Rhino horns stolen in National Museum raid were not insuredRHINOCEROS horns stolen from the National Museum during an armed raid were not insured.
Four heads with eight horns, worth €500,000, were stolen from a storage facility in Swords, Co Dublin, late on Wednesday night and are probably destined for the Far East.
Three masked men broke into the National Museum's Collections Resource Centre (CRC) on the Balheary Road at about 10.40pm and tied up a security man before fleeing an hour later in a white van.
The security guard was not injured and later managed to free himself and alert the gardai shortly after midnight.
The heads had been taken out of public display more than a year ago and put into storage after a spate of similar thefts from museums across Europe.
The rhinoceros horns were up to 100 years old and were probably stolen to supply the illegal trade in powdered horn that is used in traditional medicines in the Far East.
The gardai sealed off the premises to carry out a technical examination, and an incident room has been set up at Swords garda station.
CCTV footage is being examined as part of the probe.
Keeper with the National Museum, Nigel Monaghan, said last night the horns, which were on display on Merrion Street, were removed more than a year ago amid security concerns.
"We took a decision a couple of years ago, largely on garda advice and also from monitoring the traffic internationally, following a steady rise of theft of rhino horn. The pattern was to smash and grab, even when the museums were open, and we did not want to put the public at risk.
"The horns were in the CRC for the last year. They would be powdered up and sold in the medicinal trade in the east, and would be worth about €500,000."
And he admitted that the horns were not insured, despite their value.
"Generally, the museum would insure items which are sent on loan to other institutions. Generally, state heritage is not covered by insurance because you'd be spending a fortune on insurance premiums. They were not insured.
"We would hope that the rhino heads are recovered . . . Unless you've got connections to the Far East trophy heads would normally fetch a couple of thousand euro."
DUBLIN — Masked men stole stuffed rhinoceros heads containing eight valuable horns from the warehouse of Ireland's National Museum, police and museum officials said Thursday, in a heist being linked to an Irish Gypsy gang that specializes in such raids across Europe.
Police said three men raided the storeroom in Swords, north of Dublin, on Wednesday night and tied up the lone security guard. He later freed himself and raised the alarm.
Nigel Monaghan, keeper at the National Museum's natural history section, said the museum had never experienced such a theft before but had worried that the rhinos would be targeted. He said the four heads – three of black rhinos from Kenya, one of the virtually extinct white rhino from Sudan, all killed more than a century ago – were removed from display last year and put into storage specifically to safeguard them from thieves.
He said the eight horns could be worth a total of about (EURO)500,000 ($650,000) on the black market based on their weight.
Three of the five species of rhinoceros in Africa and South Asia have been hunted to the verge of extinction because their horns command exceptionally high prices for use in traditional Asian medicine chiefly in China and Vietnam, where the powdered horn is marketed as an aphrodisiac and even as a cure for cancer. The horns are made of keratin, a fibrous protein that is the building block for skin and hair, and has no documented medicinal value.
In 2011, Europol issued a warning that an Irish Gypsy criminal network based in the County Limerick village of Rathkeale was responsible for dozens of thefts of rhino horns across Europe. Europol said the thieves – officially called the Rathkeale Rovers but also dubbed the Dead Zoo Gang by Dublin tabloids – had already targeted museums, galleries, zoos, auction houses, antique dealers and private collections in Britain, continental Europe, the United States and South America.
In 2010, U.S. undercover agents arrested two members of the Rathkeale gang trying to buy four black rhino horns in Colorado. They both received six-month prison sentences.
Rathkeale is considered the epicenter for Ireland's Gypsy minority, known locally as "travellers." They own most of the properties in the town, which regularly experiences huge influxes of Irish travellers from throughout Ireland and Britain arriving in luxury vehicles for clan events.
Irish police and Europol say the Rathkeale criminal network also is involved in road-tarmac fraud and the sale of counterfeit goods, particularly tools and engine parts.
Stolen Egg Found: $1.3 Million Faberge Style Object Found Near Swiss Border... And More Arts NewsDon't you hate it when you just can't remember the last place you left your $1.3 million egg? A stolen egg encrusted with hundreds of jewels was recently recovered near the Swiss border, after being missing for four years.
The bejeweled ovum was burgled in 2009 from a Kuwait import-export firm based in Geneva, and its location has remained unknown ever since. But last Thursday, a suspicious looking BMW was pulled over during a routine roadblock near the border between Switzerland and France, and the egg was found inside the car, according to International Business Times. Two men in the vehicle were promptly arrested, along with a third man trailing behind in a Jaguar.
"Under questioning the three men unconvincingly claimed they had found the jewelled work of art lying on the ground, or had bought it cheaply in a flea-market," police told the Associated Foreign Press.
Not surprisingly, the case of the stolen Faberge-like artwork is not the first time an overpriced egg has gone missing. From a Russian private collector to a Los Angeles antique shop, few facilities are safe from the temptation to pilfer such inviting oval items.
Painting Worth €1.2m Stolen From A Yacht Turns Up At Former Juventus Star Roberto Bettega’s HouseA painting by preeminent Russian-Jewish artist Marc Chagall that was stolen from an American yacht anchored in an Italian port over a decade ago has resurfaced hanging on the walls of former Juventus striker Roberto Bettega’s house in Turin after being tracked down by Italy’s art-theft police squadron.
The painting, called “Le Nu au Bouquet” was painted by Chagall in 1920 and is conservatively estimated to be worth around €1.2 million…
Italian authorities have been quick to absolve Bettega, who bought the painting in good faith from a gallery in Bologna back in 2003.
Bettega (who played for Juve several hundred times between 1969 and 1983, picked up 45 caps for the Italian national side and is currently employed as the Bianconeri’s deputy director-general) was said to be unaware that the painting was stolen from an American-owned yacht which had been anchored for repairs in the northern port of Savona and had no idea the gallery he bought it from was a clearing house for stolen artwork.
According to Italian news coverage, the thieves replaced the original painting on the yacht with a copy and then hoodwinked the Chagall Foundation into providing a new authentication for the stolen artwork.
We’re fairly sure there’s a joke about dodgy Juventus directors in there somewhere but frankly we’re not willing to make it on legal grounds.
Billionaire Tamir Sapir Failed To Notice That $200,000 Worth of Silver Champagne Buckets Had Been Stolen From His Long Island MansionBillionaire cabbie-turned-real-estate mogul Tamir Sapir was recently the victim of theft at his $20 million Long Island mansion after a construction worker allegedly stole four antique silver champagne buckets worth $200,000, according to Newsday. But the real crime is that Mr. Sapir didn’t even notice that his extravagant booze buckets were gone until an auction house called him months after the fact. Being a billionaire is hard!
Apparently, Mr. Sapir only learned of the theft when Sotheby’s notified him that construction worker Anatoliy Maryuk had tried to fence two of the buckets—made in France and worth $50,000 a pop—to the auction company in September 2011. Mr. Maryuk had, at this point, allegedly sold the two other buckets on Ebay.
In Mr. Sapir’s defense, $200,000 is kind a drop in the silver champagne bucket when you’re worth $2 billion. And it takes a lot of time and energy to manage a real estate empire as well as one’s personal, palatial dwellings, let alone worry about every piece of $50,000 kitchen equipment. And while we’d like to believe that the life of a real estate mogul with a sprawling Long Island mansion means drinking expensive champagne every evening, we understand that even people who can afford to chug the finest bubbly sometimes prefer other libations. Besides, when one has a staff, one doesn’t necessarily interact with one’s household belongings on a daily basis—perhaps the butler simply assumed that the antiques had been misplaced by a maid and started using one of the other silver champagne buckets.
Sadly, if court documents filed in 2010 are true, there might be another explanation for the mogul’s absent-mindedness. While Mr. Sapir appears to have been busy managing his extensive personal and real estate holdings these last few years—selling the Duke Semans mansion to Carlos Slim for $44 million, importing endangered and exotic animal carcases into the country on his yacht, buying the perfect Long Island mansion, he has allegedly been suffering from aphasia—”a deteriorating mental condition” since 1998. The condition has left him unable to form comprehensible sentences in either English or his native Russian, and to do little other than sign his name, according to court documents that came to light as part of the $130 million lawsuit against him. (Although one wonders why a man who can longer form comprehensible sentences is allowed to sign documents.)
But if Mr. Sapir is no longer calling the shots at his business empire (rumors abound that his son Alex is the one running the show these days), surely there’s someone looking after his personal affairs who should be safeguarding his very expensive champagne buckets? And making sure that 150-foot yacht isn’t filled with stuffed Bengal tiger heads when it enters U.S. waters (being shipped on an Italian freighter no less)?
For his part, Mr. Maryuk, who is being charged with second-degree larceny, denies that he pilfered the pricey buckets, according to his lawyer. In the meantime, we’ll toast to the truth being uncovered in a timely manner.
Flagons stolen from Clifton Park Museum
Thieves broke into the museum overnight by smashing a window, South Yorkshire Police said.
Both flagons had a domed hinged cover with a leaf scroll thumb-piece and engraved with "The Gift of Mrs Mary Bellamy, Late of Rotherham, 1781".
The George III flagons, which have a hollow handle with a heart shape at the end, weighed 116oz (3kg) in total.
Police have appealed for witnesses.
Stolen Antiques Discovered At Chop Shop, 2 Arrested
A major burglary operation and chop shop is out of commission.
‘Reconnaissance units’ stake out houses for burglar gangsCriminal gangs are using reconnaissance units to stake out houses before leaving chalk markings outside denoting if they’re ripe for burgling or too risky to enter.
The chalk markings have appeared in Dublin, Drogheda, and Limerick areas in recent months.
It is understood at least eight signs are being used by the “recon unit”, one of which indicates the occupant is a vulnerable female and easily conned.
Another points to the householder being nervous and afraid, while other signs indicate the house is a good target and its owners are wealthy.
Reconnaissance units also save their burglar colleagues time by leaving signs showing there is nothing worth stealing from a house, or it is too risky to attempt burgling it.
Mr Kelly, a retired garda, said that years ago he had come across such markings, which are used regularly by criminal gangs in Britain.
“The re-emergence of these signs [in Ireland] is very disturbing,” he said.
“We advise anybody who sees them to immediately remove them and report it to the gardaí.”
He advised people in particular to keep a close eye out on the homes of elderly or vulnerable neighbours in case such markings suddenly appear outside their properties.
Mick Neary, a consultant with the firm National Security, has posted the signs on his company website to alert the public.
“My own father was a garda and he knew of the existence of these signs years ago,” he said.
“People should be especially aware of casual labourers coming to their doors looking to do work because they could be reconnaissance men.
“From our information they are also checking on the security company name on alarm boxes. They check on the internet to see if the company has gone out of business. If it went out of business a few years ago it’s likely the alarm hasn’t been serviced and the chances are it will not work properly.”
Mr Neary said the average burglar will spend just eight minutes in a house and as such could cause considerable damage in a short space of time in an estate where they know householders are out at work.
A Garda spokesman said there was “insufficient evidence to significantly link such markings with burglaries”.
Fight for Nazi-looted art must continue
The efforts to recover Nazi-looted art have been well-publicised and reported on internationally. As a result, the sometimes enormous sums paid for recovered artworks at auction and elsewhere have also been widely covered, and some commentators have criticised the lawyers and researchers who have helped the claimants recover their art. Some even criticise the claimants themselves. Still others have begun calling claimants and their lawyers "bounty hunters" and referring to the "restitution industry" as a huge money-making operation. They reproach claimants for selling the works they recover, rather than donating them to museums and so proving that they are not "doing this just for the money".
And I am not now speaking about extreme right-wing bloggers whose rants we might comfortably dismiss as antisemitic ravings. Rather, these type of comments have come from so-called legitimate sources. There's Jonathan Jones, an art writer for the Guardian and a former Turner Prize juror, who wrote in 2009: "A work of art should never, ever be taken away from a public museum without the strongest of reasons. Making good the crimes of the Nazis may seem just that - but it is meaningless. No horrors are reversed. Instead, historical threads are broken, paintings are taken away from the cities where they have the deepest meaning, and money is made by the art market."
And then there is Sir Norman Rosenthal, former exhibitions secretary of the Royal Academy of Arts - and the son of Jewish refugees - writing in the Art Newspaper in 2008: "Grandchildren or distant relations of people who had works of art or property taken away by the Nazis do not now have an inalienable right to ownership, at the beginning of the 21st century. If valuable objects have ended up in the public sphere, even on account of the terrible facts of history, then that is the way it is."
That is the way it is?
Added to this chorus is Bernd Schultz, director of Berlin's Villa Grisebach auction house, who in 2007 put it very simply: "They say 'Holocaust,' but mean money… In New York, some call this Shoah Business."
In my view, such comments are offensive and lack any justification. Let us not forget that these artworks are being recovered for the heirs of their true owners. They were taken away from them by the murderers of the Third Reich, often in the course of carrying out the Final Solution. Who except the families of these owners have the right to decide what to do with their property?
Regardless of whether these works are important to the world's culture, surely it is the choice of the claimants and the claimants alone as to whether they would like to donate or loan them to the great museums, sell them on the open market or keep them among their prized possessions? In other words, we should treat them with the same respect we accord to any other collector who owns a great artwork. Would we ever require that all those who own great art, but whose families did not lose it during the Holocaust, donate it to museums to prove that they are not greedy and selfish?
How ironic and repulsive it is to criticise victims of the Nazis, who are not only trying to get back their own property but trying to correct in some small way the ghastly injustices of the Nazis. As for the researchers and lawyers who work for years on these cases, with no certainty of victory: is it improper for the claimants to pay them even if that means selling the artworks they have recovered?
But the criticism of our work has not stopped there. A different attack was launched during the decade-long case to recover the "Portrait of Wally" by Egon Schiele, the first major case of its type heard in the US. We represented the Bondi Jaray estate in that case against the Leopold Museum of Vienna, and worked jointly with the US federal government throughout the case. It was brought by the government under the so-called forfeiture laws, based on our contention that "Wally" was wrongfully imported into the United States for temporary exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in violation of the National Stolen Property Act.
It began with the US government's seizure of "Wally" at the Museum of Modern Art to prevent its return to Austria, pending the resolution of the case, which sent shock waves around the world. The case was finally resolved in 2010 by the payment of the artwork's full value by the Leopold Museum to Jaray's estate. The Leopold Museum also agreed to post a sign next to "Wally" wherever it is displayed, setting out the facts of its prior ownership and the lawsuit, and have it displayed at the Jewish Heritage Museum in New York for three weeks before it was returned to Austria.
Throughout the decade of the court proceedings, we heard repeatedly from many quarters this simple question: why was the US government involved in the case at all? Why were substantial government resources being committed to what these same critics characterised as nothing more than a title dispute, one that should have been resolved in a civil lawsuit between the estate and the Leopold Museum? Indeed, the question entered into the lawsuit itself, when the two major American museum associations, and several important individual museums, joined as "friends of the court" on the side of the Leopold Museum and the Museum of Modern Art to urge the court to dismiss the case entirely.
This line of questioning is critically important because it really raises the issue of whether governments should play a major role in trying to resolve Nazi-looted art claims. Despite the misgivings of many, it is clear that this action was both consistent with and fully promoted the express public policy interests of the US regarding Holocaust-looted art.
As former US district court chief judge (and later Attorney General) Michael B Mukasey determined in one of the early decisions in the case: "On its face, [the National Stolen Property Act] proscribes the transportation in foreign commerce of all property over $5,000 known to be stolen or converted. Although the museum… would have it otherwise, art on loan to a museum - even a [so-called] 'world-renowned museum' - is not exempt." Explaining further, the court added that "if 'Wally' is stolen or converted, application of [the Act] will 'discourage both the receiving of stolen goods and the initial taking,' which was Congress's apparent purpose." The court concluded that there was "a strong federal interest in enforcing these laws".
Indeed, it was the US government that led the way in urging governments around the world to seek ways to advance the policy of identifying art looted from the Nazis and returning it to its rightful owners. It convened a meeting of 44 nations at the Washington Conference in 1998, which adopted the Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art. One principle states that pre-war owners and their heirs should be encouraged to come forward to make known their claims to art that was confiscated by the Nazis and not subsequently restituted, and another states that, once they do so, steps should be taken expeditiously to achieve a just and fair solution, recognising this may vary according to the facts and circumstances surrounding a specific case.
Another principle adopted at the Washington Conference encouraged the resolution of these disputes by "alternative dispute resolution," where possible, to avoid long drawn-out litigation. Throughout the "Wally" case, there was much consternation expressed that it had not been settled much earlier and that such long litigation was exactly the wrong way to go about resolving Nazi-looted art claims. But it is important to understand that the government brought this action and seized "Wally" before it was about to be put on a plane to Austria and thus beyond the reach of any plausible attempt at resolution. The Austrian government, while adopting a law in 1998 that was purportedly designed to ensure the careful review of claims for Nazi-looted artworks, had determined that, as a "private foundation", the Leopold Museum was not covered by this - despite the fact that the Austrian government provided a substantial amount of the Leopold Museum's funding and appointed half of its board of directors.
In any court case, it is of course usually in all the parties' best interest to reach a mutually acceptable resolution as early as possible. But, as is often the case, it is only after the court issues a decision resolving many of the issues - as happened in the "Wally" case in autumn 2009 - that the parties become clearly focused on what is going to be the likely outcome of the case. But regardless of how long it took, securing the artwork in the US, certainly promoted the government's interest in fairly resolving these cases and preventing the trafficking of stolen Holocaust property.
The Washington Conference led eventually to the Holocaust Era Assets Conference, held in Prague in 2009, at which 46 nations adopted the Terezin Declaration. That pronouncement makes clear that Holocaust-looted art claims should be resolved on their merits ,without regard to so-called technical defences like the statute of limitations. But this has led to criticism as well.
At a series of US State Department-organised meetings, although the museum community joined calls for the resolution of Nazi-looted art claims on this basis, they raised an objection. The museum representatives made clear that they retained the right to move to dismiss cases on the grounds of the statute of limitations, if they have made the determination in particular cases that the claims in the case lacked merit. Thus, rather than allow these claims to be determined on their merits before a court of law, these museums would rather play the role of judge and jury themselves once they are convinced that they are right. Clearly, there is still much work to be done to reach a consensus on this matter.
One commentator, Eric Gibson, who well understood the true significance of the efforts to recover these precious belongings for the families of the original owners, once asked the question: "Why do we bother with recovering [Nazi-looted art] at all? Plundering is, after all, the handmaiden of war. And the world's museums are filled with objects lifted during conflicts from the Romans on." Gibson's answer to his own question eloquently describes just why the recovery of these looted artworks is so critically important: "Why do we bother? [Because] the Nazis weren't simply out to enrich themselves. Their looting was part of the Final Solution. They wanted to eradicate a race by extinguishing its culture as well as its people. This gives these works of art a unique resonance, the more so since some of them were used as barter for safe passage out of Germany or Austria for family members. The objects are symbols of a terrible crime; recovering them is an equally symbolic form of justice."
And even more poignant are the words of Henry Bondi, the now-deceased former leader of the family of Lea Bondi Jaray, on whose behalf we sought the recovery of "Wally": "You ask did they kill, yes they killed. They killed for art, when it suited them. So killing Jews and confiscating art somehow went together."
Earlier this week, on Monday, we observed Yom Hashoah, the Day of Holocaust Remembrance, and we recently commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Anschluss, the annexation of Austria by Germany in 1938, which ushered in the nightmare of the Holocaust for the huge number of Jews and other victims of Nazism who lived there and in and so many other places. Shame on those who would prefer that we forget history and forgo our efforts to try in some small way to right the terrible wrongs fomented in its darkest hours.