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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Stolen Art Watch, Julian Radcliffe No-Show, Hyams Gift To Nation, Rathkeale Rovers Raided, Russborough House Revisited, Picasso Electrician Sentence Upheld, Ukraine Returns Stolen Verona Paintings & Goldflakes Traced To L.A.

Justice Barry Ostrager of the New York Supreme Court wants to know, where is Julian Radcliffe?
A no show or non-appearance at today’s final court hearing (see court record photo below). It appears that Radcliffe is in arrears to the tune of 86k in back rent to his NYC landlord. Other questions have resurfaced about his viability in light of other partners claims against him.
julians demise 800

Art Loss Register Update - Sources allege the following:
The ALR used to own a company called Albion in Delhi, India. There, they processed all the database registrations and searches.
In the summer of 2013, Radcliffe’s partners, Tony LeFevre and Preeti Bahl, forced Radcliffe to sell the company to Loss Management Group (LMG), based in Eastbourne and who, according to their website, are the UK’s largest organisation specialising in the professional management of insurance claims for jewellery, watches and other valuable items, whether they have been damaged, lost or stolen.
The vote on the sale was 2/3 against 1/3. Radcliffe was furious and demanded an apology from his former financial director and long time business partner LeFevre who resigned from ALR over the distasteful and nebulous payments Radcliffe was making to criminals. LeFevre basically told Radcliffe to stick it where the sun don’t shine.
Once Albion was sold, Radcliffe had a problem. Now, all he had was a contract with a third party company in Delhi which handled confidential police, victim and insurance data. This in turn, violates many of ALR contracts with victims as well as insurers and dealers who think their confidential material is “safe with the ALR”.
To hide this fact from the public, he rented out his own office at Hatton Garden to Albion (for a satellite office) and placed a sign on the door (see image below) to give the impression that it was still an ALR controlled operation. He even demanded a seat on the Albion Board, which didn’t happen.
Until now, the public is unaware of these ALR shenanigans. Galleries, TEFAF, Art Basel, Frieze Art Fairs, victims, and IFAR amongst others, might like to consider that their confidential data is being sent to LMG, and that the ALR is nothing but a front of house boiler plate.
Fog Bandit minExterior of the Art Loss Regster / Albion Ltd. offices in Hatton Garden 20/12/2016
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What's Going On With The Art Loss Register?

Julian Radcliffe in legal court room drama. Once the hunter, now the prey, the alleged would be extortionist is on the hot seat for monies owed.
Looks like the extortion business ain’t what it used to be.
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A New York City art lawyer noticed this case on the docket recently in NY State Civil Supreme Court. It appears that the ALR, which closed its offices in NY, Germany, Paris, and Amsterdam between 2009-2010, bailed out on its New York City landlord 10839 Associates, with a sizeable unpaid bill to the tune of $86k.
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After trying to stiff the landlord, the plaintiffs found Radcliffe, who personally acted as guarantor on the lease, and sued. Mr. Radcliffe, who has admitted that the register has not made a profit under his stewardship for over a decade appears to have kept the ALR in the red over the last two years since this interview.
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Whilst the date of 20 December for judgment seems like an end to this, yet another ALR sordid affair, there is no guarantee that Mr. Radcliffe will settle. Word on the street is that the ALR has lost its US insurance subscribers and is struggling to bring in recovery income since a mass exodus of talent took place in 2012 that gave rise to the creation of a rival database called Artive.
Is a dead beat tenant what the art world needs in a due diligence service or can we do better? Are ALR shareholders like Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Bonhams keeping the ALR just barely alive to show some semblance of due diligence? Is it being used to present a bogus veil of integrity? Perhaps, but one thing is for sure, having not made a profit in a decade, Mr. Radcliffe’s skills in recovery of stolen art have to be questioned, as does his ability to pay rent.
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In a final twist to this story so far, Justice Barry R. Ostrager, who has taken the case since it was filled by the plaintiff on November 10 2015, is known to be relentless. As a matter of fact, one of AAD’s staff knows the Judge very well. Justice Ostrager used to have a summer home in Saratoga, he loves race horses, hates criminals, and loathes dead beats.
Watch this space.

Ramsbury Manor's Harry Hyams leaves £487m will

THE former owner of Ramsbury Manor has left a huge art collection to the nation in his £487m will.
Property magnate Harry Hyams has left one of the largest charitable bequests, £450m out of his total estate of £487, in English legal history by selling off the manor, his art and many antique cars.
Now that the will of Mr Hyams, who died at the age of 87 last December and is best known as the developer of the Centre Point office building in London, has been released, his Capricorn Foundation will now work to put the collection on display.
Diana Rawstrone, a trustee of the foundation which formed in 2010, said that sculptures and paintings by the likes of JMW Turner, Edward Burne-Jones and George Stubbs will be loaned out to museums and art galleries across the UK.
The reclusive multi-millionaire, who was rarely seen in public or photographed, started work as an office boy aged 17 and made his money through shrewd dealings in real estate development and by the time he was 30 he was a millionaire. Last year he was ranked number 12 in the list of the richest people in the South West and number 332 in the Sunday Times Rich List.
Mr Hyams, who was married to his wife Kathleen from 1954-2011, bought the manor from Lord Rootes for £650,000 which was a record price for a private house in England back in 1964.
In 2006, Ramsbury Manor was the scene for one of Britain's biggest ever burglaries. Initially it was estimated up to £60m worth of world-famous fine art and porcelain was stolen, however valuation expert Leslie Weller later put a figure on the stolen goods of £6.07m.
Mr Hyams nor his wife were in the house at the time and the gang of five men, all part of the notorious Johnson family of travellers, were jailed for a total of 49 years in 2008.

Gardai in Limerick seize rare, valuable Chinese libation cup made from rhino horn

LIMERICK, Ireland - The Criminal Assets Bureau, along with a team of 50 Gardai officers led a massive operation in Limerick - raiding 11 properties in Rathkeale and seizing rare and valuable products. 
According to reports, amongst the many things the gardai seized, was a rare and extremely valuable Chinese libation cup, dubbed to be worth ‘six-figure’ cash sum, believed to be made from rhinoceros horn.
Officials are also said to have seized three high-end watches worth over 100,000 euros, bank statements and other documents.
Reports noted that the officers were leading an investigation into the notorious Rathkeale Rovers criminal Traveller gang.
The gang was recently mentioned in a high-profile legal tangle in the U.K. earlier this year - subsequently being jailed for dealing in stolen rhino horns and other valuable property.
Reports quoted a Garda source as saying, “One piece of ivory was seized in the searches. It’s a (Chinese) libation cup, made from rhino horn. We are examining it to make sure it is what we believe it to be. It will be forensically examined; it’s an ornament of some sort.”
The source was also quoted as saying, “The search phase has finished and the investigation phase will continue for some time.We seized cash in excess of six figures but the exact amount cannot be disclosed for operational reasons. We also have to determine the exact value of the three high-end watches we recovered but we believe they have a combined retail value of in excess of 100,000 euros.”
The Garda press office said in a statement, “The CAB investigation relates to suspected criminal activity by an organised crime gang in Ireland, the U.K., and Europe.”
Head of the Limerick Garda Division, Chief Superintendent David Sheahan said, “We have CAB profilers in Limerick who prepared background work for the national unit which led to today’s investigation. We are happy to support CAB, and this was their investigation.”
Reports added that two men were arrested for breaches of public order after they tried to block detectives during the raids.
They were produced before the court and charged in connection with “minor public order incidents,” and granted bail on strict conditions.

What became of Russborough House’s Old Masters for sale?

Of the Beit paintings controversially earmarked for auction, three avoided the hammer

For a few decades in the second half of the 20th century, Russborough House near Blessington, Co Wicklow was an unlikely home to one of the world’s most important – and valuable – privately owned art collections. But not any more. So where did all the art go, and who owns it now?
In the 1950s, the opulent Anglo-Irish mansion was bought by English aristocrat Sir Alfred Beit, heir to both a diamond-mining fortune and a stunning collection of paintings. He and Lady Beit moved to Co Wicklow, settled into Irish country life and adorned Russborough House with museum-quality works of art and antiques.
The couple had no children and so, after two decades, in 1976 they effectively handed over the house and their art collection to the people of Ireland by establishing the Alfred Beit Foundation, a charitable and educational trust “with the object of keeping the house and art collection intact, making it a centre for the arts and open to the public”.
Russborough House was opened to visitors but the art, inevitably, attracted the attention of criminals. Many of the paintings were stolen in a series of notorious robberies – among them one by an IRA gang that included, improbably, the heiress Rose Dugdale. (Most were later recovered by the Garda.) As a consequence, in 1986 the Beits donated the most valuable of the paintings, including a Vermeer, to the National Gallery of Ireland. This act of astounding generosity was worth an estimated €100 million.
In 1993, in a first for British subjects, the couple were granted honorary Irish citizenship. Sir Alfred died the following year, aged 91; Lady Beit died in 2005, aged 89.

Short of money

Meanwhile, the foundation got on with the job of running Russborough House and attracting visitors. The house did receive some funding from the State but, evidently, not enough. Cash was needed to pay for ongoing maintenance and conservation. But how to raise it? The oldest solution in the Big House book, of course: was to “sell the family silver”.

In 2006, the foundation sold a collection of 16th-century Italian bronze sculptures at auction, which made €3.8 million. When that cash ran out, a small collection of Chinese porcelain was sent to Sotheby’s in 2013. Initially valued at €350,000, the porcelain sold for €1.2 million.
The financial problems persisted. In 2015, the foundation announced that it needed to create an endowment fund to pay for ongoing running costs and conservation; otherwise Russborough House might have to close. It also announced plans to sell some of the remaining Beit art collection – including six “Old Master” paintings, among them two works by Rubens – at a Christie’s auction in London.
The foundation said the paintings had been in storage for years and would not be hung in the house again because of security concerns. However, the proposed auction prompted a public outcry. After a series of emergency meetings with Minister for Arts and Heritage Heather Humphreys, the foundation agreed to postpone the auction of the Old Master paintings until 2016. It would attempt to find private sources in Ireland who might buy the paintings and donate them to the State.
Following months of secret negotiations, it emerged that buyers had been found for three of the six paintings for donation to the National Gallery of Ireland. These purchases aren’t quite as kind-hearted as they may appear. Such donors are entitled to 80 per of the price written off their tax liabilities. So the State, in fact, ends up footing most of the cost in foregone taxes.
Humphreys’s department said it would not name the donors as the arrangements involved their private tax affairs. But the details have emerged.

Anonymous buyers

Denis O’Brien, the telecoms billionaire, bought Head of a Bearded Man by Rubens for €3.5 million, which enables him to claim €2.8million in tax relief. Lochlann Quinn, part-owner of Dublin’s five-star Merrion Hotel, bought A Village Kermesse Near Antwerp by David Teniers the Younger, a 17th-century Flemish artist, for €2 million (tax relief worth €1.6 million).
It is believed that Dublin businessman John Gallagher (who has made no public comment on the matter) is willing to buy a third painting, Adoration of the Shepherds by Adriaen Van Ostade, for €1 million, which would entail tax relief of €800,000. The Department of Arts & Heritage said the process to agree a valuation for the Van Ostade painting, which must be approved by the Revenue Commissioners, is still ongoing.
As for the other three Old Masters, they were sent back to the salesroom. Last July 7th three lots “consigned by the Alfred Beit Foundation” were sold by Christie’s in London. Venus Supplicating Jupiter by Rubens made £1.3 million (€1.5 million at the prevailing exchange rate); Piazza San Marco, Venice, with the Basilica and the Campanile, with Figures in Carnival Costume by Francesco Guardi made £164,500 (€192,000); and Guardi’s The Piazzetta, Venice, with the Doge’s Palace and the Libreria, San Giorgio Maggiore Beyond, also made £164,500.
Will these sales prevent the threatened closure of Russborough House? For the foreseeable future, almost certainly yes. But the long-term fate of the house, and its remaining treasures, is uncertain.

A French court on Friday upheld the two-year suspended sentences of Pablo Picasso's former electrician and his wife, who kept 271 of his artworks stashed in their garage for almost 40 years.

Pierre Le Guennec and his wife Danielle were convicted last year of possessing stolen goods and for hiding the works from Picasso's heirs.
At his original trial Le Guennec, now 77, claimed that Picasso had presented him with the artworks in 1971 or 1972, to reward him for his loyal service. The painter died in 1973.

"Picasso had total confidence in me. Maybe it was my discretion," Le Guennec told the court at the time. "Monsieur and Madame called me 'little cousin'."
The former electrician later changed his account, however, telling the appeals court in the southern city of Aix-en-Provence that the works were part of a huge trove of art that Picasso's widow asked him to conceal after the artist's death in 1973.
He claimed that Jacqueline Picasso later retrieved most of the works but left him a box containing 180 single pieces and a notebook containing 91 drawings as a gift, saying "this is for you".
Le Guennec said it was only when he got home that he found what he described as "drawings, sketches, crumpled paper", which he put in his garage. He claims he then forgot about the box and its contents until he rediscovered it again in 2009, almost four decades later.
A lot of the evidence during the first trial centred around why none of the works were signed, with several witnesses saying the artist would sign everything – partly to ensure against theft.
According to Gerard Sassier, the son of Picasso's long-time chambermaid, the artist once said after a theft attempt: "Anyway, nothing can be stolen as nothing is signed."
One of the few plaintiffs to have known Le Guennec when he was employed by the Picasso family, the artist's granddaughter Catherine Hutin-Blay, acknowledged during the trial that the electrician did have a special relationship with the artist.
"We really trusted him. He was someone who was very familiar in the house and had an absolutely friendly relationship," she told the court at the first trial.
The collection, whose value has been estimated at between 60-100 million euros ($63-$105 million), includes drawings of women and horses, nine rare Cubist collages from the time Picasso was working with fellow French artist Georges Braque and a work from his "blue period".
Other more intimate works include portraits of Picasso's mistress Fernande, drawings of his first wife Olga and a drawing of a horse for his children.
French authorities seized them after Le Guennec presented them to Picasso's son Claude Ruiz-Picasso in 2010 to try get them authenticated.
Ruiz-Picasso, who represents the artist's six heirs, subsequently pressed charges.
Claude Picasso’s lawyer, Jean-Jacques Neuer, welcomed Friday’s ruling and told reporters that the artworks were in perfect condition despite having been kept almost 40 years in the Le Guennec couple’s garage.

Stolen paintings recovered in Ukraine return to Verona

VERONA, Italy (AP) — Italy's culture minister is returning home from Ukraine on Wednesday with 17 paintings, including works by Tintoretto, Rubens and Mantegna, stolen from a Verona museum in an audacious heist last year and later recovered by Ukrainian officials.
Ukranian President Petro Poroshenko handed over the paintings to Culture Minister Dario Franceschini in a ceremony in Kiev, saying "the theft of masterpiece paintings was akin to stealing part of the city's heart."
The paintings were recovered in May by Ukrainian border guards who intercepted an attempt to smuggle them from Ukraine to Moldova. The paintings were found hidden in plastic bags on a small island on the Dneister River, which runs between the two countries.
They were stolen in November 2015 when three armed robbers entered the Castelvecchio Museum, located in a medieval castle, at closing time just before the alarm system was activated. The robbers calmly removed the paintings before escaping in a security guard's car.
A guard at the museum, Pasquale Silvestri Riccardi, was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to 10 years and eight months in prison in a speedy trial earlier this month. Five others were also convicted, including Riccardi's Moldovan girlfriend, who received six years, and his twin brother, who was sentenced to eight months.
A video of the handover released by the culture ministry shows the works displayed in plain wooden frames, after their original frames went missing in the theft and transfer to Ukraine. Members of the Carabinieri art squad could be seen examining the paintings for damage, before they were wrapped in cloth to be crated and returned to Italy.
Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said the return of the paintings is a "celebration for Verona and all of Italy."
The paintings are scheduled to be shown together at their home in the Castelvecchio Museum from Friday, before being returned to their former spots after the holidays.

NYPD: Gold flakes thief is 'professional burglar,' believed to be hiding in LA

New York City police said the man they believed to be an opportunistic thief when he swiped $1.6 million worth of gold flakes from a truck is actually a “professional burglar” who has been arrested and deported several times to his native Ecuador.
Det. Martin Pastor of the NYPD’s Major Case Squad said the man seen in a surveillance video in September is allegedly Julio Nivelo, a 53-year-old career crook, who has used several aliases including Luis Toledo and David Vargas, among others.
“Now that we know who he is, he’s well organized,” Pastor said, according to the NY Daily News. “He is, I would say, a professional burglar, a professional thief.”
Nivelo was allegedly captured by surveillance cameras capitalizing on a 20-second window left open by the armored truck’s guards, one of whom was making a pickup while the other was walking to the front seat. He is seen taking the 83-pound bucket of gold flakes and walking about a half-mile to a waiting car on 49th St. near Third Ave.
Police said Nivelo fled to the Orlando, Florida area after the Sept. 29 theft before ultimately landing in California. They believe he’s been hiding out in the Los Angeles area with the stolen riches.
Nivelo has been deported from the U.S. to his native Ecuador in 1994, 2001, 2005 and 2008, Pastor said, who did not mention what other crimes he committed.
Armored car company Loomis is reportedly offering $100,000 for the safe return of the gold.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Stolen Art Watch, Belfast Batman Bolts, Toronto Art Nabbed, As France Decends Into The Wild West

Batman painting stolen in £50k Belfast art raid

 A large canvas painting of Batman was among those taken in the raid of Terry Bradley's pop-up gallery
About £50,000 worth of artwork by Belfast artist Terry Bradley has been stolen after a "well-planned" raid.
It is estimated that between 80 and 100 pieces of art were taken from a pop-up gallery in the city centre.
These included original canvases worth up to £10,000. A large original painting of Batman, worth an estimated £2,500, was also taken in the burglary.
Ashley Bradley, the artist's wife, said they believed thieves gained access after one hid in the gallery overnight.
She added that Mr Bradley was "devastated" by the thefts.
Ashley Bradley urged anyone who sees the art being passed on to get in touch
"Terry puts his heart and soul into his work," she said. "They're a moment in time. The original pieces cannot be replaced.
"Some of the original drawings have been ordered by people for Christmas - they're all gone. So much stuff has been paid off by customers and we're going to work to replace what we can.
"Terry is completely floored by what's happened."
Staff at the gallery have said they will work hard to replace the stolen artworks. Gayle Williamson said she was heartbroken when she arrived at work this morning: "I was speechless. What can you say?
"It's horrendous and I wasn't expecting it in the mouth of Christmas, but we'll do our best to replace what orders we have."
Gayle Williamson said staff at the gallery will work hard to replace the stolen art works
Police said they are appealing for witnesses to the burglary that took place on Chichester Street between 18:00 GMT on Wednesday and 10:00 on Thursday.
Mrs Bradley said the family believed the gallery had been targeted by people who "knew what they were doing".
Some of the stolen art was ordered by customers in time for Christmas
"We think someone had hidden in the gallery and opened the back door," she said.
"I was in last night with my daughter at about 21:30. We hope somebody wasn't in there with us.
"It would have taken a long time. These are big and heavy pieces - I can only lift one picture at a time.
"My sister opened at 10 o'clock this morning and it was all gone."
Ashley Bradley said her husband was "completely floored" over the thefts
Mrs Bradley, who vowed that the gallery would re-open on Friday, urged anyone who has any information to come forward.
"We're going straight back to work. Nobody was hurt. Hopefully we have enough time before Christmas to replace what can be replaced.
"My hope is a fan of Terry will see this art being passed off. I know they'll be outraged when they hear this has happened.
"If someone sees them, they will know what they are and hopefully come forward with information so we can get them back."
Police said the burglary happened between 18:00 GMT on Wednesday and Tuesday morning
Stolen artwork by Mr Bradley has been recovered before.
In 2014, two paintings, worth £6,000 each, were taken from a shop in south Belfast. Police found them after a tip-off.

Toronto police search for stolen art worth more than $50K

Art stolen from collector during hospital stay, police say

By Julia Whalen, CBC News Posted: Nov 23, 2016 3:27 PM ET Last Updated: Nov 23, 2016 6:20 PM ET
Police say the stolen artwork is considered valuable and cannot be replaced.
Police say the stolen artwork is considered valuable and cannot be replaced. (Toronto Police)
Police are searching for several paintings worth more than $50,000 after they were stolen from a home in Toronto's Yorkville neighbourhood last month.
Stolen art 1
One of several paintings stolen from a home near Bay Street and Bloor Street West in October. (Toronto Police)
A 79-year-old art collector had a number of paintings hanging in his home near Bay Street and Bloor Street West. Police say he went into hospital on Oct. 16 and died about a week later.
During that time, the paintings — which are considered valuable and cannot be replaced — were stolen.
Detective Constable Matt Fenwick says he believes it happened in the early-morning hours of Oct. 16.
Stolen art 3
The stolen paintings have an estimated value of approximately $50,000. (Toronto Police)
"I wanted to get this out quickly because I believe the art community is an honest community," Fenwick told CBC Toronto. "If these things start turning up for sale, maybe I'll start getting some information."
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Detective Constable Matt Fenwick says he believes the paintings were stolen in the early-morning hours of Oct. 16. (Toronto Police)
Fenwick says there were no signs of forced entry, so he thinks the suspect was known to the victim.
Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 52 Division or Crime Stoppers.

Qatari sisters robbed of $5.3 million in valuables near Paris

Two Qatari sisters were robbed north of Paris by masked men who took jewelry and other personal effects worth an estimated 5 million euros ($5.3 million), officials say.
The women were being driven from Paris-Le Bourget Airport to Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport when two masked men intercepted their car Monday, said the general secretary of the Bobigny prosecutor, who according to protocol did not wish to be named.
Forcing the vehicle to stop, the robbers sprayed tear gas at the driver and manhandled the women before taking their suitcases containing the valuables, the official said.
The Banditry Repression Brigade, a special police unit within the Interior Ministry, was set to interview the women.
Spate of high-profile crimes
The case is the latest in a spate of recent high-profile robberies, or attempted robberies, in the Paris region.
On October 3, American reality TV star Kim Kardashian West was tied up and robbed at gunpoint of an estimated $10 million worth of jewelry in a luxury private apartment in Paris' 8th Arrondissement by men dressed as police officers.
And this month, masked attackers accosted Bollywood actress Mallika Sherawat and her French boyfriend in the hallway of his apartment building in Paris' 16th Arrondissement.
The three attackers sprayed tear gas at the couple, pushed the actress to the ground and tried to grab her bag, but fled empty-handed after the two fought back.
Two years ago, gunmen brandishing automatic weapons robbed a Saudi Embassy convoy carrying a Saudi prince to Paris-Le Bourget Airport, taking 250,000 euros and diplomatic documents, French police said at the time.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Stolen Art Watch, Quebec Art Heist Focuses On Michael Morse Crew As Billionaire Awaits French Jury Verdict

Above, "Mr Big" Lawyer Michael Morse 

Michael Morse crew, Ray Hobin, Darryl Vincent, Ira Hussey Aaron Sherman Sergei Khatchaturov and sibling Yurii Khatchaturov

Aaron Sherman's mother Penny used to roll with the Michael Morse gang, Ray Hobin, Darryl Vincent, Ira Hussey etc.

How about Sergei Khatchaturov and sibling Yurii Khatchaturov or Hines and Gagne ?

Art stolen from Steinberg heir likely to go to organized crime: expert

Dozens of paintings stolen from the residence of a wealthy couple in the Laurentians are likely destined to end up in the hands of organized crime figures who use artworks as currency, an expert on the subject says.
Earlier this week, 25 to 30 paintings were stolen from a home in Ivry-sur-le-Lac owned by Mitzi Steinberg-Dobrin, heir to the former Steinberg grocery chain and her husband, Mel Dobrin, a former president of the chain, La Presse reported.
Some of the paintings are estimated to be worth more than $100,000. The town of Ivry-sur-le-Lac is about 110 kilometres north of Montreal. Experts with the Sûreté du Québec’s investigative unit specializing in stolen artwork are working on the case along with colleagues based in the Laurentians, police spokesperson Sgt. Annie Thibodeau said.
The couple could not be reached for comment. Their son told La Presse his parents had amassed a large collection of artwork over four decades. The theft appears to be an expert job because the thieves managed to turn off the home’s alarm system, and they were apparently selective with the paintings they chose. 
Alain Lacoursière, a former detective with the Montreal police who specialized in recovering stolen artwork, said valuable stolen paintings often end up in the hands of organized crime figures even if they can never be hung on a wall and appreciated for their beauty.
“To people in organized crime, they represent 20 per cent of the cash value of the painting. They are easy to transport and they are easy to get across a border,” he said, adding he has seen cases where expensive paintings ended up in Russia or Colombia and were used to purchase drugs from drug traffickers based in those countries.
“The artwork remains a form of currency throughout. They remain hidden away in a closet. It’s not like in the movies, where some guy who really appreciates art has a secret room in his mansion (where he displays it). I have never seen that in my entire career.”
One case that stands out in his memory involved artwork stolen from homes in Westmount and Outremont during the late 1990s that was found in October 2000 in the Laval home of Joseph Ghaleb, a notorious loanshark who had ties to the Hells Angels and the Montreal Mafia who was murdered in 2004. 
Last month, police in Italy recovered two paintings by Vincent Van Gogh in a farmhouse near Castellammare di Stabia that investigators linked to two Camorra drug kingpins, Mario Cerrone and Raffaele Imperiale. The paintings had been stolen from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in 2002, and were found hidden in a safe wrapped in a cloth.
Lacoursière, who now has an appraisal company, Expertises Alain Lacoursière, said that the list of people in Quebec who could have pulled of such a heist is a very short one.
“There are three guys, maybe five tops, who can pull off a job like that – where they know a lot about art. You have to possess a great deal of knowledge about art to do something like that,” Lacoursière said. And he means three people in particular. “The Sûreté du Québec knows who they are and will likely want to talk to them.”
The Sûreté du Québec is asking anyone with information on the theft to contact them at 1-800-659-4264.

Billionaire Art Dealer Is Awaiting Verdict in Tax Fraud Case

The art dealer Guy Wildenstein. A tribunal is expected to rule on his fraud case in January. Credit Eric Feferberg/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

PARIS — The tax fraud trial of Guy Wildenstein, the billionaire international art dealer, ended here Thursday night and a prosecutor asked the tribunal of judges hearing the case to sentence Mr. Wildenstein to two years in prison on charges that he helped shield a vast art collection in a maze of foreign trusts.
The tribunal at the Palais de Justice will now spend nearly three months weighing a decision in the case that ensnared Mr. Wildenstein, 70, his nephew and his estranged sister-in-law, along with his team of Swiss and French legal advisers and foreign trust companies. Authorities are also asking the judges to levy a 250 million euro fine (about $275 million) on Mr. Wildenstein, who is president of Wildenstein & Co. in New York art gallery.
On Thursday, Olivier Géron, the lead judge on the tribunal, set Jan. 12 as the date that judges will deliver a ruling on the case, which started a month ago.
Monica d’Onofrio, the prosecutor on the case, has demanded severe punishment for Mr. Wildenstein, calling the family’s financial operations “the longest and the most sophisticated tax fraud” in contemporary France. Part of a newly created financial prosecution unit, she called for an actual sentence of four years in prison for Mr. Wildenstein with two of those years suspended.
Mr. Wildenstein is accused of underestimating inheritance taxes after his father, Daniel, died at 84 in 2001 in France. Prosecutors contend that Mr. Wildenstein and his brother, Alec, schemed to hide art and assets under the ownership of complex trusts and abruptly moved millions of dollar in artworks to Switzerland from New York days after their father died.
The trial exposed in numbing detail the financial strategies of the wealthy family — with a presence in the art world dating back four generations to 1875 — and their use of artwork owned by trusts and stored in Switzerland to reap income from bank loans against the rising value of the paintings.
Mr. Wildenstein has steadfastly maintained he was unaware of the details of the trusts and has contended that he was following a strategy that is more accepted in countries outside France. His lawyers also argued that reporting a trust was not clearly required by French tax authorities until 2011 — years after Daniel Wildenstein’s death.
In addition to the fine asked for by the prosecutor, French tax authorities are seeking back taxes of more than 550 million euros — or roughly $600 million — in connection with the family inheritance from Daniel Wildenstein.
The Wildenstein family has long maintained a mystique because no one knew what rested in their vaults in New York and Tokyo and a research institute in Paris. The institute was raided in 2011 by police investigators who seized about 30 works reported missing or stolen by previous owners.
Those works, still in police custody, remain part of separate legal proceedings. At the trial, one of the daily spectators was Alexandre Bronstein, who is pressing a criminal lawsuit in connection with some of the seized works — a missing bronze by the Italian sculptor Rembrandt Bugatti and two Degas drawings that he contends belong to his family.
“I’m here to see if the truth comes out,” Mr. Bronstein said. He said he had been struck by testimony from a family trust banker who said trust officials never conducted an independent financial evaluation of the 2,500 works in Daniel Wildenstein’s estate. “That means they can keep art works in storage in Switzerland for two or three generations and if there is problem with the provenance, no one will know. The bank knows only what the family told them.”
Those works were valued at about $1.1 billion before Daniel Wildenstein’s death. Since then about 675 of the works have been sold, raising about $238 million for family members from the collection that is now valued at about $875 million, according to court testimony. The remaining works are now stored in the United States, Switzerland and Singapore.
The rest of the seven defendants in the case face lesser punishments recommended by the prosecutor, including suspended sentences for Mr. Wildenstein’s nephew, Alec Jr., and Liouba Stoupakova, the widow of Alec Wildenstein (who died in 2008). Two trusts — the Northern Trust Fiduciary Services in Guernsey, a Channel island that is part of Britain; and the Royal Bank of Canada Trust Company in the Cayman Islands — could end up paying fines of more than $200,000 for “complicity in tax fraud.”

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Stolen Art Watch, Kardashian Jewel Heist, Gang Eminate From Parisian suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis

  1. On returning from a dinner party on October 2 night in Paris--which she was visiting for Paris Fashion Week--Kim Kardashian, 35, retreated to her room inside her portered building apartment.
  2. These apartment buildings have especially been designed for multi-millionaires. The Kardashians stayed here regularly every time they came to Paris, as did Madonna, Leonardo Di Caprio, and the late Prince.
  3. Kim's sisters, Kourtney Kardashian, 37, and Kendall Jenner, 20, went out for the night with Kim's bodyguard, Pascal Duvier.
  4. Kim was in bed with just her robe on when she heard boots pounding up the stairs of her two-story apartment.
  5. Kim's stylist and long-time friend Simone Harouche was believed to be in the bedroom downstairs.
  6. Kim posted a video of her on Snapchat, showing off outfits and her shiny new ring, wishing friend Blac Chyna a happy baby shower.
  7. Five masked men, dressed as police officers, threatened the building's concierge with a gun and forced him to take them to Kim's room and unlock the door. The concierge was reportedly bound and gagged, and locked in a stairwell.
  8. Kim saw at least one masked man and another wearing a police hat through a sliding glass door. She knew something was amiss, so she rolled off the bed and tried dialling her bodyguard on her cell phone, reports TMZ.
  9. Before she could finish dialling, one of the men snatched the phone out of her hands.
  10. Two men held a gun to Kim's head, while the others tied her hands with plastic handcuffs and duct-taped her. One of the men grabbed her by the ankles, duct-taped them, picked her up and put her in the bathtub, reports Hollywood Life.
  11. This is where Kim said she feared that she was going to be raped. She started screaming and begging them to not kill her because she has children at home. She told them to take whatever they wanted.
  12. Though Kim did not understand a word of their French, she realised they were saying "ring, ring" repeatedly. Kim figured they were after the new ring Kanye had recently gifted her. She told them where it was in the apartment.
  13. The men stole a jewellery box with USD 6.4 million worth of jewels inside, as well as a USD 4.3 million ring, which many suspect is the massive diamond Kanye West had gifted her a few months ago.
  14. Kim's friend Simone heard the commotion and managed to lock herself in her room's bathroom to call Kim's bodyguard, Pascal, and sister Kourtney.
  15. Kim's bodyguard, Pascal Duvier, arrived at the apartment just two minutes after the robbers escaped.
  16. The entire incident took around 6 minutes.
  17. Kim Kardashian reunited with husband Kanye West in New York City on Monday, October 3. The reality star was greeted by West at Teterboro Airport around 11 am, reports US Weekly.
  18. According to Daily Mail, the raid on Kim's apartment had all the hallmarks of the Pink Panthers, a gang of super-criminals who have got away with tens of millions of pounds in jewels in high-profile heists since 1984. 

    A Supreme Court Justice Just Talked About Kim Kardashian’s Robbery in Court

    Kim Kardashian (left) and Justice Stephen Breyer (right). Photo: Getty Images
    Justice Stephen Breyer on Tuesday proved that he’s just as glued to the pop-culture news cycle as the rest of us when he brought up Kim Kardashian’s horrific robbery in court, thereby introducing it into the official Supreme Court record.
    The justices were in the middle of hearing oral arguments in the case of a man who had been convicted of bank fraud whose public defender claimed that a federal statute under which the defendant was convicted requires an intent to cause financial loss to the bank itself. Breyer was skeptical over the argument, and he brought up the recent theft of $10 million worth of Kardashian’s jewelry in Paris to illustrate his point, according to SCOTUS blog.
    Breyer wondered if all of Kardashian’s jewelry is insured — “indeed over-insured” — and she therefore wouldn’t lose any money from the robbery, is it still technically considered theft? The justice believes the answer to that question is yes.
    This is just further proof that everything in life can be discussed in terms of the Kardashians.

    Art Hostage Comments:
    Parisian suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis is where this heist eminated from, armed with inside knowledge, gang, including two siblings, struck and fled. 
    Names already provided to Art Hostage.
    To be continued.........................

Friday, September 30, 2016

Stolen Art Watch, Police Stumble Across Stolen Van Gogh's During Mafia Raids

 Italian police find stolen Van Goghs 14 years after infamous Amsterdam heist
Police unveil paintings recovered from house in stronghold of Camorra crime syndicate near
Van Gogh’s View of the Sea at Scheveningen is presented at a press conference in Naples after it was recovered from a house near the Italian city. Photograph: Ciro Fusco/EPA
paintings that were stolen from a museum in Amsterdam more than a decade ago have been recovered by Italian authorities in Naples following a sting operation that targeted organised crime.
The paintings, View of the Sea at Scheveningen, painted in 1882, and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen, painted in 1884, were recently discovered after allegedly being hidden away in one of the houses of an international drug trafficker based in Castellammare di Stabia, near Naples.
“When we finally found them, we did not believe our eyes,” an unnamed local official told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.
The authenticity of the paintings has already been confirmed by an expert from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, from where they were stolen in 2002.
Axel Rütger, director of the Van Gogh Museum, said he wasn’t sure when the paintings could be returned to the Netherlands, as they are likely to be needed as evidence in the ensuing trial.
“After so many years I didn’t dare to think they would ever return,” Rütger said. “We’ve waited 14 years for this moment and of course we’d like to take them straight home. We’ll need to exercise a bit of patience, but I am convinced we can count on the support of the Italian authorities.”
The frames have been removed and the seascape has a small patch of damage in the bottom left-hand corner, the museum said, but otherwise the paintings appeared to be in good condition.
The theft was considered one of the most infamous heists to rock the art world in recent times. The thieves entered the Van Gogh museum from the roof of the building, which allowed them to get past security and cameras undetected, even though their entry did trigger alarms. They had used a ladder to climb up to a window and then smashed through it using a cloth to protect their hands.
Two men, Octave Durham, an art thief who earned the nickname The Monkey for his ability to evade police, and his accomplice Henk Bieslijn, were eventually convicted of the theft in 2004 after police discovered their DNA at the scene of the crime. They were handed four year sentences, but authorities were never able to track down the stolen works.
The FBI considered the heist one of the “top 10” art crimes, according to its website. Italian investigative authorities told the Ansa news agency that the paintings were worth £77m.
View of the Sea at Scheveningen is one of Van Gogh’s early paintings and depicts the beach resort close to The Hague. It was the only work in the museum’s collection from Van Gogh’s two years in The Hague and one of just two Dutch seascapes the artist made.
Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen is a smaller work that Van Gogh painted for his mother in 1884, and depicts a church in Brabant where his father Theodorus was attached as a preacher. After his father’s death in 1885 Van Gogh revised the painting, adding figures of women wearing black shawls used in mourning.
Dario Franceschini, the Italian culture minister, said the discovery was extraordinary and “confirmed the strength of the Italian system in the fight against the illicit trafficking of works of art”.
“The result of this investigation confirms how interested criminal organisations are in art works which they use both as a form of investment and as a source of funds,” he said in a statement.
John Dickie, a historian and expert in organised crime in Italy, said the reason the country was known for its expertise in following the illicit trade of art was the extent to which that trade existed in the first place.
“Italy also has the best mafia police in the world, because it has the most powerful mafia networks,” he added.
The town of Castellammare di Stabia, about 19 miles south-east of Naples, where the paintings were found, has long been known as a Camorra stronghold. It was the home of Assunta Maresca, known as Pupetta, who was a former beauty queen, convicted murderer, and Camorra boss described as a trailblazer and suffragette in the syndicate.
Unlike the highly organised Sicilian mafia, the Camorra is an “archipelago of gangs”, Dickie said, with some branches being more sophisticated than others.
“With this sort of thing, it is easy to say the Camorra did it and then jump to the conclusion that the Camorra is moving into the art market,” Dickie said.
He said the discovery and the alleged involvement of the Camorra actually reflects the opportunistic nature of the Neapolitan syndicate. Its members spend a lot of time in prison and are part of a vast underworld network in which illegal goods are sold and traded.
“I don’t think we need to conclude that it’s the Camorra boss who is putting this art on his mantlepiece. A lot of times these people don’t have a lot of class [and] they wouldn’t necessarily be impressed by having this,” Dickie said.
Generally, highly-valued art can be stolen by thieves for the purpose of selling it, only for the thieves to realise that the work is so famous that it cannot be purchased and shown, forcing them to sell or trade it at a heavy discount.
The camorristi who end up with precious works of art may not even be aware of the value of the painting they have in their posession.
Federico Varese, an expert in criminology from Oxford University, said it was unsurprising that the discovery exposed a link between Amsterdam and the Camorra, given the Dutch city’s reputation as a major drug hub. Cross-border investigations dating back to the 1980s had found the presence of the Camorra in Amsterdam.
“What I know for sure is that a lot of camorristi are in Amsterdam, not because they want to be rooted there or deal in racketeering of shops or that kind of thing, but because they are there to buy drugs. Amsterdam is a hub for the buying and selling of illegal goods,” Varese said.
In the Camorra underworld, art – like anything that is valuable – is a currency that can be used in drug trafficking. In some cases, it might also be seen as giving prestige to camorristi, Varese said.
The Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi, informed his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte about the police operation before the funeral in Jerusalem of former Israeli leader Shimon Peres, according to a Reuters report.
Art Hostage Comments:
In January 2016, officers arrested two suspected clan members, Raffaele Imperiale and Mario Cerrone. Reports say that Mario Cerrone confessed that the two stolen Van Goghs were hidden in Mr Imperiale's home in Castellammare di Stabia, 34km (21 miles) from Naples. They were wrapped in a cloth and stashed inside safe at a house in Castellammare di Stabia, near Pomeii.  
The actual thieves, Octave Durham, an art thief who earned the nickname ‘The Monkey’ for his evasiveness, and his accomplice, Henk Bieslijn – were convicted with four-year sentences, but the priceless art was never recovered – until now