Certainly, the 20th anniversary of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Theft has revived and rallied public support for the recovery of the missing masterpieces. Over the past month, there has been tremendous media coverage of the largest single art theft in history. Often, in its reports, the press recounts “the night of the heist,” and then offers a few insights into the ongoing investigation from Assistant US Attorney Brian Kelly, FBI Special Agent Geoffrey Kelly, or Director of Security Anthony Amore
Originally posted at Art Theft Central

March 31st, 2010

Posted In: Mailing list reports

Art Theft Central: What can recoveries tell us about art theft?
Over the past week there have been the recoveries of a Juan Gris untitled painting, Paul Klee’s Portrait in the Garden, and Henry Moore’s Three Piece Reclining Figure: Maquette No. 4. What do these cases reveal about art theft, or even the recovery of stolen art?…

March 26th, 2010

Posted In: Mailing list reports

Tags: ,

Hundreds of artworks in Turkish museum stolen and replaced with fakes

Thomas Seibert, Foreign Correspondent

* Last Updated: March 26. 2010 12:12AM UAE / March 25. 2010 8:12PM
GMT

ISTANBUL // Inspectors in a state-run museum in Turkey’s capital
Ankara have raised the alarm after finding that hundreds of paintings
by Turkish masters have been replaced by copies or simply vanished
without a trace.

“The museum has been looted,” said Osman Altintas, an art professor
from Ankara’s Gazi University. He leads a team of experts sent by the
culture ministry to investigate how many original paintings in the
Ankara State Museum for Painting and Sculpture are actually still
there and how many have been replaced by copies.

Speaking to Turkish media earlier this month, Dr Altintas put the
number of vanished or copied paintings at about 400, or about 10 per
cent of the total number of paintings in the museum. He estimated that
the thefts may total 100 million lira (Dh238m). News reports this week
said a previous inspection in 1996 found that 313 paintings had been
missing even then.

To make matters worse, Dr Altintas found that storage conditions for
paintings in the museum were so poor that many works of art that were
still there had been damaged or destroyed. “It would have been better
if they had been stolen,” he said.

Government officials said that in some cases, state institutions had
helped themselves to precious works of art from the museum to adorn
offices and reception halls. Critics say the looting of the museum,
which went on for 30 years, is a sign of the country’s failure to
adequately protect its cultural heritage.

Ertugrul Gunay, the culture minister, is the man in the eye of the
storm. He promised to clear up the mess, but immediately had to admit
that his own ministry had taken eight paintings from the museum. They
were recently returned, as a good example to other ministries, as he
put it. “From now on, we will only give reproductions to state
institutions, not originals,” the minister said.

Public attention focused on the disappearance of 13 works of Hoca Ali
Riza (1858–1939), an artist renowned for his paintings and drawings of
Istanbul whose works can fetch prices of tens of thousands of dollars.
Omer Osman Gundogdu, the museum director, admitted that he did not
even know when the missing charcoal drawings were stolen and replaced
by copies. “It may have been five or 10 years ago,” he said.

Mr Gundogdu also said the museum’s system of surveillance cameras had
been out of order for a long time. The problem is exacerbated by the
fact that the museum’s storage and inventory system leaves much to be
desired. “Our depot is a little crowded,” the director said. Asked on
television about reports that inspectors had found five empty frames
in the museum, Mr Gundogdu said the pictures belonging to the frames
“may turn up somewhere”.

Omer Faruk Serifoglu, a writer who has edited a book about Hoca Ali
Riza, said that of the 441 works of the artist that had been given to
the state only 56 remained in official records. “It is unknown what
happened to the rest,” he told the Cumhuriyet newspaper.

The investigation in Ankara was triggered by the discovery of a case
of art robbery in a museum in the town of Usak, in the south-west of
the country, in 2006. There, thieves replaced a 2,000-year-old golden
brooch in the shape of a winged sea-horse with a copy. The theft went
unnoticed for months, and the original has not been found. Earlier
this year, the director of the museum was sentenced to 13 years in
prison for being behind the crime. He says he is innocent.

Following the incident in Usak, the culture ministry ordered
inspections in museums around the country. In the Ankara museum, an
official was fired because he was suspected of being involved in the
disappearance of three paintings, Mr Gunay told reporters. According
to news reports, the police are still searching for 31 works of art
that disappeared from the museum 13 years ago. “The museums are in the
hands of Allah,” one newspaper headline said.

Mr Gunay said paintings started to vanish from the Ankara museum after
the military coup of 1980. “Back then, paintings were handed out as
presents to high-ranking institutions” of the state, he said. A total
of 649 works of art from the museum ended up in the buildings of other
state institutions, according to the minister. So far, 121 paintings
have been returned.

The combination of a self-service mentality by state institutions,
theft, as well as bad surveillance and management, speaks volumes
about Turkey’s relationship with its own cultural heritage, critics
say. Last month, a local historian on the Datca peninsula in south-
western Turkey alerted the media, saying authorities there had failed
to protect the ruins of the ancient city of Knidos from art robbers.
He said that only two guards were watching over Knidos in the winter
months. Eight suspected robbers had been arrested within two weeks, he
said.

“The number of security personnel in our museums is low,” Tomur
Atagok, a professor at the Mimar Sinan University in Istanbul, told
the NTV news channel. She added that Turkish museums also lacked an
adequate number of art experts and an efficient system of record-
keeping. “If there are experts in a museum, they have to know what
kind of art works are in their own collection,” she said. “There have
to be records about where the originals go” when they leave the
museum.

tseibert@thenational.ae

March 26th, 2010

Posted In: Museum thefts

On display in Russia museums: fears of items gone astray
After a curator at the renowned Hermitage made off with hundreds of
pieces, Putin ordered a national audit of museums. The report is due
soon, and officials are seeking to minimize its findings.
By Megan K. Stack
March 25, 2010 | 7:39 p.m.
Reporting from St. Petersburg, Russia – She was an unlikely bandit,
one of hundreds of middle-aged, down-at-the-heel curators who shuffle
through the former czarist palaces of the State Hermitage Museum.
But quietly, steadily, Larisa Zavadskaya was brewing a scandal that
would shake the art world from New York to Paris. She stuffed her
purse with hundreds of pieces of jewelry, icons and silverware, later
farming them out to antiques dealers.
The thefts came to light in 2005 when inspectors arrived to inventory
her department. Zavadskaya dropped dead of a heart attack on the spot.
Meanwhile, doubt swept the country’s cultural elite. If Zavadskaya had
stolen hundreds of pieces without being detected, what else had been
stolen, in the Hermitage or elsewhere?
Nobody denies the confusion lingering in museums across Russia after a
long history of painful political change, bureaucratic bungling and
bad bookkeeping. But nobody can say for sure how much damage has been
done.
Since the Zavadskaya thefts, Russian officials have struggled to take
stock of the country’s cultural heritage. A massive national audit,
the first of its kind undertaken by post-Soviet Russia, was ordered by
an enraged and embarrassed then-President Vladimir Putin.
Thousands of officials from all nooks of Russia’s considerable state
bureaucracy fanned out to check the warehouses, basements and display
cases of more than 1,000 museums across the country.
As it turns out, there is plenty missing. The audit’s findings are due
for release any day, but Russia’s cultural officials have already
acknowledged that at least 87,000 pieces have vanished. Hundreds of
those belonged to the Hermitage.
The Russian government is eager to downplay the findings. Many of the
missing items were of minor interest, officials insist.
But in Russia, where skeptics are used to brushing aside the
assurances of the government, some observers worry that the report
reveals only part of the problem in the country’s museums.
International art experts, meanwhile, are incredulous at the auditing
project’s speed.
“As an exercise, it strikes me as fantastic,” said Jon Whiteley, a
Russian art expert at the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford University. “But
to make it complete, I would have thought, would be nearly
impossible.”
That trail of doubt stretches here, to the city invented by Peter the
Great in his eagerness to open Russia to the West — and to the
hallowed, art-lined halls of the Hermitage.
With its 3 million pieces of art and artifacts stored in the cavernous
palaces of a bygone empire, the Hermitage has been the heart of
Russian art ever since Catherine the Great bought troves of European
paintings and sculpture, creating the core that would swell into
today’s collection.
This inherited splendor carries a heavy symbolic weight in today’s
Russia. Unlike many other institutions, the Hermitage has survived the
blood and turmoil of revolution and collapse. Today it is acknowledged
to be as good — possibly better — than any similar institution in
the West. The Louvre is widely considered the world’s only comparable
collection, and few art lovers dare to pick sides.
For decades, the Hermitagestaff operated on the honor system. Only
with the revelation of the Savadskaya thefts did the museum install a
complete web of security cameras and metal detectors. The director is
still grumbling.
Mikhail Piotrovsky is Hermitage royalty and a longtime political ally
of St. Petersburg native Putin. His father presided over the
collection for 26 years until his death in 1990; Piotrovsky ascended
to the job in 1992.
Today he calls the museum a “police state.”
“I think it’s very bad,” he said of the security cameras and bag
checks. “It means we don’t trust them. And the museum is a place of
trust; it’s a human place.”
The discovery of the Savadskaya thefts drew angry calls for
Piotrovsky’s resignation, but he shrugged them off and blamed a
shadowy conspiracy. The robberies at the Hermitage were “an inside and
an outside job,” he said, with the true goal not to seize items of
relatively small value but to “make a scandal.”
“Maybe it’s paranoid,” he acknowledged, declining to elaborate.
Many art experts defend Piotrovsky and his management of the
Hermitage. Theft happens everywhere, they argue, and should be viewed
with understanding.
“Art professionals think of the Hermitage as a professional museum
with a sophisticated staff, with an intelligent director,” said John
Bowlt, a historian of Russian art at USC. “I don’t think nuances of
immoral behavior are detected at the Hermitage.”
The security of Russian art, however, has been questioned for decades.
Viktor Petrakov, head of the federal department for the preservation
of cultural property, has labored for years to keep Russia’s
collections intact. He acknowledges disorganization in many museums.
“They violate the rules of accounting,” Petrakov said. “The set of
rules that exist today were adopted in Soviet times, and they’re not
enforced or implemented.”
Piotrovsky bridles at talk of bookkeeping.
“We can’t make the museum a bank,” he said. “We can’t make the museum
a prison. We can’t make the museum a concentration camp.”
In the years after the Bolsheviks overran the Winter Palace during the
revolution that toppled the czar, the collections were ravaged by
looting — and later depleted by Soviet rulers who plucked pieces at
whim and passed them out as gifts.
And as chaotic attempts at democracy in the 1990s gave way to the more
autocratic Russia overseen by Putin, fresh doubts were stirred about
the Hermitage — and quickly squelched.
Yuri Boldyrev, a prominent politician who helped found the opposition
Yabloko party,was deputy head of the government’s national audit
chamber in the late 1990s. He spent years investigating the Hermitage.
A report he completed in 2001 was a scathing condemnation: It alleged
that more than 220,000 pieces had fallen off the books.
Investigators asked to see 50 pieces — the museum could only come up
with three. Insurance paperwork and proofs of authenticity were
missing. Cleaning had been double-billed and charged to a shell
company.
Boldyrev’s controversial conclusion was that the museum was being run
with enough deliberate ambiguity to allow corruption, and even theft,
to take place without leaving a trace.
His report was greeted with fury by the Hermitage. While acknowledging
mistakes in paperwork and accounting, the museum vigorously denied
allegations of missing artwork and corruption.
Today, Russian officials dismiss the report as biased. It has
disappeared from the audit chamber’s website. Boldyrev left government
in 2001.
Two years later, as Putin worked to centralize authority, the audit
chamber became a body responsible to the president.
“We see the same old people in the same old positions,” Boldyrev said.
“Or even higher.”
Meanwhile, the ambiguity he cited years ago continues to surround the
museums.
megan.stack@latimes.com

March 26th, 2010

Posted In: insider theft, Museum thefts

Kykkos claims desecrations ongoing in the north

http://www.cyprus-mail.com/cyprus/kykkos-claims-desecrations-ongoing-north/20100324

ONE DAY after the unexpected visit by Archbishop Chrysostomos II to Apostolos Andreas, Kykkos Monastery Museum said it had new evidence of the desecration of churches in the north.

During a news conference yesterday Open University of Greece professor Charalambos C. Chotzakoglou presented several examples as part of the Museum’s effort to publicise the issue.

He highlighted the case of the Virgin of Trachoni church in occupied Nicosia, which was looted during the occupation and turned into a dance school.

According to Chotzakoglou, construction crews are currently building a road next to the church and have severely damaged the western entrance and destroyed the courtyard and surrounding areas in the process.

“Today, the whole surrounding area has become a roundabout, the whole area around the church is being used as a road, and all this has been done with funds from the EU, of which we are a member state, and we have not objected,” he said.

Andrew Rasbash, Head of Unit of the European Commission’s Task Force for the Turkish Cypriot Community, said the EC, through the €259 million EU aid programme for the Turkish Cypriot community finances projects in the northern part of Cyprus.

“However we are not financing road construction through this programme in Nicosia,” he said. But Rasbash added that his colleagues were “checking to see if any projects we are financing in other sectors involve work that could possibly have damaged the Virgin of Trachoni church.”

Chotzakoglou said at the Kyrenia cemetery years-old graves of native Kyrenians had been exhumed – smashing tombstones and crucifixes in the process – to bury Britons “who no longer fit in the nearby British cemetery”

“This is an unacceptable insult to the memory of the dead and an intolerable act of the Anglican Church in Cyprus, which in the free areas enjoys the full freedom and benefit of the Church of Cyprus and the Cyprus Republic.”

In another example he said the Roman Catholic Church of San Francesco in Famagusta was now a pub while the the twin churches of the Knights Hospitallers, are nightclubs.

The church of Panagia in Acheritou had its floors illicitly excavated and fragments of medieval pottery destroyed, and the church of Saint Effimianou, whose north wall was partially demolished by illicit antiquities dealer Aydin Dikman was in the process of having its remaining frescoes destroyed, he said.

Archbishop Chrysostomos visited Apostolos Andreas on Monday after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan gave the go-ahead to conserve and restore the monastery following nearly four decades of neglect. The structure threatens to collapse in on itself if the restoration plans fail to come to fruition.

March 25th, 2010

Posted In: Mailing list reports

Vegas TV Station Interviews Matt Walker

http://www.wkrg.com/alabama/article/matt_walker_interviewed_by_vegas_tv/807441/Mar-24-2010_6-22-pm/

LAKE LAS VEGAS, Nevada – The Mobile man accused in the high dollar antique heist did an interview with a Las Vegas TV station.

Matt Walker talked to a reporter last month about the closing of Montelago Casino in Lake Las Vegas, Nevada. “It’s just a shame to have something this serious happen. It takes the developer of these condos and hurts them. It takes the guys who are in these stores and hurts them. It doesn’t do anything but hurt.”

Later, he reportedly told some of the locals that he had plans to buy the place. Private investigator Paul Fava met Walker and heard the story himself. “He said he was visiting from Alabama and that he was looking to buy a local casino that he said was for sale.”

Walker is no stranger to media coverage.

Last year, the prominent entrepreneur was charged with four counts of receiving stolen property. Authorities found upwards of a million dollars worth of stolen heirlooms at his homes in Mobile County.

In court last November, we learned that Walker was reportedly in a California rehab but no one would tell us why. Now, he has resurfaced in an exclusive community outside Las Vegas.

Even thought Walker’s passport was given to the court last year, he has the legal right to travel around this country.

Walker’s case is expected to be heard by a Mobile County Grand Jury soon.

March 25th, 2010

Posted In: Mailing list reports

Dreier’s Warhols Can’t Be Claimed by 360networks (Update2)
http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-03-24/dreier-s-warhols-can-t-be-claimed-by-360networks-judge-rules.html
March 24, 2010, 12:44 PM EDT

By Thom Weidlich

March 24 (Bloomberg) — 360networks (USA) Inc. can’t claim a superior interest in five Andy Warhol artworks bought by Marc Dreier, the former lawyer now in prison for cheating hedge funds out of more than $400 million, a judge ruled.

Steven J. Reisman, the post confirmation representative of the 360networks bankruptcy estates, said Dreier bought the artwork in part with $50 million he stole when his law firm worked to recover money 360networks gave creditors before it filed for bankruptcy. New York-based Dreier LLP, now defunct, was hired by 360networks’s unsecured creditors. The artwork includes four “Jackie” paintings and a “Nureyev” by Warhol, in addition to a sculpture, “Love,” by Robert Indiana.

U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in New York disagreed with Reisman that broadband company 360networks had a superior claim over other Dreier victims for an interest in the paintings, which the ex-lawyer forfeited in his criminal case. The U.S. government, which prosecuted Dreier, opposed Reisman’s Sept. 14 petition.

“The court holds that under the facts here alleged, equity and good conscience are not compatible with the recognition of a constructive trust in the 360 estates’ favor,” Rakoff wrote in a March 22 order docketed today.

Reisman, a partner at Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP in New York, didn’t immediately return a call for comment.

$9.24 Million in Art

Dreier, 59, bought the “Jackie” paintings in October 2007 for $6.5 million from Gagosian Gallery in London, according to Reisman’s petition. Half the amount was stolen from the recovery money, according to the petition. He bought the “Nureyev” for $2 million, of which $1.5 million was recovery money Dreier stole, and the “Love” sculpture for $735,000, all of which Dreier stole, Reisman said.

Dreier admitted selling phony promissory notes, including some purportedly issued by the firm of Sheldon Solow, a New York developer who was a client of Dreier LLP. Dreier is serving a 20-year prison sentence.

The case is U.S. v. Dreier, 09-cr-85, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

March 25th, 2010

Posted In: Mailing list reports

Head of stolen bronze statue recovered in Willimantic

http://www.norwichbulletin.com/news/crime/x99765601/Head-of-stolen-bronze-statue-recovered-in-Willimantic

By GREG SMITH
Norwich Bulletin
Posted Mar 24, 2010 @ 11:48 AM
Last update Mar 24, 2010 @ 02:51 PM
Norwich, Conn. —

Willimantic police have recovered the missing head of an historic bronze statue stolen from a Norwich cemetery and cut up for scrap metal, Norwich police announced today.

Willimantic Police Lt. Mary Beth Curtis said police received a call Tuesday from a man walking on a vacant property in Willimantic who discovered the statue’s head perched atop a stone wall. The head is en route to Norwich, Curtis said Wednesday.

Pieces of the 450-pound statue, minus the head, were recovered from a Willimantic scrap yard last month where it had been sold for about $200. The 120-year-old statue of a woman’s figure marked the grave of Sarah Osgood at the Yantic Cemetery on Lafayette Street in Norwich. It was first reported missing on Feb. 19.

Norwich police, who have worked cooperatively with Willimantic police, charged two men in connection with the theft. One of the men, Sean McNee, 43, of Willimantic, formerly worked installing gravestones for a company in Norwich, police said. Richard Chamberlain, 46, of Lebanon, also was charged.

Norwich police are holding the statue’s pieces as evidence in the ongoing court case.

Copyright 2010 Norwich Bulletin. Some rights reserved

March 25th, 2010

Posted In: Mailing list reports

Dennis Hopper demands estranged wife returns `stolen` artwork
Read more: http://www.monstersandcritics.com/people/news/article_1543447.php/Dennis-Hopper-demands-estranged-wife-returns-stolen-artwork#ixzz0j9C1dJ4M

Hollywood veteran Dennis Hopper is demanding his estranged wife return ‘stolen’ artwork to him.

The cancer-stricken actor is currently embroiled in a bitter divorce battle with Victoria Duffy.

Now in new court papers filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Hopper claims that Duffy ‘surreptitiously removed from my home very valuable personal property while I was extremely ill, refused to tell me where the property was when I asked her, and then left town.’

Hopper claims that a portrait of himself by Andy Warhol and sculptures by the likes of Banksy are worth more than $1.5m.

Duffy denies that she ever took anything belonging to Hopper.

‘I removed my own property,’ she told the New York Post.

‘He is making a big deal about me removing things that are legally mine from the house. I have legal letters saying they belong to me.’

March 25th, 2010

Posted In: Mailing list reports

Royal texts of Joseon found in Japan
http://joongangdaily.joins.com/article/view.asp?aid=2918318

TOKYO – Ancient Korean royal texts thought to be in Japanese possession have been located and now photographed for the first time.

Over the past two months, the JoongAng Ilbo worked to gain access to texts of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) at the Imperial Household Agency in Tokyo. They included volumes of “Uigwe,” “Jaesil” and “Gyeongyeon.”

Uigwe is a collection of royal protocols. Jaesil contains information on medicine, customs of the day and military history. Gyeongyeon was used to teach kings about liberal arts.

These texts had been presumed to be in Japanese possession after they were apparently stolen during the Japanese colonial rule in the early 20th century.

One volume under Gyeongyeon, named “Tongjeon,” had an official seal at its end, clearly showing the letters “Goryeo.” It is the name of the dynasty that preceded the Joseon era. The Tongjeon held at the agency is said to be the sole copy of the document existing today.

One volume of the Uigwe discovered in the search, titled the “Illustrated Uigwe of the State Funeral,” contains two fragments of drawings depicting the state funeral procession of Empress Myeongseong in 1897. In the past, only the cover and a single fragment of a drawing from this particular volume had been made public.

Thirty-eight volumes of Jaesil were also discovered. Each of these books was stamped with a large red seal that showed the texts had been shipped to Japan during the colonial period (1910-1945) through the Japanese General Government in Seoul.

Most of the books found during the research are among the cultural relics that Korea has pressed Japan to return.

The Korean government has specifically targeted the Imperial Household Agency, a government body that handles issues related to the imperial family and stores the Privy Seal, the official seal of the emperor, and the State Seal.

Korea estimates that 4,678 Korean books are held at the agency.

On Feb. 26, the National Assembly unanimously passed a motion demanding that Japan return all the Uigwe in Japanese possession. Japan has been reluctant and has claimed that under the 1965 Treaty on Basic Relations, Korea renounced claims to these and other cultural properties.

Korean government officials, lawmakers and activists alike said the additional discovery was significant. But while legislators from across the political spectrum felt the discovery has given Korea more impetus to push Japan, bureaucrats expressed a more guarded optimism.

Grand National Representative Lee Jung-hyun, who drafted a motion for the return of the Uigwe last month, said Japan should express “significant regret” over its past and should immediately return the relics stored in the Imperial Household Agency “for the sake of future-oriented relations between Korea and Japan.”

“The National Assembly urges the Korean government to take note of the historical and cultural value of the Joseon Dynasty Uigwe in the Imperial Household Agency, and to engage in active negotiations with Japan for their return,” Lee said in a statement.

The main opposition Democratic Party echoed that sentiment. Its spokesman, Woo Sang-ho, said since most of the relics were stolen during the colonial period, Korea should push Japan harder to return them this year, the centennial of the annexation.

Another DP lawmaker, Kim Boo-kyum, said Japan had simply ignored the Korean relics even though they had been stored at its imperial museum and said Japan should take this opportunity “to look itself in the mirror and take time to reflect on what it did during the colonial era.”

“I hope to see an era when common sense takes over and all looted cultural relics are returned,” Kim said.

One senior Blue House figure said Korea-Japan relations should take on a forward-looking approach and in order for that to happen, “the Japanese government should show a willingness to change its position on returning cultural relics” to Korea.

A Foreign Ministry official in Seoul said he found it “unusual” that the Imperial Household Agency granted a Korean journalist access to these volumes. “[The agency] must have been aware of the impact the articles would have,” the official said. “Perhaps Japan is more open to [Korea’s request for return of relics].”

Another ministry official said the latest findings should lead to more efforts to unearth hidden relics in Japan.

But others weren’t so sure.

Park Sang-gook, head of the Korea Cultural Heritage Institute, acknowledged the importance of bringing back the Joseon royal texts but said he was against an “excessively emotional” approach to the issue.

“We have to remember that we have a negotiation partner in the Imperial Household Agency,” Park said. “Rather than getting all emotional, we have to have respect for the other side, too.”

One Foreign Ministry official said Korea will take a long-term view on the issue of retrieving relics from Japan but that the government hasn’t set a specific policy outline.

A diplomatic source said the government won’t likely try to speed up negotiations with Japan.

“The new discovery only represents the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “And if we make hasty requests for the return of these relics, then Japan will likely try to hide the ones they already have [but we haven’t discovered].”

It may be difficult to make additional discoveries in the near future. As some Korean historians had advised, getting past the administration at the Imperial Household Agency proved to be a tough challenge.

The agency asked for the exact title of the document, its classified number, and written permission from the related department at the agency. The archives and mausolea department had stored these volumes.

It took a full week to gather the necessary information, but that was only the beginning.

The books were so damaged that department employees supervising the reading session urged extra caution when turning over pages. No cell phones or cameras were allowed inside the library. No pen, pencil or eraser could enter, either. Shoes had to be left outside, and viewers’ hands were washed twice with antiseptic.

After four hours of the reading session, an employee noted that photocopying was not permitted. However, the employee said a photographer commissioned by the imperial agency could take pictures, and that a dozen pictures would cost 12,600 yen, or $140. Three weeks passed before the photos arrived.

The final step was to gain the agency’s authorization to publish these photos in the newspaper. That required another 10 days.

By Kim Hyun-ki, Baek Il-hyun

March 25th, 2010

Posted In: Mailing list reports

Solicitor denies being axe-wielding thief of duke’s Da Vinci masterpiece
http://news.scotsman.com/inverness/Solicitor-denies-being-axewielding-thief.6175060.jp

By John Robertson
A SOLICITOR strongly denied that he was an axe-wielding robber who stole a Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece from a Scottish stately home.
The High Court in Edinburgh yesterday heard a tape recording of detectives questioning Marshall Ronald, 53, after finding him with the painting.

Madonna of the Yarnwinder was stolen from Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfriesshire four years earlier.

Ro
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nald and four others face a charge of trying to extort more than £4 million in return for the painting’s safe return to its owner, the Duke of Buccleuch.

None of them is accused of playing a part in the armed robbery in August 2003.

But at the end of a lengthy interview on 4 October 2007, Detective Sergeant Colin Burnie confronted Ronald with an allegation that, along with others, he had attacked a tour guide at Drumlanrig Castle, threatened her with an axe and robbed the duke of his treasured painting.

Ronald, of Skelmersdale, Lancashire, replied that he had never been to the castle then, did not know the tour guide and had never heard of the Leonardo da Vinci painting at that time.

“I have never robbed the Duke of Buccleuch,” he told police.

Ronald told them he was concerned that, after questioning about his role in the recovery of the painting, he was charged with robbery.

“In short, I absolutely deny any involvement in the robbery and what I have done is everything in my power to safely recover that painting in the best way I know as a professional lawyer,” he said.

Ronald was detained in the Glasgow offices of law firm HBJ Gateley Wareing at the end of an undercover police operation.

As part of the operation, arrangements had been made for the painting to be delivered from an unknown location in England to Glasgow so it could be examined and verified as the genuine Leonardo work.

In the interview, Ronald said he had been working on returning the painting for several weeks, following an approach by two clients, Robert Graham and John Doyle, who had said they might be able to assist in “repatriating” it.

He insisted: “I have not been covert in any way at all. I have not done anything wrong. I have done something, I think, quite extraordinary.”

Ronald stated that he and the clients had visited Drumlanrig and had come to appreciate just how much Madonna of the Yarnwinder had meant to the ninth Duke of Buccleuch, its owner at the time.

“We did the tour… our motivation was: We are going to make this (the return] happen. Jack (Doyle] is a worrier and several times he may have jeopardised the operation, saying this was a sting and that we were going to get arrested.

“Myself and Robbie (Graham] said we don’t care if we get arrested because we are doing the right thing.”

He agreed that he stood to make a lot of money from the deal.

He claimed he and the others had been “devastated” not to have managed to return the painting before the Duke of Buccleuch died in September 2007, to be succeeded by his son, the tenth duke.

On trial with Ronald of Highmeadow, Ravenscroft, Upholland, Skelmersdale, are Robert Graham, 57, of Gawhill Lane, Aughton, Ormskirk, Lancashire; John Doyle, 61, of Summerwood Lane, Halsall, Ormskirk, Lancashire; solicitor Calum Jones, 45, of Knockbuckle Road, Kilmacolm, Renfrewshire, and solicitor David Boyce, 63, of Clark Street, Airdrie, Lanarkshire.

They deny conspiring to extort £4,250,000 or, alternatively, attempting to extort the money.

A second charge, also denied, alleges that the five accused attempted to defeat the ends of justice by getting one of the undercover officers to sign an agreement that police would not be told about what was happening.

The trial continues.

March 25th, 2010

Posted In: Mailing list reports

Gibson charged in Kentuck theft

http://www.northportgazette.com/articles/2010/03/24/news/doc4baa758adbd21608885837.txt

NORTHPORT – It was business as usual on Saturday at the Kentuck Museum in Northport after last week’s news that the former director of the Kentuck Association was charged by a grand jury with first-degree theft from the organization.

Sara Anne Gibson, 53, was arrested and released from the Tuscaloosa County Jail on $100,000 bail after a grand jury indicted her on a felony theft charge.

The alleged theft occurred between 2003 and 2009, said Tuscaloosa County District Attorney Tommy Smith.

Jan Pruitt, new executive director, said on Saturday the news of Gibson’s arrest was not a total surprise.

Click Here
“We’ve not had any fall out from the announcement,” Pruitt said as she prepared for Saturday events at the Museum and the Annex. “This is something that happened months ago, so it was not a big surprise.”

Kentuck Board President Amy Echols released a statement from the board’s executive committee following the grand jury’s indictment.

“The Kentuck Board of Directors, subsequent to the resignation of Sara Anne Gibson, discovered evidence that indicates there were problems with internal controls on financial matters,” it read. “The Board has taken action to put into place proper controls and accounting procedures, and has notified the insurance company and local law enforcement. While the past year has been extremely difficult, the healing and growth experienced has been an inspiration to all involved.”

On Saturday, Kentuck employees held one of its new Ala cARTe series, which blends regional cuisine with art activities.

They have also been busy renovating the Kentuck Annex, formerly known as the Rainbow Building, for summer workshops and additional art display space.

Just this month, the Kentuck Festival of the Arts was selected No. 6 in the nation among fairs and festivals by American Style Magazine in its spring edition.

Gibson, who served as executive director of the Kentuck Association for five years, resigned in February 2009.

Gibson took the job in April 2003 after serving as interim director for five months, and before that, as festival coordinator under the previous executive director, Miah Michaelsen, for three years. Including volunteer time, she’s worked with Kentuck in one form or another for 30 years.

The Kentuck board noted restructuring needs in the organization following Gibson’s resignation. When Gibson was festival director, she worked all year on that project while Michaelsen ran the day-to-day operations of Kentuck. Those duties included grants and fundraising; the resident artists’ program, gift shop, gallery and museum at the Kentuck Art Center in Northport; school outreach and other events during the year such as Dickens Downtown and monthly Art Nights.

Carrie Fitts and Emily Leigh were named interim co-directors of the organization last summer and helped oversee reorganization in the wake of tax liens and budget shortfalls.

A $50,000 tax lien from the IRS was paid off from reserves, and other unpaid bills needed to be cleared.

In January, Pruitt was named the new director of the Kentuck Museum Association.

The search committee consisted of board members Amy Echols, Becky Booker and Lyda Black, along with Northport businessman Sam Faucett and Arts Council of Tuscaloosa Executive Director Pam Penick.

March 25th, 2010

Posted In: insider theft, Mailing list reports

Fire alarms ring for heritage buildings
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/5720777.cms?prtpage=1
MUMBAI: Just the way a peer’s passing reminds one of one’s own mortality, the inferno that engulfed Stephen Court in Kolkata, claiming 24 lives, has reminded Mumbai of the vulnerability of its own heritage structures.

While potential disasters lay strewn about South Mumbai, which has its A-list of historic old buildings, fire brigade and ambulance services can hardly access the city’s narrow gaothans in an emergency.

“Structures built 100 to 150 years ago were not constructed using RCC, that is cement and concrete. That technology came later,” says chief fire officer Uday Tatkare. “Buildings in those days used a lot of wood, which is a highly combustible material, unlike RCC, which is fire resistant.” Timber, however, does take longer to burn, while steel frames can twist and simply cause a building to collapse.

In several of Mumbai’s heritage buildings, a maze of electrical wiring lies exposed. Experts say a small spark can put paid to any restoration job. Of course, there are no fire exits or extinguishers either.

Mumbai has witnessed its share of heartburn. The blazing fires seen during the 26/11 terrorist attack on the
Taj Mahal Palace are perhaps the most vicious example of deliberate arson inside a heritage monument.

“The GPO building was nearly burnt down in 1995. The BMC headquarters across the road caught fire in 2000 and the corporation hall was gutted,” recalls conservation architect Abha Narain Lambah. “All old buildings must conduct a yearly fire audit.”

Architect Vikas Dilawari says, “Owners and tenants need to be sensitised to basic issues that old buildings face. They continue to sub-divide the property and add mezzanine floors and air-conditioners, which put an unbearable load on the structure. Several tenants wilfully flout fire safety rules while, thanks to the Rent Control Act, landlords are reluctant to incur costs for repairs.”

The brightest legal minds of the country operate from Esplanade Mansion, formerly known as Watson’s Hotel, the oldest cast-iron structure in the country. Now a crumbling edifice held up by wooden props, this building at Kala Ghoda is a disaster waiting to happen thanks to the vast wooden staircase, mindless conversion of room space as well as yards of entangled wiring.

Advocate Majeed Memon, whose office is on the third floor, is naturally concerned. “It is true that we do not have a fire exit or even a fire extinguisher. I hope the landlord pays urgent attention to this dilapidated building,” he says.

Residents of Khotachiwadi and the gaothans of Bandra and Andheri have long complained that their roads are too narrow to allow access to the fire brigade. Dr Henal Shah, who lives in Khotachiwadi, has raised the issue of fire safety at the local level. “In fact, I have even ascertained the procedure by which individual owners can fortify their homes. It is a good thing most cottages are a single storey tall. But they are completely made of wood, including the beams and pillars,” she points out.

Structural engineer and heritage committee member S G Joglekar also points out that historic buildings are often repositories of important relics and historical records. Lambah agrees, adding, “The Asiatic Library houses an enviable collection of rare books and relics and the mess of criss-cross wiring is a real danger. The Maharashtra State Archives, another storehouse of knowledge, located inside Elphinstone College faces similar danger.”

March 25th, 2010

Posted In: Mailing list reports

Montreal gallery owner helps recover stolen Klee painting

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/montreal/story/2010/03/24/landau-recovered-klee-painting.html

By CBC Arts
CBC Arts
A Montreal gallery owner is being praised by authorities for helping secure the return of a Paul Klee painting snatched two decades ago.

A Montreal gallery owner is being praised by authorities for helping secure the return of a Paul Klee painting snatched two decades ago.

Agents for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have recovered the painting Portrait in the Garden, which was stolen from a New York art gallery in 1989.

Valued at about $100,000 US, the 1930 oil painting depicts a woman surrounded by flowers.

“The recovery of this painting sends a strong message to thieves that people in the art community are on the look out for stolen art,” ICE special agent James T. Hayes, Jr. said in statement released Wednesday.

‘We wish that every dealer were like the Landau Gallery and that they searched before they bought everything.’-Christopher Marinello, Art Loss Register

Robert Landau, owner of Montreal’s Landau Fine Art, alerted authorities about the stolen artwork after he was approached at Miami’s Art Basel contemporary art fair in December by a man looking to sell the painting. He claimed to be an art dealer from Florida.

After Landau told the man he couldn’t verify the authenticity of the work on the spot, the dealer sent it to Montreal, with the understanding that the Canadian gallery owner would purchase it after closer evaluation.

“Once we found out it was stolen, we called Homeland Security in Washington,” Landau said. “We don’t deal in stolen art.”

The investigation is ongoing. The U.S. authorities who recovered the piece have since handed it over to the international organization Art Loss Register, which maintains a vast database of details about stolen fine art.

“He was very honourable,” Art Loss Register’s executive director, Christopher Marinello, said of Landau.

“We wish that every dealer were like the Landau Gallery and that they searched before they bought everything.”

Portrait in the Garden was originally stolen from New York’s Marlborough Gallery, which received a claim by its insurer, Lloyd’s of London, following the theft.

The Art Loss Register, the work’s current owner/broker, will auction the painting at a forthcoming sale with Christie’s in New York.

Klee was a Swiss-born painter and graphic artist whose work was influenced by several art movements of his time, such as cubism, expressionism and surrealism, as well as music and the natural world. He died in 1940.

March 25th, 2010

Posted In: Mailing list reports

ICE recovers Klee painting stolen from a Manhattan art gallery

http://www.ice.gov/pi/nr/1003/100324newyork.htm

NEW YORK – A 20th century painting is back in the hands of its rightful owner, 21 years after it was stolen from the Marlborough Art Gallery in Manhattan. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) returned the painting to the Art Loss Register (ALR) on March 24.

The “Bildnis in der Laube” (Portrait in the Garden, 1930, gouache on paper on board) was reported stolen to the New York Police Department in 1989. The oil painting was created by Paul Klee, an internationally acclaimed Swiss painter of German origin who painted more than 500 works of art.

ICE agents with the Cultural Property, Art and Antiquities Unit out of John F. Kennedy airport recovered the Klee from Landau Fine Art Inc., a gallery in Montreal, Canada.
In December 2009, while exhibiting at Art Basel in Miami Beach, Robert Landau, the gallery owner, was approached by a man who represented himself as a Florida art dealer. The man offered to sell him the Klee painting, but Landau declined because he could not evaluate its authenticity and provenance at that time.

The art dealer sent the Klee painting to Landau in Canada with the understanding the art dealer would buy the painting if it passed scrutiny. Instead, Landau surrendered the painting to ICE agents after he discovered it had been stolen.

“The recovery of this painting sends a strong message to thieves that people in the art community are on the look out for stolen art,” said James T. Hayes, Jr., special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in New York. “ICE is committed to working closely with foreign governments, art dealers and organizations like the ALR to recover priceless works of fine art and antiquities so they can be returned to their rightful owners.”

“On behalf of the theft victim, the Art Loss Register is extremely grateful for the assistance of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s ICE Cultural Property, Art and Antiquities Unit in recovering this piece,” said Christopher A. Marinello, executive director and general counsel of the London-based ALR. “ICE has once again proven to be a force to be reckoned with in the fight against art crime.”

Hayes praised the work of Senior Special Agent Bonnie Goldblatt, of ICE’s Cultural Property, Art and Antiquities unit, and the gallery-owner, Landau, for coming forward and surrendering the painting.

The Art Loss Register is the registered owner/broker for the insurance company who previously paid the claim after the painting was stolen. The ALR will put the painting, estimated at $100,000, up for auction at Christie’s in New York City.

ICE, the largest investigative agency of the Department of Homeland Security, handles investigations into cultural property and stolen art and antiquities that show up on the world market.

March 25th, 2010

Posted In: Mailing list reports

The scramble for Africa’s treasures
The history of the African continent is littered with the exploits of plunderers. Slave traders – local and foreign – held sway for centuries, carting multitudes of Africans across the Atlantic, to plantations in the Americas and elsewhere. When the slave trade went out of fashion, the land grab followed. In Berlin in 1885, the colonial warriors carved Africa up into bits – represented on the map as brightly coloured slices – which they then proceeded to administer and exploit, until the wave of independence that arrived with the 1950s. Following that phase, the scramble has largely taken on an economic dimension, with Africa’s oil and minerals and farmlands up for grabs.
Less overt, is another kind of plunder – involving the relocation of hundreds of valuable pieces of artwork – sculptures, pottery, from Africa to museums and private collections in the West. Take Benin’s bronze heads for example. In 1897, the British attacked and destroyed the Benin Kingdom. In the process they gained access to the Kingdom’s rich trove of extraordinary artwork, which they wasted no time looting. And the plunder has continued to the present day. Over the last few decades, hundreds of vigango (ancestral totems used to mark burial sites) have disappeared from Kenyan villages, ending up in museums and private collections in the United States. In 1994, the National Museum in Ile-Ife was broken into three times, with the vandals carting away some of the finest heads in the collection.
It is estimated that the global illicit trade in artifacts is currently worth billions of dollars. It would also not be farfetched to say that the West’s thriving exhibition circuit is propped up to a significant extent by artifacts illegally acquired from Africa. An exhibition, currently going on in London at the moment, is showing the finest of Ife’s terracotta and brass heads. At the moment, there are no plans to host the exhibition in Nigeria.
It would not be true, or fair, however, to lay the blame solely at the feet of Europe and America. The West would find it extremely difficult to gain possession of African artifacts, especially in contemporary times, without the collusion of Africans themselves, within and outside the government bureaucracy. Unscrupulous Western businessmen and art dealers may pay for Kenya’s vigango, but the actual stealing is done by unscrupulous Kenyan youth, who loot burial sites. In 2001, Chinedu Idezuna, a Lagos-based artifacts dealer with a thriving export business told Time Magazine: “Customs officials check the shipment for narcotics, for this and that, but because I’ve got the letter, I’m fine. Our government doesn’t permit it, of course, but we gallery owners get [objects] out by telling [customs officials] that we are having a show of African culture.” The “letter” he was referring to, according to Time, was “from the N.C.M.M. (National Commission for Museums and Monuments), permitting him to export contemporary arts and crafts – but not antiquities.”
Conspiracies like this abound at all levels of government bureaucracy. The truth is that there are few incentives for African art to stay on the African continent. The museums that should house them are grossly under funded, in many cases neglected outright. Pay a visit to the National Museum in Lagos, to see the dismal treatment meted out to valuable, irreplaceable antiquities. A few minutes in the museum is all it will take to convince anyone that the most valuable parts of our history lie buried beneath dust and darkness.
Beyond institutional disdain, there is the role of religion in making African art an endangered species. Christianity and Islam, in their vicious campaign against “idolatry” have succeeded in destroying several historic sites and artwork. In June 2008 violence broke out in Osogbo, Osun State, between Muslims and the followers of a popular masquerade. The masquerade was beaten and stripped and his clothing taken away by the Muslims. Communal shrines in many parts of Eastern Nigeria have for years been under siege from zealous Christians acting in the belief that the shrines are pagan and the source of misfortune and affliction.
Because of the reasons outlined above, there are many who have come to the conclusion that African artifacts are actually better off in the care of the West, where there is a better guarantee that they will be preserved and kept secure and even properly researched. On the surface of it this argument appears to make a lot of sense. But in truth what it does is to let out governments off lightly from their responsibility to treat our cultural heritage with respect.
We urge Nigerian governments at all levels to emulate the Osun State Government, whose efforts resulted in the listing of the Osun Osogbo grove as a UNESCO world heritage site. We also appeal to wealthy Nigerians to extend their philanthropic efforts towards preserving our cultural heritage. There are museums and private collections waiting to be built and funded, research chairs to be funded in Universities. After all, the intimidating stash of African Art currently in the collection of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art once belonged to the private collection of American politician and philanthropist, Nelson Rockefeller. Our billionaires already have their work cut out for them.

March 22nd, 2010

Posted In: African Affairs

Just a few hours after returning from China Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan met with his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner in Seoul on Friday afternoon to discuss ways to strengthen ties between their two countries.
One of the major issues of mutual concern was the return of ancient Korean texts taken by the French in the late 19th century.
The French navy looted 297 books out of roughly 1-thousand preserved in a royal archive called Oegyujanggak when it invaded Ganghwa Island during the Joseon Dynasty.
France returned one of the books on a permanent loan basis in 1993.
And recently there have been more positive gestures from Paris regarding the remaining books.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s special envoy to North Korea Jack Lang told reporters in Paris on Wednesday that the two countries will begin talks on the return of the remaining books during the French foreign minister’s visit to Seoul this week.
Korea has been seeking to obtain the royal books through a permanent loan in which the French government would maintain ownership while the Korean government would keep the them on a long-term, renewable contract.
Apart from the issue of the ancient texts the two foreign ministers discussed ways to bolster economic relations prior to the official approval of the Free Trade Agreement between Korea and the European Union.
Ministers Yu and Kouchner also addressed ways to collaborate for the G-20 summit to be held in Seoul in November with France having been tapped as the chair of the forum next year.
Yang Ji-woo, Arirang News.
MAR 19, 2010
Reporter : jwyang@arirangtv.com
http://www.arirang.co.kr/News/News_View.asp?nseq=101297&code=Ne2&category=2

March 20th, 2010

Posted In: looting and illegal art traffickers

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March 20th, 2010

Posted In: Museum thefts

Ex-Kentuck director faces theft charges
By Stephanie Taylor Staff Writer
Published: Friday, March 19, 2010 at 3:30 a.m.
TUSCALOOSA | The former director of the Kentuck Museum Association was charged Thursday with stealing money from the Northport-based organization.
Sara Anne Gibson, 53, was charged with first-degree theft. She was released from the Tuscaloosa County Jail on $100,000 bail.
A grand jury issued the indictment on the felony theft charge.
“The allegation is that there was money stolen from Kentuck while she was the director,” said Tuscaloosa
County District Attorney Tommy Smith. He could not give more details about the case because it is pending, he said.
The alleged theft occurred between 2003 and 2009, he said, and constituted several thousand dollars. His records did not indicate an exact number, and a court file containing the indictment was not available to the public Thursday.
State law defines a charge of first-degree theft as money or items worth more than $2,500.
Gibson did not return a call to her mobile phone Thursday afternoon.
Including time as a volunteer, she worked with Kentuck in several positions for 30 years before she resigned as director on Feb. 27, 2009.
Kentuck board president Amy Echols released a statement from the board’s executive committee.
“The Kentuck Board of Directors, subsequent to the resignation of Sara Anne Gibson, discovered evidence that indicated there were problems with internal control on financial matters,” it read.
Gibson resigned in February 2009, and by April, the board had put into place controls and accounting procedures, the statement said, and had notified law enforcement and its insurance company.
The statement goes on to say “This has been a hard learning experience for all of us, but the board has brought back accountability to Kentuck’s daily business practices, and we’re restoring the faith of our community.
“While the past year has been extremely difficult, the healing and growth experienced has been an inspiration to all involved.”
Gibson was named director in April 2003 after serving as interim director for two months. Her duties included launching and running the annual October festival, overseeing staff and soliciting funding.
The nationally recognized, two-day Kentuck Festival of the Arts is a showcase for folk arts and crafts, with an estimated 225 exhibits each year at the festival, which is attended by 40,000 to 50,000 people. The Kentuck Arts Center, which houses a store and museum, is open year-round.
The organization’s funds come from private donations, grants and government appropriations, merchandise sold and festival admissions.
According to Kentuck’s tax forms for June 1, 2008, to May 31, 2009, Gibson earned $31,250. The organization brought in $292,471 that year and spent $270,786. The previous two fiscal years, however, ended with budget deficits.
From June 2007 to May 2008, the organization ended with a deficit of $31,545, with a reported $258,686 of income and $290,231 in expenses.
The June 2006 to May 2007 year shows $262,136 of revenue and $264,215 in expenses reported — a deficit of $2,079.
Reach Stephanie Taylor at
stephanie.taylor@tuscaloosa
news.com or 205-722-0210. Staff writer Mark Hughes Cobb contributed to this report.

March 19th, 2010

Posted In: insider theft

Dutch police arrest 2 suspects in museum art heist; stolen paintings still missing
Associated Press March 17, 2010
THE HAGUE, Netherlands – Dutch police say they have arrested two men suspected of involvement in an art heist last year in which masked and armed men snatched two paintings, including one by Salvador Dali, from a museum.
The robbers stole “Adolescence,” a 1941 gouache by Dali and “La Musicienne,” an oil painting from 1929 by Polish-born art deco painter Tamara de Lempicka, on May 1 from the Scheringa Museum for Realism.
Police say the paintings have not been recovered.
The suspects, men aged 29 and 43, were arrested Wednesday morning in the southern city of Breda. Police released no further details.
The museum targeted in the heist closed down last year after the DSB bank owned by its patron, Dirk Scheringa, collapsed.

March 17th, 2010

Posted In: Mailing list reports, Museum thefts

Museum Artifact Stolen from Roosevelt Home
The National Park Service and local authorities are investigating the theft of a fifteen-inch walrus tusk that belonged to Theodore Roosevelt from his historic home at Sagamore Hill National Historic Site (NHS). The tusk, a valued part of the home’s collection, was apparently removed from the fireplace mantel in the second floor guest room of the house in the period of February 9-22, 2010.
According to Sagamore Hill NHS Superintendent Thomas E. Ross, park staff immediately notified law enforcement authorities in the regional office in Philadelphia who are collaborating with the Old Brookville Police Department on the investigation.
“Every item in this historic home provides visitors with a personal connection to Theodore Roosevelt,” said Ross. “It’s important to have them available for visitors to see and appreciate, and we will do all we can to return the tusk to its rightful place on the mantel.” Ross encouraged anyone with information on the whereabouts of the tusk to contact NPS Special Agent Jeffrey Pascale at 215-597-9978.
The walrus tusk, one of a pair of tusks that was exhibited in a bedroom on the second floor of the Home, is fifteen inches long with a circumference of 5.5 inches. The rough outer surface has been polished and the tip has been carved and sharpened.
The NPS is working with the FBI to have the tusk added to the FBI’s national stolen art list.
A reward of $1,000 is being offered to anyone with information leading to the return of the tusk.

Museum Artifact Stolen from Roosevelt Home
The National Park Service and local authorities are investigating the theft of a fifteen-inch walrus tusk that belonged to Theodore Roosevelt from his historic home at Sagamore Hill National Historic Site (NHS). The tusk, a valued part of the home’s collection, was apparently removed from the fireplace mantel in the second floor guest room of the house in the period of February 9-22, 2010.According to Sagamore Hill NHS Superintendent Thomas E. Ross, park staff immediately notified law enforcement authorities in the regional office in Philadelphia who are collaborating with the Old Brookville Police Department on the investigation.“Every item in this historic home provides visitors with a personal connection to Theodore Roosevelt,” said Ross. “It’s important to have them available for visitors to see and appreciate, and we will do all we can to return the tusk to its rightful place on the mantel.” Ross encouraged anyone with information on the whereabouts of the tusk to contact NPS Special Agent Jeffrey Pascale at 215-597-9978.The walrus tusk, one of a pair of tusks that was exhibited in a bedroom on the second floor of the Home, is fifteen inches long with a circumference of 5.5 inches. The rough outer surface has been polished and the tip has been carved and sharpened. The NPS is working with the FBI to have the tusk added to the FBI’s national stolen art list.A reward of $1,000 is being offered to anyone with information leading to the return of the tusk.

March 17th, 2010

Posted In: Museum thefts

Feds: Drew U. freshman stole, sold rare documents from Methodist archives
Daily Record
MADISON – A Drew University freshman appeared in U.S. District Court today in connection with his arrest for the theft of ancient, historical and cultural documents from the university’s United Methodist Archives Center, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
William J. Scott, 18, of Longmeadow, Mass., was arrested Sunday by Special Agents of the FBI under a federal complaint that charged him with theft of an object of cultural heritage from a museum.
At an initial appearance today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Madeline Cox Arleo, Scott was released on bail.
Authorities said Scott, a Drew freshman, worked as a paid student assistant at the Archives Center since approximately October 2009. The Archives Center is home to the official archival repository for The United Methodist Church. Its collection includes records from the various denominational agencies within the United Methodist tradition, and personal papers of several bishops, denominational leaders, and missionaries from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
Many of the documents housed at the Archives Center are maintained in a secure storage room that is locked and only accessible to those who, like Scott, are given keys by the Archives Center.
Included among the papers stored in the secure storage room at the Archives Center are approximately 145 letters of John and Charles Wesley, the founders of Methodism. The letters were written in the 18th and 19th centuries and are valued on the open market at between approximately $5,000 and $12,000 per letter. Also included among the documents at the Archives Center are various letters written by past presidents of the United States, including Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower, to various Methodist Bishops and other important Methodist figures.
“It is a sad day when a student at one of our nation’s learning institutions pilfers great cultural and historical resources, rather than respects and learns from them.” U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said.
Authorities said that, on March 1, Scott sent approximately 10 of the Wesley Letters that he had stolen from the Archives Center to a United Kingdom based dealer of autograph letters, historical documents and textual manuscripts. Because Scott sent important and valuable letters to the U.K. in an unprofessional and unprotected manner, two of the letters arrived damaged, prompting the dealer to contact the Archives Center.
As a result, the Archives Center conducted a review of their Wesley Letters and determined that between approximately 21 and 23 of the Wesley Letters had been stolen.
The FBI executed a search warrant in Scott’s dorm room at Drew University on Saturday.
Inside a drawer in a dresser in Scott’s closet, agents found a folder that contained approximately six of the Wesley Letters and approximately 11 other historical documents that Scott had stolen from the Archives Center.
The FBI recovered the following documents:– Letter from John Wesley to Father Merriweather from December 1766; — Letter from President Abraham Lincoln from May 1864; — Deed signed by President Andrew Johnson from September 1865; — Letter from President William McKinley to Bishop Fowler from November 1894; — Letter from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt from June 1935;
— Letter from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt from June 1945; — Letter from President Dwight D. Eisenhower from February 1953; — Letter from Madame Chiang Kai-Shek to Bishop Welch from April 1953; — Letter from Vice-President Richard Nixon to Bishop Welch from May 1953; and — Letter from Robert F. Kennedy to Bishop Welch from January 1967.
If convicted, Scott faces a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
http://www.dailyrecord.com/article/20100315/UPDATES01/100315068/-1/UPDATES01/Feds–Drew-U.-freshman-stole–sold-rare-documents-from-Methodist-archives

Feds: Drew U. freshman stole, sold rare documents from Methodist archivesDaily RecordMADISON – A Drew University freshman appeared in U.S. District Court today in connection with his arrest for the theft of ancient, historical and cultural documents from the university’s United Methodist Archives Center, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.William J. Scott, 18, of Longmeadow, Mass., was arrested Sunday by Special Agents of the FBI under a federal complaint that charged him with theft of an object of cultural heritage from a museum.At an initial appearance today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Madeline Cox Arleo, Scott was released on bail.Authorities said Scott, a Drew freshman, worked as a paid student assistant at the Archives Center since approximately October 2009. The Archives Center is home to the official archival repository for The United Methodist Church. Its collection includes records from the various denominational agencies within the United Methodist tradition, and personal papers of several bishops, denominational leaders, and missionaries from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.Many of the documents housed at the Archives Center are maintained in a secure storage room that is locked and only accessible to those who, like Scott, are given keys by the Archives Center.Included among the papers stored in the secure storage room at the Archives Center are approximately 145 letters of John and Charles Wesley, the founders of Methodism. The letters were written in the 18th and 19th centuries and are valued on the open market at between approximately $5,000 and $12,000 per letter. Also included among the documents at the Archives Center are various letters written by past presidents of the United States, including Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower, to various Methodist Bishops and other important Methodist figures.“It is a sad day when a student at one of our nation’s learning institutions pilfers great cultural and historical resources, rather than respects and learns from them.” U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said.Authorities said that, on March 1, Scott sent approximately 10 of the Wesley Letters that he had stolen from the Archives Center to a United Kingdom based dealer of autograph letters, historical documents and textual manuscripts. Because Scott sent important and valuable letters to the U.K. in an unprofessional and unprotected manner, two of the letters arrived damaged, prompting the dealer to contact the Archives Center.As a result, the Archives Center conducted a review of their Wesley Letters and determined that between approximately 21 and 23 of the Wesley Letters had been stolen.The FBI executed a search warrant in Scott’s dorm room at Drew University on Saturday.Inside a drawer in a dresser in Scott’s closet, agents found a folder that contained approximately six of the Wesley Letters and approximately 11 other historical documents that Scott had stolen from the Archives Center.The FBI recovered the following documents:– Letter from John Wesley to Father Merriweather from December 1766; — Letter from President Abraham Lincoln from May 1864; — Deed signed by President Andrew Johnson from September 1865; — Letter from President William McKinley to Bishop Fowler from November 1894; — Letter from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt from June 1935;– Letter from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt from June 1945; — Letter from President Dwight D. Eisenhower from February 1953; — Letter from Madame Chiang Kai-Shek to Bishop Welch from April 1953; — Letter from Vice-President Richard Nixon to Bishop Welch from May 1953; and — Letter from Robert F. Kennedy to Bishop Welch from January 1967.If convicted, Scott faces a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
http://www.dailyrecord.com/article/20100315/UPDATES01/100315068/-1/UPDATES01/Feds–Drew-U.-freshman-stole–sold-rare-documents-from-Methodist-archives

March 16th, 2010

Posted In: insider theft, library theft, Museum thefts

In Ukraine gestohlenes Caravaggio-Gemälde taucht bei Moskauer Internet-Auktion auf
KIEW, 15. März (RIA Novosti). Das vor zwei Jahren aus dem Museum für westeuropäische und orientalische Kunst in der ukrainischen Schwarzmeerstadt Odessa gestohlene Gemälde “Judaskuss” von Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610) ist bei einer Moskauer Internet-Auktion aufgetaucht.
Das teilte Museumsdirektor Wladimir Ostrowski am Montag Journalisten mit. Auf einer Pressekonferenz habe er einen Zettel mit dem Hinweis erhalten, auf eine Internet-Auktion aufmerksam zu werden, sagte er.
“Ich klickte den Link an und erstarrte vom Schreck: Das war ein Foto von Caravaggios ‘Judaskuss’. Der Bieter wollte für das Gemälde einen lächerlichen Preis von nur 60 Millionen Rubel (2,05 Millionen US-Dollar) haben”, sagte Ostrowski nach Angaben der ukrainischen Nachrichtenagentur UNIAN.
Er habe die Sicherheitskräfte der Ukraine unverzüglich darüber informiert. Über den Stand der Ermittlungen wisse er nichts, auch nichts darüber, ob überhaupt ermittelt werde, sagte der Direktor.
Das Gemälde war im Juli 2008 gestohlen worden. Ende Dezember 2008 wurde mitgeteilt, dass die ukrainische Polizei das Gemälde aufgespürt und den mutmaßlichen Dieb tot aufgefunden hatten. Später wurden die Meldungen dementiert.
Caravaggio hatte den “Judaskuss” im Jahr 1602 geschaffen und auch eine Kopie davon angefertigt, die gegenwärtig in der irischen Nationalgalerie in Dublin zu sehen ist.
In den 1870er Jahren wurde das Original vom russischen Botschafter in Frankreich als Geschenk für den Sohn des Zaren Alexander II. in Paris gekauft. Nach Odessa gelangte der “Judaskuss” im 20. Jahrhundert. Erst 1959 konnte Caravaggio als Autor nachgewiesen werden. 2005 wurde die Echtheit des Gemäldes auch von spanischen Kunstforschern bestätigt. 2006 wurde der “Judaskuss” von Kiewer Experten restauriert. Es handelt sich um das einzige Gemälde des großen Italieners in Museen der Ukraine. Experten zufolge dürfte das Werk dutzende Millionen US-Dollar kosten.

March 16th, 2010

Posted In: Museum thefts

Vol à Tokyo d’une médaille datant des tout premiers jeux Olympiques de 1896

TOKYO (AFP) – 15.03.2010 14:03

Une médaille datant des premiers jeux Olympiques de 1896 en Grèce, exposée au musée du sport à Tokyo, a été dérobée, a indiqué lundi une agence d’information sportive japonaise.

La médaille, forgée en argent et qui avait récompensé l’Allemand Hermann Weingartner pour sa première place à la barre fixe, avait été offerte par sa famille au gymnaste japonais Yukio Endo pour le récompenser de ses trois médailles d’or remportées lors des JO d’été de 1964 à Tokyo.

La médaille, pesant 68 grammes, était présentée dans une vitrine qui n’était pas fermée à clé et aucune caméra de surveillance n’était installée dans cette zone d’exposition du Musée des Sports.

Le Comité international olympique (CIO) a commencé à remettre une médaille d’or au gagnant, d’argent au deuxième et de bronze au troisième à partir des Jeux de Londres en 1908.

http://www.tv5.org/cms/chaine-francophone/info/p-1911-Vol-a-Tokyo-d-une-medaille-datant-des-tout-premier.htm?&rub=9&xml=newsmlmmd.f10f9afc8d85d1dbe2a670ce6c194eb1.01.xml

March 15th, 2010

Posted In: Museum thefts

EGYPTIAN SEASON OF ARTEFACTS RETURNS: HOPEFUL SIGN TO BE FOLLOWED BY OTHERS?

”There is a moral imperative for museums around the world to return certain artefacts to the countries they came from, and we are going to identify how we can help each other to increase the pressure on the keepers of those artefacts.”

Zahi Hawass. (1)

Egyptians seem to be having tremendous success in the recovery of their artefacts taken away during the heyday of imperialism and colonialism or stolen since 1970 when States adopted the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (1970). (2)

In addition to the frescoes received a few months ago from France (Louvre, Paris), the United States of America has also returned to Egypt a 3,000-year-old sarcophagus. The coffin which had been taken out of Egypt illegally in 1884 was seized at Miami Airport by US Customs from a gallery owner who was unable to provide documentation of ownership. (3)

Most remarkably, Britain has returned recently some 25,000 objects, including a stone axe dating back 200,000 years and pottery from the seventh millennium BC with the finger prints of the producers. (4) These artefacts were returned after long negotiations with the University of London. We must congratulate the leaders of the university for having finally seen the light of reason and acted accordingly.

read full text at http://www.museum-security.org/opoku_hawass.htm

March 15th, 2010

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

Newly discovered thefts upset Turkish art scene
GÜL DEMİR and NIKI GAMM
ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
Saturday, March 13, 2010

Turks woke up this past week to the news that a number of drawings by Hoca Ali Rıza had disappeared from the Ankara State Painting and Sculpture Museum in Ankara.

It was suspected that this was an inside job and on further scrutiny it was decided that the disappearance had occurred some years previously. It hadn’t been discovered since these pieces were replaced with imitations or photocopies of the originals. Further examination also showed that works by other artists had disappeared.

The incident threw into the public’s view the lack of security in the country’s museums and not just in the museums. As happens in many countries, leading officials are allowed to “borrow” artwork to decorate their offices and official houses such as the presidential home from leading public museums. It is not uncommon for such works of art to not make it back to the lending museum.

One report has it that when Turgut Özal was president, his wife requested a number of Ali Rıza works for the presidential mansion and these were not returned afterwards. The same holds true for the İstinye mansion in Istanbul that Tansu Çiller used as her prime ministerial office when in town. The works were uncounted for and many thought the fire that destroyed part of that building had been set deliberately to cover up the theft.

Professor Nurhan Atasoy, one of the leading experts on Ottoman Art, told Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review that Hoca Ali Rıza’s work was important from the standpoint of modern Turkish art. But the theft throws doubt on the ability of the country’s museums’ security systems to prevent such from happening. If the museums had all of their holdings photographed properly it would be possible to distribute these pictures to the appropriate authorities. Works of art have also to be registered. By not doing this, the museum can’t even tell what’s missing. With proper security measures, thieves would find it impossible to sell any stolen piece. Atasoy also pointed out that many items were out in the open so it becomes easy to steal them. She gave as an example two candlesticks in Bursa. Since there were photographs, it had been possible to recover them.

Stealing art an ancient profession

Stealing art is nothing new. It is as old as the pyramids and probably older. The modern world has only come to know this thanks to the people who have engaged in archaeological excavations. Many of these have been illegal and the contents have long since disappeared, sold or even melted down for money. Today even the results of those digs that were conducted legally with the permission of the government of that time have come under suspicion. For ages the Greek government has tried to get the Elgin marbles back from the British Museum even though they were removed from the Ottoman Empire with the permission of the Ottoman government.

Recently the head of Egypt’s Archaeological Council, Zahi Hawass, has been pressing for the return of the beautiful head of Queen Nefertiti. Although he has had some success with other antiquities, it does not look as though he’ll be successful in this instance.

The Turkish government in recent years has achieved some success in getting items returned. The Karun Treasure was brought back to Turkey after it was proven that the Metropolitan Museum of Art knew that it had been stolen when it purchased it. It hadn’t been back in Turkey for long before it was discovered that a particularly striking gold piece was a fake.

Art is actually rather easy to steal, especially paintings since they are easily removed from their frames and are light to carry. If a work is well known, the thief most likely will already have a buyer in mind and it has been known or at least rumored that some art collectors will pay to have someone steal a particular work for them. When that is the case, the possibility of recovering it is very difficult. The work isn’t sold and never sees the light of day until of course that person’s heir decides to sell it or there’s a tip to authorities.

In many countries there is a statue of limitations on how long a piece of art can stay missing. This is often five years. After that the original owner cannot make a claim for the piece. There are several exceptions to this. One of these is if a treasure has been “looted” by another country, as was the case during Nazi Germany. The latter had a specific policy of collecting works of art from conquered countries and transporting them back to Germany. With many of the original owners dead after the war, claims have been hard to prove and recovery difficult.

Reputable auction houses such as Sotheby’s insist that there be a valid bill of sale presented before they will consider auctioning off items. That doesn’t mean they don’t get caught accepting fakes in spite of all the efforts of their experts to ensure that the artwork is genuine.

A scandal, that is another one, erupted when an exhibition was held of works painted by artists who worked in Istanbul at the beginning of the 20th century. Several of the works on loan from wealthy Turkish buyers who relied on the word of “experts” when they bought them were shown to be fakes. In another instance, an expert was rumored to be involved in authenticating works of art that he himself had had copied.

Only more advanced security techniques and more money spent on security at museums will prevent further thefts.

Who is Ali Rıza?

Ali Rıza was born in Üsküdar in 1857. His father was a cavalry officer. He graduated from primary and secondary schools in Üsküdar where his teachers early recognized his talent for drawing. He later finished the Military Academy where he was later to teach. He retired from the military in 1910 and then taught at the Daruşşafaka, the Girls’ Industrial School and girls’ schools in Üsküdar and Çamlıca. Because of his teaching, he was called Hoca Ali Rıza, Hoca means teacher in Turkish. He died at his home in Üsküdar in 1930.

Hoca Ali Rıza was one of the few Turkish artists of his time who did not fall under the influence of western painting. Unlike his friends, he never went to Europe. His pencil drawings and the paintbrush are entirely Turkish. He drew on Üsküdar and the Bosphorus as the inspiration for many of his pencil works with the spirit of a naturalist. He was able to turn out many works in a short period of time as if he saw what he was about to portray in front of him on the blank paper. Many of his works he put together in ways in which he could teach students how to view buildings, trees and the like. His works have such a character that one can immediately identify that they belong to Hoca Ali Rıza.

March 14th, 2010

Posted In: Museum thefts

Nigeria Moves to Check Illegal Trafficking of Artifacts

Odogwu Emeka Odogwu13 March 2010
Awka — An artifact is any object made or modified by a human. It is part of the evolution of man in all its ramifications. It tells the greatness of a civilization and its age. Hence, artifacts are of immense value to archaeologists and historians. They give glimpses of what life was like within certain people or region long before written history.

They showcase the culture of the people – even long after such a civilization is considered extinct. In Nigeria, the Benin and Ife Bronze works and the Nok terracotta are among the most prominent.

For centuries, most of these great works adorned shrines and palaces. They were regarded as invaluable and highly precious. It was unimaginable that any of them could be stolen or merely desecrated. Unfortunately, the European expeditionary and colonizing powers did just that.

They stole and illegally shipped Nigerian artifacts out of the country. They armies forcefully looted palaces and museums to steal the superior arts of a people they “considered” uncivilized.

However, one thing remains in favour of the original owners of such artifacts – they have identities. Experts can identify which Terra Kota is Nok and which is from the Nile Valley.

In addition, the International Council of Museums (ICOM), UNESCO and the International Police (Interpol) are collaborating in recovering and repatriating stolen artifacts.

Bronze works from Ife and Benin are considered as being among the most advanced cultural treasures of Africa.

The oldest bronze works are about 1000 years old and characterised by a masterful casting technology and an unusually sensitive realism.

When the British military expeditionary force invaded the Kingdom of Benin in 1879, their main objective was foggy.

The invaders burnt the palace and museums and sent the monarch into exile. By the time the fires died out, more light had been shed on the mission as more than 3000 artifacts – the best and most precious – had been pillaged and shipped to England!

Some were sold to other countries and individuals. Many were, however, preserved as “national treasures”! They adorn public museums where they are guarded round-the-clock with armed men, trained dogs and technological machinery.

Visitors, including the descendants of the artists and the rightful inheritors, now pay money just to view these stolen artifacts.

The theft of Nigerian artifacts is not abated. However, it is now being done by unpatriotic Nigerians and their foreign backers and sold to oversea customers.

In a bid to curtail this trend, the international community of nations, through UNESCO, in 1970 passed a resolution prohibiting and preventing the illicit import and transfer of ownership of cultural property.

In order to ensure the collective protection of cultural property each member was expected to implement measures in its territory.

Nigeria has been able to formulate and implement some programmes and policies with some measures of success.

The most recent being a national workshop on: Illegal Trafficking of Cultural Property, organized by the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM).

Alhaji Bello Gada, Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation charged museum professionals and security agencies to put measures in place at protecting Nigeria’s Cultural heritage.

According to the minister, cultural property represents the soul of a nation, the pages of history and the source of inspiration that must be safeguarded for the future.

He urged museums practitioners to make proper used of the UNESCO legislation to prohibit and prevent illegal import and transfer of ownership of cultural property.

“Nigeria has been able to formulate and implement some measure of legal and social instruments to stem this illicit trade on cultural property but more still need to be done,” Gada said.

According to Mallam Yusuf Usman, Director-General, National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), illegal trafficking diminishes and impoverishes the growth potentialities of a country’s art and culture sector.

It also undermines a country’s tourism potentiality and most unfortunately exposes the apparent lapses in its security procedures.

“Nigeria has suffered greatly from unlawful pillaging of her cultural property. This assault which has come in various forms and guises over the years has further depleted our national collections and added to those of other nation,” he said.

He said Nigeria has over the years put in place various legislations and means of checking this practice by appending signatures to various international conventions entered into by the international community.

“To guarantee more efficiency and effectiveness of these legislations, the NCMM is set to stem the tide of this practice through an integrated, realistic and well coordinated approach by creating the needed awareness and sensitization amongst collaborating agencies that can assist in arresting the trend.

“The commission is now poised, more than ever before, to reinforce and strengthen our security arrangement in our museums all over the country. Added to this, the present administration is set on a renewed drive to vigorously pursue restitution and return of our cultural property taken out of Nigeria during the pre and post-colonial era.

“The call has been made, the responses have been encouraging, the support have been outstanding,” he said

Prof Folarin Shyllon, a lecturer at the University of Ibadan, called for the amendment of NCMM Act of 1979 to effectively tackle the problem of illicit trafficking of cultural products.

In a paper entitled ‘Toward a Strategy for Curbing Illicit Trafficking and the Return of Cultural Property” Shyllon noted that the current NCMM laws were inadequate to cope with the modern manifestations of looting and illicit trade in antiquities?

“Beside the fact that NCMM is entrusted with the responsibility for the protection, conservation and preservation of Nigeria’s historical culture, it has not been as assertive to this task.

“It has not been helped by the undermining of its role as protector of Nigerian antiquities by the Nigerian authorities at the highest level”, he said.

Shyllon noted that the UNESCO conference of 1978 established an Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to countries of origin but Nigeria has never used the committee for the return of its artifacts.

He explained that the international market in illicitly acquired art and archaeological treasures was a huge business worth billions of dollars.

He noted that to stem illicit trafficking, it was necessary to declare and create state ownership of all antiquities and to distinguish between ownership and possession.

Shyllon also urged Nigeria to commence bilateral negotiations with governments of the U.S and Republic of Germany for the return of some Nigeria artifacts.

Prof. Tunde Babawale, the Director-General, Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation (CBAAC), noted that for Nigeria to effectively retrieve her stolen artifacts there must some measures of legal action through the International Court of Justice.

“The only way by which Nigerian government can make any meaningful impact in retrieving the artifacts is to take all the stakeholders to court.

“Nigerian government should take the battle seriously by beginning to write formally, not just to the British executive, but its parliament to return the artifacts,” he said.

Babawale said that Nigeria was losing a lot in terms of revenue from its art works that he said, were serving as revenue generators to foreign countries.

He stated that the British museums alone make enormous amount from patronage of the Nigeria’s artifacts.

According to him, over 5,000 pieces of art works were stolen from Nigeria to Britain and other parts of Europe.

“This is why I said that every effort must be made toward returning the artifacts. Time has come for Nigerian government to end diplomatic niceties.

“We should go to International Court of Justice to secure restitution for these wrongs done to our people. It is important to take decisive action now as the injustice is still ongoing,” Babawale said.

Prince Edun Akenzua, the Enogie of Obazuwa, also said there should be enforcement of laws to prohibit taking Nigeria’s antiquities out of the country irrespective of who was involved.

He urged the federal government to put up a more purposeful and determined demand for the repatriation of Nigeria’s cultural property.

Inspector General of Police, Ogbonna Onovo, added that for effective curbing of illegal trafficking, there must be massive awareness.

He called for the enactment of laws that would be in tune with present day reality and that would protect the county’s cultural legacies and harmonize the relevant laws with those in the sub-region.

“There is need to have an inventory of public collections of cultural property and a distinct identification marks using standards that will make it easy and fast to circulate information in the event of theft”.

Onovo also called for the empowerment of specialized units in relevant law enforcement agencies to operate at optimum levels.

Stakeholders also agree that whenever any artifact is being returned to Nigeria, it should be examined by experts to ensure it is not a fake. This is because of current development in art circles whereby replicas are sold or presented as the real thing.

•Courtesy: Dorcas Essien/News Agency of Nigeria

March 14th, 2010

Posted In: African Affairs

NORIMASA TAHARA
March 13, 2010

LUANG PRABANG: More than a 10th of the Buddha statues in Luang Prabang, an ancient city in north-central Laos whose urban district is a World Heritage Site, have gone missing in the past few years.
Minobusan University in Minobucho, Japan, whose students help restore statues in Luang Prabang, says 120 Buddha statues are missing.
In 2001 the Buddhist university began a survey of the statues, the number of which was unknown, and in 2007 it reported to the Laotian government that it had confirmed the presence of 1174 statues. However, a survey conducted in 2009 revealed that 100 statues were missing from 35 temples. In 2010, another 20 statues were found to be missing.
Laotian authorities suspect the statues are stolen for resale, and have begun conservation efforts with support from the Japanese university.
Luang Prabang, on the Mekong River about 425 kilometres north of Vientiane, was the capital city of Lan Xang kingdom, which was established in the 14th century. The statues there are wooden Theravada Buddhism statues made in the 14th century or later, and are of high historical value.
While monks at the temples have begun keeping guard over the statues by sleeping at the temples, Minobusan University students have distributed brochures at the Luang Prabang National Museum to sound the alarm over the property loss and to call for increased security in the city.
”I hope to take part in establishing a security system for these historical heritage pieces,” said Yoshitaka Suzuki, 26, a researcher and student at the university.
McClatchy Newspapers

March 13th, 2010

Posted In: looting and illegal art traffickers

Benin1897.com: Art and the Restitution Question

Featuring a colloquium and

a Traveling Art Exhibition by Peju Layiwola

Date: 8 April-30 May, 2010 Time: 2pm.

Colloquium starts at 2.00pm , Exhibition opens at 5pm on the 8th of April

Venue: Main Auditorium Gallery,

University of Lagos, Nigeria.

The artist-artist scholar, Peju Layiwola, a Lecturer in the Department of Creative Arts, University of Lagos will be showing her recent works in a solo exhibition entitled Benin1897.com: Art and the Restitution Question at the Main auditorium gallery of the University of Lagos, Nigeria. The exhibition will be declared open by HRH, Prince Edun Akenzua, the Enogie of Obazuwa. Subsequently after this opening, the exhibition will travel from Lagos through, Ibadan, Abuja and Benin till the end of the year. The exhibition will hold in Ibadan from 19 August to 19 September at the Museum of the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan. The Edo State Government will be hosting the show later at the Benin Venue and the National Commission for Museums and Monuments in Abuja. This exhibition comes up to mark the 50th year anniversary of Nigeria.

Benin1897.com provokes you to step into a triple-layer of discursive event as seen through the exhibition of the artist, Peju Layiwola, a colloquium and publication by nine scholars drawn from across the globe on the vexed issue of art-stripping and the restitution question in relation to Benin. Benin1897.com refers to the British ‘Punitive’ Expedition and also presents an artist’s impression of this cultural rape of Benin. It seeks to recontextualise the event of the invasion, during which the nascent British imperialists sacked an ancient government and its monarch, Ovonramwen (ruled c.1888-1897), and looted its, largely bronze and ivory, art works over a schism that seems more orchestrated than real. Till date, families from the old kingdom still speak of their losses, in human and material terms, yet our world speaks tongue-in-cheek.

Over the years, Peju Layiwola has been experimenting with forms and media ranging from terracotta, copper, bronze and gold, among others. The current exhibition could as well be described as her most ambitious; at once affective and deeply contemplative, it arrives with a 244-page publication and catalogue with 154 colour illustrations. The pathos of the Omo N’Oba’s foreword in the catalogue is unmistakable: “The year 1897 means much to me and my people; it was the year the British invaded our land and forcefully removed thousands of our bronze and ivory works from my great grandfather, Oba Ovonramwen’s Palace.”

Such rendering also runs through Peju Layiwola, herself a scion of the Benin kingdom; A granddaughter of Oba Akenzua II (1933-1979) and a daughter of the sculptress, Princess Elizabeth Olowu. Early sneak reviews suggest that, besides its intellectual content, this effort could equally be read as an exercise in filial cultural intervention, something not just of a professional obligation but an anxiety to fill an autobiographical void. Through this cultural action for freedom, the past seems to be indicting the present, as one off-spring of a brutish encounter is beginning to throw barbs of indictment at past abuse of power. Speaking in a tone quite similar to HRM, Peju in relation to the stolen artefacts, remarks sharply that: “They who once enjoyed the splendour of the palace are now trapped behind glass wall in foreign lands.”

The exhibition opens with a colloquium on the issue of restitution and the repatriation of cultural property to Nigeria. Speakers are Professor Folarin Shyllon, Former Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Ibadan and Professor Ademola Popoola, Dean, Faculty of Law, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife. The chair of the colloquium is Professor Akin Oyebode, Faculty of Law, University of Lagos

This historical exhibition is expected to run for about two months to enable as many primary and secondary schools organize study tours. Workbooks for students will be made available for free at the venue.

The accompanying publication features essays by

Kwame Opoku, Commentator on Cultural Affairs.

Folarin Shyllon, Former Dean of Law, University of Ibadan, Nigeria,

Professor Sylvester Okwunodu Ogbechie, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA,

Professor Freida High, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA,

Mimi Wolford, Director, Mbari Institute for Contemporary African Art, Washington DC, USA ,

Professor Mabel Evwierhoma, University of Abuja, Nigeria,

Benson Eluma, Cambridge University, UK,

Akinwale Onipede, University of Lagos. Nigeria,

Dr Victor Osaro Edo, University of Ibadan, Nigeria,

Dr Peju Layiwola, University of Lagos, Nigeria,

Dr Sola Olorunyomi, University of Ibadan, Nigeria, co-editor and curator.

March 13th, 2010

Posted In: African Affairs

Nazi-Looted Corot Painting to Be Sold by Sotheby’s

By Catherine Hickley

March 12 (Bloomberg) — Sotheby’s will offer a painting by the French artist Jean Baptiste Camille Corot in an auction of 19th-century art after a Dutch museum returned the work to the heirs of a Jewish banker persecuted by the Nazis.

“Jeune femme a la fontaine” (Young Woman at a Well) is estimated to fetch as much as 1.2 million pounds ($1.8 million) in the June 2 London sale,Sotheby’s said in a statement sent by e-mail. Previous owners included a patron of Claude Monet, and a porcelain-factory owner from Limoges. It was acquired by the Hamburg banker Eduard Ludwig Behrens in 1889.

Georg Behrens, who inherited the painting, was arrested by the Nazis in 1938 and imprisoned in Sachsenhausen concentration camp after the family banking firm was seized. He was forced to pawn all his possessions to the Nazi state to obtain his exit visa for Belgium. He never retrieved the painting, and on the advice of the Dutch Restitutions Committee, it was returned in 2008 to his heirs.

“The Netherlands was very cooperative — it all happened very fast,” said Ingolf Rosemann of Babeg GmbH, the Berlin- based research company that is assisting the four heirs, some of whom are elderly, in recovering looted property. The heirs have asked not to be identified by name, he said.

Sotheby’s said “Jeune femme a la fontaine” ranks “among Corot’s finest figure paintings of the 1860s and 1870s” and will be “one of the centerpieces” of the auction.

Stolen Treasures

It is one of about 650,000 works seized by the Nazis during Adolf Hitler’s 12-year rule, according to the New York- based Conference on Jewish Material Claims. Many were looted from Jewish industrialists and professionals, who were among the biggest art collectors in pre-World War II Germany.

Behrens owned one of the most important private art collections in Hamburg, focusing mainly on 19th-century German art, Rosemann said. The heirs have reached agreement on four other stolen paintings, he said: in two cases, the artworks were returned; in one, the museum bought it back from the heirs, and in a fourth case, they accepted a financial settlement. They are negotiating over two further paintings, he said.

After escaping Germany for Belgium and then France, Behrens was again interned in a camp in the south of France before he finally obtained a visa for Cuba. He returned to Hamburg after the war and lived there until his death in 1956.

Dutch Museum

The painting resurfaced in 1941 at the Berlin art dealer Hans W. Lange, who purchased it for the Kroller-Muller Museum in the Dutch city of Otterlo, where it hung for 66 years. Lange acquired it with funds paid to the museum as compensation for three paintings in its collection that Hitler had earmarked for his planned Fuehrermuseum in Linz.

The fund was “a smokescreen to give the impression that this was an exchange rather than the confiscation it really was,” Sotheby’s said in the statement.

“Jeune femme a la fontaine” shows a woman in a rust- colored, long skirt, with one hand on her hip and the other leaning on the edge of the well. Her serious face is in profile, her dark hair pulled back in a red ribbon. At her foot is a large water urn.

A Corot figure painting, “Juive d’Alger” (Jewess from Algiers) fetched $4.75 million at a Sotheby’s auction in New York in November 2007, a record for the artist.

To contact the writer on the story: Catherine Hickley in Berlin atchickley@bloomberg.net.

March 12th, 2010

Posted In: WWII

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March 12th, 2010

Posted In: Museum thefts

Ankara’s State Art and Sculpture Museum shaken by theft

Eighteen works of art, including 13 sketches by prominent Turkish painter Hoca Ali Rıza (1858-1930), were stolen from the State Art and Sculpture Museum in Ankara, news agencies reported on Tuesday.

The theft was discovered during routine inventory work at the museum, which houses some of the most important examples of Turkish art. The 18 stolen pieces were reported “missing” in previous inventory counts, the Culture and Tourism Ministry acknowledged on Tuesday.
Police launched an investigation into the missing pieces and discovered that the 13 pieces by Rıza had been replaced by forged copies. The five remaining frames were found to be empty, and the inventory committee has yet to determine which artist or artists those works belonged to, the Anatolia news agency reported on Tuesday.

The museum said the 13 sketches were supreme samples of the work of Rıza and were very important for the history of Turkish art. Rıza’s landscapes of İstanbul and particularly of his native Üsküdar neighborhood from the turn of the 20th century are considered a principal visual archive of the history of the city.

In the meantime, other media reports on Wednesday said the extent of the theft was much bigger than announced on Tuesday, with one inventory staff member from the Culture and Tourism Ministry saying around 500 pieces of art were actually missing. Osman Altıntaş, one of the officials from a six-member team from the ministry, said the count that they have been working on since last year was the first scientific inventory conducted at the museum. “The museum is full of forged copies; there are countless works bearing fake signatures. The security of the museum is questionable,” said Altıntaş. “I’m saddened by the situation at this museum.”

March 11th, 2010

Posted In: Museum thefts

Four Guns Stolen From Vietnam’s Thua Thien-hue Museum

March 10, 2010 15:41 PM

THUA THIEN-HUE, March 10 (Bernama) — Four guns that were displayed at an exhibition at a Thua Thien-Hue museum during Lunar New Year holidays last month have mysteriously disappeared, according to Vietnam news agency on Wednesday.

Two Colts, a Rouleau, and a grenade launcher M-79 are missing, said Director of the Museum of History and Revolution Cao Huy Hung.

However, Hung said that the firing pin had only been removed from one of the guns stolen. The guns are were war booty surrendered by the Saigon regime army during the American War.

On Feb 23, nine days after the New Year, the guns were found missing with the section doors half open and locks removed. The exact timing of the theft has yet to be determined.

All other pieces in the museum’s gun collection are safe, and police have begun an investigation.

— BERNAMA

http://www.bernama.com/bernama/v5/newsgeneral.php?id=481247

March 11th, 2010

Posted In: Museum thefts

Reward offered for return of railroad artifacts

A $300 reward is being offered for information leading to the recovery of several railroad artifacts which had recently been stolen from the Caboose Museum in Whitehall.
The museum is on the White Lake Area Chamber of Commerce property at 124 E. Hanson Street, next to the chamber’s office which is the former railroad depot.

The chamber of commerce board of directors has approved $200 for a reward, and a nearby restaurant owner has offered to add $100 for a $300 total reward, reported Amy VanLoon, chamber executive director.

“The community is really outraged,” VanLoon commented about the theft of the railroad artifacts. “We’ve gotten a lot of feedback on Facebook.”

VanLoon said the focus is getting the artifacts back. “The justice system will take care of the thief or thieves involved.”

The chamber executive director said more effort has been made to protect the museum and remaining artifacts and equipment.

Temporarily, the broken frame in the door, and the glass in the other door, have been reinforced on the interior by plywood. Also, VanLoon said the remaining artifacts and equipment have been removed from the caboose while the museum is closed for the season.

The theft was discovered Feb. 23 by the museum curator when she visited the caboose which has been closed during the winter.

Because it has been closed, Whitehall Police Lt. Brandon Mahoney said the breaking and entering could have occurred anytime in the past two or three weeks.

The thief or thieves took artifacts, some on loan to the museum, but left other artifacts and some valuable electronic items.

A DVD player and television, along with a donation box with money in it, and other railroad antiques, were not touched

What they did take was a Union Pacific railroad lantern, a Montague Station lantern and switch light, a New York Central lantern, a workman’s lunch bucket on loan and a Missouri Pacific Railroad 1940s calendar, also on loan.

Mahoney said the caboose was entered by carefully removing the frame in the door. Through the opening, the door was unlocked and opened.
http://www.whitelakebeacon.com/news/21006-reward-offered-for-return-of-railroad-artifacts

March 9th, 2010

Posted In: Mailing list reports

Da Vinci trial hears of ‘£4m fee’
The Da Vinci painting ransom trial has heard how a lawyer thought he had negotiated payments totalling £4m to get the painting back.

Marshall Ronald conducted a series of phone calls about the deal with an undercover police officer he believed represented the Duke of Buccleuch.

Mr Ronald is one of five men accused of conspiring to extort £4.25m to recover the Madonna of the Yarnwinder.

All five deny the charges they face at the High Court in Edinburgh.

Mr Ronald told a man he believed represented the Duke of Buccleuch that five people wanted a 20% share of any additional payment to bring the Leonardo da Vinci painting back.

The court was played a taped phone call between Mr Ronald and a man calling himself John Craig.

He was an undercover police officer pretending to be working directly for the Duke of Buccleuch.

The painting was taken in a raid on the duke’s Dumfriesshire estate in 2003.

Mr Ronald said he had been told the artwork had been stolen by gypsies and at some point was put up as security for a £700,000 loan for a real estate deal which collapsed.

‘Professional fees’

He said it would cost that amount to get possession of the painting and five people were to split between them any money paid out on top of that.

There would also be “professional fees”.

But in the space of less than six weeks in August and September 2007 the price went up from £700,000 “plus overage” to £4m.

In one communication with the officer, Mr Ronald said: “I have delved into a frightening world of smoke and mirrors and had to challenge some heavyweight individuals whose motivations are very questionable.”

Mr Ronald – who is a lawyer in Lancashire – said he was working with two Scottish solicitors, David Boyce and Calum Jones, because he “wanted to do things properly, with integrity”.

Mr Craig told him that the duke was interested in what he called a “buyback” and he would be advising the family to “go for this”.

On trial along with 53-year-old Mr Ronald are Robert Graham, 57, and John Doyle, 61, all from Lancashire, Calum Jones, 45, from Renfrewshire, and David Boyce, 63, from Lanarkshire.

They have denied conspiring to extort £4.25m and an alternative charge of attempted extortion.

The offence is alleged to have taken place between July and October 2007.

They are not accused of the painting’s theft.

The trial continues.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/south_of_scotland/8555648.stm

March 9th, 2010

Posted In: Mailing list reports, Museum thefts

Last tsar’s medallion returns to Russia four years after theft
04/03/201012:38
The U.S. ambassador to Russia on Thursday handed to Russian officials a medallion belonging to Russia’s last emperor stolen from Russia’s largest museum in 2006.
The silver medallion, featuring a portrait of Peter the Great and belonging to Russia’s last Tsar Nicholas II, was among 221 items worth a total of around $5 million stolen from the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.
The medallion was found by Russian investigators at a U.S. online auction and retrieved with the help of U.S. law enforcers.
U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Beyrle said the recovery of the museum item was not just “a detective story about a small medallion,” but an example of “successful cooperation” in improving ties between the two states.
The theft of the museum pieces, which included icons, medieval and 19th-century jewelry, silverware and enamels, was carried out by a museum worker, Lidia Zavadskaya. The plot was discovered during a routine inventory check. Some 30 items have been found to date.
Zavadskaya died during the investigation, her husband, who helped her sell the rare objects to antique and pawn shops, was fined 7.3 million rubles ($154,000) and sentenced to five years in prison in 2007.
MOSCOW, March 4 (RIA Novosti)
http://en.rian.ru/culture/20100304/158090585.html

March 4th, 2010

Posted In: Museum thefts

Revealed: 1950s rag week students who stole Bristol museum’s stuffed gorilla
Mystery of Alfred the gorilla’s 60-hour escapade finally solved
• Steven Morris
• guardian.co.uk, Thursday 4 March 2010 14.35 GMT
It was never as big a mystery as the disappearance of Lord Lucan or that of the racehorse Shergar. But for a few days in the 1950s the city of Bristol was agog after a 7ft-tall stuffed gorilla called Alfred vanished from the local museum.
Half a century on the puzzle over what happened to Alfred has been solved after the death of one of the culprits, Ron Morgan, a Bristol estate agent.
It turns out that Alfred was taken as a prank by three students who whisked Alfred away after hiding out in a belfry. They dressed the gorilla up in a variety of hats and wigs and took photographs of themselves with the beast before returning Alfred by leaving him in the waiting room of a student medical centre.
Alfred was the longest-living gorilla in captivity in the world when he died at Bristol Zoo in 1948. He was stuffed and put on display in a glass case at the city’s museum, where he became a popular attraction.
But Alfred vanished during Bristol University’s student rag week in March 1956, prompting a police investigation.
Fred Hooper, who was also involved with the theft, together with a third person known only as DS, today lifted the lid on the mystery after Morgan’s death, aged 79.
Hooper, 77, who now lives in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, said: “It was initially my idea. I was about 23 at the time and I thought it would be a great rag week jape.
“We took Alfred because he was such a big Bristol personality and he was close by. It took a bit of planning. We knew the porter and so we were able to get a key cut to the door that linked the museum to the university.
“Then we hid in the belfry until about 1am when everything was closed. It wasn’t such a good idea in hindsight as the bells were still ringing and incredibly loud.
“We got into the museum and then we used the side door to get him out. It was very early in the morning and we stuffed him into the boot of an old Vauxhall car and sped off to my bedsit.
“That’s where he stayed for the duration and we took pictures of him in different guises.”
The friends kept Albert hostage for 60 hours in their flat in Clifton.
Hooper added: “There were all sorts of stories going around, people thought Cardiff students had kidnapped him and there was a rumour he was in a cave somewhere but we never told anyone we had him.
“It was always our intention to return him and so the easiest thing was to take him to a doctor’s waiting room which was just across the road.
“It was midday on a Saturday and we just carried him over and left him there.”
Morgan swore his friends and family to secrecy because he feared he could be prosecuted. But he kept a scrapbook with dozens of pictures of the stolen gorilla as well as local newspaper cuttings from the time.
Tim Corum, the deputy head of Bristol’s Museums, Galleries and Archives service, said they would not be pursuing the surviving pranksters.
“We are intrigued and pleased to hear about the revelations concerning Alfred’s ‘escape’ from the City Museum and Art Gallery in 1956,” he said. “Although we would never condone any such illegal activity as reportedly happened, the council will not be taking any action against the reputed perpetrators either. Instead we will be adding the latest reports to the bulging file relating to one of Bristol’s best loved figures.”
Alfred remains on display at the museum, where he is still a big draw.

March 4th, 2010

Posted In: Museum thefts

DNA clues hunted in ’90 art theft
FBI hopes technology can yield lead in Gardner Museum case
By Stephen Kurkjian, Globe Correspondent  |  March 4, 2010
On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the theft of masterpieces from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the FBI is resubmitting evidence taken from the crime scene for DNA analysis in hope of gaining a long-sought break in the case.

Because of advances in DNA analysis since the 1990 robbery, the lead agent in the case, Geoffrey Kelly, decided to send evidence to the FBI’s scientific laboratory in Quantico, Va., a spokeswoman in the FBI’s Boston office said.

The heist, which included three Rembrandts and a Vermeer, remains the world’s largest art theft in dollar value.

Kelly said he could not disclose the type of evidence to be reviewed, but others familiar with the case said it would probably include long strips of duct tape used to tie up the museum’s two night watchmen, whom the thieves overpowered to get access to the artwork.

“If they left any sweat on that duct tape, a sample could be drawn, and with that sample there’s the possibility of a result,’’ said Dr. Bruce Budowle, former senior scientist of the FBI’s Quantico lab.

The FBI conducted DNA tests on items taken from the crime scene at the time of the theft, but none of the tests produced a usable sample.

Huge strides in DNA analysis in the two decades since the crime could mean a different outcome this time.

“What could be done in 1990 and what could be done in 2010 are ages apart,’’ said Budowle, who now heads the Institute of Investigative Genetics at the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth.

If analysts can extract a sample, they might determine physical attributes, including bone structure of an individual’s face, and a DNA profile that investigators could use to search a DNA database of 7 million individuals convicted of felonies in the United States in the past 20 years, Budowle said.

Gaining a worthwhile clue would provide a boon to investigators who have coped with dashed hopes and phony leads in pursuing the theft of 13 pieces of art..

Kelly acknowledged that, despite having pursued countless tips over the last two decades, investigators have received no verifiable leads on the artwork’s whereabouts or even how the theft took place.

“In the last 20 years and the last eight that I’ve had the case, there hasn’t been a concrete sighting, or real proof of life,’’ Kelly said. “At the same time, I can’t get discouraged about it. It would be very difficult to put my heart in this investigation if I allowed myself to get discouraged.’’

Kelly said that after years of investigative work, he believes that the heist was done by local criminals and not international art thieves. He said he based his opinion primarily on the thieves’ rough handling of some of the artwork, including smashing or cutting some of the paintings from their frames.

He speculates that the thieves were not sophisticated enough to find a buyer capable of fencing such high-profile masterpieces and that the stolen pieces remain hidden or buried.

“I am open to any theory, but after doing this for eight years, my feeling is that it was some local guys, a quick score in and out, and they wake up the next morning and they realize that they’ve just committed the art heist of the century,’’ Kelly said in a recent interview.

As for why none of the 13 stolen pieces, with a total estimated value of $250 million to $300 million, have ever surfaced, Kelly said: “They can’t sell it. It’s too hot. Taking the theory . . . to its potential conclusion, now you’ve got these things so what do you do with them? Well, you hold on to them until the heat dies down, and here it is 20 years later, and it’s just as hot.’’

Although the FBI maintains the theft at the top of its list of unsolved crimes, its agents and supervisors have remained mum about leads they were pursuing or its theories about who was responsible. At a conference in 2000, held on the 10th anniversary of the heist, the two FBI agents then in charge of the case, when pressed on who they felt was responsible, would say only that they had pursued leads on an international scale, including in Japan and Italy.

Kelly, too, declined to be specific about local criminal figures or gangs he may have looked at as possible suspects. In the past, federal investigators said that while they have no hard evidence to link mob kingpin James (Whitey) Bulger to the crime, they could not rule out that he had knowledge of who pulled it off or where the artwork was stashed. Bulger fled Boston as federal indictments against him were being handed down in 1995, five years after the theft.

Despite the case’s frustrations, Kelly said he remains hopeful that someone who knows where the artwork has been hidden will reach out to law enforcement.

The incentives are considerable. The Gardner Museum has offered a $5 million reward for the return of the paintings in good condition, and the US attorney’s office has stated that it will not bring charges of possession of stolen property against anyone who returns the artwork. The statute of limitations for participation in the actual theft expired five years after the crime.

The case has been steeped in mystery from the start. In the early morning hours of March 18, 1990, two men dressed as Boston police officers demanded entry at the side door of the museum, saying they had been called to investigate a disturbance. The night watchman, one of two college students on duty that night, made the grievous error of buzzing them into the museum and compounded it by falling for a ruse that had him stepping away from his security desk and abandoning the museum’s only alarm to the outside world.

After tying the watchmen with duct tape and hiding them in separate spots in the basement, the thieves made their way through the darkened galleries. They spent 81 minutes inside the museum, spending most of their time in the second floor Dutch Room where they snatched the largest number and most valuable of the paintings, including Rembrandt’s “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee,’’ his only seascape, and Vermeer’s “The Concert,’’ valued at $100 million.

However, investigators are still baffled by some of the thieves’ other selections. For example, they grabbed five modestly valued Degas drawings but overlooked Titian’s “The Rape of Europa,’’ perhaps the museum’s most valuable piece.

They also wasted valuable minutes trying to remove a Napoleonic banner from its wooden frame without breaking its glass front, only to end up snatching the golden, eagle-shaped finial from the banner’s flagpole.

Boston police Detective Carl Washington was one of the first police officers to arrive at the museum after the robbery, and he spent hours scouring the crime scene looking for clues among the discarded frames and shards of glass. Washington, who retired from the force in 2005, expressed guarded optimism yesterday on learning that the FBI intended to reexamine some of the forensic evidence in search of a DNA match.

“From what I saw, there was a lot of stuff left behind that could be examined,’’ Washington said. “Maybe one match could give them the break they need. It’s long overdue.’’

It is not clear when the new DNA analysis will be completed, said Special Agent Gail A. Marcinkiewicz. “It all depends on the priority that is given to the request.’’

Stephen Kurkjian can be reached via Kurkjian@globe.com

March 4th, 2010

Posted In: Museum thefts

http://www.abn.info.ve/noticia.php?articulo=222767&lee=4

Caracas, 02 Mar. ABN.- Cuatro hombres fueron sentenciados a 12 años, 3 meses y 10 días de prisión, mientras otros dos serán enjuiciados, por el robo en el Museo Diocesano de la Virgen del Valle, ubicado en el municipio García del estado Nueva Esparta, hecho ocurrido el 10 de noviembre de 2009.

La decisión se tomó luego de la imputación y las pruebas presentadas por la fiscal 2° auxiliar de la zona, del Ministerio Público, reseña una nota del organismo.

Manuel Lujano, Misael Gómez, Reizon Farías, José Aguilera, Luis Carvallo y Alejandro Jean Pierre, quienes admitieron los hechos, fueron acusados por los delitos de robo agravado, destrucción y deterioro del patrimonio cultural, agavillamiento, usurpación de funciones y uso indebido de insignia.

Posteriormente, el Tribunal 2° de Control de Nueva Esparta dictó la sentencia condenatoria, y les impuso cancelar multas de 300 unidades tributarias, es decir, 19 mil 500 bolívares cada uno.

En relación con José Aguilera y Reizon Farías, el Tribunal admitió la acusación, ordenó el enjuiciamiento de ambos y ratificó la medida de privación de libertad, motivo por el cual continuarán recluidos en el Internado Judicial de San Antonio, ubicado en el Valle del Espíritu Santo, en el municipio García.

El 10 de noviembre de 2009, seis hombres con armas, chaquetas y gorras con insignias del Cuerpo de Investigaciones Científicas, Penales y Criminalísticas (CICPC) se presentaron en el Museo, con el pretexto de que iban a revisar las alarmas.

De inmediato sometieron a las personas que allí se encontraban para luego robar parte de las ofrendas que los feligreses depositan en el museo.

Luego de haber escapado, fueron detenidos producto de los dispositivos de seguridad aplicados por las autoridades.

March 3rd, 2010

Posted In: Museum thefts

Five men threatened to destroy the Madonna of the Yarnwinder, a world-famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci, unless its aristocratic owners paid a ransom of £4.25million, a court heard.
By Auslan Cramb, Scottish Correspondent Published: 4:53PM GMT 01 Mar 2010
The Madonna of the Yarnwinder painting, which is estimated to be worth more than £30m, was stolen by axe-wielding robbers from the Duke of Buccleuch’s home at Drumlanrig Castle in south west Scotland.
Alison Russell, 25, who was working as a tour guide, said two men appeared in the castle’s Staircase Gallery just after opening time on August 27, 2003, and told her she would be killed if she did not lie on the floor.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-news/7346539/Gang-threatened-to-destroy-Leonardo-da-Vinci-painting.html

Sarah Skene, 73, a shop assistant at the castle who was also working as a tour guide that day, went to the gallery after hearing “a commotion.”
She said: “There was a male standing in front of the painting with an axe in his hand.”The other man pulled the Da Vinci painting – one of the main attractions in the stately home – from the wall and as the alarm sounded the pair escaped through a window and down an outside staircase.
The jury saw CCTV photos showing one of the men in a white, wide-brimmed hat and fawn jacket, and the other in a dark jacket and baseball cap.
The five men on trial deny conspiring to extort £4.25m and an alternative charge of attempted extortion. They are not accused of the robbery.
The trial centres on a claim that they were holding the painting to ransom in a bid to get members of the family and their insurers to pay for its safe return.
The charges include allegations that they are guilty of receiving stolen goods and that cash used when the painting was recovered somewhere in England was embezzled from the client account of a solicitor’s firm linked to Marshall Ronald, one of the accused.
The three men from England and two from Scotland are alleged to have hatched a plan between July and October 2007 to get the money from the ninth Duke of Buccleuch – who died weeks before the painting was recovered – his son, the 10th Duke of Buccleuch, and their insurers.
The five are alleged to have menaced the dukes with threats that the painting would be damaged or destroyed if the money was not paid.
The indictment claims that they met in the offices of the legal firm Boyds in West Regent Street, Glasgow, to agree their plan.
Ronald, 53, of Upholland, Skelmersdale, Lancs, is alleged to have contacted a chartered loss adjuster acting for the insurers in a bid to set up a meeting and to have claimed that the painting could be returned in 72 hours.
The indictment states that he thought he was in contact with people acting for the duke when he sent e-mails and made telephone calls saying “volatile people” would “do something very silly” to the picture if police were brought in, and demanding that £2m should be deposited with a solicitors’ firm and another £2.25m should be put into a Swiss bank account.
Ronald was unaware that the people he was dealing with were undercover officers, according to the indictment.
He is alleged to have bought special acid-free paper and a folio case to transport the painting and to have passed £350,000 to Robert Graham, 57, of Ormskirk, Lancs, who along with John Doyle, 61, also of Ormskirk, is said to have collected the Da Vinci painting from somewhere in England and delivered it to the office in Glasgow.
The indictment claims that at a meeting there on October 4, 2007, Ronald, Graham, Doyle and Calum Jones, 45, of Kilmacolm, Renfrewshire, met undercover officers with the intention of returning the painting if £4,250,000 was paid in two instalments.
A second charge alleges that the five accused – including David Boyce, 63, of Airdrie, Lanarkshire, attempted to defeat the ends of justice by getting one of the officers to sign an agreement that the police would not be told.
The trial continues.

March 3rd, 2010

Posted In: Museum thefts

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March 3rd, 2010

Posted In: Mailing list reports, Museum thefts