The deputy mayor of Safed, Reuven Sadeh, was indicted yesterday for stealing 23 valuable works of art from the city.

Sadeh, 50, is currently running for reelection to the city council in next month’s municipal elections.

According to the indictment, which was filed in the Nazareth District Court, the stolen artwork was worth tens of millions of dollars. It included original paintings by Edouard Manet, Eugene Delacroix and Paul Cezanne that were donated to the city in 1969 and originally displayed in its Glicenstein Museum. But in 1985, that museum was converted into the Israel Bible Museum, and the paintings, other than a few that were hung in city hall, were put into storage.

The artworks in question were stolen over the course of the subsequent 22 years, the indictment said. Some, it charged, were stolen directly by Sadeh; in other cases, he commissioned the thefts; and in still others, he acted as a fence for the stolen goods.

In order to sell the works, Sadeh, who owns an art gallery in Safed, claimed that they had been left to him by a Holocaust survivor. He hired a legitimate dealer to handle the sales, in exchange for a cut of the profits, and in total, he received some NIS 700,000 from this dealer, the indictment said.

Some of the works were taken to Geneva for sale and are still there. Israel has therefore asked the Swiss authorities for help in recovering them.

The first lead in the case came when Noa Tarshish, director of the Mane Katz Museum in Haifa, recognized a Katz picture that was up for sale at a public auction as one that had been stolen from the Safed municipality. Altogether, eight Katz pictures were stolen from the city in three separate break-ins, but that is the only one that has so far been found.

Earlier this month, police yesterday raided the home of alleged crime kingpin Meir Abergil in Kfar Truman, confiscating eight paintings – one of them by Reuven Rubin – suspecting they could be among the art works stolen from Safed’s city hall in recent years.

October 28th, 2008

Posted In: insider theft

publié le 27 octobre 2008

Dans le cadre de la présidence française du Conseil de l’Union européenne, le ministère de la Culture a organisé au musée d’Orsay, le 23 octobre, une réunion des responsables des musées des vingt-sept Etats membres. Le point clé à l’ordre du jour portait sur la sécurité des biens culturels. Dès la fin de l’année dernière, à l’occasion de la présentation d’un plan national de renforcement de la sécurité des musées et des monuments, Christine Albanel avait en effet souligné que “bien souvent, la restitution d’objets volés à leurs propriétaires se heurte à la disparité des législations des pays concernés, tant en matière de prescription et de recel des objets volés que de définition du domaine public mobilier considéré ou non comme trésors nationaux”. Elle souhaitait donc un renforcement de la réglementation européenne en la matière, qui se limite pour l’essentiel à la directive 93/7 Restitution du 15 mars 1993, transposée par une loi du 3 août 1995. Le souhait de la France a été entendu, au moins en termes d’orientations. La conférence des directeurs a ainsi formulé, dans une déclaration commune, plusieurs recommandations organisées en trois grands axes : développement de la prévention, renforcement de la convergence des législations et des procédures, et action plus soutenue en faveur de la recherche et de la restitution des oeuvres volées. Parmi les mesures recommandées par la déclaration commune figurent en particulier la création de services de police spécialisés, la mise en place de formations transnationales à la sécurité, la diffusion de bonnes pratiques (comme le marquage des oeuvres), ou encore l’interopérabilité entre les bases de données nationales spécialisées dans le domaine des oeuvres d’art volées.
Récemment confrontée à plusieurs affaires de vols ou de dégradations d’oeuvres d’art, la France a déjà choisi de prendre les devants. A la fin de l’année dernière, les ministres de la Culture et de la Justice ont ainsi annoncé un plan d’action en dix mesures pour le renforcement de la sécurité des oeuvres d’art, mêlant prévention et répression (avec en particulier la création d’une circonstance aggravante en cas de vol de bien culturel protégé en France). Elles ont également invité les collectivités à prendre les mesures nécessaires pour assurer la protection des musées et des bâtiments – notamment des églises – qui relèvent de leur compétence (voir nos articles ci-contre). La France fait également figure de pionnière dans le domaine du marquage des oeuvres d’art avec le lancement, en septembre dernier, d’un appel à candidatures relatif à la certification des produits de marquage des collections publiques.

Jean-Noël Escudié / PCA

October 28th, 2008

Posted In: Museum thefts

A secret meeting between TV3 star John Campbell and one of the men charged over the theft of historic medals from the Army Museum at Waiouru was caught by a hotel security camera and helped police make arrests.

The controversial Campbell Live interview was screened in February, just months after two West Auckland men allegedly forced their way into the museum and stole 96 medals, including Victoria and George Crosses.

The suspects were finally arrested a fortnight ago.

TV3 was forced to admit it had made a mistake by not informing viewers the interview featured an actor and was a re-enactment based on the covert meeting at a central Auckland hotel, just one street away from the city’s central police station.

But today it can be revealed the Campbell Live crew was unknowingly captured on closed circuit security cameras operating in the lobby of Auckland’s exclusive Duxton Hotel where the secret meeting with the alleged thief took place.

It has emerged that detectives probing the medals theft seized the security footage from hotel management, and it is expected to be shown to jurors at the trial of the two men, who have been charged with one count of burglary. Their names remain suppressed.

Asked whether he thought his star host would be called as a Crown witness, TV3’s head of news and current affairs Mark Jennings said: “It is a possibility I suppose, but I don’t think that will happen.”

The detective heading the inquiry was reluctant to comment on whether Campbell would be called to testify on his meeting with the suspect.

“This is very delicate but yes, this will be part of the court case,” said Detective Senior Sergeant Chris Bensemann.

At the time of the interview, TV3 defended its decision not to tell police anything about the identity of their source, saying that was their job as a news organisation.

Campbell said at the time he had been wary of giving too much away on the programme as it may have led to police identifying the man. He said the discussion with him was audio-taped but not video recorded.

“We didn’t have him on camera because he had anticipated and we had anticipated precisely what happened yesterday [February 21] that the police would turn up,” Campbell told the Sunday Star-Times days after the interview.

“In a circumstance like this it’s not even possible to really point a camera anywhere near him.”

Meanwhile, details have emerged for the first time of the prosecution case against the accused.

Police allege they left Auckland on December 1 last year, and as they approached Cambridge just after 6pm they were issued with a speeding ticket.

They arrived at the museum at 1am, allegedly repositioning two floodlights and plunging the building into darkness.

The pair allegedly smashed their way in through a second-floor fire exit and activated an emergency exit switch allowing them to gain entry.

Police believe the two then ran down the stairs into the Valour Alcove where the medals were displayed and, 45 seconds after breaking into the building, they smashed the cabinets and removed the 96 decorations.

They then drove back to Auckland where the medals with an estimated value of $5,470,000 were allegedly stored in an inner-city storage unit registered in a false name.

Following the thefts, a reward totalling $300,000 was offered by England’s Lord Michael Ashcroft and Tom Sturgess of Nelson. In February, high-profile Auckland barrister Chris Comeskey brokered a deal which saw the medals returned to police and the reward claimed.

Last Tuesday the 96 decorations were finally returned to the museum in a military ceremony.

The two men charged with the burglary of the Army Museum appeared in the Auckland District Court on Friday, where they were remanded in custody to reappear at Wanganui District Court at the end of the month. The judge allowed media to capture images of the defendants providing they were seated and the images were pixelated to mask their identities. That followed arguments by defence lawyers who said identity, and the “stature” of the men would be important at the time of their trial. Expert evidence relating to how the men walked would be called.

October 25th, 2008

Posted In: Museum thefts

By Michael Sontheimer

Hundreds of thousands of book stolen by the Nazis are still in German libraries. A few librarians are acting like detectives, searching for the books and hoping to return them to the former owners or their families. However, many libraries have shown little interest in the troubling legacy tucked away on their shelves.

Book, books, nothing but books. Detlef Bockenkamm is walking along a long shelf in the storage room at Berlin’s Central and Regional Library. Suddenly he stops and says: “This is where we have the Accession J collection.” The letter J refers to Jews.

The curator has collected more than 1,000 books here, enough to stretch almost 40 meters (130 feet) if they were lined up next to each other. Bockenkamm and a colleague combed through old documents, checked files and studied records documenting the receipt of books. They eventually discovered that these volumes were stored at the City Pawn Office in Berlin in the spring of 1943.

The records indicate that the city library purchased “more than 40,000 volumes from the private libraries of evacuated Jews” through this office. And, this being Germany, the librarians maintained meticulous record books to keep track of their purchases — even though parts of the German capital were already in ruins. As always, preserving order was paramount. The librarians signed each volume and gave it an accession number, beginning with the letter J.

Bockenkamm even found children’s books marked with the letter J. One was titled “For Our Youth: A Book of Entertainment for Israelite Boys and Girls.” The book contained the handwritten dedication: “For my dear Wolfgang Lachmann, in friendship, Chanuka 5698, December 1937.” Bockenkamm has been unable to find out what happened to the boy.

But he did manage to trace the former owner of a book titled “The Rose of Sharon — Stories and Poems for Older Jewish Youth.” A rabbi gave the book, bound in green linen, to a young girl from Berlin, in recognition of her “diligence and good conduct” in religious school. The girl’s name was Adele Hoffnung, and she was deported to Minsk on Nov. 14, 1941. Adele did not survive the Holocaust.

For Bockenkamm, the bureaucratic, administratively correct implementation of the great Nazi book theft was “disgustingly sleazy.” But he also derives satisfaction from the fact that he is now able to prepare an exhibition on the Nazi looted books for the Berlin Central and Regional Library.

Every larger German library still has hundreds of these books in its inventory, books snatched up by the men of the SS and SA, as well as ordinary soldiers, both in Germany and in other European countries occupied by the German armed forces, the Wehrmacht, during World War II. No one knows how many stolen books are still on the shelves in German libraries today, although experts, like historian Görz Aly, estimate that there are at least one million.

These silent witnesses of Nazi crimes are not as spectacular as the stolen paintings that have become the subject of bitter restitution battles waged in full view of the public. The books, after all, are not Picassos worth millions in the art market.

Nevertheless, Germany’s Federal Commissioner for Culture Bernd Neumann believes that museum employees and librarians have an obligation “to devote particular attention to the search for those cultural goods that were stolen or extorted from the victims of Nazi barbarism.” Neumann points out that, more than just “material value,” what is at issue here is “the invaluable emotional importance that these objects have when it comes to remembering the fates of individuals and families.”

For decades, libraries asked no questions about the origins of the books that were added to their inventories during the Nazi era. Many librarians approached the issue “sluggishly and reluctantly,” says Salomon Korn, the vice president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany. To this day, many libraries have not systematically searched for stolen books in their inventories.

‘A Fundamental Task for Libraries’

The Lower Saxony State and University Library, in the city of Göttingen, is proud of its state-of-the-art robotic scanner. It is a pioneer nationwide when it comes to digitization. But despite its seeming progressiveness, the library seems to have less of an interest in the past.

It was an intern who at the end of last year first peered into the dusty accession books from the World War II years. What Arno Barnert found were deliveries from the Wehrmacht’s “loot warehouses” in Göttingen. He found accessions from the Polish cities of Krakow and Poznan, the Polish consulate in Leipzig and a high school in the Dutch town of Enschede. Books once owned by the Viennese Goethe expert Friedrich Fischl, who was deported in 1941 and murdered in the ghetto of Lodz, Poland, were recorded as a “purchase.”

Barnert notified the library management. A few days later, the intern received a visit from the library director, who advised the young man not to make the Nazi loot the subject of his thesis. Barnert was told that if he did decide to do so, he would not be making any friends and would not exactly be improving his prospects of getting a job. He might even be seen as a whistleblower, the director said.

But Barnert continued his search. “Documenting the paths and histories of books that were acquired in the Nazi period is a fundamental task for libraries, a question of ethics,” he says. In February, Barnert began collaborating with Frank Möbus, a Göttingen specialist in German studies who was in the process of preparing an exhibit about book burning.

Möbus found documents in the city archives proving that in March 1933, members of the SA, together with police officers, confiscated 890 books from a communist bookseller in Göttingen. Some of the books went to the National Library in Berlin and some to the University Library in Göttingen.

Möbus notified the administration of the University of Göttingen, which decided to conduct a search for Nazi loot in the library as part of a research project. Ironically, intern Barnert was forced to listen to his supervisor loudly accuse him of having ignored the proper channels.

The proper channels have always been dear to German bureaucrats, and they were observed by German librarians, who documented the stolen books even amidst the chaos of World War II. The records show, for instance, that the Prussian State Library passed on stolen books to 31 university libraries.

The book thieves’ initial goal was to develop and expand libraries and, as the war raged on, to replace inventories that had been destroyed.

A number of organizations took part in the hunt for books. They included the intelligence service of the SS, the Gestapo and the staff of Alfred Rosenberg, the “Führer’s Commissioner for the Supervision of the Entire Intellectual and Ideological Training and Education of the Nazi Party.”

Jews were not the only ones to fall victim to the Nazi book thieves. Berlin curator Bockenkamm found three books stamped “Karl Marx House, Trier.” A call to the western German city of Trier revealed that the books had been sent to Berlin for an exhibition in the early 1930s and were never returned.

Libraries Avoid Association with Nazi Looting

Employees at the Duchess Anna Amalia Library in the eastern city of Weimar identified 440 books that were once in workers’ libraries founded by Social Democrats and labor unions. There were about 2,500 of these libraries, with more than one million books altogether. Most of them went missing and were probably destroyed.

The book thieves were able to expand their range of operations considerably after the war began. German occupiers in Eastern Europe raided 375 archives, 957 libraries, 402 museums and 531 research and educational institutions. They were also active in France, as the odyssey of sheet music once owned by the pianist Arthur Rubinstein shows. The history of the copies and prints of these works of various composers, some with personal dedications, mirrors the catastrophes of the 20th century.

Rubinstein, who was born in the Polish city of Lodz and immigrated to Paris, fled to the United States in the fall of 1939. When the Wehrmacht occupied the French capital in June 1940, members of the “Reich Director Rosenberg Task Force” confiscated his sheet music and had it sent to the German Reich’s intelligence headquarters in Berlin.

In 1945, members of the Red Army confiscated the music and took it to the Soviet Union. When the music was sent to East Germany in the 1950s as part of a program to return German cultural assets, it ended up in the music department of the National Library in East Berlin, where no one recognized its value and it eventually gathered dust. It was only in 2003, 21 years after Rubinstein’s death, that librarians conducting research in Moscow’s Glinka Museum discovered who the former owner of the music was. Two-and-a-half years ago, representatives of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation handed over the music to Rubinstein’s children in New York.

Such finds and returns are the exception. Indeed, most stolen books are still undiscovered. Because libraries are constantly passing on duplicate copies to other libraries and exchanging books, the books stolen by the Nazis are now spread throughout Germany. “This explains why even the new technical colleges in eastern Germany may have such books,” says Annette Gerlach of the Central and State Library in Berlin.

In 1991, Klaus von Münchhausen, a political scientist in the city state of Bremen, was one of the first to suggest searching for stolen books. He criticized the city’s state library for having many books on its shelves that had once been stolen from Jews. The Bremen Senate hired a retired senior official from the state Education Ministry to conduct the search, and she found 1,555 books recorded in the accession book for 1942. Some entries included the notation “Gift from the Nazi Party,” while others were marked “J.A.” — Jew Auction. Most of the books had been confiscated from Jewish emigrants who were boarding ships to go abroad. It was possible to identify the former owners of about 300 of the books.

In early December 1998, a representative of the German government, together with representatives of 43 other nations, signed a document outlining 11 basic principles. The signatories to the “Washington Conference,” vowed to search for works of art “that were seized by the Nazis and never returned,” as well as the heirs of such stolen goods.

But little has happened in libraries since then. When stolen goods experts at the Lower Saxony State Library in Hannover sent a questionnaire to roughly 600 libraries via the German Library Association, only about 10 percent replied.

To date, only 14 libraries have officially registered their stolen goods. Even large university libraries, such as those in Frankfurt, Kassel and Heidelberg, have not yet begun to systematically search for stolen goods in their inventories.

In most cases, the institutions blame a lack sufficient funding and personnel to conduct the costly and time-consuming searches. Accession books must be examined, and then all books taken in after 1933 must be searched for information identifying libraries, names, ownership stamps and other clues.

In large libraries, the number of “suspicious books” ranges into the hundreds of thousands. Even the Berlin State Library, Germany’s biggest library, took its time before beginning a serious search effort three years ago. “They had to be dragged to the search,” says Werner Schroeder, an expert on Nazi loot in the northwestern city of Oldenburg. “They apparently wanted to avoid being associated with the Nazi foray throughout all of Europe.”

‘Sitting in the Stacks Like Corpses in the Cellar’

Only seven years after the signing of the Washington Conference, a student discovered, while conducting research for his master’s thesis, that the Berlin State Library owns more than 10,000 stolen books as well as another 9,000 volumes that were more than likely confiscated by the Nazis. There are probably even more, because the current library succeeded the Prussian State Library, which played a central role in the Nazis’ book confiscation program. All books that were seized anywhere in the country had to be offered to the library first. The “Reich Exchange Office,” which worked closely with the library, also became a transfer station for stolen books during the war.

Because of bombing raids on Berlin, the accession department at the national library was evacuated to Hirschberg — now the Polish city of Jelenia Góra — in the foothills of the Giant Mountains in the spring of 1944. Many of the intake documents are still in Jelenia Góra today, where a historian has been reviewing them since the end of last year.

“We spent too much time complaining about our own losses and looking to Russia,” Annette Gerlach of the Central and State Library in Berlin says, not without self-criticism. But, she adds, it is now time for her and her colleagues to finally do their homework.

“These books are sitting in the stacks like corpses in a cellar,” says Salomon Korn of the Central Council of Jews. Of course, he adds, more has to be done, especially in a matter that involves clearing up the “Nazi’s confiscation crimes.”

The University of Marburg Library is the only large German library that has now carefully examined almost all of its books from the period in question. As a result, the library has been able to return many books to the heirs of their former owners.

In many cases, heirs can no longer be found. Then the books remain in the libraries, and their histories are documented in the card catalogue. And then there are cases like that of Isac Seligmann. A user at the Berlin State Library found a volume of an encyclopedia titled “Religion in History and the Present Day,” which had a bookplate indicating that it had belonged to the Jewish theologian. Library staff managed to find his widow in Israel.

“I appreciate your offer to return this book to me,” Marion Seligmann wrote from Jerusalem, “but I have no use for it now.”

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan


October 25th, 2008

Posted In: Mailing list reports, WWII



LOS ANGELES (AP) — A wildfire burned 100 acres of brush and grass near the world-famous Getty art museum before it was doused early Thursday without causing any damage or injuries, fire officials said.

Nearby Interstate 405 was closed for about four hours but reopened at 6 a.m., as the morning rush was getting underway. Even so, traffic on freeways and surface streets throughout Los Angeles were clogged, jammed with motorists who had sought ways around the fire.

The fire erupted around 12:50 a.m. on a steep urban hillside about two miles from the Getty Center.

The center, which houses one of the world’s richest art collections and a research institute, was closed for the day as a precaution, and nearby Mount St. Mary’s College canceled morning classes.

About 400 firefighters and eight water-dropping helicopters fought the flames for about seven hours before the blaze was declared knocked down at 8:16 a.m., Fire Department spokesman Ron Myers said.

Crews were expected to remain at the museum throughout the day to douse any remaining embers that could flare up if dry, hot Santa Ana winds returned, Myers said.

The museum is about 10 miles west of downtown Los Angeles.

Many areas of Southern California were under National Weather Service warnings of extreme fire danger until Saturday evening because of heat and low humidity, but Santa Anas were diminishing.

A blaze at the base of Mount Baldy, about 40 miles east of Los Angeles, burned 115 acres Thursday afternoon. It was about 30 percent contained by evening.

The fire was burning uphill and away from nearby homes, said Jesse Estrada, a battalion chief with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

On Wednesday, gusty Santa Ana winds drove a 250-acre wildfire in Fontana and the canyons of Rancho Cucamonga, about 60 miles east of Los Angeles.

The fire was 90 percent contained Thursday but no flames were visible and authorities expected to completely surround it by evening, state fire officials said.

October 24th, 2008

Posted In: Fire in cultural institutions

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

October 24th, 2008

Posted In: forgery

PAINTING FOUND: Search on for local owner of formerly long lost art
By Eric Tsetsi/Staff Writer

Winchester, MA –

About 37 years after it was first reported stolen, a painting belonging to a Winchester resident has been re-discovered.

According to the Art Loss Register, an international non-profit organization that tries to deter art theft and locate stolen items, the painting was recently discovered in the estate of William Kingsland.

When he died, Kingsland left behind more than 300 works of art in his New York City apartment, many of which were later identified as stolen, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Works by artists including Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti, and Eugene Boudin were found stacked to the ceiling of his one-bedroom apartment.

Among the paintings, investigators found a work of art by George Benjamin Luks, called “The Materialists.” The watercolor and pencil painting, approximately 8 by 10 inches in size, was last recorded as having belonged to William Young of Winchester.

The FBI and the Art Loss Register are trying to track down Young, or his heirs.

“We’re still looking for whoever it was stolen from,” said Laurel Waycott, of the Art Loss Register. “It’s kind of an unusual case for us.”

According to Waycott, the Art Loss Register first learned about the stolen painting when a stack of theft notices from the 1970s was donated to the organization. If her organization is able to determine whom the art was stolen from, it would return the art to the owner’s family estate, she said.

Exactly who Kingsland was and how he obtained the stolen paintings is a bit of a mystery.

“We don’t really know how this guy got everything he had, whether he stole it himself or got it from other people,” said Waycott.

According to a spokesman for the FBI, when he died, Kingsland left no will and no apparent heirs to claim his possessions. In fact, William Kingsland wasn’t even his birth name. He was born Melvyn Kohn.

He changed his name to “Kingsland” to fit in with New York’s elite artist community, which he apparently infiltrated, eventually gaining a reputation as a connoisseur of fine art and literature.

FBI agent Jim Wynne of the Art Crime Team is investigating the thefts. Contacted last Monday, Wynne directed questions about the case to the FBI’s press office, which did not immediately return a call for comment.

According to Waycott, the painting is valued at about $1,000 to $2,000.

“It’s not a terribly valuable work of art, but it would be great to see it get back to the people who lost it,” she wrote in an e-mail.

Some of the other paintings that the Art Loss Register has successfully returned to their rightful owners include “Still Life With Fruit” and “Jug” by Paul Cezanne, “Still Life With Peaches” by Edouard Manet, and “Woman in White Reading a Book” by Pablo Picasso.
A listing for Young no longer exists in Winchester.

If you have any information about the stolen painting, “The Materialists,” or a forwarding address for Young, you can contact Waycott at 212-297-0941 or

Eric Tsetsi can be reached at 781-674-7731 or

October 24th, 2008

Posted In: the Art Loss Register

HBJ Gateley Wareing duo caught up in art heist trial

Oct 22 2008 By Tom Scotney

It was one of the most audacious capers of recent times. Two men walked into Drumlanrig Castle, Scotland, overpowered a security guard and grabbed one of the world’s most valuable paintings from the wall.

As sirens sounded and the pair climbed out of the window with Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece The Madonna of the Yarnwinder, tourists gaped. “Don’t worry love, we’re the police. This is just practice,” one of the pair said.

But of course it wasn’t. This was just the start of the UK’s biggest art heist.

And now a city law firm has been linked to what has been dubbed the ‘Da Vinci plot’.

Two partners from the Glasgow branch of HBJ Gateley Wareing – formed from the merger of Birmingham law firm Gateley Wareing and Scottish company Henderson Boyd Jackson last year – are in the dock, charged with trying to extort money for the safe return of the masterpiece.

The painting was recovered after a police raid on HBJ’s office in Glasgow, and now property partner David Boyce and insolvency partner Calum Jones are alleged to have been part of a criminal gang which demanded a £4.25 million ransom for the painting. Both pleaded not guilty.

They have both since left HBJ, and the company said it had no plans to replace them. Boyce and Jones were among five men – including another lawyer – arrested for the plot to hold the painting hostage after it was stolen in 2003.

They are appearing along with fellow solicitor Marshall Ronald, who had his Lancashire practice Marshall Solicitors shut down after an investigation by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. HBJ, which has its largest office in Birmingham, is one of the top 60 UK legal firms.

Malcolm McPherson, the senior partner at HBJ in Scotland, said the two partners had only been with the office for a matter of weeks before they were arrested. “The project had obviously starte long before that, and the painting was with us for a grand total of 20 minutes,” he said.

The raid on the HBJ office in Glasgow came at the end of a long term international investigation involving forces from across the world.

The Scotland side of the investigation involved officers from the Dumfries and Galloway and Strathclyde forces, as well as the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency (SCDEA) and the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA).

Detectives had previously said they thought the painting had been stolen by drug traffickers to be used as collateral for deals. They were stunned to find it in the offices of a respectable law firm.

After the painting was found, police brought in Michael Clarke, the director of the National Gallery of Scotland and the country’s top art expert. He examined the picture at a secret location before confirming it was the real deal.

Sadly the recovery of the painting came too late for its owner, the ninth Duke of Buccleuch – one of the UK’s richest men. Just a month before the painting was found by the police raid, the Duke died. The picture had been in his family’s possession at their ancestral home for more than 200 years. Although the value of the painting had been estimated at up to £80 million, the Duke is thought to have received just £3 million in compensation as his collection had been underinsured.

The Madonna of the Yarnwinder was painted in 1501 by Da Vinci. It was believed to have been commissioned for Louis XII of France, and is considered one of his greatest works.

It is one of just a few paintings that have actually been confirmed as being by the great artist, along with world famous works like the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper

The painting, which depicts the Madonna and baby Jesus with a cross-shaped yarnwinder, was considered so important that it was placed on the FBI’s top ten most-wanted list of stolen artworks.

October 24th, 2008

Posted In: Art Theft General, Mailing list reports


Recuperan el busto de José Pérez Guerra que fue sustraído de una plaza

Image: [www_huelvainformacion_es]

La Guardia Civil ha detenido a un joven de 18 años, vecino de Aljaraque, como presunto autor del robo
Europa Press/ Huelva | Actualizado 22.10.2008 – 13:53

Agentes del Equipo de Policía Judicial de la Guardia Civil de Aracena han procedido a la detención de S.M.C., de 18 años de edad, vecino de Aljaraque, como presunto autor de un delito de robo con fuerza en las cosas por sustraer de una plaza de Cortelazor el busto de José Pérez Guerra, hijo ilustre de la villa.

Según explicó la Subdelegación en un comunicado, la detención tuvo lugar el pasado día 20 de octubre, una vez que culminaron las actuaciones de investigación que el equipo de Policía Judicial de Aracena venía realizando desde el día 17 del actual, fecha en la que fue interpuesta denuncia por el Ayuntamiento de Cortelazor sobre el robo del busto, el cual se encontraba instalado en un atril de granito en la Plaza de Andalucía del pueblo.

Los agentes de la Guardia Civil recuperaron el busto, en posesión del detenido, en su domicilio de Aljaraque, tras comprobar que dicha persona había estado con unos amigos alojados en una casa rural de Cortelazor, distante escasos metros del lugar de ubicación del busto, en las mismas fechas.

El busto pertenece al director del periódico El Punto de las Artes, José Pérez Guerra, y organizador del certamen de pintura denominado ‘Cortelazor a caballo entre dos siglos’, y que en agradecimiento al enaltecimiento de su pueblo, había colocado el Ayuntamiento en la Plaza de la Villa.

La Guardia Civil ha instruido las correspondientes diligencias que, en unión del detenido y el busto recuperado, han sido puestos a disposición del Juzgado de Instrucción de Guardia de Aracena.

October 24th, 2008

Posted In: Mailing list reports


Spenden für das Denkmal von Kleist
Donnerstag, 23. Oktober 2008 02:42 – Von Jeanette Bederke

So viel Aufmerksamkeit hatte Heinrich von Kleist in seiner Geburtsstadt schon lange nicht mehr: Bisher unbekannte Buntmetalldiebe haben vom Denkmal des berühmtesten Frankfurters in der vergangenen Woche drei wertvolle Bronzereliefs gestohlen, um die Metalltafeln vermutlich bei einem Schrotthändler zu verhökern.

Eine peinliche Angelegenheit ausgerechnet zu Beginn der traditionellen Kleistfesttage – zumal die Polizei bis heute keine Spur von den Tätern hat und die Frankfurter Stadtverwaltung mit dem Verlust eine Woche lang zögernd und wenig feinfühlig umging.
Die Anfertigung von Repliken würde rund 5000 Euro kosten, hatte Frank Drömert vom städtischen Kultureigenbetrieb schnell errechnet. Doch statt umgehend für Ersatz zu sorgen, wollte Oberbürgermeister Martin Patzelt aus Kostengründen lieber erst einmal abwarten, ob die 1910 vom Berliner Bildhauer Gottlieb Elster geschaffenen Reliefs mit Darstellungen aus Kleists berühmtesten Werken vielleicht von allein wieder auftauchen würden. Schließlich ist das Stadtsäckel chronisch klamm und der magere Jahres-Etat von 15 000 Euro zum Erhalt der 270 städtischen Kunstwerke für 2008 bereits aufgebraucht.
Mit dem Verweis auf fehlendes Geld beschwor das Frankfurter Stadtoberhaupt allerdings schnell Kritik herauf. Schließlich will die Kommune 2011, 200 Jahre nach dem Freitod des Dichters, Hauptveranstalter eines deutschlandweiten Kleist-Jahres sein. Da werde sie doch wohl 5000 Euro für die Komplettierung des Kleist-Denkmals aufbringen können, lauteten die Vorwürfe. Überlegungen, den Verlust durch weitaus billigere, aber nicht witterungsbeständige Gipskopien zu ersetzten, wurden wegen Widerstands und Spotts aus der Bevölkerung schnell verworfen.

Geradezu demonstrativ spendeten Gäste der Kleist-Festtage aus Frankfurts Partnerstadt Heilbronn die ersten Euros für eine Neuanfertigung der Bronzereliefs. Viele Frankfurter folgten, das Spenden-Konto des Kleist-Museums füllt sich inzwischen. Und so rang sich jetzt schließlich auch die Stadtverwaltung dazu durch, die Metalltafeln erneuern zu lassen. Glücklicherweise hatte Frankfurt auf Empfehlung des Restaurators, der das Denkmal vor wenigen Jahren sanierte, Gipsabdrücke der Reliefs anfertigen lassen, die nun als Vorlage für den Guss der Repliken dienen können.
Zu den bekennenden Spendern gehört auch ein Polizist, der gleichzeitig die Gründung eines Vereins für den Erhalt und Schutz von Frankfurts Kunstwerken im öffentlichen Raum anregte. Denn unübersehbar hat die Stadt ein Problem mit dem Vandalismus. Wohin man auch schaut – das Stadtbild ist geprägt von Figuren, denen der Arm abgesägt wurde, Skulpturen aus Bronze oder Stein, die mit Farbe beschmiert wurden, und leeren Sockeln, die davon zeugen, dass an dieser Stelle Kunstwerke verschwunden sind. Selbst vor den Styropor-Hähnen, die als Frankfurter Wappentier an öffentlichen Plätzen für die Stadt werben sollten, machten Randalierer nicht halt: Sie droschen so lange auf die Figuren ein, bis sie kaputt gingen.
So gibt es laut Drömert im Rathaus bereits Überlegungen, die Kunstwerke dauerhaft in einem Depot einzulagern. Er will jedoch vor Zerstörungswütigen nicht kapitulieren. “Öffentliche Kunst sollte öffentlich bleiben”, sagt er. “Es kann nicht sein, dass eine barbarische Minderheit uns zwingt, Kunst wegzuschließen”, meint auch Frankfurts Bürgermeisterin Katja Wolle. Der aktuelle Diebstahl wird nun zum Anlass genommen, um eine Kampagne gegen Vandalismus zu starten. Bei der “Aktion Schandfleck” werden beschädigte Kunstwerke mit Hinweistafeln gekennzeichnet, um die Bürger zu mehr Aufmerksamkeit zu animieren. Laut Drömert soll das Kleist-Denkmal nach der Reparatur besser gesichert werden: Mit einem Rundweg um die Skulptur, Halogenstrahlern in der Nacht und einer Videoüberwachung.
Weitere Berichte aus Brandenburg:

October 24th, 2008

Posted In: Mailing list reports, theft reports


It looks as if Britain is finally coming to the conclusion that stolen/looted cultural objects should be returned to their rightful owners. According to a report in the Telegraph, new legislation is on the way to allow the British Museum and other national museums to return artworks that were stolen/looted by the Nazis. The legislation will be specifically limited to works stolen/looted during the Nazi era that are now in the possession of many British national galleries and museum. The position until now has been that even if one had all the necessary evidence that a particular piece of work hanging in the British institutions was stolen, confiscated by the Nazis or sold under intimidation to the evil men of Hitler, they could not return them to the owners. They could offer compensation to the owners.

read full text

October 24th, 2008

Posted In: Dr. Kwame Opoku writings about looted cultural objects

Who knows how great his inspiration might have been on Nigerian music had he stayed in Benin rather than be hidden in the British Museum?

The lack of reaction from Western holders of Benin artefacts to the several calls
by Nigerians for restitution is causing anger in many circles.

The report below deals with the renewed calls by the Benin National Council for restitution and a declaration of intention to resort to legal proceedings and what is described as “self-help”.

read full text

October 24th, 2008

Posted In: Dr. Kwame Opoku writings about looted cultural objects

We may not all agree with Zahi Hawass in his style and manner of approach to the issue of restitution of stolen or looted artefacts but there is no denying that the famous Egyptologist, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities of Egypt, has been extremely effective in his tasks and knows his job. This is no mean feat in a period where some of those having the fate of millions in their hands do not seem to have mastered their jobs.

Full text

October 18th, 2008

Posted In: Dr. Kwame Opoku writings about looted cultural objects

Peter Tompa: Brent R. Benjamin of Saint Louis Art Museum Named to CPAC Museum Seat

The White House has announced that Brent R. Benjamin of the Saint Louis Art Museum has been named to a seat on the Cultural Property Advisory Committee to represent the interests of the museum community. Mr. Benjamin will be replacing Sandy Boyd of the University of Iowa. The White House Personnel Announcement can be found here:

Mr. Benjamin should be well acquainted with cultural property issues due to an ongoing dispute with Dr. Zahi Hawass, the publicity seeking Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, over a funerary mask of a nineteenth dynasty noblewoman named Ka Nefer Nefer. See generally: and

October 13th, 2008

Posted In: comment, International conventions, looting and illegal art traffickers

Hardly a day passes by without some call for the return of the stolen cultural objects of Benin. In the whole of Africa people are incensed when they hear about the unjustified invasion of Benin by the British in 1897 and above all, the looting and burning of Benin City. Most Africans cannot believe that the Europeans who preached Christian morality could at the same time have been involved in stealing cultural objects of Africans, who according to European propaganda had an inferior culture. Many an African is even more infuriated to realize that the so-called primitive objects are on show in respectable museums in the United States, Great Britain, Germany and France that refuse to contemplate the return of these objects. One starts wondering about the relations between the museums and the plunderers.

Full text

October 13th, 2008

Posted In: Dr. Kwame Opoku writings about looted cultural objects

CPAC: New Appointment

Original blog with all links:

While most of us have been following the “credit crunch” and yesterday’s surprise vote in Washington (what the BBC has termed a “bail-out failure”), the White House announced a new member of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC): Brent R. Benjamin, Director of the St Louis Art Museum (press release, September 29, 2008).

Peter Tompa has commented on the appointment and has noted:
Mr. Benjamin should be well acquainted with cultural property issues due to an ongoing dispute with Dr. Zahi Hawass, the publicity seeking Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, over a funerary mask of a nineteenth dynasty noblewoman named Ka Nefer Nefer.
I disagree with Tompa. Benjamin does not appear to understand the “due diligence” process when it comes to this particular mask (see my earlier comments). Was this mask removed from the store at Saqqara? What is the certified documentation to show that the object had been in the hands of various European dealers and collectors?

Announcing Benjamin’s appointment yesterday looks like a case of “burying bad news”. Benjamin’s appointment can only be seen as controversial. Does the Bush administration mean to send out a signal that it does not care about claims on cultural property in North American museums?

Original blog with all links

October 13th, 2008

Posted In: comment, International conventions, looting and illegal art traffickers

More options Oct 13, 4:36 pm

Brent Benjamin Appointed to CPAC
(cross-posted with relevant links at
Dr. Derek Fincham

The White House announced back in September that President Bush will
nominate Brent R. Benjamin to serve on the Cultural Property Advisory
Committee for three years. David Gill commented on the appointment, as
did Wayne Sayles. Earlier in July, Robert O’Brien, a Los Angeles
attorney was nominated as well, though his appointment attracted
little notice.

Ton Cremers, an administrator on the invaluable Museum Security
Network argues this was an “outrageous” appointment. The reason for
the concern is this antiquity, the Ka-Nefer-Nefer mask which I
discussed at length last year.

It was stolen from a storehouse in Saqqara sometime between its
excavation in an archaeological dig in 1952, and its acquisition by
the St. Louis Art Museum in 1998. It may be worth examining this
acquisition in more detail. The best summary of the dispute I have
found is this 2006 article in the Riverfront Times.

As always, the antiquities trade presents a number of questions. Was
Benjamin at the museum in 1998 when it acquired this object? No, he
came a year after the mask was acquired. Do his actions with respect
to this mask disqualify him automatically from serving on the
committee? I’m not sure they do. Does this ongoing dispute between
Egypt and the St. Louis Art Museum automatically disqualify Benjamin
from serving on the committee? Not according to President Bush, but
did the Museum really have clean hands when they acquired the mask?
The answer I think is not really.

They purchased it from Hichaam Aboutaam, who has been linked with
looted antiquities. The work had been displayed at a Museum in Geneva
when the SLAM was considering purchasing the work. However, the museum
sent Mohammed Saleh, a retired director of the Cairo Museum a letter

“[We have] been offered a mummy mask of the 19th dynasty and I was
wondering if you know of any parallels to this object. I have never
seen anything quite like it with a reddish copper-like face probably
owing to the oxidation of the gold surface. It is currently on
exhibition in the Egyptian exhibition at the Museum of Art and History
in Geneva. I would greatly appreciate your thoughts on any parallels
you might know of this piece and hope that I might have the
opportunity to speak with you in several weeks by telephone about this

Saleh of course was not perhaps the best person in Egypt to contact
about the mask. Shouldn’t someone on the Supreme Council on
Antiquities have been better positioned to handle this request?
Unfortunately this is the shady kind of enquiry which can pass for
thorough provenance research in the antiquities trade. I think its
likely perhaps that the SLAM was not too eager to look to deeply into
the history of this object, for fear they would be unable to acquire
it. The museum was told by the seller that the mask was seen at an
antiquities dealer in 1952, and it remained in the ubiquitous “Swiss
Collection” for the next 40 years. An expert hired by the museum,
Peter Lacovara, reasoned that the mask was probably awarded to the
excavator after the 1952 excavation. This would account for its
appearance at a market in Brussels soon after, though refuting that
fact is nearly impossible at this point.

Egypt has a tenable claim perhaps, but this is a close case. I’m not
aware of the specific steps Egypt has taken in response. They have
seemingly argued that the mask was stolen at some point from an
antiquities storehouse. Now, its their cultural heritage and they’re
free to do with it what they please, but Egypt can be criticized on
two accounts. First, is it really the best idea to have a unique piece
like this mask just sitting in a warehouse for fifty years? Second,
had Egypt documented its collection and its holdings more completely,
they would have had a much stronger legal and ethical claim.

In any event, nobody looks really good in this dispute. Not the
museum, the Phoenix gallery, nor Egypt. But I’m not sure Benjamin, by
merely refusing to return the mask outright to Egypt has disqualified
himself from serving on the CPAC, which it should be mentioned is
comprised of individuals from all the disparate heritage interest
groups, including archaeologists. Also, the CPAC has never refused a
request made by a nation of origin.

Dr. Derek Fincham

October 13th, 2008

Posted In: comment, International conventions, looting and illegal art traffickers

VIENNA (AFP) — Thieves broke into a church in a small town in central Austria and stole scores of tin organ pipes, probably for their value as scrap metal, its pastor reported Monday.

They dismantled and removed 122 tin pipes from the instrument, leaving only those in wood and tinplate, according to Manfred Mitteregger from the church in Groebming.

“We noticed at once that the organ did not sound as good as usual but at first we thought it was a technical breakdown,” he told the Austrian news agency APA.

The church estimates that the theft will cost it 20,000 euros (27,200 dollars), though investigators say the sale of the stolen pipes will only bring the criminals 700 euros (950 dollars).

Thefts of metal, in particular electrical copper wire cables, have increased in recent months in Austria as metal prices have soared.

October 13th, 2008

Posted In: Church theft

By our art-crunch correspondents
Hanky-Panky Paulson and Banksy Bernanky

Damien Hirst, the wealthiest artist the world has ever known and a colossus of corporate finance, faces nationalization say City analysts.

As the financial meltdown edged ever closer to the core of the nuclear reactor that is the international banking system, there were mounting fears yesterday that Hirst – the diminutive giant of the global art economy – faces outright nationalization.

“It’s too early to say what might happen,” said a visibly shaken Treasury Secretary Ed Ballsup as he stood outside his office clutching a wrinkled donkey embryo fitted with swan’s wings. “When the investments of millions of collectors around the world look so treacherously close to vaporization, the Government may need to step in, as we did with Northern Rock and Bradford & Bingley.”

The prospect of hundreds of billions of pounds worth of pickled livestock cluttering up the corridors of power sent MPs into a gloomy funk as the reality of the situation began to dawn.

City analysts were drawing comparisons this morning between the teetering self-certified ‘buy-to-let’ mortgage market upon which so much of Bradford and Bingley’s business was built, and the shaky foundations of the ‘buy-to-flip’ art investments made by millions of gullible collectors who saw crap contemporary art as an “asset class”.

Speaking from his wheelchair at Lumbago Heights, a Los Angeles residential care home for the elderly, presidential nominee John McCain, 108, told reporters, “Art is no more an asset class than Sarah’s arse,” referring to his vice-presidential nominee. “And believe me, her ass is class and an asset to my campaign.”

Hanky-Panky Banksy Bernanky

Artnose was founded in 2001 by journalist Percy Flarge to provide a more impartial and insightful news website for the art world.

contact Artnose

Percy Flarge
The Ostrich Farm
London SW16 2LU

October 13th, 2008

Posted In: articles, comment

Randy Boswell Canwest News Service

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A rare print of a 396-year-old map of Canada created by French explorer Samuel de Champlain – and billed by Sotheby’s as “perhaps the most important single map” in Canadian history – is to be auctioned next month in Britain for up to $80,000.

But the newly offered copy of Champlain’s richly illustrated rendering of Canada’s geography as it was understood in 1612 – just four years after the founding of New France at Quebec City – is drawing special attention from experts at Harvard University, which had its vintage reproduction of the same map stolen several years ago from its antique book library.

The Harvard map was found missing in 2005 during an FBI investigation into a string of thefts from major libraries in the U.S. and Britain that saw about 100 cartographic treasures – worth an estimated $3 million US in total – sliced from centuries-old atlases and exploration journals.

Massachusetts antiquarian E. Forbes Smiley, a well-known collector and dealer of rare maps, eventually admitted to the thefts and is serving three years in a U.S. prison for the crime.

He helped authorities recover many of the stolen maps as part of a plea bargain, but the 1612 Champlain map removed from Harvard’s Houghton Library was not among those he admitted taking.

“It’s still a mystery,” Harvard spokeswoman Beth Brainard told Canwest News Service about the map’s disappearance.

She said that the university’s curators are “comparing the Sotheby’s map to a digital image of Houghton’s missing map” and “we may need to send someone to London, to look at the map” to rule out the possibility that the university’s lost treasure has ended up at auction.

A Sotheby’s spokesman said the map being sold was checked – as all items are before sale – against a U.S.-based lost art registry that tracks missing artworks and other cultural artifacts from around the world.

He added that while Champlain’s 1612 map is considered a rarity today, many were printed in the 1600s and a number have survived through the centuries.

Library and Archives Canada, the Ottawa-based repository of the country’s major historical documents, has a copy of the Champlain map, which was published in 1613 as a 44 cm.-by-76 cm fold-out accompanying the explorer’s latest accounts of his New World travels.

Museums and private collectors routinely pay huge sums for such artifacts, and the Champlain map is among the top priced items at Sotheby’s Nov. 13 Natural History, Travel, Atlases and Maps sale.

It was the first published map to show Montreal, Lake Champlain and the Great Lakes as a chain of connected waterways.

“The great map of 1612 shows for the first time the diversity of Canada’s wealth,” Sotheby’s said in its auction catalogue, quoting a cartography historian. “The artistry is overwhelming . . . beaver, foxes and other animals indicate the future fur-trade potential. There is an abundance of sea life, vegetation, and the ever-present expanse of forest resources . . . The map makes a political statement; it is not the work of a bureaucrat, but of a skilful psychologist, and politician.”

At the time the map was created, Champlain and the other top officials in New France were working to encourage settlers and fur traders to populate and exploit the new colony.

Quebec City marked its 400th anniversary earlier this year, stoking interest in the history of French settlement in North America.

The map “can be regarded as a foundation document for Canada,” Sotheby’s states.

October 13th, 2008

Posted In: library theft

(zie de bijlage).

Naast Claudia Urru (over de verbouwing van het Zeeuws Museum) en Theo Vermeulen (over de vitrines van De Verdieping van Nederland) geven Erik van der Heijden en Cees Kortleve van AON Artscope een presentatie over het belang van normen voor de verzekeraar. Met name naar die presentatie kijk ik met extra belangstelling uit. AON Artscope, geen verzekeraar maar een verzekeringsmakelaar, was betrokken bij de verzekering van de tentoonstelling met diamanten sieraden in het Museon. In dat Museum werd onopgemerkt ingebroken en een twintigtal vitrines werd binnen vijf minuten kapot geslagen en leeggeroofd. Ongeveer een jaar na deze inbraak merkte ik in een kranteninterview op dat AON Artscope als makelaar van de verzekering voor deze tentoonstelling er van uit was gegaan dat er ‘waarschijnlijk niets zou gebeuren’. Deze opmerking was voor Cees Kortleve aanleiding mij een boze mail te sturen met de vraag of ik meende helderziende te zijn en te weten wat er in de gedachten van AON Artscope om zou gaan. Nee, ik ben niet helderziende maar vernam van een AON Artscope medewerker dat de beveiliging van de diamantententoonstelling ‘om te huilen’ was. De vraag waarom dan toch bij een verzekeraar ondergebracht en welke normen gehanteerd werden lag voor de hand.

Dat Kortleve op 13 november duidelijkheid gaat geven over de normen die AON Artscope hanteert bij het auditen van de museale beveiliging is zonder meer heel goed nieuws. Misschien wordt dan ook duidelijk hoe het mogelijk was dat het Westfries Museum in Hoorn ook onopgemerkt beroofd kon worden van een groot aantal schilderijen en zilveren voorwerpen. AON Artscope was als ik goed ben geïnformeerd namelijk ook de verzekeringsmakelaar van dat museum.

Het belooft een boeiende dag te worden op 13 november.

Noot: bij geen van beide genoemde musea was ik beroepsmatig betrokken; bovenstaande kanttekeningen plaats ik als geïnteresseerd toeschouwer.

Ton Cremers

October 12th, 2008

Posted In: algemeen, congressen

Tags: , , ,

Benjamin Brent knows that the Egyptian mask in the SLAM is a stolen mask and refuses to return it. Who sold this mask to the SLAM: dubious art dealer Ali Aboutaam (presently convicted in Egypt; there is an international warrent for his arrest!)

It cannot be true that BRENT BENJAMINwill be appointed as member of the CULTURAL PROPERTY ADVISORY COMMITTEE. Doing so the USA will defame itself internationally. Is this the answer the USA is giving to the problem of illicit trafficking:

Ton Cremers

—–Original Message—–
From: Ton Cremers []
Sent: Saturday, October 11, 2008 6:16 PM
To: ‘’
Cc: ‘’

The White House has announced that President George W. Bush intends to appoint St. Louis Art Museum director Brent R. Benjamin as a member of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee.

The committee is composed of 11 people, including museum professionals; experts in archaeology, anthropology and ethnology; experts in international sales of cultural property; and members of the general public. Two members are designated from the museum world.

The committee advises the president on issues related to cultural property as outlined in the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Cultural Property. Benjamin’s term will run through April 25, 2011. (David Bonetti)


One can hardly believe that this is true!

Ton Cremers

Contact information of the CPAC:

Cultural Heritage Center
U.S. Department of State (ECA/P/C)
301 4th St., SW, Room 334
Washington, DC 20547

Telephone: (202) 453-8800
Fax: (202) 453-8803

October 11th, 2008

Posted In: International conventions, looting and illegal art traffickers

Staff Writer

October 09, 2008 04:00 am

— PLATTSBURGH — Matthew Boire trembled as he apologized for stealing and selling a Civil War uniform, a theft that has landed him behind bars for 90 days.
The 26-year-old Plattsburgh man was facing a possible stint in prison when he returned to Clinton County Court before Judge Kevin Ryan Wednesday afternoon.
Instead, he got 90 days in jail, five years of probation, a $1,000 fine and 200 hours of community service for taking the $3,000 historical artifact from the Clinton County Historical Association and selling it.
Boire tried to maintain his composure when he told the court how deeply his actions have affected not only himself, but the museum and community as a whole.
“I suffer for it every day. Through a thoughtless act, I lost everything,” the avid history buff told the judge.
“It’s something that haunts me every day.”
Boire had been serving probation for stealing other artifacts when he was arrested in connection with the missing coat, which was not included as part of his previous plea agreement.
In court Wednesday, Boire said he had the coat when he was first arrested and got rid of it before officials could charge him in connection with that theft.
“I didn’t know what to do with it,” he told the judge when he was asked why he didn’t return it to the museum back then.
“I was scared it was going to lead to more charges.”
His attorney, Stephen Johnston, said “it appeared to Matthew that the sky was falling in on him, so he panicked” and went out of town to sell the coat, which had belonged to the county since the 1860s.
Johnston acknowledged that his client should have “come clean” about the coat when he admitted stealing the other artifacts, one of which he sold on eBay, but the former museum board member was scared he’d go to prison.
Assistant District Attorney Timothy Blatchley and members of the Historical Association asked Ryan to send Boire to prison for up to three years, the maximum sentence allowed.
But, Ryan said he felt a local jail sentence was more appropriate.
He said Boire’s previous lack of criminal history, coupled with his volunteer work in the community, which was described in detail through letters sent to the court, indicated he wasn’t necessarily suited for prison.
Though Ryan acknowledged that the county has forever lost a valuable piece of local history, he said Boire didn’t deserve what would “await him in the Department of Corrections.”
The judge said that serving jail time and now having a felony record was harsh enough, something Boire’s family agreed with as they wiped away their tears.
Boire didn’t say anything as he was led from the courtroom to begin his sentence on a reduced charge of fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property.
He had already paid restitution for the coat.

October 11th, 2008

Posted In: Mailing list reports, Museum thefts


Italy tries to block sale of Bonhams antiquities linked to disgraced dealer

Dalya Alberge, Arts Correspondent

The London auctioneers Bonhams are under pressure to withdraw several of the prized pieces from its forthcoming antiquities sale after a senior Italian politician raised questions over their provenance.

Francesco Rutelli, the former Italian Minister for Culture and Deputy Prime Minister, told the Italian Parliament he had believed that some of the antiquities to be auctioned in London next week had been exported illegally from Italy.

In an “urgent question” to Sandro Bondi, his successor as Culture Minister, he accused the centre-right Berlusconi Government, which took power in May, of failing to take action over the illegal export of archaeological treasures.

Mr Rutelli later told reporters that he was most concerned about an elaborately decorated Apulian 4th-century BC red krater or Greek vase that forms part of the Bonhams sale.

He took the dramatic step of calling for a Rome prosecutor to block the antiquities auction by Bonhams, due to be held on October 15.

In an “urgent question” to Sandro Bondi, his successor as Culture Minister, he demanded that all auctions involving the sale of Italian treasures of “questionable provenance” should be blocked.

He called for checks to be made on the provenance of other items in the sale that he said “in all probability originated in Italy”, after discovering that the Apulian vase was owned by Robin Symes, the disgraced British dealer who was jailed for two years in January 2005 for bankruptcy. Symes was released after seven months.

Mr Rutelli’s parliamentary question read: “Since the summer of 2007 the Ministry of Culture has undertaken extra-judicial negotiations with the commission of liquidators of the Symes collection nominated by a London court, with the aim of verifying the possibility of recuperating archaeological artefacts belonging to the heritage of Italy.”

Although Mr Rutelli said that he had sent the documentation on the Bonhams auction and the Symes collection to Paolo Giorgio Ferri, the Rome prosecutor who specialises in art theft cases, Bonhams said that it was business as usual, as far as they were concerned.

A spokesman for the auctioneer said: “We have not officially heard anything from the Italian Parliament. We would obviously act the moment we receive anything requiring us legally to respond and do as we always do. If there is any question mark on something like this we either withdraw it or get into discussions … No one here was aware of the statement in the Italian Parliament.” He confirmed that the vase is believed to have been owned by Symes “prior to 1980” but that it had been through “many hands over the past 28 years”.

Mr Rutelli said that the recovery of archaeological masterpieces trafficked from Italy in recent years has brought to light the scandalous nature of commercial operations undertaken by Symes and his associates.

Symes had acquired artefacts from an Italian dealer called Giacomo Medici, and sold looted antiquities to many Western museums including the Getty, whose former curator Marion True is on trial in Rome for the alleged illegal trafficking of antiquities.

Negotiations with the Symes liquidation commission to recover Italian works have so far ended in an impasse. Mr Rutelli said that the Bonhams sale was a worrying sign that items from the Symes collection were beginning to find their way on to the market.

He praised co-operation by the Getty and other US museums, which have agreed not to trade in future in artefacts which do not have a secure provenance.

Graeme Barker, an archaeologist and director of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge, said: “Auction houses should be extremely careful about what they’re selling and be clear about their origins.”

Symes was jailed in 2005. A two-year sentence was imposed by a High Court judge after he disregarded orders obtained against him in a legal action by the family of his late business partner. The Greek family of the deceased Christo Michailidis conducted a four-year legal battle over the multi-million-pound assets of their business.

Mr Justice Peter Smith said that Symes, then 65, was guilty of “flouting the orders of the court to achieve financial benefits for himself”. He said that Symes was guilty of “calculated, cynical and well-understood acts of deception”.

Two years earlier, the dealer was given a 12-month suspended sentence for lying about the true value of a statue that he claimed to have sold for $1.6 million (£978,000) when the actual value was $4.5 million.

Several antiquities associated with Symes have been returned to Greece and Italy in recent years.

October 11th, 2008

Posted In: Auction Houses and stolen objects, looting and illegal art traffickers

POSTED: 7:28 pm EDT October 6, 2008
UPDATED: 12:03 am EDT October 7, 2008

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — After investigating a robbery at a St. Augustine art gallery, police said they suspect the heist was an inside job.

Investigators were called to the Parkmara Galleries on St. George Street last Tuesday after an employee reported a burglary.

The employee told police that $28,000 worth of paintings and sculptures were missing.

Police said at first the story seemed black and white; a thief broke into the gallery and took off with thousands of dollars worth of art, but once police started asking questions they said the story started to get more colorful.

The employee who called the police to report the burglary has become investigator’s No. 1 suspect.

“He stated he had arrived to work and found several paintings and artwork missing. He said he had left the shop at approximately 6:04 p.m. He and another associate set the alarm,” said Detective Cecilia Aiple.

However, what police said the employee didn’t know was that his girlfriend had already told detectives she picked him up at 6:20 p.m., not 6:04 p.m., and the alarm was turned off at 6:11 p.m.

Police say they found $85,000 worth of art in this van, which they say was rented by an employee of the burglarized art gallery.

Then, police said they discovered the employee and his girlfriend had rented a van. They said the gallery employee and his girlfriend originally denied renting the vehicle.

Police say they found $85,000 worth of art in this van, which they say was rented by an employee of the burglarized art gallery.

“I continued talking to him … we had other officers make contact with the girlfriend at his residence and she stated they had not rented the vehicle as of yet,” said Aiple. “After calling several rental places we found they had rented the van the day before the burglary.”

After investigators showed the employee proof of the van rental, they said he admitted he swiped the pricey art because of an alleged business deal gone badly with one of the gallery owners.

“He took it upon himself to obtain all of the paintings from the art gallery so he would have some sort of bargaining tool,” said Aiple.

Police said they later found the rented van filled with more than $85,000 worth of art. Detectives said about $45,000 worth of art remains unaccounted for.

They said the employee faces charges for filing a false police report and felony grand theft. The employee’s girlfriend and the gallery’s owner could also face charges.

October 7th, 2008

Posted In: insider theft

André Cédilot
La Presse

Surnommé «le Columbo de l’art», le sergent Alain Lacoursière est de retour à la police de Montréal. Depuis trois ans, il était «prêté» à la Sûreté du Québec, où il a participé à la création d’Art Alerte, un site internet unique au monde destiné à combattre la criminalité liée aux oeuvres d’art à Montréal, au Québec, au Canada et même en Amérique du Nord. Voici le parcours peu commun de celui qui n’a jamais été un flic comme les autres.

Aujourd’hui âgé de 48 ans et à la veille de prendre sa retraite, Alain Lacoursière était loin d’imaginer qu’il ferait carrière dans la police. Adolescent, il faisait partie d’une petite bande de motards appelée Les Possédés. Rien de comparable avec ce qui se passe aujourd’hui, mais le club avait un local au coeur de Saint-Casimir de Portneuf, son village natal, dans la région de Québec. «Nous étions une quinzaine. On avait des motos et on portait le blouson de cuir. Comme bien des jeunes du temps, on avait les cheveux longs et on rêvait de changer le monde en fumant du pot. Il arrivait qu’on fasse des mauvais coups, mais nous n’étions pas des criminels», a-t-il raconté lors d’une entrevue.

C’est d’ailleurs à cause de son comportement délinquant, selon sa propre expression, qu’un frère des Écoles chrétiennes l’a initié à la peinture, au début des années 70. «Il avait décidé de canaliser mon trop-plein d’énergie en me forçant à faire de la peinture, mais cela a quand même mal fini», raconte le sergent Lacoursière, qui a été banni du cours. «On était dans les années psychédéliques et je m’entêtais à présenter des portraits religieux qui ne plaisaient pas aux professeurs.» Il a notamment dessiné Jésus-Christ avec une tête afro, cigarette de marijuana au bec!

«Quand j’étais jeune, la police était souvent chez nous. C’était des enquêteurs en civil, et ils étaient corrects avec moi. C’est ce qui m’a sans doute incité à devenir policier. Je n’allais nulle part, et mon père m’a lancé un ultimatum.» À une occasion, il a dû comparaître en cour après s’être fait prendre dans un bar alors qu’il n’avait pas 18 ans.

Toujours aussi marginal, il a mis trois ans au lieu de quatre pour terminer le programme de techniques policières au cégep de Trois-Rivières. «Mon banc d’école, c’était la brasserie. Je portais des bottes de travail et j’écoutais les chansons de Raôul Duguay», se souvient Alain Lacoursière. Il faisait du karaté et jouait au football. Pendant deux ans, il a aussi travaillé les week-ends comme répartiteur d’appels à la police de Trois-Rivières-Ouest.

Stage ultime avant son embauche comme policier, il s’est retrouvé à l’Institut de police de Nicolet en 1982. Pendant 16 semaines, il a suivi ses cours au jour le jour, tout en se pliant à la discipline de fer de l’établissement. «Chaque matin, en me levant, je me disais tout haut: ferme ta gueule», raconte le policier montréalais. Plutôt réfractaire à l’autorité, il n’a jamais eu la langue dans sa poche et il a toujours pratiqué le métier de façon peu orthodoxe.

Après deux ans à la police municipale de Nicolet, il s’est amené à Montréal en 1984, où il a été affecté à la patrouille dans les rues de Verdun. «Ça a été un choc énorme. Le premier soir, j’ai appelé ma femme pour lui dire qu’il me serait impossible de vivre ici. J’avais le goût de pleurer juste à écouter les ondes de la radio. C’était continuellement des appels pour des bagarres, de la violence conjugale et des incendies. Il y avait de l’action.»

Avec son physique plutôt frêle, ses airs d’artiste et sa crinière en broussaille, il s’est vite retrouvé dans des escouades spéciales du centre-ville, où il a travaillé comme agent double pendant deux ans. Lors de son passage à l’escouade de la moralité, il faisait la surveillance des débits d’alcool. Combien de fois on lui a reproché de prendre un verre avec des punks, des prostituées ou des sans-abri! «Il n’en reste pas moins que j’avais le pouls de la rue, je savais ce qui se passait», avance-t-il.

Le sergent Lacoursière s’est aussi fait taper sur les doigts pour avoir dénoncé publiquement le fait que rien ne permette de fermer les bars clandestins de la pègre italienne, à Saint-Léonard. «On en avait fermé un pour la 37e fois. Deux heures plus tard, il rouvrait ses portes. C’était trop à mon goût», a-t-il dit. Cet écart lui a coûté une journée de paie.

C’est à son retour d’un voyage en France en 1989, où il a fait la tournée des musées de Paris, qu’il a vraiment pris goût à la littérature et à l’art. Neuf ans plus tard, il a décroché un bac en histoire de l’art. Dans l’intervalle, tout en s’appliquant à convaincre la direction du Service de police de l’importance de créer une brigade d’enquête sur les oeuvres d’art («on me rabâchait qu’on n’avait pas à s’occuper de ça, que c’était un crime de riches»), il a dressé dans une circulaire un inventaire des objets d’art volés à Montréal et ailleurs au Québec.

C’est en 1994 qu’il s’est fait remarquer en appréhendant des types d’expérience qui tentaient de vendre à l’encan un tapis de grande valeur volé à un multimillionnaire de New York. «La direction de la police et le maire de Montréal, Jean Doré, ont reçu des lettres de remerciement. Quatre ans plus tard, au terme de mes études en histoire de l’art, j’ai soumis un projet d’enquêtes et il a été accepté», rappelle-t-il avec un sourire narquois.

À force de travail et de ténacité, il a fini par gagner la confiance des gens du milieu – marchands d’art, galeristes, collectionneurs, spécialistes locaux et internationaux. Il a aussi entretenu des liens avec des policiers d’Interpol, de Scotland Yard et du FBI, notamment. Il a même créé des liens parmi les… fraudeurs. Avec son collègue de la Sûreté du Québec, Jean-François Talbot, qu’il a pris sous son aile en 2003, il a participé à des congrès et prononcé des allocutions dans plusieurs pays. Le programme Art Alerte est sa création. Cette base de données informatique aide à retrouver les oeuvres volées et à dépister les faussaires.

Des émotions fortes

Quoique loin de l’image du policier intrépide, le sergent Lacoursière a vécu beaucoup d’émotions fortes dans la rue. Il n’a jamais battu ni frappé personne, comme il le dit si bien, mais il s’est servi quelquefois de son revolver. Deux fois, il a ouvert le feu pour tuer. Derrière chez lui, il a déjà abattu un… raton laveur. Ce geste lui a valu une suspension de 25 jours. À une autre occasion, en 1992, il a répliqué, mais sans toucher la cible – c’est du moins ce qu’il croit -, aux tirs de trois bandits pris en chasse à la suite du braquage d’un camion de Secur.

Outre cette fusillade, il a failli à deux autres reprises être atteint par des balles. En 1985, il allait intervenir dans une bagarre dans un cabaret de la rue Saint-Denis quand un projectile lui a sifflé aux oreilles. «J’ai vu un éclair, mais la balle s’est logée dans le haut d’un cadre de porte», précise-t-il. L’année suivante, toujours dans le centre-ville, en compagnie de deux autres policiers, il s’est fait tirer dessus par un drogué qui avait perdu la carte. «Il a tiré deux coups de feu. J’ai juste eu le temps de baisser la tête, sinon j’avais une balle dans le front», dit-il. Le suspect, qui avait commis trois hold-up quelques heures plus tôt, a été vite coffré.

L’art et le crime organisé

Le Canada est la plaque tournante du trafic d’oeuvres d’art entre les États-Unis et l’Europe, et Montréal est au coeur de ce type de crime. Bon an mal an, il y a de 125 à 150 plaintes de vols du genre. On parle de pertes de 15 à 20 millions de dollars par année à Montréal. La police récupère de 14 à 16% de cette somme. Grâce à ses relations à l’étranger, le crime organisé est très actif dans ce domaine. «Les bandes de criminels d’ici et d’outre-mer échangent des renseignements. Ils se servent aussi de tableaux ou d’autres objets d’art pour blanchir de l’argent ou comme monnaie d’échange contre de la drogue», dit le sergent Alain Lacoursière, en parlant notamment de la mafia et des Hells Angels.

October 5th, 2008

Posted In: Mailing list reports


KABUL (AFP) — Antiques dating back 1,300 years have been stolen from a museum in western Afghanistan, officials said Saturday, blaming a “powerful gang” for the theft after a suspect was found dead.

The national museum at Herat, the second largest city in Afghanistan, was raided last week, deputy culture minister Mohammad Zia Afshar told a news conference in Kabul.

The authorities said two suspects were taken into custody for interrogation and one of them had died in prison under unclear circumstances.

“We’re investigating whether he was killed. If we find out that he was murdered in prison this will confirm our suspicions that that we are dealing with a very dangerous gang,” Najibullah Manali, another ministry official, told the same news conference.

He said police were hunting 22 missing artefacts including clay, metal and and stone-made items, some from pre-Islamic Buddhist-era Afghanistan, which dates back about 13 centuries.

Antiques from the 11th century Ghaznavides and 15th century Timurid empire era were also missing, Manali said. He did not give exact details of the antiques.

Afghanistan has lost scores of priceless archaeological artefacts through thefts from museums during decades of conflict.

Most of the items are alleged to have been smuggled to neighbouring Pakistan before reaching private collectors in rich gulf or Western countries.

Afghanistan’s biggest museum, the Kabul-based National Museum which was said to be one of the richest in the region, was levelled during the civil war of 1992-1996.

The strife-torn country suffered its biggest cultural loss after the Taliban — in power between 1996 and 2001 — destroyed the giant Buddha statues in central Bamiyan.

October 5th, 2008

Posted In: looting and illegal art traffickers, Museum thefts

By Jill Bryce
Artifact thief to serve prison time

ALBANY — A former state archivist and Civil War expert who stole hundreds of historical documents and artifacts belonging to the New York State Library and sold some of them over the Internet for personal profit was sentenced on Thursday to two to six years in prison.

Daniel D. Lorello, 54, of Van Leuven Drive, Rensselaer, apologized to his family and co-workers at his sentencing appearance before Albany County Court Judge Thomas Breslin.

In addition to prison time, he must pay $125,500 in restitution, to be divided among people who unknowingly bought stolen property from him and later returned it to the state.

He must also forfeit his personal collection of historic artifacts and documents, valued at approximately $80,000, to the New York State Library and Archives.

Lorello was arrested in January and pleaded guilty to second-degree grand larceny on Aug. 8 for stealing more than 1,600 artifacts from New York state between Jan. 1, 1997, and Jan. 24, 2008.

The Attorney General’s Office said on Thursday that more than 1,600 stolen items have been recovered.

“In serving as a guardian of New York’s historical treasures, Mr. Lorello abused his position to steal priceless artifacts instead of protecting them for future generations,” Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.

Lorello, in a hand-written statement submitted to the court earlier this year, said he stole the items in part to pay $10,000 in credit card bills run up by his daughter. He admitted he took things when he needed to pay family bills for house renovations, car bills, tuition and his daughter’s credit card problem. He took between 300 to 400 items in 2007.

The thefts were discovered after the state Library was contacted by Joseph Romito, a history buff from Virginia, who alerted state authorities to a pending sale of an item Lorello posted on eBay, and which he believed belonged to the library.

The item was a four-page letter to a New York general by John C. Calhoun from 1823. Calhoun was the seventh vice president of the United States, serving under John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, and was an avid secessionist.

Lorello also admitted stealing two copies of the Davey Crockett Almanac, a Poor Richard’s Almanack, published by Benjamin Franklin, which he sold for $1,001, and a visiting card portrait of Civil War Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock.

State Education Commissioner Richard Mills in a statement said: “Access to the historical collections of the nation is a fundamental right in our democracy. When someone steals from those collections, we are all harmed. Fortunately, most of the items stolen by Mr. Lorello have now been recovered.”

Lorello, who resigned from his position at the Department of Education, had worked at the state archives since 1979 and oversaw the movement of records during renovation. He worked on the 11th floor of the Cultural Education Center, the same building where the State Museum is located.

October 4th, 2008

Posted In: insider theft

The following are some of the essential points about the Benin bronzes that the reader must know and always bear in mind when reading about the looted cultural artefacts now in European and American museums.

1. Thousands of beautiful and fine Benin art objects were stolen by the British in 1897 when they illegally invaded Benin City, executed some nobles, exiled the Oba (King) and burnt the city.

2. The stolen Benin objects were sold by the British to individuals and to European and American museums, including: British Museum, London, Ethnology Museum, Berlin, Ethnology Museum, Vienna and the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago.

3. The people of Benin (Edo) and Nigeria have fewer of these objects than the European and American museums that refuse to lend or return any of the pieces they keep in depots and basements.

full text

October 4th, 2008

Posted In: Dr. Kwame Opoku writings about looted cultural objects

By Paul Leighton and Paul Tennant
Staff writerS

BEVERLY — An observant Groveland police officer and a conscientious plant operations manager at Beverly Hospital helped bring about Tuesday’s arrest of Paul G. Galzerano on charges of receiving stolen property, investigators said.

Galzerano, 56, of Groveland pleaded not guilty in Haverhill District Court yesterday to six counts of receiving stolen property in connection with the theft of what police said was more than $200,000 worth of antiques from the hospital. The hospital said 28 paintings were missing, including the two seized Tuesday. Galzerano is due back in court Nov. 4.

Galzerano was associate vice president for support services at Beverly Hospital from 2002 to 2007. He oversaw the hospital’s multimillion dollar expansion and renovation project and often served as the public face of the project. He gave talks about the expansion to the Beverly Kiwanis Club and the Senior Supper Club and also spoke with the media about the project.

But this week he became a suspect in a dramatic case of employee theft.

Police raided Galzerano’s home Tuesday and seized three paintings, a grandfather clock, several oriental-style wooden room dividers and assorted furniture that police say he stole from Beverly Hospital four years ago during the expansion project.

Groveland police Chief Robert Kirmelewicz said he was told by private investigators hired by the hospital that one of the paintings, by Rockport artist Stanley Wingate Woodward, is valued at $200,000. But Don Mosher, the curator of the Rockport Art Association, where Woodward was a member before his death in 1970, doubted the veracity of that figure.

“Never in a million years,” Mosher said when told about the $200,000 estimate. “His paintings don’t bring in any more than $25,000. I’ve seen them go at auction for $5,000 to $8,000.”

Groveland police said the grandfather clock is worth $10,000, while the room dividers are valued at $3,000.

Documents on file in the Haverhill court show that when hospital plant operations manager Charles Higgins found out that the grandfather clock that had been at the hospital for 50 years was going to be removed, he asked Galzerano what was going to be done with it. Higgins, who has worked at the hospital for 45 years and was the clock’s caretaker, told police he saw that clock every day, until its removal.

According to a report filed by Groveland Patrolman James Morton, Galzerano told Higgins the clock was being sent out for refinishing “and not to worry about anything.” But Higgins told police the clock didn’t need refinishing. He said that day in 2003 was the last time he saw the grandfather clock.

Eventually, according to Morton’s report, the hospital “became aware” that not only the clock, but furniture and 28 paintings were missing. So the hospital formed an investigative team.

Chief Kirmelewicz said Groveland police were approached two weeks ago by an investigation team put together by Beverly Hospital. The investigators told police they suspected that stolen antiques were in Galzerano’s home at 281 Main St.

One of the private eyes, John Malone, told Morton that in 2006, Galzerano told Beverly Hospital staff members that he was refurnishing his house. Another member of the investigation team — Bud Holden, director of the off-site campus facility at the hospital — learned Galzerano’s house was posted on a Web site and was for sale, the documents said. Holden and Higgins viewed the pictures of the interior of Galzerano’s home on the Web and the clock looked familiar, the documents said. When Morton, along with Groveland Deputy police Chief Jeff Gillen, met with the group from Beverly Hospital, something clicked.

Morton had made a previous visit to Galzerano’s house, which he purchased in 1987 and which town assessment records say is valued at $663,500.

Back in August, Morton obtained a warrant to search Galzerano’s house for a gun, according to police reports. A neighbor said Galzerano had threatened her with a gun when she complained about loud music, the reports said. Morton found no gun but “was drawn” to a grandfather clock, furniture and paintings on the walls, he wrote in his report. Morton builds Shaker and country furniture for friends and he paints for a hobby.

He particularly noticed a seascape, the artist of which signed his name in red in the lower right corner of the painting. Higgins would later recognize the Woodward painting.

Morton applied for a search warrant Monday. On Tuesday afternoon, he, Gillen, Kirmelewicz and Patrolman Chris Sargent searched Galzerano’s house.

When the officers approached, Galzerano asked what was going on, according to Morton’s report. When he found out, he immediately called his lawyer, Scott Gleason of Haverhill.

When Gleason arrived a short time later, he ordered Galzerano to stop talking to the police, the police report said. Galzerano objected to the officers’ presence, saying they and Beverly Hospital were “harassing” him, according to the report.

Beverly Hospital, in the meantime, had arranged to have a truck from the Tobin moving company of Peabody go to Groveland to pick up the clock, paintings and other items. The seized items were placed in a locked evidence room at the Groveland police station. Higgins identified both the clock and Woodward’s seascape, according to Morton.

The thefts were never reported to Beverly police, department spokesman Officer John McCarthy said yesterday. He said Beverly police did not know about the incident until they were notified recently by Groveland police.

McCarthy said people are not obliged by law to report stolen property, “but we strongly encourage people to report stolen items to us so we can help them recover them.”

In a statement, hospital officials said they “recently became aware that there were some items missing from Beverly Hospital and we have been working with the Groveland Police Department in an effort to recover those items. ”

“Unfortunately, it appears that this matter may involve a former employee. We are cooperating fully with the authorities and cannot comment further on an ongoing investigation,” the statement said.

Yesterday, Judge Stephen Abany set bail of $1,000 cash, which was agreed to by Assistant District Attorney John DePaulo and Gleason. The defense attorney said he expected Galzerano would be able to post the bail that day. The case has been continued until Nov. 4. The charge of assault with a dangerous weapon stemming from the alleged gun threat to the neighbor was also continued until that date.

Abany warned Galzerano that if he gets into “further trouble,” his bail will be revoked and he will he held until his hearing.

October 3rd, 2008

Posted In: insider theft

Police need your help to track down a man who allegedly stole a civil war uniform and sword at the Museum of Wayne County. Police say the theft was similar to an art theft at a museum in Mount Morris last week.

A Wayne County Sheriff Department Investigator returned to the museum, searching for the fingerprints of a man Larry Ann Evans believes stole a Civil War era uniform and sword Friday afternoon.

“A man came in and asked if he could have some water for his overheated car,” she said.

Evans, the executive director of the museum, says she brought the man some water. When he put a couple dollars in the donation box in the lobby, she offered to give him a tour, showing him the exhibits downstairs, including the historical Wayne County Jail.

“He enjoyed that a lot,” she said. “He said he’d never been in jail before, but his brother had.”

Evans said he earned her trust, so she told him he could take a look around on the second floor. After 10 minutes, she said he came down the stairs and walked quickly passed her office and out the main door.

“I went right out after him, and I stopped him right there on the steps and said don’t you want your water?”

That’s when Evans saw something protruding out of his backside and asked him what it was.

“Without missing a beat he says, ‘It’s a colostomy bag. It’s really embarrassing. I don’t like talking about it.’ And I’m like, ok, what am I going to say at that point? Can I see your bag?”

Evans ran inside and called 9-1-1 while the man drove away, getting away with this civil war uniform and sword. It is memorabilia, Evans says, can’t be replaced.

“We just want it back,” she said.

Evans says the museum has a security alarm system, but she will now be installing surveillance cameras in each room.

October 1st, 2008

Posted In: Museum thefts