cameras leaving the gallery with the painting, police sources said.

The work had been installed low on a partitioned wall that was not visible from the main gallery space.

The thief certainly seems to have been well-informed: Surrealist art is hot these days. Last night, a prime Magritte made $11.3 million, nearly five times its high estimate, at Christie’s Impressionist and modern art auction in London.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Fitzwilliam Jade, Then There Were Four !!

Fitzwilliam raid: fourth man charged

A fourth man has been charged after Chinese valuables worth more than £10 million were stolen from the Fitzwilliam Museum.

Robert Smith, of Swanley, Kent, has been charged with conspiracy to commit burglary in connection with the raid on April 13, police said tonight.

The 24-year-old was due to appear at Cambridge Magistrates’ Court tomorrow.

Two people have already appeared at Cambridge Crown Court in connection with the raid.

Patrick Kiely, 28, of Eleanor Street, London, and a 15-year-old youth who cannot be named for legal reasons, entered no pleas when they appeared charged with theft and conspiracy to commit burglary.

They are due to enter pleas on July 13 and a trial date has been set for November 19.

Steven Coughlan, who in his 20s, of Eleanor Street, London, has been charged with conspiracy to commit burglary and theft, and has appeared at Cambridge Magistrates’ Court.

Fitzwilliam Museum Chinese art theft: man released

The fifth man to be arrested over the theft of Chinese art worth up to £40m from a Cambridge museum has been released from his bail without charge.

The 24-year-old, of Dartford, had been arrested in May over the theft from the Fitzwilliam Museum on 13 April. Chinese art from several dynasties was taken.

Two men aged 28 and 25, and a 15-year-old boy have been charged with theft and conspiracy to commit burglary.

A 31-year-old man is on bail on suspicion of money laundering.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Cavalier Stranded By Cavalier Attitude

Giving Up on a Masterpiece

On June 10, 2007, a thief (or thieves, it's still unknown) walked into the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Australia and lifted a painting by Frans van Mieris the Elder from the walls. Somehow, the work, titled A Cavalier (or, sometimes, Self-Portrait as an Officer), which is valued at $1.4 million, was carried out of museum without witness.

For nearly five years, Australian authorities came up empty in its pursuit of the masterpiece. The Federal Bureau of Investigation posted the painting on its list of top ten art crimes, alongside the $500 million Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist that took place 17 years earlier, and the looting of a king's -- or dictator's -- ransom of antiquities looted after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Also on the list was Cezanne's The Boy in the Red Vest, stolen after A Cavalier in 2008, and estimated to be worth nearly $100 million. The Cezanne, thankfully, was removed from the list after being recovered by police in Serbia in April of 2012. Such an occurrence heartens art loss investigators everywhere, reminding them that masterpieces are very rarely destroyed and, indeed, can be found.

However, just about a month after the Cezanne was recovered, startling news emerged out of Australia. The Canberra Times reported that Australian authorities had stopped trying to recover the painting. In fact, the investigation was suspended four years ago, in 2008, after "exhausting all avenues of investigation," according to Acting Sergeant Chris Nash.

Such news is hard to believe. Absent an active investigation, police in Australia are seemingly content to sit back and hope that the painting finds them. Without anyone in pursuit of A Cavalier, the chances that the painting will be recovered slouch towards the unlikely. Unless the holder of the painting foolishly tries to sell it to an auction house or an ethical buyer, the only hope for recovery rests on the arrest of someone involved on separate charges, or an attack of conscience by either the crooks or someone close to them.

These scenarios do happen. When someone is offered a painting for sale and they bother to vet it through law enforcement agencies such as INTERPOL, the FBI, Customs, or the for-profit Art Loss Register, they will receive notice that the painting is stolen. And at that point, the authorities can get involved to ensure that the painting is safely recovered. However, I liken this approach to looking for a needle in a haystack by waiting for the needles to make themselves visible.

Can the police not spare even one officer to pursue the painting? Is there not a single other investigation in the whole of Australia that can do with one less officer? Can the gallery not raise the funds to support just one full-time investigator to seek out the painting?

When a masterpiece goes missing, civilization loses a piece of its connection with the period in which it was created. When we abandon the search for such items, we are making a statement about our attitudes towards such matters -- a statement does not speak well of us as a people.

Mr. Amore has been the Director of Security at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts since 2005. For the past six years, Mr. Amore has also served as the museum's chief investigator into the 1990 theft of 13 priceless works of art from that museum. Prior to joining the Gardner Museum, he was an Assistant Federal Security Director with the Transportation Security Administration, where he worked to rebuild security at Logan International Airport after the attacks of 9/11. He has also served as a Special Agent with the Federal Aviation Administration.

Mr. Amore's columns on homeland security issues have appeared in the Boston Herald.

He is a graduate of the University of Rhode Island and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

Art Hostage Comments:

Anthony Amore makes a valid point, however, there was an opportunity to recover the Cavalier painting back in 2008, but the man tasked to investigate the theft on behalf of the New South Wales Insurance arm, Mike Maher, made it crystal clear to Art Hostage that there was no money available for recovery or expenses at all.

See the two posts, linked below to reveal the efforts of Art Hostage were thwarted by the mean spirited attitude of Mike Maher, which prevented the recovery of the Cavalier:

Friday, June 15, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Lucky Larsson, As S-Car-Go, No Big Enough

Getaway car 'too small' for botched art heist

Art thieves in Stockholm escaped police but left their loot behind after a brazen burglary left a man in his sixties without his multi-million kronor paintings.

Two men gained entry to a man’s house in Bromma, a suburb in northern Stockholm, by forcing their way into the house, wrote the Aftonbladet newspaper.

They then bound the homeowner’s hands, threatened him with a knife, and took three paintings before making their getaway.

One of the paintings was an 1877 piece by Carl Larsson, ”Clair-Obscur”, believed to be worth between three and five million kronor ($428,00 and $713,000).

However, witnesses explained how the paintings were simply too big for the men’s getaway vehicle – a red Ford.

“I was standing ten metres from where they ran out. They tried to get the painting in the car, but it was too big. They threw it aside when we came,” said one witness to Aftonbladet.

The witness also said that reckless driving by the burglars meant they almost ran over the dumped painting.

The two other pieces were later found by police in a nearby dumpster. All three were painted by famous Swedish artists, according to the paper.

Police launched a large hunt for the offenders, but have so far been unsuccessful, however, the incident was not the first time the resident had dealt with strangers interested in his house.

According to the paper, the man had left an ominous note posted on the building’s door for other residents the day before, which read “Attention: Someone rang me asking for the code to the front door – beware of burglars”.

While the victim of the robbery was not injured in the attacks, police have stated that he is still feeling shaken by the incident.

“He doesn’t feel well, but did not need to be taken to hospital,” said Björn Knutsson of the Västerort police to the TT news agency.

Some evidence has been obtained by police who have labelled the crime as aggravated theft, wrote TT.

The case has since been turned over to an specialised investigative team and forensics are busy looking for leads on the crime scene.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Brighton Antiques Mafia Soldiers Indicted

Brighton man faces antique burglary charge

A Brighton man has been charged with burglary after a break in at an auction house.

Anthony Townsend, 49, of Upper Lewes Road, Brighton, has been charged after a burglary at Stroud Auctions in Rodborough, just outside Stroud in Gloucestershire, in October last year.

He is accused of breaking into Stroud Auctions with Darryl Aldridge, a 46-year-old man from New Barn Road, Shoreham. Aldridge is also accused of eight other break ins.

The charges follow an investigation by the Sussex Police Serious Organised Crime Unit.

The items stolen include antique clocks, jewellery, vases, figurines and furniture with an estimated value of £200,000.

Property worth about £160,000 has been recovered so far.

Alan Topping, 49, of Holland Road, Hove, has already admitted two of the nine burglaries.

He pleaded guilty at Northern Oxfordshire Crown Court in January to a break in at Concord in Cranbrook, Kent, in June last year.

He also admitted another burglary at JS Auctions in Banbury, Oxfordshire, last July.

He was jailed for 26 months.

Luke Hammond, 21, of Foredown Drive, Portslade, was convicted at Northern Oxfordshire Crown Court in April of the burglary in Banbury and was sentenced to a community order.

Two others face related charges – Kelly Lambert, 39, of Lavender Hill, Shoreham, and Anthony Fortune, 54, of Park Road, Worthing.
Lambert has been charged with stealing from Toovey’s in Washington, West Sussex, last October.

Fortune is accused of perverting the course of justice.

Lambert and Fortune will join Townsend and Aldridge in the dock at Brighton Magistrates’ Court on Thursday (14 June).

In February Ashley Symes, 45, of Heath Close, Horsham, was convicted at Lewes Crown Court of another of the burglaries.

He was jailed for four years for the break in at Gorringes in Lewes in June last year and a number of other offences.

Four charged over antiques raids in Sussex, Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire

Four people have been charged with stealing antiques from auction houses in Sussex and elsewhere in the country.

Darryl Aldridge, 46, of New Barn Road, Shoreham, is due to appear at Brighton Magistrates' Court on Thursday, accused of nine burglaries.

Items allegedly stolen included antique clocks, jewellery, vases, figurines, and furniture, with an estimated value of £200,000.

Two took place at Gorringes in Lewes in May and June last year.

Three took place in Toovey's, in Washington, near Storrington, in May, June and October, and one at Denhams in Warnham, near Horsham, in July last year.

Three others took place at Concord in Cranbrook, Kent, in June 2011, at Stroud Auctions in Stroud, Gloucestershire, in October 2011, and at JS Auctions in Banbury, Oxfordshire, in July 2011.

He is also accused of a theft at Toovey's in October last year, possession of cannabis and amphetamine, and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Police said property with an estimated value of £160,000 has been recovered.

Kelly Lambert, 39, of Lavender Hill, Shoreham, has been charged with theft at Tooveys in October 2011, Anthony Townsend, 49, of Upper Lewes Road, Brighton, has been charged with the burglary at Stroud Auctions, and Anthony Fortune, 54, of Park Road, Worthing has been charged with perverting the course of justice.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Charlie Hill, Dick Ellis & Mark Dalrymple, Sting's Set Up's Arrests & Convictions Remembered

Mark Dalrymple above Dick Ellis of 

Charlie Hill above

Twas the year 1992 and Charlie Hill, Mark Dalrymple & Dick Ellis were riding the crest of a set up wave, stinging people who tried to hand back stolen art.
"In 1994 the art-and-antiques squad was on a roll. After some years in abeyance, it had been revived in 1989.
It had an immediate success, recovering several paintings stolen from the Beit collection in Ireland in 1986, and notching a further coup in 1992 when it recovered a painting by Pieter Brueghel, Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery, stolen from London's Courtauld gallery 10 years before.
The fate of the Brueghel is illuminating. Since the Brueghel - like the Turners - was unsaleable on the open market, it is likely to have been used instead as an alternative currency within the criminal world, whose denizens like to talk of 'laying down' stolen paintings, like vintage wine, until their value can be realised.
It may also have been used as collateral for funds raised for drugs or other criminal deals. Sometimes, says Mark Dalrymple, head of the loss adjusters Tyler and Co, who specialise in the art market, these deals can become quite labyrinthine, 'and you end up with half a dozen people having an interest in the picture'.
By 1991 the Brueghel had reached a high-ranking London criminal, who decided to cash in his investment.
He commissioned four minor London villains to sell it on his behalf. Somewhat naively, they telephoned Christie's to ask how much 'a Brueghel' was worth.
Then they called the director of the Courtauld, Dr Dennis Farr, and told him they had purchased the Brueghel only to discover it was stolen - and the Courtauld could have it back for £2m. Both Christie's and Farr told the art-and-antiques squad about the gang's approach.
The squad's head was Dick Ellis, a detective sergeant renowned for his talents for running stings, above all in devising some extra ingredient to give them plausibility or 'edge'. 'There's an art to running an undercover operation,' Ellis says now. 'You've got to be imaginative.' ('They are quite fun,' he adds.)
Ellis now constructed a sting to recover the Brueghel. He recruited two characters: one was Farr, who would play himself. The other was to be a brash American, a part to be taken by one of the Yard's undercover officers, Charley Hill, who had spent much of his life in the US - his father was American - even serving as an officer in Vietnam.
The edge to the sting lay in introducing a whiff of illegality that would appeal to the sellers. Farr told them that the Courtauld Institute could not be seen to buy back a stolen painting, and anyway did not have £2m at its disposal.
However, Hill was a wealthy American who was willing to buy the painting on the Courtauld's behalf.
It worked to perfection. The sellers were invited to meet Farr and Hill at the Savoy hotel in London. They were still asking £2m for the painting, and Hill showed them a bag containing 'show money', or the 'flash' - £100,000, the maximum the police were allowed to draw. The sellers, says Hill, 'effed and blinded and said it wasn't good enough' and walked out. The police already had ample evidence and the four men were arrested, receiving sentences of up to five years. (The Brueghel was found at the home of an alleged accomplice, who claimed he did not know it was stolen and was acquitted.) "