Showing posts with label Arthur Brand. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Arthur Brand. Show all posts

July 28, 2016

Dali's 1941 Surrealist work "Adolescence" and Lempicka's 1929 tableau "La Musicienne" Recovered: Tied to Organized Crime

After negotiations that stretched from the UK, to the Netherlands and beyond two paintings stolen by masked gunmen during a daylight robbery have been recovered thanks to the work of private investigators. 

Snatched from the Scheringa Museum of Realist Art, once located in the village of Spanbroek in northwest Holland on May 01, 2009, the robbers made off with “Adolescence,” 18 x 12 inches (45 by 30 centimeters), a 1941 gouache by Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí featuring the Catalan artist and his one-time nanny and “La Musicienne,” 46 x 29 inches (116 by 73 centimeters), a 1929 oil painting by Polish-born art deco painter Tamara de Lempicka.

In 2009 the museum closed; a direct result of the collapse of the Dutch DSB Bank owned by the Museum's founder and owner, Dirk Scheringa. Forced into liquidation by its creditors, Dutch bank ABN Amro, whose removal men can be seen in the video below, seized 130 paintings from the museum's collection, reportedly to cover a $48 million loan that the museum’s namesake owner had failed to repay. The sale of the museum's collection, both stolen and on site achieved € 2,880,075. 



In a post published on Twitter Dutch art historian Arthur Brand released a statement saying  

Brand further reported that the two artworks had been given to a criminal gang as collateral, in lieu of payment. 


Dali’s surrealist landscape painting depicts a woman’s lips and nose superimposed onto the back of a seated woman,  her eyes and eyelashes are formed by two hills in the background.  The Lempicka artwork shows a bohemian woman in a vivid blue dress, playing a mandolin against the backdrop of a cityscape. 

After an intense months-long negotiation, the two paintings have now been handed over to UK police at New Scotland Yard.  The current owners, who purchased the art as a result of the museum's sale, have yet to be identified publically. 


June 2, 2015

Arthur Brand’s Art Investigation Uncovers Nazi Art Hoard — A treasure of propaganda

Two bronze horses recovered in Germany
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, 
  ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Dutch Art Investigator Arthur Brand’s work over the past 1 1/2 years to recover, amongst others, two bronze statues commissioned by Adolph Hitler and once thought destroyed is well-documented in the English media in an interview by NPR (“An Epic Art Tale: Commissioned By Hitler, Recovered by German Police”, May 30, 2015); in Spiegel Online (“The Quest for Hitler’s Lost Treasures” by Konstantin von Hammerstein, May 26, 2015); and in The Wall Street Journal (“A Dark Niche Emerges in German Market: Nazi Art”, by Harriet Torry and Andrea Thomas, May 26, 2015).

On Monday, June 1, I spoke with Arthur Brand via Skype and asked him if the information in the Spiegel Online article was accurate. Brand confirmed that he had worked with the journalist, Konstantin von Hammerstein, who not only has an excellent reputation, Brand said, but worked with him throughout the investigation.

“It’s good to be backed by a journalist,” Brand said. “What if the police don’t believe you? Konstantin did a lot of research. I really owe him. We did it together, and at some point we joined with Renee Allonge of the Berlin police. We worked secretively and well together.”

I asked him why a former art dealer with no money had been approached in 2013 about the sale of the two bronze horses sculpted by Josef Thorak as propaganda for Nazi ideals.

“The market for Nazi memorabilia for high-end stuff is very small, secretive, and you must have money,” Brand said. “These statues were only moving within 3-4 families. Not only Nazis but art historians and even some Jews are interested in these pieces because they are a part of history.

“The people who were trying to find a buyer didn’t actually have access to the horses,” Brand said. “They were trying to offer buyers to the owners. This woman (the former art dealer) walks around well-dressed and pretends to be rich although she lives in a small apartment in a poor neighborhood in Berlin. She had neither access to the horses, nor could she provide a buyer. Although she passed on the information to the police, she could not go forward.

“Michel van Rijn was approached by a Stephen from Belgium who offered two bronze horses for sale. Michel is half Jewish and retired so he contacted me to give it a try,” Brand said. “It took me 1 1/2 years to infiltrate and gain confidence because I was going through middlemen. I told Stephen that I had an oil baron from Dallas who would be interested in purchasing unique pieces with a story attached. Stephen then offered the two bronze horses by Thorak but that was only the first step. Finally, I gained his confidence and we had meetings that I filmed for hours and he made a few mistakes that provided information about the men he was working for, the owners of the horses. Konstantin and I arranged satellite photos of the garden of one of these men and we saw the bronze army known as “Die Wehrmacht” — the most famous statue of Nazi propaganda which was shown in Nazi films as standing in the Reichs Chancellery. We couldn’t believe our eyes.

"Then in another conversation, Stephen slipped and finally we gave rumors to German police and with this witness statement they could do these raids. So many places, so many policemen had to be coordinated. If it had gone wrong, I could be able to speak to the press today. One of the police officers told me and Konstantin that when they entered one of the warehouses, they stood there for 5 minutes to just look at the horses, the 40,000 kilo statue, and the other Reichs Chancellery statues that we recognized from old films. They said it was more than they could have imagined.”

This recovery of cultural property and lost art is not art stolen by the Nazis but art commissioned by Hitler between 1933-1945. I asked him what it’s like to recover such art from such a difficult period of history.

“It’s a dual feeling. Nazi art, you can ask every historian, is part of history and should be preserved,” Brand said. “Art itself does not kill. It was art created by artists who were famous before and after the war although the art was used as propaganda to demonstrate what the perfect human being should be. These pieces can teach us that totalitarian regimes are not that far apart — Hitler’s statues were procured during Stalin’s reign and hidden on a Russian army base. You can look at art and recognize the elements that reflect totalitarian regimes — art can show us what is behind certain ideologies such as those repressive governments in Eastern Europe or Africa.”

One of the downsides of recovering lost art, Arthur Brand said, is the impact it has on other people. In this case, Brand is going to drink a beer with one of the art dealers involved in this case. “It was not my intention, when these horses were found, to get these art dealers who are in their 70s in trouble," Brand said. "The owners of this Nazi art wanted to sell them because their children had threatened to destroy the art as a way of erasing their family ties to a Nazi past.

“The art idealized the masculine and feminine. Art was an important propaganda tool for the Nazis and continues to be so for other totalitarian regimes. Art is a warning sign of the intentions of certain governments. Showing Nazi art can be an educational tool. Exposing these pieces can show people and help explain why they did this — the propaganda art was meant to prepare people’s minds to dehumanize others who were sent to concentration camps. This Nazi art was used to support their ideology.

“You cannot erase history by destroying art you don’t agree with. Hitler tried it. Stalin tried it. We need to show it, teach it, and explain it so that we recognize totalitarian and repressive regimes when they emerge."

References:




Other articles may be found through Arthur Brand's Facebook page.

Brand also worked on the recovery of art in a theft at the Museum van Bommel van Dam.



May 15, 2014

Dutch media reports that Gutmann family porcelain auctioned in 1934 ended up in museums in The Netherlands

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Dutch art investigator Arthur Brand sent me a link to an article posted in English on May 14 by Maxime Zech in the NLTimes.nl, "Nazi-stolen art in Rijksmuseum, Palace Het Loo:Report". I asked Mr. Brand if people in The Netherlands were surprised, and here's his response:
Yes, people are highly surprised. Just recently an extensive search has been closed and those items were not discovered. Some huge names are involved. There is no doubt that these 15 items, divided amongst five museums, including Palace Het Loo and the Rijksmuseum, have to be considered as looted. They were all auctioned in 1934 and that particular auction has been considered by both the German and Austrian government as being an "involuntary sale". This absolutely does not mean that the Palace or the museums did know that they once bought looted art. Far from that: this is a worldwide problem that just shows that we have done too little, too late regarding provenance-research...
Here's the article:
The art collection of Palace Het Loo, the Rijksmuseum and three other museums are thought to include pieces and artifacts that were looted from a Jewish family during a Nazi plunder, the Telegraaf reports. In total, 15 pieces of a valuable Meissen porcelain dinnerware ware set may have been stolen from the Gutmann family. The items may have been put up for auction in 1934 under coercion from the Nazis. Now, 80 years after the fact, Amsterdam investigation bureau Artiaz was able to trace the pieces, to the museums. “We are taking this very seriously, and are going to establish an origins research action immediately”, a spokesperson of the Paleis Het Loo National Museum Foundation said in a reaction.
Artiaz traced the dinnerware set pieces by looking through old auction documents.
“Salacious is that the Ekkart commission concluded a big investigation into looted art in Dutch museums without detecting these set pieces”, says Arthur Brand who executed the investigations with David Kleefstra and Alex Omhoff. 
The Facts and Files bureau in Berlin investigated the case for the Gutmann family, who live in Germany, and concludes that the 15 porcelain gravy boats and plates were still registered as lost until yesterday. “We are expecting that the Gutmanns will request us to contact the Netherlands State and the Restitution Commission, so that the pieces can hopefully return to the family” says investigator Beate Schreiber. The items are part of a unique 435-piece Meissen dinnerware set depicting village scenes, which was given to Willem V around 1774 as a gift from the United East-Indian Company. The prince sold the set during exile in England. Later, 26 items were bought by Herbert Gutmann, son of banker Eugen Gutmann who set up the Dresdner Bank. When the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, they saddled him with a sky high debt.

December 3, 2013

Tuesday, December 03, 2013 - , No comments

Persian chalice authentic or fake? Dutch Art Investigator Arthur Brand has no doubts

Dutch art investigator Arthur Brand is of the opinion that the chalice "that helped make possible the Iran nuclear deal, as reported in the media, is a fake."

In the LA Times article by Christi Parsons "The chalice that helped make possible the Iran nuclear deal" has been surrounded by controversy regarding its authenticity:
Some experts believe the vessel, known as a rhyton, was crafted in the 7th century BC in what later became the Persian Empire, now Iran. It features three trumpet-shaped cups that sprout from the body of a griffin, a fabled creature that typically has the head and wings of a bird and the body of a lion. On the chalice, the eyes are deep-set and wide open, like those of a bird of prey. The object was allegedly part of a cache of antiquities found in a cave near the Iraqi border in the 1980s, shortly after Iran's Islamic Revolution. "These were great treasures from a great civilization," said Fariborz Ghadar, an Iranian scholar who served as a deputy economic minister to Iran's shah. "Their discovery was of great significance to those who consider themselves Persians, who honor that period in history." 
In 2003, the chalice surfaced in the hands of a well-known antiquities dealer, Hicham Aboutaam, who ran a firm based in Geneva. As he passed through U.S. customs at Newark International Airport, Aboutaam presented a certificate indicating the vessel was from Syria. He was waved through. Aboutaam then set out to document the object's value. Three experts he consulted determined it was from Iran; two concluded it was consistent with the antiquities taken from the cave. An art collector was prepared to pay $1 million, but federal investigators caught wind of it. They charged that the object had been taken from Iran illicitly, making its importation to the U.S. illegal. The dealer was prosecuted and paid a $5,000 fine. The chalice was then placed in a climate-controlled storage unit. The value of the chalice remains uncertain. Some have maintained that it is not 2,700 years old at all, but a modern fake. But Iranian officials have insisted it is genuine and demanded its return.
Arthur Brand pointed out previous questions about the object's authenticity in an Oct. 14 article by Frud Bezhan in Radio Free Europe "U.S. Gift To The Iranian People A 'Fake':
Unfortunately, according to Hamid Baqaie, the former head of Iran's Cultural Heritage Organization, the artifact is without question a modern forgery. "Firstly, the way it has been made and the style in which it has been made shows it's a fake. This artifact doesn't have any roots in ancient Iran," Baqaie says. "Secondly, from a technical point of view the materials used to make it also show that it's not an original." 
Archeologist Oscar White Muscarella, a former curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, has gone on record as saying he, too, does not believe the artifact is the real deal. He wrote in a paper published last year that it took only a glance at a photograph of the artifact to convince him it was a fake.
Dutch art investigator Arthur Brand wrote in an email:
I saw many western-cave objects, some looted, more fake. I saw them too in the Aboutaams' shop. The one the USA gave to Iran is mostly fake, partly constructed from original pieces. I even know who did the construction. It is the same man who made the partly fake which was offered in Germany a few years ago. I made a documentary about that piece, together with the German ARD. Skip to 8.10.
Another Western-cave invention of the Aboutaams, in their shop, secretly filmed by me (see photo below):

November 22, 2013

Museum van Bommel van Dam Theft: Art Investigator Arthur Brand provides an update

From the Netherlands, Art investigator Arthur Brand has an update in the case in which he helped return two of the paintings stolen in March 2013 from the Museum van Bommel van Dam (reported in the ARCAblog in August). In an email dated Nov. 21, Mr. Brand wrote:
The man who walked into the police station with me on the 15th of August, delivering two works by Schoonhoven, is still imprisoned, waiting trial. The other day he called me to give me an update. 
According to him, he bought the two works in an official shop. The police went to the shop and interrogated the owner, who denies having sold the artworks. The shop owner stated that this particular kind of receipt was not even used by him. But, in the pretrial, the defense attorney noted that the receipt was signed with a signature that was identical with the shop owner's signature on his statement. 
The defense attorney also asked the judge to hear the director of Sotheby's, the Netherlands, which was granted. Sotheby's had auctioned one of the stolen artworks. Why did Sotheby's not withdraw the artwork after a warning from the ALR that it might be a work stolen three months before, a theft that made headlines? If, according to the lawyer, even the experts at Sotheby's missed it, how could his own client possibly have known that the works were stolen? 
And maybe the most interesting question of all: Why did Sotheby's turn the work 90 degrees before depicting it in their catalogue? 
Anyway, the plot thickens and there might be some surprises left.
Here in September Jacobiene Kuijpers provided a perspective on the case.

September 2, 2013

Museum van Bommel van Dam Art Theft: A Perspective on the stolen and recovered paintings and how the ALR distributes information

www.wikicollecting.com:
 'R69-32' (left) and the completelydifferent 'R69-39' (right) 
In August, the ARCA blog reported the recovery of paintings stolen five months earlier. In this post, one of this year's ARCA student provides background on the theft.

by Jacobiene Kuijpers

At five in the early morning of 22 March 2013, the Dutch Museum van Bommel van Dam was robbed. Two hooded thieves forced open the entrance door and took three papier-maché reliefs by the Dutch artist Jan Schoonhoven and a canvas by Tomas Rajlich. They managed to leave the museum and drive away by car before the police arrived. All of the stolen works were part of the Manders Collection, a private art collection that was currently exhibited in the museum. The museum director contacted Art Loss Register directly to report the theft and spread images of the works over the internet and television to get tips for the police investigation.

All of the artworks are predominantly white and show geometric structures. Schoonhoven was a renowned minimalist artist, part of the ZERO network, and has works of art in important collections such as the MoMA. Recently, Schoonhoven is seen as a rising star and the value of his works has gone up, which was clearly visible in a sale at Christie’s Amsterdam last October, where some works were hammered for almost double the estimate.[1] The stolen works by Schoonhoven were by far the most valuable works of art of the entire Manders Collection. The Rajlich painting is similar in representation and was hung in the same corner as the Schoonhovens -- one may suggest the thieves thought the works were all by the same artist.

On June 27, Sotheby’s London sold a work by Schoonhoven, titled R69-39, via the Amsterdam offices where this relief was brought before the end of April. Sotheby’s has no salesroom in Amsterdam anymore, thus the work was put up for the London auction, where its provenance mentioned it was part of an inheritance and the work was directly transferred from the artist to the first owner.[2] In the image printed in the auction catalogue, the artwork appeared identical to the stolen Schoonhoven with the title R69-32, except that the work was turned on its side. This similarity made the ALR alert the auction house that the work possibly represented a stolen work in their database. Sotheby’s checked this and replied that the title on the back of the work didn’t match the ALR record. No further measures were taken on both ends.

The work was sold to two galleries in Amsterdam and London who specialize in the ZERO network and often collaborate in acquisitions. When the Amsterdam gallery owner saw an image of the work for the first time on July 2, he was confused as he had possessed a work with the same title before, and this was not that work. He realized that the artwork was similar to one of the stolen Schoonhovens and contacts the London gallery holder. He expressed his doubts and requested a picture of the back of the painting, which he compared to a picture of the stolen work. He claimed it was fairly obvious the number 2 was changed into a 9, stickers and labels were removed, but the signature and title were identical.[3] Sotheby’s halted the sale and contacted the police.

In Amsterdam, investigations start to find the man who brought the work to Sotheby’s. At the beginning of August, private detective Arthur Brand was contacted by this man, who claimed he bought the three stolen Schoonhoven reliefs for 100 euros and showed a receipt of the transaction. Brand convinced the man to bring the two works he still had to the police. On August 14th the man walked into an Amsterdam police office holding a plastic bag with the two reliefs and was arrested immediately. The following day the director of the museum happily confirmed the identity of the artworks. The painting by Rajlich remains missing.

The director of the Museum van Bommel van Dam raised an interesting point in his commentary on the Sotheby’s sale of the stolen artwork. He points out that the alerts from the ALR are only directed towards the auction houses and dealers, and how it would be more helpful if these alerts were more public.[4] The museum or the private collector could have aided in the identification of the piece, which would have made the police intervene before the work was put up for auction.

August 16, 2013

Art Investigator Arthur Brand assists in the return of artworks stolen in March from the Museum Van Bommel van Dam in Venlo

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog

Istanbul - Last night I received an email from art investigator Arthur Brand that he had just solved a museum robbery in The Netherlands. Mr. Brand's news was that three of the four artworks stolen on March 22 from the Museum Van Bommel van Dam in Venlo were delivered to Amsterdam police.

Arthur Brand wrote in an email to the ARCA blog: “We were smoking a cigarette outside the police-headquarters before going in. The guy knew that he would be arrested and discovered that he had no money left. He asked me for some to be able to buy some extra food while being detained. I gave him all I had with me, 35 euros. We embraced each other and walked in with a cheap plastic bag containing the stolen works of art.”

According to the police press release, due to an investigation by the Dutch police (Politie) and in cooperation with employees of an auction house, the police have recovered artwork by Jan van Schoonhoven:
This is one of four works stolen with an estimated value of more than 1 million euros. Last Wednesday a bag containing two of the other three remaining stolen artworks was delivered to the police headquarters in Amsterdam. The defendant, against whom an investigation was related to the work of art offered at auction, was immediately arrested and the bag with the two works confiscated. The suspect was surrounded and taken into police custody. The two works of art in the bag are probably also from the hand of Jan van Schoonhoven and almost certainly  from the theft in Venlo. The authenticity of these reliefs is yet to be determined. Detectives from the serious crime department worked under the supervision of the Amsterdam prosecutor. The Amsterdam detectives researched the theft of the paintings and the police unit in Limburg investigated the burglary and theft. The suspect will be brought before the magistrate on Friday, August 16.
Here in this Dutch newspaper is the story (loosely translated by Google):
Art investigator Arthur Brand reported on Twitter that he had returned two stolen artworks to the Amsterdam police. Dagblad de Limburger reported that the man who was arrested was in the presence of Arthur Brand. The police do not want to discuss the role of Brand who deals in tracking stolen and forged art. Amsterdam Police had been tracking the paintings before they were returned. The authenticity of the works has yet to be determined, but they are probably the three stolen works by the Dutch artists Jan Schoonhoven. The fourth work stolen from the Collection of Tomas Manders, is still missing. Together the works  have a total insured value of 1.1 million euros.

January 15, 2013

Norwegian police suspect Irish Travellers of Stealing Chinese Artifacts from the West Norway Museum of Decorative Arts in Bergen last week

Maeve Sheehan, a contributing writer for Irish Independent, reports in Irish Traveller gang linked to audacious Norway art heist that Norwegian police "suspect the same gang of Irish Travellers who have already been linked by Europol to a string of robberies, money laundering, and counterfeit goods" in last week's theft of Chinese artifacts from the West Norway Museum of Decorative Arts in Bergen.

Last October, former Scotland Yard art detective Charley Hill spoke of the similarity between "the Irish Traveller raids on art in the 1980s through 2010" and the break-in at the Kunsthal Rotterdam.  Private art investigator Arthur Brand offered his suspicions earlier on this blog regarding the Kunsthal Rotterdam and a theft a year earlier of rhino horns from the Natural History Museum across from the Kunsthal.


November 13, 2012

Kunsthal Rotterdam Theft: Messenger bags may have allowed thieves to flee on foot or by bike

Painting by Gauguin stolen from Kunsthal Rotterdam

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Here’s a link to an article by Robbert Blokland and Jolande van der Graaf published today in the Dutch newspaper De Telegraf regarding progress on the investigation of the theft at the Kunsthal Rotterdam last month.

Here Arthur Brand, private art investigator, provided an analysis of the article along with his own commentary:
A retired Dutch police office (Dick Gosewehr) is claiming that the police are doing something wrong in their investigation of the Kunsthal Rotterdam heist if they are looking for a getaway car.  If you look carefully at the surveillance video of the theft, you can see that the bags that the the thieves are wearing are what messenger boys use in cities for delivery packages on bicycles.
The police have been desperately searching for an escape car, but these are bags used for when people are carrying something on their back while walking or on the bicycle.  His theory is that they never used a car.
 
If you go to the map showing the Kunsthal Rotterdam in the museum park, you can see it’s difficult to approach the gallery or park a car on a busy street during a robbery.  It would be less conspicuous to travel by bike or to walk because the police would have a hard time finding you.  They might have stashed the paintings somewhere near the museum and maybe 1-2-3 days later when the heat was down, they could have come back to collect the paintings.  It would explain messenger bags and no escape car.
 
The retired police officer says that the CCTV cameras focus on cars and street traffic but wouldn’t necessarily follow someone walking into the bushes.
 
Martin Cahill was known to have buried stolen paintings – and sometimes he could not find them later.
 
Half of Martin’s gang is still in The Netherlands and the Rathkeal Rovers who are still operating have been linked in the past to very big art thefts.  One of them is now in an American jail for tricking an antiques dealer.  The Rathkeal Rovers see each other every November and December when they return to their town to celebrate the holidays so they all know each other.  Irish Travelers, the Cahill gang, and the Rathkeal Rovers all know each other and deal in drugs and steal art.  The Cahill group were not originally Irish Travellers but came from the poorest level of society.
 
George Mitchell and some of the other people took their expertise with them to the Netherlands.  Kunsthall is a temporary art collection.  If they took a look back last year and saw that the paintings were visible through the glass walls then all they had to do was wait for a big exhibition and strike after it opened.  It’s not 100% but rumors go that way and it’s just too obvious.  If police ignore this link, then they are doing a bad job.

Kunsthal Rotterdam Theft: Private art investigator Arthur Brand suspects Irish gang involved in rhino horn theft last year and last month's robbery


Matisse painting stolen last month from Kunsthal

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Dutch private art investigator Arthur Brand has a theory that ties two seemingly unrelated museum thefts together: the theft of the rhino horns from Rotterdam’s Natural History Museum and last months’ theft of paintings from the Kunsthal Rotterdam.

Mr. Brand, who described himself as “well informed about art thefts in Holland”, introduced himself via the Internet and told me that I could ask former Scotland Yard detective Charley Hill to vouch for his credibility (which Mr. Hill did via email).

In a conversation via Skype, Mr. Brand extended the dialogue begun last month on the ARCA blog by former Scotland Yard art detective Charley Hill in regards to the Kunsthal robbery:
Mr. Hill: My view is that this theft was particularly well organised, done quickly and in the almost certain knowledge that the thieves and what they stole would be long gone by the time the police arrived. Also, the thieves were apparently not opportunists such as the two with a ladder at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam some years ago who smashed a window and took the two pictures nearest the broken glass, nor were they Balkan bandits with machine pistols like the ones who hit the Munch Museum in 2004, or the Buhrle Collection in Zurich a few years ago.


The closest pattern I know is of Irish Traveller raids on art in the 1980s through 2010. The pattern in Rotterdam the night before last was closer to that. See the art crimes of The General as he called himself, Martin Cahill of Dublin. Interestingly, one of Cahill's gang, George Mitchell, known as The Penguin, lives close to Rotterdam where he works in commodities with his Colombian, Russian, Dutch, Brit, Irish and other friends. I wonder if he has a part to play in this? He could do something about getting those pictures back, I'm sure, if any good Dutch police officer not in his pay asked him for some help.
 This is Mr. Brand’s assessment:

George “The Penguin” Mitchell escaped to Holland in 1996 after the murder of Irish reporter Veronica Guerin.  Mitchell lived in Amsterdam and Rotterdam before moving to Morocco a couple of years ago.  He visits The Netherlands to see family and to do business (one of those businesses dealing in Indonesian antiquities).  I thought about what Charley Hill said about The Penguin’s involvement and made some inquiries in the underworld and learned that an Irish connection could very well be possible.

Mitchell, who once worked for the gang of art thief Martin Cahill, is said to know members of  the Rathkeale Rovers, a gang of Irish Travellers (gypsies) suspected of stealing rhino horns from a few dozen museums throughout Europe.  Rhino horns are valued for medicinal purposes in eastern Asia.  Thieves make millions with that but there is more to this group.

The Rathkeale Rovers were linked in 2005 to the theft of the Henry Moore sculpture stolen and melted down for bronze scrap metal.  Irish Travellers were suspected in the 2003 theft of Leonardo da Vinci’s Madonna of the Yarnwinder from Drumlanrig castle in Scotland.  Although the painting was recovered in 2007, the thieves who removed the painting from the home of the Duke of Buccleuch have never been caught.  In 2005, according to rumors and a source in the FBI, Irish Travellers planned to rob the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia.  I have been told that George Mitchell was connected to Martin Cahill’s associate Martin Foley who is suspected of robbing the Russborough House in 2001 and 2002.

The Rathkeal Rovers were almost certainly at the Natural History Museum in Rotterdam on August 26, 2011 when three rhino horns were stolen.  If you look at this image of the Kunsthal, you can see a building to the left – about five to ten meters away from the art gallery.  This is the Natural History Museum.  If you look back from there, you can see right through the big glass windows of the Kunsthal and see the art displayed.  What I suspect and it’s backed up by a few rumors, the thieves stealing the rhino horns probably figured that this was too good to be true – that they were looking into the worst protected museum in the world.  If you smash a window you are in and you can take 100-200 million euros worth of paintings.  Why steal rhino horn for less than 20,000 euros when we can kick in the glass window and get 100 million?  The rumor in the criminal world is that the Rathkeale Rovers are behind the Kunsthal Rotterdam theft.  One year after rhino horns were stolen from a museum in Rotterdam, another theft occurs at the art gallery just five to ten meters away.  Nobody has brought these two events together even though the Irish Travellers and the Rathkeale Rovers have been linked to art thefts and they are well connected to the old Cahill group known as the world’s best art thieves.  They all know each other.  After the IRA murdered Cahill, part of his gang thought they should go to the Netherlands and Amsterdam is the best place to go if you still want to deal in drugs.  The best art thieves and Irish Travellers live in the Netherlands.  It was even more difficult to break into Natural History Museum than the Kunsthall – you can send in a girl of 10 to steal art from there.  I cannot confirm the rumor that it was an Irish job but I can logically connect the events –- there is only one group right now robbing museums.

Here's the link to an article by Jolande van der Graaf and Robbert Blokland published today in De Telegraf on the Kunsthal Rotterdam theft which we'll discuss in the next post.