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Monday, September 23, 2013

Stolen Art Watch, Art Loss Register's Julian Radcliffe, Greedy, Weasal Featured Little Turd in The Spotlight.

 

Tracking Stolen Art, for Profit, and Blurring a Few Lines




"Everyone agrees there’s a real need for this kind of organization," says Julian Radcliffe, owner of the Art Loss Register, a private company that tracks stolen artworks.


 Early in the morning of May 11, 1987, someone smashed through the glass doors of the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm, removed a Matisse from a wall and fled. 


All it took was daring and a sledgehammer.
The whereabouts of the painting, “Le Jardin,” remained a mystery until the work was found last year and made a celebratory trip hom in January.
But law enforcement played no role. The return was facilitated by the Art Loss Register, a London-based company that over the last two decades has evolved into a little-noticed but increasingly integral part of art investigation around the world.
The brainchild of Julian Radcliffe, an Oxford-educated former risk consultant who speaks of once spying for British intelligence, the Register helps fill a gaping void: billions of dollars’ worth of art is stolen every year, according to an F.B.I. estimate, but law enforcement has too few resources to prioritize finding it.
For Mr. Radcliffe, whose other company helps recover stolen construction equipment, this presented a natural opportunity. Since it began 22 years ago, the Register has developed one of the most extensive databases of stolen art in the world, enabling it to recover more than $250 million worth of art, earning fees from insurers and theft victims.
Along the way, the company has drawn criticism from those who say its hardball tactics push ethical, and sometimes legal, boundaries. Even so, the Register continues to count law enforcement agents among its supporters. “To me, they’re very important, a very useful tool,” said Mark Fishstein, the New York City Police Department’s “art cop.”
Mr. Radcliffe’s company operates in the dim recesses of the art world, where the prevalence of theft, fakery and works of murky provenance has given rise to many businesses that promise to help clients navigate this lucrative but largely unregulated market.
But for the Register, despite its official-sounding name and pivotal role as a monitor, profits have not come easily, and the company’s future looks increasingly cloudy, threatening a core player in the recovery of stolen art.
Mr. Radcliffe said that he hopes the Registry will break even this year, but that it has lost money for the last six and has stayed afloat only thanks to his cash infusions. Now the company is losing talent, too.
During the past year, two key employees resigned; additionally, the company’s general counsel, Christopher A. Marinello, who has been as much a public face of the company as Mr. Radcliffe, says he is leaving at the end of this month, with plans to start a rival business.
Among the incidents that have drawn criticism, the Register misled a client who wanted to check the provenance of a painting before he purchased it, telling him it was not stolen, when in fact it was, so that he would buy it and unwittingly help the company collect a fee for its retrieval.
It has been known to pay middlemen and informers for leads on stolen works, a practice that troubles some in law enforcement, who say that it can incite thefts. And the company often behaves like a bounty hunter, charging fees of as much as 20 percent of a work’s value for its return.
These fees do not bother the insurance companies and other clients that hire the Register to find a work. But the company has approached people and museums with whom it has no relationship. In several cases, people say the Register contacted them, told them of a lead on a stolen work, then refused to divulge any information until the subject agreed to pay a fee.
Officials at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Orleans, France, for example, said that the Register approached the museum in 2003, asserting that it had information about an Alfred Sisley painting that had been stolen from the museum. The company said it could retrieve the work if the museum agreed to its fee. Unable to afford the payment, the museum called the police instead. The work was never recovered.
“Sometimes we have to deal with the fact that, under French law, we could charge them,” said Corinne Chartrelle, the deputy for a French law enforcement unit that tracks stolen art. She was not involved in the Orleans case, but said she knew of similar instances where the Register had tried to leverage its knowledge to extract a fee.
“They are keeping information to themselves,” she said.
Mr. Radcliffe contests these allegations, noting, for example, that police investigators routinely pay informants, and adding that such disputes are rare but inevitable, given the number of players involved.
“Everyone agrees there’s a real need for this kind of organization,” he said.
Indeed, even some of the company’s harshest critics say they do not welcome the prospect of an art market devoid of the Register and its resources.
“They do serve a purpose — they’re the only private database,” said Robert K. Wittman, a private art investigator who formerly led the F.B.I.’s Art Crime Team. “When they get into trouble is when they overstep that role and try to act as if they’re the police.”
Mr. Radcliffe, who is also a gentleman farmer, shrugs off suggestions that his business could be faltering.
“I am very patient,” he said. “I grow trees. I raise cattle. Breeding cattle takes 20 years. If I think something is the right thing to do, I will do it as long as it takes.”
Few Competitors
Outside the movies, art crime can be awfully mundane.
Rare is a thief like the dapper one played by Pierce Brosnan in “The Thomas Crown Affair,” who choreographed robberies of Monets from the Metropolitan Museum of Art with his bowler-hatted accomplices. Instead, doors are forced, windows smashed and valuables grabbed in a hurry, often by petty criminals.
As clumsy as the crooks might be, the value of stolen art is still huge compared with the law enforcement resources devoted to its recovery.
A few countries, like Italy, place a high priority on art theft, but they are the exception.
New York City and Los Angeles, hubs of the art trade, each have one detective dedicated to art crime. The F.B.I. has assigned 14 agents with special training to investigate art crimes, though most have other duties as well. Scotland Yard’s arts and antiques unit has three officers.
“It’s not violent crime,” said Saskia Hufnagel, a research fellow at the Australian Research Council Center of Excellence in Policing and Security. “There are no victims, at least ones the public would consider victims. A lot of the loss is covered by insurance.”
The authorities are also hobbled by limited and incomplete data.
The database managed by Scotland Yard lists some 57,500 stolen objects. Interpol’s database of stolen art includes about 40,000 works. The F.B.I.’s database has fewer than 8,000 objects on it, partly because the bureau relies on local police to fill in the blanks.
“It is not an absolutely complete database,” said Bonnie Magness-Gardiner, who manages the F.B.I.’s art theft program. “We get what they choose to send us.”
Each database lists items based on individual protocols, and most police agencies don’t communicate with one another; thus, someone checking whether a work is stolen would have to speak to multiple agencies.
The Register, by comparison, reports that its database includes more than 350,000 stolen, looted or missing works. In addition to an in-house staff of about 10, the company uses an Indian company to search the world for matches between the database and items for sale at auction houses and art fairs.
Theft victims pay to list their items with the Register, which also charges dealers, collectors and insurers fees to search the database to see whether a work is clean.
To law enforcement, the Register’s resources are clearly helpful. Police search the database free, and the company has helped train the F.B.I.’s Art Crime Team.
As a result, some police agencies develop close relationships with it, even recommending that victims register stolen works there.
“If I went to the A.L.R. and said, ‘Did you have any information about this painting?,’ they would give me 30 documents,” said James McAndrew, a former federal agent who tracked stolen art. “They’d have all that, where the cop on the beat would not even know to ask.”
Private Eyes, and Fees
For a man who one day would become an essential figure in the art market, Mr. Radcliffe had little exposure to art growing up, beyond some family portraits that were handed down through the generations.
In the early 1970s, he worked in London as an insurance broker specializing in political risk and later helped to found a company, in which he still has a minority stake, that, among other things, provides advice about security in dangerous countries.
He became involved with art sleuthing in 1991, a few years after a director at Sotheby’s mentioned that auction houses, whose businesses are built on consumer trust, could use a list of stolen artworks to ensure that they were not selling purloined items. It turned out that such a database already existed, managed by a tiny nonprofit organization in New York called the International Foundation for Art Research. Mr. Radcliffe persuaded the foundation to form a partnership with him, though they later split after disagreements over strategy and issues of control. (The foundation still licenses its database to the Register.)
Mr. Radcliffe now owns 68 percent of the Register; Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Bonhams are among the other owners. Last year, he said, it took in $1.25 million, mostly in fees for database searches, and much of the rest in recovery fees from theft victims and insurers that had already paid off claims. But lucrative recoveries are rare, he said, with the median value about $20,000.
Mr. Wittman, the former F.B.I. investigator, said that the appeal of the business goes beyond revenue for Mr. Radcliffe, who enjoys his access to law enforcement and his image as an art world James Bond.
“He wants to be the supersleuth,” he said.
A tall, pale, wraithlike figure with a beak nose and a poker face, Mr. Radcliffe, 65, has a taste for cloak-and-dagger theatricality. Pressed last year, for example, to divulge more about a case in the Balkans, he said: “Maybe the answer is to take you out there one day and introduce you to some of the people concerned and see what happens.”
Then he laughed sardonically.
Certainly, his efforts and others have led to a good number of successful recoveries by the Register, including the return of a valuable Cézanne, one of seven works stolen from a home in Stockbridge, Mass., in 1978.
It was found more than 20 years later after Lloyd’s of London contacted the Register with a query: A Panamanian company was trying to insure a Cézanne painting for transport. Was it stolen?
The database reflected that it was, so Mr. Radcliffe approached its owner, Michael Bakwin. His art had been located. Was he willing to pay a recovery fee?
Mr. Bakwin agreed, and Mr. Radcliffe negotiated a settlement with the Panamanian company. Mr. Bakwin got his Cézanne back in 1999. He sold the work, “Pitcher and Fruits,” a few months later at Sotheby’s for $29.3 million. The Register pocketed a $1.6 million fee.
Years later, when some of the other works appeared on the market, the seller was unmasked as Robert M. Mardirosian, a retired lawyer from Massachusetts who had once represented the thief and came into possession of the paintings when the thief was killed in 1979. He then created the Panamanian shell corporation to hide behind, according to court records.
In 2008, Mr. Mardirosian was convicted of possessing stolen property and forced to return the paintings.
Mr. Radcliffe acknowledges that to pull off this coup, he resorted to some sleight of hand. When the additional paintings surfaced, and Sotheby’s asked him whether they were stolen, he lied, saying they were not. This allowed them to be shipped to the Sotheby’s in London, where they were seized.
Mr. Radcliffe said he has only lied twice about whether paintings were stolen, and is not apologetic, likening the tactic to the police’s misleading a suspect during an investigation.
“When you’re doing a sting operation, for example,” he said, “you don’t say, ‘By the way, I’m lying to you.’ ”
Questionable Tactics
Of course, the Register is not the police, a fact that its critics suggest it too often forgets.
Judy Goffman Cutler, an art dealer who became entangled in a Register hunt for a Norman Rockwell painting, has sued the company twice, contending that it harassed her for years in its zeal to collect a fee for recovering the work.
Mrs. Cutler had clear title to the painting in 1989, when she sold it to the director Steven Spielberg. Later it was mistakenly listed as stolen by the F.B.I. and, consequently, the Register, which tried for years to recover it.
Mrs. Cutler said that the Register pursued her even after company officials had reason to know she had done nothing wrong. Neither of her suits against the company succeeded, and she is still angry.
“They knew better but chose to follow the greedy path,” she said.
The Register has characterized its dispute with Mrs. Cutler as a misunderstanding based on faulty information it received from the F.B.I. and others that suggested that the painting was stolen.
In another case, a woman named Gisela Fischer, whose family’s Pissarro was looted from their Vienna home by the Gestapo in 1938, accuses the Register of a bait-and-switch. It first offered, she said, to find the painting at no cost, citing a longstanding policy to work pro bono to recover art stolen by the Nazis. Years later, though, when the Register developed a lead on the painting, it demanded she sign a new contract, agreeing to its fee. She refused.
“I felt I was being put in the position of a victim,” she said.
Mr. Radcliffe said that the Register must charge fees to underwrite its efforts and that its conduct is no different from that of lawyers who charge to bring restitution cases. But critics said zealousness has marred other efforts by the company.
In 2004, for example, it drew criticism over efforts to recover a 15th-century painting by an Italian artist, Giovanni da Modena, that had been stolen from a Paris gallery.
Mr. Radcliffe approached the gallery with a simple message, according to people involved in the case: He knew where the painting was and could get it back for a fee. The gallery agreed, and the painting was returned.
But the Paris police were livid when they found out that Mr. Radcliffe had used the information to extract a fee, instead of turning it over to investigators tracking the theft.
Mr. Radcliffe said he had provided details of the case to the police — but it was the Italian police, because the case was connected to a string of other robberies they were investigating. He assumed, he said, that the Italians would pass on the information to their French counterparts and could not recall the names of the officers to whom he had spoken. In any event, he said, his police supporters outweigh his detractors.
“On balance, we’re pretty helpful to them,” he said. “You know, they may not like what we do on Case A, but on Case B and C. I mean, we’ve done some very good work for the French police.”
However testy the Register’s relationship with law enforcement, people continue to use the company for one powerful reason: a lack of alternatives. Mr. Marinello, who is leaving at the end of the month to pursue his own art recovery business, said he may try to create a competing database of stolen art. For now, the Register’s place in the market is unique — and many say crucial.
“There have been questions over the years about its financial structure and the potential conflicts of interest there, but if it was to be said that it couldn’t be run because of that, what are we left with?” said Ivan Macquisten, the editor of the British publication Antiques Trade Gazette. “I can’t see that anyone in the last decade has come up with a better idea.”

Art Hostage Comments:
It has to be said that every one of the unlawful, unethical and immoral actions taken by the Art Loss Register was before Christopher Marinello joined the ALR in 2006 and since then Christopher Marinello has tried, sadly in vain, to clean up the operations of The Art Loss Register.
Opposed to the bad faith of Julian Radcliffe, Christopher Marinello embarks on a new venture of trying to establish a lawful way of recovering stolen art.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Stolen Art Watch, The Police Empire Strikes Back, Traveller Museum Raiders, Handlers & Organisers Targeted In Nationwide Swoop

Update:

Cambridgeshire Police say twenty people who were arrested on Tuesday (September 10) as part of a national operation into high-value museum thefts have been released on bail.
Eighteen men and two women were arrested following a series of dawn raids across England and Northern Ireland including four men, aged 24, 41, 44 and 56 who were arrested at the Smithy Fen travellers site in Cottenham in Cambridgeshire.
All 20 have now been bailed until January.
Hundreds of officers from 26 police forces and the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) were involved in national operation.


 

 
Massive raid on Smithy Fen travellers' site in hunt for masterminds behind £15m treasure theft from Cambridge museum

Four men have been arrested in a massive dawn raid today at a travellers’ site near Cambridge as police hunt for £15 million of treasure plundered from the Fitzwilliam Museum.
The News joined detectives at the police invasion of Smithy Fen in Cottenham as part of a nationwide action involving more than 20 police forces.
Four men, aged 24, 41, 44 and 56, were arrested at the site and are among 19 people who have today been arrested across the UK as part of an operation in connection with a series of high-value raids on museum and auction houses.
Seventeen men and two women are currently in custody following dawn raids in England and Northern Ireland.
Hundreds of officers from 26 police forces and the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) are involved in the operation and searches are ongoing at various locations.
Five men, aged 20, 31, 35, 53 and 54, and two women, aged 28 and 54, were arrested in London.
Four men, aged 24, 41, 44 and 56, were arrested in Cambridgeshire.
Two men, aged 28 and 46, were arrested in Essex.
A 60-year-old man was arrested in Sussex, a 32-year-old man was arrested in the West Midlands and a 67-year-old man was arrested in Nottingham.
Three men have been arrested in Northern Ireland.
All of those arrested are being held on suspicion of conspiracy to burgle apart from the 54-year-old woman who was arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice and assisting an offender. They are currently in custody at police stations across England and Northern Ireland.
More than 30 officers, including riot police, took part in the action at Smithy Fen this morning.
The raids are also being linked to an international gang of Irish travellers.
Officers are hoping to arrest the criminal kingpins behind thefts of jade from the museum and a series of raids to steal the precious stones across the UK. It is understood other similar investigations are taking place across Europe.
The raid was part of a series of warrants currently being carried out in England and Northern Ireland in connection with a number of high-value raids on museum and auction houses.
Hundreds of officers from 26 police forces and the Serious Organised Crime Agency are involved in the operation.
Searches were made at addresses in London, Sussex, West Midlands, Cambridgeshire, Essex and Northern Ireland.
Today’s action is in connection with six crimes which took place over a four-month period last year at museums and auction houses across England. Chinese artefacts and rhinoceros horn were stolen in six incidents – three at Durham Museum, one at Gorringes Auction House in East Sussex and one each at Norwich Castle Museum and the Fitzwilliam Museum.
While much of the property was subsequently recovered, several high-value items are still missing.
So far, eight people have been convicted and jailed for a total of more than 40 years for their roles in the break-ins.
ACPO lead for serious organised crime, Chief Constable Mick Creedon said: “Today’s operation follows a long and complex pan-European investigation involving officers from 26 police forces and the Serious Organised Crime Agency.
“The series of burglaries last year had a profound effect on museums and similar institutions and we are committed to bringing all those who were involved in the conspiracy to justice.
“Many of the stolen Chinese artefacts are still outstanding and a substantial reward remains on offer for information which leads to the safe return of those priceless items.”
The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has set up a working group to crack down on the emerging issue of heritage crime. The group brings together police officers, English Heritage and other partners in the arts and museum sector to share intelligence and crime prevention advice.
Officers are hoping to arrest the masterminds who orchestrated international jade raids.
And security measures at the Fitzwilliam Museum are to be beefed up in the wake of the devastating burglary of April last year. Chinese treasures worth £15 million stolen.
It is also understood that today’s raids are linked with the arrests of 30 members of an Irish traveller crime network in January. They were alleged to be involved in drug trafficking and organised robbery worldwide.
Police forces across eight European countries took part in the operation.
At least nine members of the organised crime group, known as the ‘Rathkeale Rovers’, have been served with tax demands worth more than £8 million by authorities – following a complex investigation headed by Europol.
International police forces were so concerned with the criminal activities of the ‘Rathkeale Rovers’, they held a special international meeting at Europol in 2011 to thrash out a clear approach on how to tackle the crime network which is made up of several traveller families.
Police forces in the UK, other western European countries and the US are involved in the ongoing investigations.
Two members of the crime network are believed to have been responsible for an art theft from a museum in Norway earlier this year.
The Museum of Decorative Arts in Bergen on January 5 was burgled and thieves escaped with haul of Chinese artefacts – some of which are 4,000 years old.
Europol has said the crime network recently started to specialise in the theft and illegal trade of rhino horn.
None of the 18 jade artefacts stolen from the Fitzwilliam have been recovered following the break-in which was described by the museum’s then acting director as having tarnished the museum’s reputation as a “guardian of treasures”.
Three men and a 15-year-old boy were able to walk to the back of the museum to a ground floor window to cut a square hole through metal shutters before breaking the window.
Detectives are today hoping to arrest the organised criminals behind the Fitzwilliam gang.
They were caught using CCTV footage of them casing the joint on the previous day, and DNA evidence from a Fanta bottle discarded by the boy, Marvin Simos who got a four-month detection order.
Steven Coughlan and Patrick Kiely, both from London, and Robert Smith, of Kent, were jailed for six years each last September.
Two men were also convicted of the theft of £1.8 million worth of Chinese artefacts from Durham University’s Oriental Museum in April last year.

Nineteen arrested after dawn raids across the country including traveller camp over series of break-ins that targeted Chinese artefacts worth millions

  • Four men arrested this morning at Smithy Fen travellers' site in Cottenham, Cambridgeshire
  • Total of 17 men and 2 women arrested from across London, Cambridgeshire, Sussex, Essex, West Midlands and Nottingham
  • Police from 26 forces and Serious Organised Crime Agency execute dawn raids as part of Operation Elven into six museum and auction house break-ins last year
  • Robberies at Durham University Oriental Museum, Gorringes Auction House, Norwich Castle Museum and Fitzwilliam Museum over four months in 2012
  • Thefts and attempted thefts targeted items belonging to Admiral Lord Nelson, rhino horn and Chinese jade

Hundreds of police launched a series of dawn raids yesterday in the hunt for crooks who looted treasures worth millions from British museums and auction houses.
Nineteen suspects were arrested in the blitz which involved officers from 26 forces and the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca), and included a swoop on the Cambridgeshire travellers' site of Smithy Fen.
An address in Fifth Avenue, Low Hill, Wolverhampton was also raided as part of Operation Elven, a nationwide action following the spate of thefts of artefacts during a four-month period last year.
Raid: A Cottenham travellers' site was targeted in connection with thefts on museums and auction houses
Raid: A Cottenham travellers' site was targeted in connection with thefts on museums and auction houses

Dawn: The Smithy Fen site was targeted with connections to the Fitzwilliam Museum robbery
Dawn: The Smithy Fen site was targeted with connections to the Fitzwilliam Museum robbery Nationwide: 19 people in total have been arrested - 17 men and two women
Nationwide: 19 people in total have been arrested - 17 men and two women - including three men from Northern Ireland
Addresses in London, Sussex, West Midlands, Essex and Northern Ireland were also hit at 6am in connection with the six museum and auction house break-ins.
Eighteen jade figurines worth £15m were taken from from the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge and £1.8m of Chinese artefacts were snatched from Durham University.
Police believe the same network commissioned raids on Gorringes auction house in East Sussex and ordered Rhino horns to be stolen from Norwich Castle Museum.
Two men were also convicted of the theft of Chinese artefacts from Durham University's Oriental Museum in April last year.
West Midlands Police were the first out of the 26 forces involved to confirm the arrest of a 32-year-old man in Walsall today after officers raided addresses in Bentley, Walsall and Low Hill, Wolverhampton, which had been identified by Soca.



Hunt: Rewards have been issued for the £15million worth of treasure plundered from the Fitzwilliam Museum
Raids museums
Hunt: Rewards have been issued for the £15million worth of treasure plundered from the Fitzwilliam Museum

Organised: Soca and officers from 26 police forces are involved in the nationwide operation
Organised: Soca and officers from 26 police forces are involved in the nationwide operation
Questions: Investigations are still going on across the country in relation to the spate of robberies across four months in early 2012
Questions: Investigations are still going on across the country in relation to the spate of robberies across four months in early 2012
Crackdown: The men arrested at the Cambridgeshire traveller site were aged 24, 41, 44 and 56
Crackdown: The men arrested at the Cambridgeshire traveller site were aged 24, 41, 44 and 56
Police have since confirmed seven arrests in London - five men, aged 20, 31, 35, 53 and 54, and two women aged 28 and 54.
Four men, aged 24, 41, 44 and 56, were arrested in Cambridgeshire and two men, aged 28 and 46, were arrested in Essex.
In Sussex, a 60-year-old man was arrested, and a 67-year-old man in Nottingham.
Three men have been arrested in Northern Ireland.

Cambridgeshire Police, which is leading the operation, said all of those arrested were being held on suspicion of conspiracy to burgle except the 54-year-old woman, who was arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice and assisting an offender.


Convictions have already been secured against some thieves who carried out contracts to steal the collectors items.

Eight people have already been convicted and jailed for a total of more than 40 years for their roles in the raids.
Three men were imprisoned for 18 years for the theft of artefacts from the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.
Steven Coughlan, 26, and Patrick Kiely, 30, both from London, and Robert Smith, 25, of Kent, were all given prison sentences after being found guilty after a trial last September.

'Pan-European': Further arrests in Wolverhampton were part of the operation that police say is working with forces abroad
'Pan-European': Further arrests in Wolverhampton were part of the operation that police say is working with forces abroad

Major: Operation Elven has been launched to recover items stolen from museums and involves raids like these in Wolverhampton
Major: Operation Elven has been launched to recover items stolen from museums and involves raids like these in Wolverhampton

Marvin Simos, 15, was also handed a four-month detection order for his involvement in the gang.
So far, eight people have been convicted and jailed for their roles in the break-ins that happened between February and May 2012.
On February 25, objects belonging to Admiral Lord Nelson worth £36,800 were taken from Norwich Castle Museum, including medals marking the naval hero's death at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, a saucer from a tea set he was said to have used, and a gold mourning ring worn by his family and valued at £25,000.
Days earlier, four men had attempted to steal a Rhino's head from the museum, but were tackled by museum staff.

One month later, staff and customers at Gorringes Auction House foiled robbers who leapt over a ceramics counter to steal a rhino horn - although the thieves managed to make off with a cloisonne bird and a bamboo libation cup.
Thorough: A 32-year-old man was arrested in the West Midlands as part of the raids
Thorough: A 32-year-old man was arrested in the West Midlands as part of the raids

Investigation: Police raided properties and garages early this morning
Investigation: Police raided properties and garages early this morning


In April 2012, five men were arrested after a gang of thieves chiselled through the wall of the Oriental Museum in Durham and stole Chinese artefacts worth £2million.
The thieves spent 40 minutes making a 2ft-by-3ft hole in the wall before taking a porcelain figure and an 18th-century jade bowl - both of the Chinese Qing dynasty of 1644-1912 - from the ground floor of the museum.
And in the same fortnight, 18 items - said by some experts to be worth £18million in total - were ransacked from the Chinese galleries of Cambridge's Fitzwilliam Museum, including an 18th-century carved jade buffalo, a carved horse from the 17th century and a green and brown jade elephant.
Arrests were made at some of the incidents and much of the stolen property has since been recovered but several valuable items are still missing.
Target: Durham University's Oriental Museum was one of the institutions affected in last year's spate of robberies
Target: Durham University's Oriental Museum was one of the institutions affected in last year's spate of robberies
Raid: Thieves chiselled a 2ft-by-3ft hold in the wall of the Oriental Museum of Durham University in April 2012
Raid: Thieves chiselled a 2ft-by-3ft hold in the wall of the Oriental Museum of Durham University in April 2012
Ransacked: After working at the wall for 40 minutes, it took the robbers just a minute to take Chinese artefacts from the museum
Ransacked: After working at the wall for 40 minutes, it took the robbers just a minute to take Chinese artefacts from the museum
Recumbent buffalo statue
Beast
Jade: A 'recumbant buffalo' and an 'imaginary beast', two statuettes stolen from Cambridge's Fitzwilliam Museum in April 2012
Jade lion statue
Recumbent horse statue
Reward: Police are still searching for many of the artefacts that were stolen

Jade vase
Table screen
Antique: The Chinese artefacts date back to the Qing dynasty

Chief Constable Mick Creedon, the Association of Chief Police Officers’ (Acpo) lead for serious organised crime, said the operation was part of 'a long and complex pan-European investigation'.

'The series of burglaries last year had a profound effect on museums and similar institutions and we are committed to bringing all those who were involved in the conspiracy to justice,' he said.
'Many of the stolen Chinese artefacts are still outstanding and a substantial reward remains on offer for information which leads to the safe return of those priceless items.'
Acpo has set up a working group to crack down on the emerging issue of heritage crime, which brings together police, English Heritage and other partners in the arts and museum sector to share intelligence and crime prevention advice.
Dishonour: A mourning ring worn by Admiral Lord Nelson's family after his death at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and thought to be worth £25,000 was one of the items stolen from Norwich Castle Museum
Dishonour: A mourning ring worn by Admiral Lord Nelson's family after his death at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and thought to be worth £25,000 was one of the items stolen from Norwich Castle Museum
Break-in: Thieves stole 18 items of Chinese art from the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge in April 2012
Break-in: Thieves stole 18 items of Chinese art from the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge in April 2012
Speaking after a 15-year-old old boy and three men were convicted of conspiracy to burgle following the raid on the University of Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridgeshire police acknowledged they were unlikely to have caught everybody involved.

The defence counsel told the court 'others higher up the chain', who had not been identified, recruited the men to target the jade exhibits.
Cambridge Crown Court heard it was unlikely the men knew the true value of the items which it is thought were sold to rich Chinese collectors.
Rhino horn has a particularly high value on the black market due to beliefs that they contain medicinal powers and their use in some cultures in ceremonial daggers.
Horns can fetch around £50,000 per kilogram, making them more valuable than cocaine or gold.

CAB and ERU raid homes as part of probe into €40m crime gang-



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Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) and members of the Emergency Response Unit have raided a number of properties in connection to a Europol investigation into the activities of an international crime gang

DOZENS of homes have been raided in an international police investigation into the theft of valuable rhino horns.

An organised crime gang, linked by European security chiefs to a large traveller family originally from the west of Ireland, is believed to have netted goods and artefacts worth €40 million in a string of robberies.
Armed gardai and officers from the Criminal Asset Bureau (Cab) raided homes in the Rathkeale and Raheen areas of Limerick and in Newmarket in Cork.
One of the gangs suspected of involvement in the thefts has been nicknamed the Rathkeale Rovers.
A large amount of documentation, a small amount of cash, some artefacts and paintings were recovered and confiscated during the operation.
No arrests were made.
The Garda press office said that the raids were targeted on the three towns as part of the ongoing investigation into the assets and financial affairs of a gang suspected of extensive criminality.
They are involved in labour exploitation, counterfeiting, tarmac scams, tobacco smuggling and the theft of rhino horns and rare Chinese cultural artefacts, Europol have said.
Over the last three years, there have been more than 60 recorded thefts of rhino horns and Asian art from museums and private collections across Europe.
For the last two years, Europol has been tracking a suspected Irish organised crime gang which it warned was one of the most significant players in the illegal global trade in rhino horns.
They are wanted over robberies in Italy, Germany and the UK. They are believed to have links to North and South America, China and Australia and use "intimidation and violence" in their activities.
Cab officers in Ireland have been involved in the Europol initiative to target the international crime gang.
Agencies in the UK, including the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) and local police forces, have carried out more than 30 searches, including some in Northern Ireland, as part of the investigation.
Police in Britain, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Portugal and France have all linked the theft of rhino horns to Ireland.
The Garda press office said the raids in Rathkeale, Raheen and Newmarket were carried out to gather evidence.
The latest rhino horn theft hit museum bosses in Ireland in April this year, despite them being put into storage for safekeeping.
Three masked men broke into the National Museum of Ireland's Collections Resource Centre (CRC) in a warehouse in north Dublin and tied up a security man before leaving an hour later with four rhino heads holding eight horns.
Due to the level of the robberies, some European museums have replaced the real rhino horns with copies and some of these were stolen, one in Germany.
Rhino horn, which consists only of keratin, is sold in Chinese traditional medicine and claimed to be anything from an aphrodisiac to a cure for a hangover or cancer or even just a decoration.
Conservationists warn those using the illegal product that they would be better off biting their nails.