Showing posts with label Europol. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Europol. Show all posts

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

January 23, 2017

Operation Pandora - When multinational law enforcement agents collaborate, they are a force to be reckoned with.


A simple run down.

92 new investigations were initiated between October and November 2016 in which Europol joined forces with law enforcement authorities from 18 EU and non EU countries, including:

Austria
Belgium
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bulgaria
Croatia
Cyprus
Germany
Greece
Italy
Malta
the Netherlands
Poland
Portugal
Romania
Serbia
Spain
Switzerland
United Kingdom

Led by Cypriot and Spanish police, Operation Pandora aimed at dismantling criminal networks involved in cultural theft and exploitation, and identify potential links to other criminal activities. 

The joint investigations focused on cultural spoliation, both underwater and on land, and the illicit trafficking of cultural goods, with a particular emphasis on conflict countries.  

From its operational coordination centre in the Hague, Europol provided operational and analytical support 24/7 and facilitated the information exchange between law enforcement and supporting authorities.

Throughout the operation INTERPOL cross-checked objects against their stolen works of art database. The WCO facilitated communications and cooperation between law enforcement and concerned customs administrations and UNESCO contributed by providing training materials and offering recommendations to the participating countries.

http://www.thessnews.gr/article/9725/ekrybe-marmarini-epitymbia-stili-narkotika-mesa-sto-spiti-tou-foto





During which, 3561 works of art and cultural goods were seized, almost half of which were archaeological objects; 500 archaeological objects were seized in Murcia, Spain, of which 19 were stolen in 2014 from the Museo de Arqueológia
in the southern Spanish city of Murcia. Cypriot police seized 1.383 antiquities and 13 metal detectors during 44 searches.  An additional 40 objects were found at the Post Office in in port city of Larnaca.

Additional objects mentioned in the police briefing include a marble Ottoman tombstone,  and a post-Byzantine-era icon depicting Saint George with two  saints, two Byzantine-period artefacts (one ring and one coin). 

During investigations of suspicious online advertisements 400+ coins from different periods were seized;

In total, 75 individuals have been arrested.

ARCA spoke with Michael Will of EUROPOL's O26 Focal Point Furtum about the arrests and he said

"Again the intelligence led  joint action on Cultcrime was another huge success. The impressive number of arrests and seizures all over Europe shows that the approach  of complementary cooperation between Law Enforcement Agencies of the key countries supported by powerful agencies and associations like Europol, Interpol, UNESCO and WCO is working better and better."

We agree!


December 8, 2016

Conference - Second AHRC Workshop | Art, Crime and Criminals: Art, Crime and Criminals: Painting Fresh Pictures of Art Theft, Fraud and Plunder


Organised by: Professor Duncan Chappell,  Dr. Saskia Hufnagel and Ms. Marissa Marjos.

Date: January 16, 2017

Location: Royal United Services Institute for Defence & Security Studies (RUSI)
61 Whitehall
London, United Kingdom

Workshop Fees: None, but registration is required 

Following the success of the first workshop, this second workshop aims specifically at discussions in the area of art fraud and forgeries. The following (third) workshop will focus on looting and iconoclasm (September 2017, Berlin, Ministry of Finance). 

All workshops will be structured around a number of presentations by prominent actors in the field, but the main parts are discussions around the topic between all participants.   

The aim of the workshop series is to encourage interdisciplinary research, cross-jurisdictional sharing of knowledge and exchange of ideas between academics, practitioners and policy makers. Practitioners will be invited from various backgrounds, such as, police, customs, museums, galleries, auction houses, dealerships, insurance companies, art authenticators, forensic scientists, private security companies etc.  

The proposed network not only aims at bringing the different players together, but also establishes a communication platform that will ensure their engagement beyond the three workshops. Organisations invited to the 2nd workshop include: The Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA), Metropolitan Police, German Police (LKA Berlin), Hong Kong Police, Europol, Authenticators and Art Experts, The Art Loss Register, Art Recovery International, Private Policing Sector, Victoria and Albert Museum (Security), National Gallery, Historic England, Artists/Forgers, Insurance Sector, Journalists, Association of Chiefs of Police, MPs, Academics from various disciplines, Art Dealers and many more.

Workshop 2 will focus specifically on the subject area of art fraud and forgery. In an international art market that is currently reaching record levels of pricing and unprecedented levels of speculative sales and investment the incentives for art fraud and forgery have never been higher. Among questions to be addressed will be:

  1. What is the prevalence of this type of crime?
  2. Who are the principal participants?
  3. To what extent are existing regulatory mechanisms effective?
  4. Is self-regulation of the art market the way forward?
  5. How are forgeries placed on the market?
  6. What scientific measures can be taken to better protect the art market?
  7. How should identified fraudulent works of art be dealt with?
  8. How can the legal and financial risks in authenticating works of art be mitigated?

Workshop Schedule

9.00 am Registration

9.30 am – 10.00 am

  • Introduction by Duncan Chappell and Saskia Hufnagel
10:00am – 11.30 am
1. International Case Studies

  • Dr. Noah Charney, founder, Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA)
  • Rene Allonge – Detective Chief Superintendent, Criminal Investigation Office (State of Berlin) and Steven Weigel – Detective Superintendent, Criminal Investigation Office (State of Berlin)
  • Saskia Hufnagel, QMUL

Coffee Break 11.30 am – 12.00 pm

12.00 pm – 1.00 pm

  • Presentation by and Dialogue with John Myatt

1.00pm - 2.00 pm Lunch

2.00 pm – 3.30 pm
2. International Law Enforcement and Security Perspectives

  • Vernon Rapley, Head of Security and Visitor Services at the Victoria & Albert Museum
  • Toby Bull, Senior Inspector, Hong Kong Police
  • Michael Will, Europol

3.30 pm – 4.00 pm Afternoon Tea

4.00 pm – 6.00 pm
3. Detection, Prosecution and other legal action

  • Professor Robyn Sloggett, Director, Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation, University of Melbourne
  • James Ratcliffe, Art Loss Register
  • Robert A. Kugler – Barrister/Solicitor (Rechtsanwalt), Höly, Rauch & Partner - Lawyers, Berlin

Presentations from the first workshop can be found on the Queen Mary University website via the link here.

November 9, 2016

Conference - Second AHRC Workshop | Art, Crime and Criminals: Art, Crime and Criminals: Painting Fresh Pictures of Art Theft, Fraud and Plunder


Organised by Professor Duncan Chappell,  Dr Saskia Hufnagel and Ms Marissa Marjos.

Date: January 16, 2017

Workshop costs: Free, registration required 

Following the success of the first workshop, this second workshop aims specifically at discussions in the area of art fraud and forgeries. The following (third) workshop will focus on looting and iconoclasm (June 2017, Berlin, Ministry of Finance). 

All workshops will be structured around a number of presentations by prominent actors in the field, but the main parts are discussions around the topic between all participants.   

The aim of the workshop series is to encourage interdisciplinary research, cross-jurisdictional sharing of knowledge and exchange of ideas between academics, practitioners and policy makers. Practitioners will be invited from various backgrounds, such as, police, customs, museums, galleries, auction houses, dealerships, insurance companies, art authenticators, forensic scientists, private security companies etc.  

The proposed network not only aims at bringing the different players together, but also establishes a communication platform that will ensure their engagement beyond the three workshops.  Organisations invited to the 2nd workshop include:

The Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA), Metropolitan Police, German Police (LKA Berlin), Hong Kong Police, Europol, Authenticators and Art Experts, The Art Loss Register, Art Recovery International, Private Policing Sector, Victoria and Albert Museum (Security), National Gallery, Historic England, Artists/Forgers, Insurance Sector, Journalists, Association of Chiefs of Police, MPs, Academics from various disciplines, Art Dealers and many more. 

Workshop 2 will focus specifically on the subject area of art fraud and forgery. In an international art market that is currently reaching record levels of pricing and unprecedented levels of speculative sales and investment the incentives for art fraud and forgery have never been higher. Among questions to be addressed will be: 

1.What is the prevalence of this type of crime? 

2.Who are the principal participants? 

3.To what extent are existing regulatory mechanisms effective? 

4.Is self-regulation of the art market the way forward? 

5.How are forgeries placed on the market? 

6.What scientific measures can be taken to better protect the art market? 

7.How should identified fraudulent works of art be dealt with? 

8.How can the legal and financial risks in authenticating works of art be mitigated? 

9.00 am Registration

9.30 am – 10.00 am
Introduction by Duncan Chappell and Saskia Hufnagel

10:00am – 11.30 am
1.           International Case Studies 
Dr. Noah Charney, founder, Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA)

Rene Allonge – Detective Chief Superintendent, Criminal Investigation Office (State of Berlin) and Seven Weigel – Detective Superintendent, Criminal Investigation Office (State of Berlin)

Saskia Hufnagel, QMUL

Coffee Break 11.30 am – 12.00 pm
12.00 pm – 1.00 pm
Presentation by and Dialogue with John Myatt

1.00pm - 2.00 pm Lunch

Afternoon
2.00 pm – 3.30 pm
2.          International Law Enforcement and Security Perspectives
 Vernon Rapley, Head of Security and Visitor Services at the Victoria & Albert Museum

Toby Bull, Founder, TrackArt - Art Risk Consultancy

Michael Will, Europol

3.30 pm – 4.00 pm Afternoon Tea

4.00 pm – 6.00 pm

3.        Detection, Prosecution and other legal action
Professor Robyn Sloggett, Director, Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation, University of Melbourne

James Ratcliffe, Art Loss Register

National Gallery

Robert A. Kugler – Barrister/Solicitor (Rechtsanwalt), Höly, Rauch & Partner - Lawyers, Berlin

Presentations from the first workshop can be found on the Queen Mary University website via the link here.