July 8, 2018

On the trail of looted antiquities, Carabinieri arrest another individual in Sicily.


Image Credit: Carabinieri 
An ancient amphora and 25 terracotta fragments of ancient statues, some believed to date as far back as the III millennium BCE (the Early to Middle Bronze Age), these are the plundered archaeological finds seized during a 04 July 2018 raid on the home of Gianni Francesco Scimemi in his home in Salemi, a village located in the Belice Valley within the interior of Western Sicily.

Led by the Carabinieri Comando Compagnia Mazara del Vallo under the authority of  commander, Lieutenant Maurizio Giaramita, Italian authorities also found the man to be in the possession of a handgun in which the factory-marked serial number had been completely abraded. 

The area around Salemi is rich in archaeological material.  Excavation and study of the historic remains in this region have provided crucial evidence regarding the ancient Elymian town of Halikyai. The Elymi occupied various hilltops of western Sicilduring the Archaic (c. 700 – 480 BCE), Early Classical (480 – 400 BCE), Late Classical (400 – 323 BCE), and Hellenistic (323 – 30 BCE) periods. 

The ancient Greek historian Herodotus once wrote that the indigenous Sicilians who inhabited this zone were fiercely culturally independent despite their interaction with the Greeks and Phoenicians.  But the origins of these pieces are unknown as they have been excavated without any care for the archaeological context. 

For the moment Scimemi remains "free", confined to house arrest pending the completion of this investigation. 




July 6, 2018

More details on Operation Demetra

Image Credit:  Carabinieri TPC
As has been noted to be the case in the past, Sicilian trafficking cases sometimes have organized crime origins and that appears to also be the case with this week's announced Operation Demetra, named after the Greek divinity much venerated in Sicily.   As new individuals are identified with this investigation, it is interesting to see how some of them are connected to one another, to incidences of trafficking in the past and how they fit into the puzzle of this multinational investigation. 

Gaetano Patermo
Begun as an anti-mafia investigation, initiated by the Nissena Prosecutor for the territory of Riesi, Operation Demetra grew to international proportions when the Carabinieri began reinvestigating the activities of Gaetano Patermo (A.K.A "Tano"). 

Gaetano Patermo
In 2007 Patermo was named along with other individuals,  including Angelo Chiantia and Simone Di Simone, in a 35-person investigation involving illegal excavations, theft, reproduction, falsification, exportation, sale and receipt, even in foreign territory, of archaeological assets belonging to the public domain.

Although acquitted for these earlier alleged offences the details of the 2007 case were remarkably similar to the methodology used by traffickers involved in the 2014-2018 investigation that Patermo has now been arrested for.  According to the Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Property responsible for the archaeological heritage of Palermo, led by Major Luigi Mancuso, the antiquities were being transferred from Sicily to northern Italy, hidden inside baggage along with travellers garments and inside the linings of suitcases. 

In the older case, clandestine material was transported out of Sicily through Spain and Switzerland by means of campers or trucks loaded with fruits and vegetables.  Once out of the country the antiquities and coins were also passed on to potential international buyers.  

As it relates to Operation Demetra, it is alleged that Patermo had contacts with the network of couriers that transported illlicit material and interacted with individuals connected to the London-based art dealer William Thomas Veres. 

Angelo Chiantia and Simone Di Simone
Angelo Chiantia (Left) and Simone Di Simone (Right)
Not picked up in the original sweep earlier this week, but wanted by the Italian authorities in connection with this more recent investigation, Angelo Chiantia of Riesi and Simone Di Simone of Gela, in the presence of their lawyers, turned themselves in to law enforcement authorities yesterday afternoon.  Both are believed to have played roles as middlemen in the smuggling of cultural heritage abroad. 

Francesco Lucerna is from Riesi, hometown of the notorious Mafia boss Giuseppe Di Cristina in the province of Caltanissetta, whose death was a prelude to the Second Mafia War.  In addition to being an alleged "tomborolo" Lucerne was identified in February 2015 as the person who put together this organized network of tombaroli and counterfeiters, selling authentic and imitation archaeological remains to wealthy entrepreneurs and industrialists in Piedmont, where he had relocated, as well as on to buyers in Germany.  

Following the 2015 search and seizures carried out in the province of Caltanissetta more than one thousand artifacts were seized including 859 clay vases and amphorae, 146 ancient coins dating back to the Greek and Roman age, 191 paleontological finds and two illegal metal detectors.   The antiquities were believed to have come from an undocumented fourth or fifth century BCE villa, most likely discovered somewhere in the archaeological area of ​​Philosopiana, between Butera and Riesi.  Unfortunately without a find spot, and with nothing known about the context around where the antiquities were excavated, little can be concretely ascertained.  Police also raided two forgers in Misterbianco and Paternò, near Catania, whose workshops contained 878 counterfeit coins and 960 forged coin dies which were used to strike the authentic-looking fakes.  These were being prepared to be sold to collectors, possibly being told they were authentic. 

Andrea Palma
Lists himself on Linkedin as a Numismatic Expert & Advisor at Martí Hervera, SL in Barcelona as well as at Soler y Llach Subastas Internacionales, S.A.

Interestingly, he also appears to have been affiliated in some way with an excavation at the Villa Romana del Casale di Piazza Armerina (EN), in Sicily and to have earned a degree from the Università degli Studi di Roma "La Sapienza" where he studied at numismatics, epigraphy and archaeology. 

William Veres

The Hungarian-born antiquities dealer William Veres has always walked a fine line in who and how he has worked with individuals known to have had connections to illicit trafficking.  In addition to the questionable incidences already mentioned in our earlier blog posts, in which he received a suspended sentence, and the billionaire purchaser was acquitted, Veres was once accused by former self-confessed smuggler and police informant Michel Van Rijn of running a London-based business that deals in smuggled relics.  One of those relics was a Coptic Ps.Gospel of Judas (Iscariot), part of an ancient codice written in Coptic and Greek which surfaced on the international art market once connected to many well known names and faces.

Veres was arrested at his home at his home in Stanmore, northwest London this week. 

William Veres
Lest we forget, art criminals don't just deal with tomb raiders, gallery show rooms and collectors of ancient art.  Sometimes they also rub elbows with the worst of the underworld. And if you think that the Procura di Caltanissetta only deals with heritage crimes you would be wrong.

Personnel of the provincial command of the Carabinieri of Caltanissetta, at the request of the DDA (Direzione Distrettuale Antimafia) and of the local prosecutor are also following investigations in the region against the 'family' of Riesi, the "stidda" of the Cosa Nostra.  This group is believed to be responsible for not only the trafficking of drugs, and extortion, but also appear to have been the executors of numerous murders and attempted murders which took place in the early 1990s. 

By:  Lynda Albertson

July 4, 2018

Operation Demetra: The Trafficking of Sicilian Archaeological Treasures

Image Credit: Carabinieri TPC

Updated 13:00 GMT+1

In a press conference held today, at 11:00 at the Public Prosecutor's Office of the Court of Caltanissetta, Italy announced the result of an illicit trafficking investigation, long established under the code named "Demeter" which first started in 2014.

In coordination with officials from EUROPOL and EUROJUST, the District Anti-Mafia Directorate of Caltanissetta and the Carabinieri of the Cultural Heritage Protection Unit of Palermo, in collaboration with the investigative nucleus of Caltanissetta, an order for the application of precautionary measures was issued by the Court of Caltanissetta, against 23 people.

Precautionary measures, were issued to individuals in Agrigento, Caltanissetta, Catania, Crotone, Enna, Lecce, Naples, Novara, Taranto, Turin, Ragusa, and Syracuse, where simultaneously or in tandem, raids were carried out which also included searches for illicit archaeological finds.  Precautionary measures against those taken into custody are those measures of privation or restriction of the rights of a person, adopted on the basis of a dual premise: the serious indications of guilt (article 272 c.p.p.) and the precautionary requirements related to ensuring their presence at judicial proceedings (article 273c.p.p.).

According to the Italian authorities, Francesco Lucerna, a 76-year-old "tombarolo" from Riesi, a small town in the province of Caltanissetta, worked alongside a network of individuals fencing archaeological finds for decades uncovered via clandestine excavations.  Many of these illicit excavations purportedly took place in the provinces of Caltanissetta and Agrigento, areas in Sicily which are rich with ancient objects of Greek and Roma production, many of which date back to the IV-V centuries BCE.  The plundered objects dug up by this group were transported to Northern Italy via middlemen and from there made their way into collectors hands and the greater European art market.

With regards to in this multiyear long investigation the following individuals are being held in pre-trial detention:

• Francesco Lucerna, also known as "Zu Gino", 76 years old from Riesi (CL);
• Matteo Bello, 61, from Ravanusa (AG);
• Francesco Giordano, 71, from Campobello di Licata (AG);
• Luigi Giuseppe Grifasi, 64, from Ravanusa (AG);
• Calogero Ninotta, 39, from Ravanusa (AG);
• Gaetano Romano, 58, from Ravanusa (AG);
• Gaetano Patermo, 63, from Riesi (CL);
• Palmino Pietro Signorello, 66, from Belpasso (CT).

The following have been released on house arrest pending the outcome of their cases:
• Giovanni Lucerna, 49, from Turin;
• Maria Debora Lucerna , 55, from Turin;
• Salvatore Pappalardo, 75, of Misterbianco (CT);
• Calogero Stagno, 51, of Favara (AG);
• Luigi Signorello, 34, from Belpasso (CT);
• Luigi Laroce, 62, from Strongoli (KR).

While most of the individuals implicated reside in Italy, three others were arrested in Great Britain, Germany and Spain.

They are:

William Thomas Veres, 64, residing in London, UK;
Andrea Palma, 36, originally from Campobasso but resident in Barcelona, Spain;
Rocco Mondello, 61 years old from Gela, a resident of Ehingen, Germany.


Each is accused in various ways of criminal association and/or the receiving of stolen goods as it relates to the trafficking of antiquities.

William Thomas Veres has been previously arrested in Spain on August 16, 2017 on un unrelated trafficking case via an extradition warrant from Italy for the alleged theft of antiquities and cultural heritage objects.  Veres was also given a suspended sentence of one year and ten months imprisonment for his role in a November 09, 1995, U.S. Customs seizure of a $1.2 million fourth century BCE gold phiale used for pouring libations sold on to Art Collector Michael Steinhardt.


Utilising a European Investigation Order issued by the prosecutor of the Republic of Caltanissetta and with the coordination of EUROPOL and EUROJUST, searches were conducted abroad where numerous archaeological finds, 30,000 euros in cash and documentation useful for further investigations were all seized.  Investigations are also reported to be ongoing at two auction houses located in Munich, Germany.

Entered into force 22 May 2017, a European Investigation Order is based on mutual recognition, and requires that each EU country be obliged to recognise and carry out the request of the other EU country, as it would do with a decision coming from its own authorities. 

In total some 3,000 archaeological objects are said to have been recovered with an estimated value of €20 million.  Placing value on material culture outside of their context though cheapens the loss as the loss of context and what we can learn from the objects found in situ is not factored in their estimated valuation. 

Interestingly this network is also believed to have been involved in counterfeiting ancient coins and other objects intended for sale when the demand for ancient material exceeded the supply chain's capacity to provide looted material. 

By:  Lynda Albertson

July 3, 2018

Conference: 4th Annual New Zealand Art Crime Symposium - Save the Date and Call for Presentations

Event:  ArtCrime2018 - the 4th Annual New Zealand Art Crime Symposium
Location: City Gallery Wellington, New Zealand
Date: Saturday 22 September 2018

Hosted by the New Zealand Art Crime Research Trust, in conjunction with City Gallery Wellington and other sponsors, ArtCrime2018 will encompass a wide range of presentations on all aspects of, and explore a range of issues relating to, art crime in New Zealand. The programme will favour New Zealand content, but will also encompass international content that highlights or illustrates material of relevance to a primarily New Zealand audience. There will be a range of presentations, plus ample opportunities for networking.

The overall theme of ArtCrime2018 will be "Provenance Matters".

Individuals are invited to submit a 200-word abstracts for 20-minute presentations, within the broad ambit of the overall theme by emailing their interest to:
artcrimenz@gmail.com

Deadline for Abstract Submission: 
Friday,  21 July 2018

Abstract proposals should be pasted into the body of submission email and include a short biography (up to 350 words, and including were appropriate short summaries of relevant publications and previous conference or symposia presentations). 

Successful presenters will be notified by email by Friday 03August 2018 and will have their Symposium's registration fee waived. 

For further information please see ehe New Zealand Art Crime Research Trust  symposium website page

June 29, 2018

Seizure: An Etruscan Hare Aryballos circa 580-560 B.C.E.


At the request of the Manhattan district attorney's office, the Hon. Ellen N. Biben, Administrative Judge of New York County Supreme Court, issued a seizure warrant for an ancient Etruscan terracotta vessel, in the shape of a reclined rabbit.  Listed as a Hare Aryballos, circa 580-560 B.C.E., the unguentarium was seized by New York authorities at Fortuna Fine Arts Ltd., a firm which specializes in antiquities and numismatics, located at 3 East 69th Street in New York City. 

Earlier, on 30 June 2018, this same aryballos sold for £950 in London via Rome-based Bertolami Fine Arts through ACR Auctions, an online auction firm used by the Italian auction house. 

PROVENANCE: From an European private collection.

The New York gallery where the seizure warrant was executed is managed by Selim Dere, Founder and Erdal Dere (son of Aysel Dere and Selim Dere), President of Fortuna Fine Arts.   There is no information available at this time as to whether or not Mr. Dere had valid import and export documentation. 

Prior to moving to New York, Selim Dere was reportedly arrested by Turkish police, along with cousin Aziz Dere and art dealer Faraç Üzülmez for their roles in the smuggling a marble sarcophagus depicting the twelve labours of Heracles from Perge, Turkey.  Purportedly sliced into pieces for transport, part of this sarcophogus was repatriated by the John Paul Getty Museum to Turkey in 1983 while others were located in Kessel, West Germany.

This fragment of sarcophagus was smuggled abroad after illicit
excavations in Perge and given back by Paul Getty Museum of USA in 1983.
Perge, 2nd Cent. AD
Inv. 1.11.81 - 1.3.99 - 2.3.99
Antalya Archaeological Museum
Image Credit:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/130870_040871/16937604198/in/photostream/
Later, in 1993, acting on an international letters rogatory from the Turkish Government, FBI agents from the New York field office went to the Fortuna Fine Arts gallery, then located on Madison Avenue, and seized a marble statue of a young man and fragment of garland taken from Aphrodisias, an ancient Greek Hellenistic city in the historic Caria cultural region of western Anatolia, Turkey. 


Later, in June 2009, the owner of Fortuna Fine Arts was stopped upon arrival at John F Kennedy International Airport following a flight originating in Munich, Germany where he had stated on his entry documentation that he had nothing to declare. Despite that affirmation, a physical examination of his person and luggage uncovered three artifacts: a red intaglio stone, a Byzantine gold pendant, and a terracotta pottery fragment. All three objects were seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection on the basis of 18 U.S.C. § 545 (1982) and19 U.S.C. § 149 (authorizing penalties for failure to declare articles upon entry into the United States) and authorizing Customs agents to search and seize property imported contrary to U.S. laws).

In March 2013, the intaglio and pottery fragment were examined by the Archaeological Director of the Special Superintendent, MiBACT in Rome, Italy, who determined that both objects were of Italian origin and had likely been illegally looted from an archaeological site somewhere in Italy.

**NOTE:  This article was updated 01 July 2018 to reflect repatriation details of partial sarcophagus to Turkey in 1983. 

By:  Lynda Albertson

Italy Returns Trafficked Artifacts to the Archaeological Departments of the Ministry of Antiquities of the Republic of Egypt


In a ceremony held in Rome on June 27, 2018 at the headquarters of the Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, the Public Prosecutor at the Court of Salerno, Dr. Corrado Lembo and the Commander of the Carabinieri for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, Brigadier General Fabrizio Parrulli, returned 23,000 ancient bronze and silver coins and 195 archaeological finds, including funerary masks decorated in gold, a sarcophagus, a "Boat of the Dead" with 40 oarsmen, amphorae, pectoral paintings, wooden sculptures, bronzes, and oshabti statuettes, to the Ministry of Antiquities for the Republic of Egypt.  The objects, dating from the Predynastic to the Ptolemaic period, were believed to have been excavated during clandestine excavations in the south of Egypt.

On hand for the ceremony were Egyptian Ambassador, HE Hesham Badr, Professor Mohamed Ezzat, Senior Coordinator at the International Cooperation Administration of the General Prosecutor's Office, and Professor Moustafa Waziry, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt. 

The pieces were discovered during a seizure which took place in May 2017, at the customs area of ​​the port of Salerno, by the Carabinieri of the Cultural Heritage Protection Center of Naples, in collaboration with the officials of the Customs Agency and the local Superintendency.  The stop, was part of a customs inspection of a container which was marked as being for the transport of only household goods.









June 12, 2018

The J. Paul Getty Museum has issued a statement regarding the judicial ruling on the Statue of a Victorious Youth AKA the Getty Bronze (In English and Italian)

Backdated to June 08, 2018, Ron Hartwig, the spokesperson for the J. Paul Getty Trust, has issued a public statement (in English) regarding the ruling of the Italian court magistrate on over the museum's rights to retain l’Atleta di Fano.

That statement can be found/downloaded on the museum's website here and here. 

For our English and Italian readers, we have reposted their statement and translated it into Italian for this blog's readers.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JUNE 08, 2018

STATEMENT FROM RON HARTWIG, SPOKESPERSON FOR THE J. PAUL GETTY TRUST, REGARDING THE RULING IN PESARO ON THE VICTORIOUS YOUTH

Press Release

MEDIA CONTACT(S):

Julie Jaskol
jjaskol@getty.edu
(310) 440-7607
Getty Communications

Statement from Ron Hartwig, spokesperson for the J. Paul Getty Trust,
regarding the ruling in Pesaro on the Victorious Youth


We have just received the judge’s decision and are reviewing it. We are disappointed in the ruling, but we will continue to defend our legal right to the statue. The facts in this case do not warrant restitution of the object to Italy. The statue was found in international waters in 1964, and was purchased by the Getty Museum in 1977, years after Italian courts concluded there was no evidence that the statue belonged to Italy.

Moreover, the statue is not part of Italy’s extraordinary cultural heritage. Accidental discovery by Italian citizens does not make the statue an Italian object. Found outside the territory of any modern state, and immersed in the sea for two millennia, the Bronze has only a fleeting and incidental connection with Italy.

We very much value our strong and fruitful relationship with the Italian Ministry of Culture and our museum colleagues in Italy. Resolution of this matter must rest on the facts and applicable law, under which we expect our ownership of the Victorious Youth to be upheld.

For more details on Italy's recent court decision on this case please see our earlier blog post here.

༺═──────────────═༻


PER IL RILASCIO IMMEDIATO
8 GIUGNO 2018

DICHIARAZIONE DI RON HARTWIG, PORTAVOCE DEL J. PAUL GETTY TRUST, IN MERITO SENTENZA A PESARO SULLA GIOVENTÙ VITTORIOSA

Comunicato stampa

CONTATTO / I PER I MEDIA:

Julie Jaskol 
jjaskol@getty.edu 
(310) 440-7607 
Getty Communications 
Dichiarazione di Ron Hartwig, portavoce del J. Paul Getty Trust, 
riguardo alla sentenza a Pesaro sulla Gioventù vittoriosa

Abbiamo appena ricevuto la decisione del giudice e la stiamo esaminando. Siamo delusi dalla sentenza, ma continueremo a difendere il nostro diritto legale alla statua. I fatti in questo caso non garantiscono la restituzione dell'oggetto in Italia. La statua fu trovata in acque internazionali nel 1964 e fu acquistata dal Getty Museum nel 1977, anni dopo che le tribunali italiani conclusero che non esisteva alcuna prova che la statua appartenesse all'Italia. 

Inoltre, la statua non fa parte dello straordinario patrimonio culturale italiano. La scoperta casuale da parte di cittadini non rende la statua un oggetto italiano. Trovata al di fuori del territorio di qualsiasi stato moderno, e immersa nel mare per due millenni, il Bronzo ha solo una fugace e fortuita connessione con l'Italia. 

Apprezziamo molto il nostro rapporto forte e proficuo con il Ministero della Cultura italiano e con i nostri colleghi museali in Italia. La risoluzione di questo problema deve basarsi sui fatti e sulla giurisprudenza applicabile, in base alla quale ci aspettiamo che la nostra proprietà del Giovane vittorioso venga mantenuta. 

Per piu dettagli sulla la decisione del giudice del tribunale italiana per favore consultare il nostro precedente post sul blog qui.

June 10, 2018

Syria has ratified the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects.

The smashed face of a statue found on the floor of the Palmyra museum in the Syrian city of Tadmur, Homs Governate,  March 31, 2016. Image Credit - Joseph Eid
To address the ongoing issue of illicit trafficking of Syrian cultural property, the country has now ratified the UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects.   Adopted on 24 June 1995, representatives of over seventy states met in Rome with an ambitious goal aimed at harmonizing the rules of private law of various states parties affecting the restitution and return of cultural objects between states party to the Convention to their country of origin. 

The aim of UNIDROIT (is clearly stated in Paragraph 4 of its preamble.  That that is: to contribute effectively to the fight against the illicit trade in cultural objects by establishing common, minimal legal rules for the restitution and return of cultural objects between contracting states with the objective of improving the preservation and protection of cultural heritage.  

At present, including Syria, there are now forty-three states party signatories to the Convention. 

With Syria's deposit of the instrument of accession to the UNIDROIT Convention of 1995 at the Italian Ministero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale (Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation) on 27 April 2018, the UNIDROIT Convention will enter into force for the Syrian Arab Republic on 1 October 2018.

The full text of the Convention is available here.

Extracted from the UNIDROIT website:


For years, many middle eastern countries failed to consider ratification of UNIDROIT working under the false assumption that the initiative for the Convention on the protection of cultural property was a manoeuvre by “art importing” countries to weaken the UNESCO Convention. Others (wrongly) misinterpreted the nature of the agreement as an extension of the UNESCO Convention at the behest of the “exporting” States.   The reality is quite different as Marina Schneider, Senior Legal Officer and Treaty Depositary explains.  In trainings conducted throughout the globe, Ms. Schneider explains that it was at UNESCO’s request that UNIDROIT (International Institute for the Unification of Private Law) took up the matter of illicit traffic in cultural movables given the enormous complexity of legislation as it relates to the phenomenon of illicit trafficking. 

For a “live” status map of the Signatory and State parties to the UNIDROIT Convention please see the UNIDROIT website here: https://www.unidroit.org/status-cp?id=1769
The ratification of the UNIDROIT convention will allow Syria to fight more effectively, together with other signatory States, against theft, import, export and illegal transfer of ownership of its cultural patrimony.   Let's hope Iraq will sign on next. 

June 9, 2018

The Statue of a Victorious Country: Judge issues a long awaited ordinance on the fate of the "Getty" Bronze

The Getty Villa.
Image Credit: ARCA 2018
For the third time, and after years and years of battles, which started in the courtrooms of Pesaro before passing slowly through Italy’s Corte Suprema di Cassazione (Supreme Court of Cassation), only to be sent back down to the lower courts again, we finally have a verdict over the rights to l’Atleta di Fano.

Commonly known as the Statue of a Victorious Youth or colloquially as the Getty Bronze, to the Italians this stoic bronze statue is known as il Lisippo or l'Atleta di Fano.  Yet, despite Italy's long-held claim for its return, the bronze has long held pride of place at the Getty Villa, the Los Angeles museum at the easterly end of the Malibu bluffs in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood.  There, in one of America's most prestigious museums, the athletic youth stands with all of his weight on his right leg, crowning himself with an olive wreath, as his gaze looks out over some of the museum's most impressive Hellenistic artworks in the California villa's newly renovated Gallery 111.

But that may change very soon. 


Judge Gasparini listens to Getty
council’s final argument in open court
Pesaro court house, 05 Feb 2018
Image Credit: ARCA
On June 08, 2018, in a long-awaited judicial decision, the Italian Tribunale di Pesaro issued a 50-page ordinance, written and signed by Magistrate Giacomo Gasparini who firmly rejected the Getty museum's opposition to Italy's order of confiscation.

Throughout the case, the J. Paul Getty Museum has stood by its original claim, that its purchase of the statue in 1977, for $3.95 million, was legitimate.  The museum's legal team and its current director Timothy Potts have stoically maintained that there was no evidence that the statue belongs in any way to Italy, discounting the country's claim that the object was exported out of Italy in contravention of existing Italian law.  This despite the fact that the bronze had been fished from the sea by Italian fishermen aboard the Ferruccio Ferri in 1964, who then brought the statue to the Italian city of Fano where they hid it from authorities, first, by burying it in a cabbage patch and later, by hiding it in a priest's bathtub rather than declare their cultural find as required to the Italian customs dogana.

Getty Museum attorney's listen to
their Italian council's final argument
in open court
Pesaro court house, 05 Feb 2018
Image Credit: ARCA
During those open court hearings which I attended in Pesaro, the Getty's attorney's maintained that John Paul Getty himself had originally walked away from the purchase of the statue, not for the reasons maintained by Italy's attorneys, but because at the time the object was originally proffered to him, Getty was more concerned about the fate and wellbeing of his grandson, 16-year-old John Paul Getty III, who had been kidnapped from Piazza Farnese in Rome on July 10, 1973.

Justice moves slowly and will the Athlete of Fano come home? 

For now, we do not know. 

To understand how this complicated case has moved through the Italian judicial system it is first necessary to understand a bit more about the country’s legal system.  It is the responsibility of the Corte Suprema di Cassazione to ensure the correct application of law in the inferior and appeal courts and to resolve disputes as to which lower court (penal, civil, administrative, military) has jurisdiction.  Additionally, the higher court is also entrusted with the charge of defining the jurisdiction i.e., of indicating, in case of controversy, the court, either ordinary or special, Italian or foreign, which has the power to rule on a case.

Unlike upper level courts in the United States or the United Kingdom, the Italian Supreme Court cannot refuse to review cases and defendants have unlimited appeal rights to the Supreme Court of Cassation.  This means that the Getty Museum could, if it chooses to do so, repeat its appeals process for a second time, all the way back up to the higher court extending their claim for additional years to come.

Given the backlog of criminal and civil cases pending and the lengthy process involved in delivering a ruling once an absolute decision has been handed down, cases like this one often linger in judicial limbo for many years.

Interior, Palazzo di Giustizia, Roma
To put things in perspective and to give readers an idea of how this complicates judicial resolutions, it's helpful to look at other countries for comparison.  The United Kingdom's Supreme Court hears approximately 75 cases per year while the United States Supreme Court generally rules on 100 to 120 case decisions annually.  In a country serving a local population that is one-fifth the size of the United States, the Italian Supreme Court of Cassation decides on close to 50,000 cases (both criminal and civil) annually.  The final administrative court, the Consiglio di Stato decides over 10,000 cases per year; while the Constitutional Court makes final decisions on around 400 cases per year.

Like other supreme courts around the world, the Court of Cassation is not tasked with re-examining the entire body of evidence in a given case.  Additionally it does not have to make rulings solely on cases that have passed through the Corte d'Assise d'Apello, Italy's Appellate Court. Cases which meet certain criteria can go directly from the tribunal level court system to the supreme court as the Court's role is specifically to rule on erores in iudicando and errores in procedendo (errors in procedure or application of the law). 

Some criminal cases reach Italy's Court of Cassation by first passing through the Corte d'Assise d'Apello, as was the case with the high profile murder case of Amanda Knox.  Both the defendant and the prosecution in that type of appeal case retain the right of appeal and both the Corte d'Assise d'Appello and the Supreme Court are required to publish written explanations of their rulings and decisions.

But these are the upper courts.

Before arriving at the Supreme Court or Appeal Court cases are heard by regional tribunals.  Tribunals consist of one single judge or a panel of three judges depending on the type of case being heard.  It is these tribunali which are the Italian court's first instance of general jurisdiction in both civil and criminal matters and it is at this level, in Pesaro, that this recent decision has been handed down. 

The Getty Villa, California
But getting back to the specifics of the case of the Getty Bronze that in some ways is as complex and hard to follow judicially as a tightly contested Wimbledon tennis match.

In 2007 the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and the J. Paul Getty Trust agreed to set the question of the Victorius Youth aside pending the ongoing legal process before the Tribunal in Pesaro concerning the object's illegal exportation from Italy.  The accord of the parties on this point was crucial as earlier negotiations in 2006 had been contentious and unfruitful due to disagreements between Italy and the Getty over the statue's ownership status.

In 2007, in proceedings before the Tribunal of Pesaro, charges related to the illicit exportation of the Victorious Youth were dismissed upon the request of the public prosecutor on the grounds that the statute of limitations on prosecution had expired against all of the defendants in the case, leaving the Italian state with no one left to prosecute.  At the time of the requested dismissal, the prosecutor demanded the confiscation of the bronze given it had been exported out of Italy in contravention of existing Italian law.

The Athlete of Fano, depicted before restoration. 
Almost three years later, on the tenth of February 2010, Luisa Mussoni, the preliminary investigation judge at the Tribunal of Pesaro, ruled that the Victorious Youth had been exported illicitly.  As a result of this court decision, the tribunal issued an order for the statue's immediate seizure and restitution to Italy.  This court order followed an earlier and separate order June 12, 2009 ruling on the question of the jurisdiction.

As a result of these two decisions, the Getty Museum subsequently challenged the orders' validity before the Italian Court of Cassation on February 18, 2011. At that hearing the case was remanded back to the Tribunal of Pesaro for further examination of the merits of the case.

On May 3, 2012 Maurizio Di Palma, the pretrial judge at the Tribunal of Pesaro, once again upheld the earlier 2010 order of forfeiture and confirmed that the statue was illegally exported from Italy.  His ruling placed the case's resolution back with Italy's Supreme Court for what was supposed to be the case's final ruling.

But it wasn't.

Instead in February 2014 the Prima Sezione Penale della Cassazione (First Penal Section of the Supreme Court of Italy) elected to transfer the case to the Terzo Sezione Penale della Suprema Corte (Third Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court) where a new hearing was scheduled to establish whether or not the order of confiscation issued by the Court of Pesaro on May 3, 2012 should have been affirmed.

In 2014 the Terzo sezione penale della Suprema Corte, based on the European convention on human rights, ruled that cases must be heard in open court and that in not providing for such, the Getty museum had been "deprived of its constitutional rights" to a public hearing.  In furtherance of this, and much to the frustration of those working towards the statue's repatriation, the Italian Court of Cassation remanded the supreme court case back to the lower court authorities in Le Marche in order to establish in open court where witnesses could be called, to determine whether or not the earlier order of confiscation issued by the Court of Pesaro on May 3, 2012 should be affirmed.

Yesterday, in his June 8, 2018 ordinance, Magistrate Giacomo Gasparini stated in clear terms that he agreed with the previous court decisions (Mussoni in 2010 and Di Palma in 2012) and wrote in favor of the object's seizure stating, "Confiscate il Lisippo, ovunque si trovi" (English: "Confiscate Il Lisippo from wherever it is").

Given this prestigious statue's pride of place at the Getty Villa, the J. Paul Getty Museum would lose its substantial investment and a critical and cherished piece in their collection should they abide by Magistrate Gasparini's seizure ruling and relinquish the statue to Italy as a result of this last affirmation. If they choose not to, they can again delay what now seems to be the inevitable, simply by tying the case up again, appealing Pesaro Magistrate Gasparini's ruling up through Italy's higher courts. 
Screenshot from RAI 1 Production
"Petrolio" aired 06 June 2018

But what is the point? 

The protracted legal challenge of this case have been so lengthy that it has been a career making case for three of Italy's cultural property attorneys: Public Prosecutor from the tribunal of Rome, Paolo Giorgio Ferri, Italian State Attorney Maurizio Fiorilli and most recently, the next generation of Italian state prosecutors, Lorenzo D'Ascia.  Given its tenacity to fight for its cultural patrimony, and the fact that Italy would be hearing any new appeal on its own legal turf, the Getty's legal fees might be better spent on new acquisitions and not on this long-contested object which has such a contentious background.

But having said that, the question remains as to if the director of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Timothy Potts, appointed in September 2012, will continue to fight Italy's seizure ruling, or will he be the first in the Getty's line of directors to acquiesce and accept defeat gracefully.

In a recent interview with Potts aired on Italy's RAI1 television program Petrolio on June 6, 2018, just two days before Gasparini's verdict was announced, Potts continued to grimly assert his museum's stance.  In that interview Potts forcefully stating that l’Atleta di Fano was found in international waters and staunchly negating that it formed a part of Italy’s cultural patrimony, given that it had passed through multiple countries and was not found in Italy.

It will be interesting to see if he changes his mind after reading Magistrate Garparini's 50 page decision. 


By Lynda Albertson, CEO, ARCA

May 25, 2018

Countering Antiquities Trafficking (CAT) in the Mashreq

From April 16 – 20, 2018 I had the pleasure to be one of a specialised group of trainers for Countering Antiquities Trafficking in the Mashreq: A Training Program for Specialists Working to Deter Cultural Property Theft and the Illicit Trafficking of Antiquities, a programme developed through the Secretariat of the 1970 Convention, the unit responsible for the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. 

Funded through UNESCO's Heritage Emergency Fund, the multidisciplinary practical training programme took place at UNESCO's Regional Office in Beirut, and involved experts working with and in collaboration to UNESCO — the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, a specialised agency of the UN based in Paris,  ARCA — the Association for Research into Crimes against Art, UNIDROIT — the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law, ICOM — the International Council of Museums, UNODC — the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and INTERPOL— the International Criminal Police Organization.


The CAT in the Mashreq training program was developed to provide technical support (risk management measures, situational interpretations, drawing conclusions, making recommendations) to staff from governmental authorities, art professionals, academics and decision-makers who work in fragile source countries, the very places where illicit antiquities originate and where heritage trafficking incidents are known to occur.

Developed by professionals for professionals, who understand the necessity of tackling the prevalent issues contributing to heritage crimes and cross-border smuggling of illegally exported antiquities, this initiative, hopefully replicable in more countries, was developed as a means of providing support to the affected source and transit countries of Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey.

The overarching goal is to help heritage professionals address issues of common heritage concern in countries where civil unrest and social turmoil have contributed to porous borders where the absence of controls contributes to avenues for the looting and trafficking of cultural artifacts, as well as on occasion, incidences of cultural cleansing.

As a part of this ambitious initiative, 32 trainees where invited from the five aforementioned designated countries.  Each trainee, while there to learn, also contributed from their own professional knowledge, expertise and first-hand knowledge if the issues as they relate to the situation in their own country. Drawing upon my own professional experiences in cross-border policing, museum security and risk management, my objective in the initiative was to build multilateral capacity and to strengthen knowledge as it relates to the intricacies of art crime and heritage protection across jurisdictions.

Criminals work outside border considerations.

Always at the forefront of my training module was to need to develop a purposeful framework, for knowledge transfer and exchange, to be used to develop activities and approaches that move knowledge from those who have first hand experience in a specific area to others who need similar knowledge before during or after a similar incident.  Also of importance was to foster in others, the trust to work collaboratively and to be open to learning from one another as I believe it takes a non-political, multidisciplinary and multi-visionary approach to adequately deter and detect incidents of art crime as they across country boundaries.

There’s a difference between crime prevention and crime reaction:  Changing the way we think.

My contribution to the week-long training was to guide and coach participants through interactive case studies and exercises, promoting a proactive and systematically collaborative mind set to heritage risk management.  To that end,  I believe I was able to encourage the participants to take into consideration a variety of unexplored approaches to site security and protection.


This was done not only by analyzing and reviewing past incidents after they occur, in order to deter cultural property theft and illicit trafficking but to also fulfill my own goal for this training which was to raise individual and agency understanding of the need for a more proactive prevention and preparation approach, by predicting what types of emergencies might occur in advance of an incident or an all-out crisis, in order to rectify deficiencies in risk management, to prevent incidents from happening.

This was done by demonstrating the use of practical, proactive security measurements, proactive planning, predictive analysis, threat and risk management assessment, many of which can be applied to the conflict theatre and could be applicable to the situations occurring in this specific region.

During my module participants were given real world proactive vs. reactive examples of security measures and risk management advance planning techniques as this is the single most important thing an organisation can do to defend itself against a threat, i.e. understanding its existing vulnerabilities and setting up a framework for addressing them before incidences can occur.   By sharing and coordinating relevant information and existing security processes my goal was to help trainees be better able to protect assets, people, property (tangible and intangible), and archival information, before a loss occurs.

With so many incidents happening in the last decades in this region we still tend to look at the conflict itself and how to stop the trafficking of stolen goods after they have already been taken.  We need to start thinking outside the box and start looking how we can predict those incidents before they occur, and with that knowledge how we can find and develop solutions, measurements and support how to prevent them. And for the record, no I do not mean that this can stop a conflict, I mean that if it obvious that there can be a conflict, we should not wait until it is happening and react to it then.

Time to look further ahead as well as looking back.

Although I understand the current situations occurring in this zone, and the sensitive feelings of those involved, knowing that until now, their focus has been on getting the stolen, plundered or otherwise stolen or destroyed cultural heritage objects back, it is also time to look forward and try the prevent the next possible situation to happen.  I’m proud and honoured that I was asked to be part of this training and hope that a little seed of proactivity was planted, and there, will continue to grow.

Dick Drent, CPE
Founding Director, Omnirisk
Associate Director, SoSecure Intl.
Museum and Site Risk Management Expert

May 12, 2018

Museum Theft: Whatcom Museum

Ninety miles north of Seattle and twenty-one miles south of the Canadian border, Bellingham Police are investigating a theft from the Whatcom Museum's recently designed Lightcatcher building.
Image Credit:  Birmingham Police

While police have not indicated what was stolen, the theft occurred on May 3rd and involved an object valued at $15,000.  Appealing to the public for help, law enforcement officers have asked if anyone can identify this person of interest, seen photographing what appears to be an object from the museum's Jeweled Objects of Desire exhibition. 

This exhibition, which ran from February 10th through May 6th, featured the jewelled luxury art of artist Sidney Mobell. Mobell may be best known for adding bling to mundane everyday objects including a gold mouse trap with a wedge of cheese set with pavé diamonds, a 14-karat gold sardine tin embellished with fifty-five Russian diamonds, a 24 karat gilded mailbox with a sapphire eagle as well as a freshwater pearl and gold wire-encrusted corncob by designer John Hatleberg.  

Persons with information about this individual should contact the Bellingham Washington Police by calling +1 360-778-8800 referencing case No. 18B-25214.

Summer Clowers, ARCA '13 

May 6, 2018

Arrest warrant issued for UK suspect in 2017 Aspen Gallery Vandalism

One year ago, on Tuesday May 02, 2017, a man wearing sunglasses and a cap entered the Opera Gallery in Aspen, Colorado and slashed a £2.16 million ($3 million) painting by artist Christopher Wool with a razor before fleeing the gallery in under one minute. 

The episode, documented by internal CCTV security cameras made public by Aspen law enforcement authorities, showed a caucasian man in black jeans, a black jacket, who entered the gallery, blocking the door open with a small piece of wood before proceeding to bypass valuable works of art by Marc Chagall and Pablo Picasso.  Arriving in front of the Untitled, 2004 "new expressionist" artwork by contemporary artist Wool, the vandal then, taking a black-handled object out of his pocket, made two quick downward slashes to the the canvas before hurrying back out the front door of the gallery. The consignor of the painting, kept anonymous at the time, was Harold Morley, 74, of Barbados, who had purchased the painting through a trust called Fallowfield Ltd.



One year later, felony criminal mischief charges have been filed along with an arrest warrant in Pitkin County District Court in Colorado which seem to implicate the son of the owner of the painting, Nicholas Morley, who is believed to have called the gallery on three occasions prior to the vandalism in order to ascertain security details within the gallery before carrying out the crime. 

It is believed that the 40 year old suspect flew from London's Heathrow Airport to Minneapolis-St. Paul on May under an assumed name before taking another flight on to Aspen, Colorado, where he then rented a car at the Denver airport under the name Nikola Marley, simply with the intent of defacing a painting belonging to his father, a wealthy property developer.

Police became suspicious when Harold Morley began making requests to downplay the incident, sending a letter on to the owner of the gallery stating that the painting "can be easily restored" and that he did not plan on filing an insurance claim. On May 10, the suspect himself, Nicholas Morley wrote an email to the gallery manager, indicating that Fallowfield Ltd., did not plan to hold the gallery liable for the incident happening while the painting was under their consignment. 

According to the court affidavit, in this email Nicholas Morley stated:

"It would appear possible based on the video footage (and is our judgment) that this was an accident rather than malicious damage," and "(We) kindly suggest that Opera either A: issue a press release that the incident was in fact an accident, or B: issue no further press comments." He also suggested that the Gallery advise the police that this was not a criminal act.

The motive for the event is not clear at this time.

May 2, 2018

Auction Alert - Sotheby’s New York - a bronze Greek figure of a horse

On May 01, 2018 ARCA was contacted by Christos Tsirogiannis about a possible ancient object of concern in an upcoming Sotheby's auction titled 'The Shape of the Beauty: Sculpture from the Collection of Howard and Saretta Barnet' scheduled for 10:00 AM EST on May 14, 2018 in New York City. The antiquities researcher had also notified law enforcement authorities in New York and at INTERPOL. 

Since 2007 Tsirogiannis, a Cambridge-based Greek forensic archaeologist has drawn attention to and identified antiquities of potentially illicit origin in museums, collections, galleries auction houses, and private collections that can be traced to the confiscated Giacomo Medici, Robin Symes-Christos Michaelides and Gianfranco Becchina archives.  Tsirogiannis teaches as a lecturer on illicit trafficking with ARCA's Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection.

Image Credit: ARCA
Screenshot taken 02 May 2018
Dr. Tsirogiannis noted that Lot 4 of the sale, a bronze Greek figure of a horse, lists the object's collecting history as:
Münzen und Medaillen AG, Basel, May 6, 1967, lot 2
Robin Symes, London, very probably acquired at the above auction
Howard and Saretta Barnet, New York, acquired from the above on November 16, 1973 .

For its literature, the auction house mentions the following text: Zimmermann, Les chevaux de bronze dans l'art géométrique grec, Mainz and Geneva, 1989, p. 178.

Through my own explorations I found that Scholar Paul Cartledge, in The Classical Review 41 (1):173-175 (1991), stated:

"Like Archaic Greek bronze hoplite-figurines (CR 38 [1988], 342), Greek Geometric bronze horse-figurines are eminently marketable (and forgeable) artefacts for which private collectors, chiefly in New York, London, Geneva and Basel, are prepared to part with a great deal of hard currency. Their (al)lure is undeniable; I have myself trekked halfway across Europe in pursuit of their elusive charm."

As if to underscore their allure, both past and present, Tsirogiannis sent along three photos of the object on auction which he conclusively matched to photos found in the confiscated Robin Symes archive. 

Three, (3) photos from the Symes -Michaelides Archive
provided by Christos Tsirogiannis

Saretta Barnet died in March of 2017.  Her husband had passed away in 1992. Collecting for more than 4 decades, the couple's collection included everything from pen and brown ink landscapes by Fra Bartolommeo, works by Goya, François Boucher, Lucien Freud, tribal art and a noteworthy collection of antiquities.  

In a December 01, 2017 article in the Financial Times, discussing this upcoming sale, their son, Peter Barnet, indicated that “his late parents bought carefully and took their time to make decisions. For that reason, they preferred not to buy at auction but from dealers.”  Apparently though, not all of those purchases were carefully vetted. 

Screenshot:
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Bulletin 3269091
In 1999 the family of Howard J. Barnet donated a Black-Figure Kylix, ca. 550-525 B.C.E attributed to the Hunt Painter to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. That object according to an article by Dr. David Gill, was relinquished by the museum via a transfer in title in a negotiation completed with the Italian Ministry of Culture on February 21, 2006 and returned to Italy in one of the first repatriation agreements between Italy and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

While the Barnet's may have been selective in the quality of the pieces they purchased for their collection, their relationships with dealers known to have dealt in plundered antiquities such as Symes, as well as collecting transactions with private collectors such as George Ortiz, who is also known to have purchased tainted objects, leaves one to question how carefully the Barnet's vetted the objects they acquired.

Given that the bronze Greek figure of a horse appears in photographs found in the Symes archive and the fact that at least one other object donated by the Barnet's was tied to illicit trafficking and was repatriated to its country of origin, this statue deserves a closer look.  With further research, the object and its past collecting history might lead to a link in the trafficking chain that has not yet been fully explored or considered. 

Take the provenance listed in this sales event for example.  If the object's listing of a sale at Münzen und Medaillen AG, Basel in May 6, 1967 is not a fabrication, then exploring this sale in Switzerland, determining who the consignor was, might give us another name name in the looting/trafficking/laundering chain which could help us determine the country of origin and be worthwhile for law enforcement in Switzerland and New York to explore. 

At the very least, this upcoming auction notice seems to indicate that the auction house did not contact Greek or Italian source country authorities before accepting the object on consignment.  This despite the object's passage through the hands of a British antiquities dealer long-known to have been a key player in an international criminal network that traded in looted antiquities. 

By:  Lynda Albertson