Showing posts with label Interpol. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Interpol. Show all posts

May 6, 2020

INTERPOL, Europol and World Customs Organization joint investigation produce results.

Interpol has issued a preliminary announcement on Operations Athena II and Pandora IV. 

In both initiatives, 300 investigations led by customs and other law enforcement authorities from 103 countries, supported by Europol, INTERPOL and the World Customs Organization (WCO), have joined forces against the trafficking of cultural goods within the framework of #EMPACT (European multidisciplinary platform against criminal threats). 

Europo, INTERPOL and the WCO played a key role in implementing the entire operation by facilitating information exchange and by providing analytical and operational support.  

The footage coming from the Spanish Civil Guard (Guardia Civil) is pretty impressive. 

As can be seen by the Roman numerals after these target investigations, these are not the first coordinated initiatives designed to target criminal activity related to art.  For several years now, law enforcement and customs has worked together to inspect auction houses, art galleries, museums and private residences, as well as ports, airports and border crossing points in search of illicit material.

According to the EUROPOL press release more than 19,000 objects have been recovered in the course of some 300 investigations.  Seizures are reported to include ancient coins, archaeological objects, ceramics, historical weapons, paintings, fossils and metal detectors.

February 9, 2019

Letter from the UN Chair of the Security Council Committee concerning Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Da’esh), Al-Qaida and associated individuals and their involvement in heritage plunder

In a letter dated 15 January 2019, signed by Dian Triansyah Djani, the UN Chair of the Security Council Committee, pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999), 1989 (2011) and 2253 (2015) concerning Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Da’esh), Al-Qaida and associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities and addressed to the President of the Security Council the chair writes...

Section III82. Despite systematic consultation with Member States, the Monitoring Team has been unable to establish that ISIL ever generated significant funds from human slavery or sexual violence, although it was certainly massively engaged in such crimes on a basis internal to the so-called “caliphate”. Member States also broadly share the analysis that ISIL did not systematically or fully exploit the funding potential of looting and trading in antiquities and cultural goods. Nevertheless, it will not be possible to draw firm conclusions on this until more is known about what was taken, and until enhanced detection and enforcement efforts have yielded more information.

While the 25-page report goes on in Section B. Resolution 2347 (2017) on Cultural Heritage to mention the strategic and exemplary training conducted by the World Customs Organization, who have launched a training handbook on the prevention of illicit trafficking of cultural heritage, it omits other UN trainings facilitated by UNESCO such as the Countering Antiquities Trafficking in the Mashreq: A Training Program for Specialists Working to Deter Cultural Property Theft and the Illicit Trafficking of Antiquities program.  

This 5-day training, animated by experts from UNESCO, UNIDROIT, INTERPOL, ICOM, UNODC and four trainers from ARCA (Association for Research into Crimes against Art), was structured around four modules, each designed to address issues of common concern in affected source and transit countries. The topics addressed included: Museum and Site Risk Management and Hazard Mitigation; Art Crime Policing and Law; The Conflict Antiquities Trade - Characterizing and Anticipating Trafficking of Cultural Heritage and Cultural Property Crimes in the Context of Contemporary Armed Conflicts; The International Art Market and The Trade in Unprovenanced Antiquities - The Interface Between Legal and Illegal Actors in Source and Market Countries.

Sessions for Countering Antiquities Trafficking in the Mashreq consisted of a mixture of lecture presentations involving art security awareness briefings, comprehensive discussions and practical demonstrations that all have the same primary objective – to pass on specialist knowledge while allowing a limited amount of time for practical, first-hand discourse drawing on the participants own experiences thereby allowing for contemplation and further debate.

ARCA's collaboration on this in-country UNESCO training for representatives from Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey is not the only UN facilitated training omitted from this report, nor is it the only non UN training program which has been developed to assist in the battle against plunder in conflict.  

ARCA also provides intensive Minerva Scholarship training for eleven weeks in Italy for Levant heritage professionals, established in response to scholarly concerns of heritage destruction and looting throughout Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen.  Other NGO's, likewise have also supported and/or conducted training to assist in this critical area of concern.  

Underscoring for a second time, the UN Chair's statement:

"it will not be possible to draw firm conclusions on this until more is known about what was taken, and until enhanced detection and enforcement efforts have yielded more information." 

Most endeavours to establish such information have, are, and will continue to be seriously hampered by chronic underfunding.  This makes it difficult, if not impossible, for member states or UN agencies and their NGO partners and affiliate supporting organisations to respond effectively to the scale and scope of the problem. 

January 13, 2018

INTERPOL's Most Wanted stolen works of art lists

Image Credit INTERPOL - Works of Art Unit

Every June and December, INTERPOL, the International Criminal Police Organization publishes a poster which highlights key works of art that the law enforcement organization designates as important stolen works of art taken in incidences which have been reported during the previous six months. 

Distributed via all INTERPOL NCBs (National Central Bureaus) biannually to law enforcement agencies worldwide and available to the interested public on the INTERPOL website, their ID tool raises awareness of specific works of art to be watching for.  

Since the publication of INTERPOL's first stolen works of art poster in June 1972, the organization has brought attention to 534 stolen objects; 51 of these  objects have been recovered. 

In addition to the biannual posters, INTERPOL sometimes publishes highlight posters designed to draw attention to serious multi-object thefts of substation value that occur at single locations.  

Recent examples of these include: 

Image Credit INTERPOL - Works of Art Unit

Image Credit INTERPOL - Works of Art Unit

Image Credit INTERPOL - Works of Art Unit

Image Credit INTERPOL - Works of Art Unit
While Ukrainian border guards recovered 17 of the stolen Old Master paintings worth $18.3 million from the Italian museum, other historical objects in Iraq and Syria are still missing. 

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:

Bosnia and Herzegovina
the Netherlands
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.

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!

October 13, 2016

Conference: Art, Antiquities, Heritage and Wildlife Crime in Southeast Asia - 22 October 2016

Conference Venue: The Chinese University of Hong Kong Graduate Law Centre, The Faculty of Law, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, 2/F, Bank of America Tower, 12 Harcourt Road, Central, Hong Kong.

Date and Time: Saturday 22nd October, 2016, 9.30 am- 5.15 pm.

Registration and attendance is free.

The Faculty of Law at the Chinese University of Hong Kong presents a conference as part of its 10th Anniversary celebrations to consider crime involving art, antiquities, cultural heritage and wildlife in Southeast Asia and beyond. The Conference will involve academics, legal practitioners, the Hong Kong Police Force, Interpol and US Homeland Security. The speakers will consider issues involving art crime and cultural heritage protection in Southeast Asia including the looting and illicit traffic in antiquities in Southeast Asia. There will also be a special panel considering the trade in endangered species focusing on Hong Kong’s place in the illicit trade in ivory.


Managing Director, Head of Private Client Services, K2 Intelligence

Criminal Intelligence Officer, Works of Art Unit, Interpol

Senior Inspector, Hong Kong Police Force

Senior Consultant, Head of Private Wealth - China, Herbert Smith Freehills

Associate Professor of Practice in Law, The Faculty of Law, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Associate Professor, the Hakubi Center for Advanced Research of Kyoto University

Professor of Criminology at Victoria University of Wellington, member of the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research at the University of Glasgow (Trafficking Culture)

Police Commandant Ministry of Interior International Police Co-operation Directorate

Assistant HSI Attaché, Homeland Security Investigations, Hong Kong, Macau & Taiwan

For further details please contact: 
Ms Bonnie Leung ( or Steven Gallagher (

June 19, 2014

Panel on "The Vulnerabilities of Sacred Art In Situ: Yesterday and Still Today" for ARCA's Sixth Annual Interdisciplinary Art Crime Conference

The panel on "The Vulnerabilities of Sacred Art in Situ" will highlight these issues:

The Theft and Ransom of Caravaggio’s “St. Jerome Writing”, Co-Cathedral of St. John
Rev. Dr. Marius Zerafa, O.P. S.T.L., Lect. Th., A.R. Hist. S., Dr. Sc.Soc Founder of the Museum of Fine Arts in Valletta, Malta Former Curator and Director of the Malta Museums

Fighting the Thieves in Italian Churches
Judith Harris, Journalist (ARTnews; Author, Pompeii Awakened, The Monster in the Closet

Evacuate the objects from vulnerable religious sites? No, protect them in situ!
Stéphane Théfo, Police Officer/Project Manager, INTERPOL Office of Legal Affairs

You may read more about the conference to be held June 27-29 in Amelia here.

January 7, 2014

Tuesday, January 07, 2014 - , No comments

Postcard from Paris: ARCA Lecturer Judge Arthur Tompkins visits INTERPOL and swabs for DNA analysis

by Judge Arthur Tompkins

INTERPOL is, in popular culture, a near-mythical organisation, one that tends to conjure up an aura of omnipotence and omnipresence, exercising extensive powers and influence, not to mention deploying an army of emblazoned officers to patrol the world’s trouble spots. Every now and then a shadowy black-ops Interpol force supposedly swings into well-oiled action, to keep the world safe from nefarious villains bent on world domination, and then fades back into the shadows from whence it came.

For example, a few years back, in the Hollywood blockbuster, ‘The International’, Clive Owen played an intrepid Interpol officer who single-handedly pursued and destroyed a vast international criminal bank across an ever-changing backdrop of a variety of exotic international locations, enduring but never succumbing to repeated and seemingly never-ending hailstorms of bullets.

The reality is a little more prosaic. INTERPOL’s core business is as an information clearing house, global communications network, database repository, and point of contact between national police forces. It has a staff of about 700, split between permanent and contracted staff, and police officers and other personnel seconded to INTERPOL from member states’ national police forces.  INTERPOL does not itself arrest criminals, nor does it operate any incarceration facilities, - those activities it leaves up to ordinary run of the mill police forces.  It does provide specialist teams to assist in the event of things like mass disasters, very high-profile security assistance, and situations requiring very specialist skill-sets, like dealing with Somali pirates off the coast of West Africa.  It is these folk who you might see wearing and carrying the INTERPOL branding.

It is to the glass and marble headquarters building on the banks of the Rhone River in Lyon, France, that I return every couple of years or so for a regular Forensic DNA Users conference.   Approaching the building, as I usually do atop my Velib bike along a long path lined by tall Plane trees running parallel to the Rhone River, the security arrangements are immediately obvious – a high and spiky-topped green steel fence surrounds the whole building, topped by several parallel strands of what look like (and doubtless are) high voltage wires.  The only way in is through a stylishly designed gatehouse, where one’s passport is scrutinised and checked against a list of names of those expected to pay a visit that day. Bags are X-rayed, bodies are scanned in airlock type thingies with curved glass sliding doors, and then you emerge on the other side to cross a paved open courtyard (this week, usually swept by persistent rain …) to the main front entrance of the building itself. 

Inside things are quite striking. The central core of the building is an airy and light-filled hexagonal central atrium that rises five floors to the glass roof. The floor of the atrium has a large, tiled mosaic of the Interpol crest centred around a world map.  Arrayed around this atrium are several floors of offices, served by glass-sided elevators running up and down the corners of the atrium.   On the ground floor are a large auditorium, where the conference is held, meeting rooms, a substantial dining room and, importantly, a large bar/café presided over by the smoothly balletic Christian – he has been presiding over the Interpol bar for all of the ten years I have been coming here, and he does so with a mesmerisingly smooth grace and economy of movement – never flustered, always elegant and measured and efficient.  An artiste of a barista …

The other notable, and perhaps unexpected, feature is the INTERPOL gift shop. There one can select from a wide range of INTERPOL-crested items, including silk ties and scarves, vases, letter openers, mousepads, children’s wear and other attire.  It also stocks a range of wine – this is France, after all.  Given its location, this shop probably has the lowest rate of stock losses to light-fingered larcenists of any boutique, anywhere.

The other highlight of this year’s conference has been that I now have had done my very own forensic DNA profile. During the conference a number of companies have been displaying the very latest in high-speed DNA analytical engines.  What once took weeks in a specialised lab, using an array of delicate scientific instruments and robotically controlled analytical wizardry operated by a series of highly trained scientists and analysts, can now be done in about 90 minutes in a box roughly the size of a large photocopier (Should you wish to buy one, it will however set you back about US $250,000,000).  I duly scrapped the inside of my cheek with a cotton bud, popped it into the required receptacle, and 90 minutes later my DNA profile popped out. What immediately lept off the page describing my genetic make-up is a glaringly obvious, genetically-based but regionally-variable, vulnerability to sweet treats. In Italy this manifests itself in an irresistible attraction to gelato; here in France it is a similar weakness for  Fauchon-style macaroons. Also discernible is my repetitive tendency to indolence…

I’m thinking of having this printed onto a convenient wallet-sized plastic card. Teamed up with my Vatican library card, the matching pair would provide unique ID cover for both ends of the spectrum – in the spiritual realm with the Vatican card, and in the Darwinian world, my DNA ID …

Au revoir, Lyon.

March 1, 2013

Coverage of the first Conference on Protection of Cultural Property in Asia (15-18 February 2013, Thimphu, Bhutan)

Snowy entrance to convention center in Thimphu, Bhutan
By Julia Brennan, ARCA Alum 2009

Part I

The Royal Government of Bhutan graciously hosted the first Asian-based cultural security conference, under the auspices of the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs (MoHCa), and funded by Interpol and the Norwegian Department of Foreign Affairs. It was the first attempt to bring together professionals in the culture protection and law enforcement sectors to begin to develop networks and alliances in this region. In funding this convening, Interpol’s goal is to launch stronger initiatives with member states in Asia—promoting engagement and information exchange; regular posting on the stolen art database; and sustainable relationships with Asian country law enforcement and customs agencies.

The Royal Government of Bhutan was a gracious and generous host. For many attendees, it was a first visit to this remarkable and beautiful Kingdom.  This gathering was unlike most conferences where attendees are ‘on their own’ for most evenings and free days.  Instead, the foreign guests were treated to well-organized cultural tours of sacred monasteries and museums, and feted with rich local meals, cultural dance programs, comfortable hotels, hot stone baths, and quick shopping sprees - a rich and generous welcome and introduction to Bhutan. Everyone was humbled by the kindness and all-inclusiveness of our hosts.

The marchang, a traditional Bhutanese ceremony, performed.
Opening day began at the National Convention Center started with the marchang, a traditional Bhutanese ceremony performed to promote an auspicious start to a new endeavor. That night, a deep snow fell blanketing the country – an auspicious sign for our forum to protect cultural heritage. We were profusely thanked and blessed, as indeed the deities were pleased with our conference; the much-needed snow heralded a good start to the new year of the Water Snake, a robust harvest, and an end to the forest fires.

In attendance were about 30 international participants and 60 Bhutanese. The Bhutanese representation included the Cultural Officer and local police chief from each of the 20 national districts, as well as professionals from the Ministry of Home and Culture, local museums, and monasteries. Foreign participants came from Germany, Switzerland, France, Italy, The Netherlands, UK, USA, Korea, Australia, Vietnam, China and India. The strongest law enforcement sector heralded from Europe, with the Executive Director of Police Services of Interpol, M. Jean-Michel Louboutin as the Honorable Chief Guest. European police, investigators, criminologists, and customs agents made up the strongest component of the conference.

Interpol's Jean-Michel Louboutin with Brigadier Kipchu Namgyel, Chief of Police Royal Bhutan Police
The 20 presenters, chiefly non-Asian, laid out sound instruments, platforms, and methodologies for combatting the illicit trade and retrieving lost cultural heritage. It was a powerful tool kit that we began with.  It covered national and international laws, conventions, inventories and object ID databases, and international joint customs operations.  Presenters reviewed platforms such as ARCHEO, COLOSEUM, ICOM’s Red List and INTERPOL’s stolen art database.  Additional information was provided about museum security measures; investigations by police and criminologists; the role of prosecutors; the importance of preventative measures adopted from the conservation practice; and grass roots initiatives in culturally-rich areas.  The content-rich agenda even covered liaison with tourist and local infrastructure; use of the media to build awareness and participation; development of emergency and disaster preparedness; and the role of market versus source countries in the fight to protect cultural property.

Sadly, there was little police representation from most Asian countries. Noticeably lacking at this first Asian-based conference were law enforcement, customs, or Ministry of Culture personnel from Thailand, India, Nepal, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Singapore or Malaysia. Several of these countries - Thailand, China, and Singapore, for example - play major roles in international trafficking and trans-shipment.  Others, such as Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Indonesia, are victims of ongoing looting and theft of their cultural property. The Bhutanese may have benefited the most from this conference, with a strong and broad-based attendance, with several presentations focused on illicit trafficking and theft cases in Bhutan.

There was a paucity of dialogue about other Asian countries, with no mention or discussion of the ever-growing Asian-based market for antiquities. Singapore and Bangkok are both active illicit hubs, with China and Vietnam’s growing population of individuals with purchasing power creating renewed demand for antiquities globally.  Thus, it felt like a missed opportunity to not explore these newly emerging markets and laundering sites. At the same time, perhaps now that the first such gathering is complete, it’s possible that future gatherings will begin to address these major threats to regional cultural heritage.

Bhutan emerged as the star player in this conference and in the protection of their cultural property. A preview of this strong role was the large sign at the national airport customs picturing Bhutanese artifacts and stating “Help Us Protect our Culture and Heritage” (along with caveats, guidelines, and penal consequences). Bhutan is an active member of INTERPOL, with regular communications and postings to INTERPOL’s stolen art database. It also has a sound and growing national database (both written and photographed) of their cultural heritage; training and posting of cultural officers in all the districts widely distributed and culturally-aware police force, and a strong base of nationalism and religious beliefs by the population at large. Bhutan is actively engaged in the protection of their religious heritage and presented several compelling talks focused on the theft and loss, recovery and preventative methods in place.

Bhutanese speakers included: The Minister of Home and Culture, H.E. Lyonpo Minjur Dorji; Mr. Dorjee Tshering, Director General of the Department of Culture; Mr. Tshewant Gyalpo, Director of Department of Culture; and Brigadier Kipchu Namgyel, Chief of Police Royal Bhutan Police.  All gave clear overviews of the current state of cultural property protection, regional statistics of loss, including case studies of the on-going vandalism of remote chortens or stupas. These religious sites are primarily targeted for the possible snatching of the valuable dzi bead, or cat’s eye agates. Since these relic beads are greatly sought after by Taiwanese and Chinese willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars for a stunning example, the thefts continue, perhaps by hire, and certainly executed by a well-greased international smuggling ring. The violation of these sacred protective sites deeply pains the Bhutanese, and steps are being taken to stem the on-going vandalism. Several law enforcement experts from Europe, as well as the deputy director of UNESCO, met with Bhutanese officials to discuss the urgency of this problem, and launch of a strategy and programs to end these thefts.

Ms. Brennan's coverage of the conference will continue tomorrow.

February 6, 2013

Belgian Police Searching for Snuffboxes Stolen from Residence before New Year's Eve

INTERPOL has issued an alert that Belgian Police are searching for 18th and 19th century snuffboxes and boxes stolen December 30 from a Namur residence in the south of Belgium (INTERPOL added 56 stolen items to its  Works of Art Database).

One of the snuffboxes (dated 1795-1797), pictured to the left, is made of gold, diamonds, and translucent blue enamel.  On the lid is a portrait of Napoleon painted on ivory.  It is signed 'AUGUSTIN'.  The jeweller is identified as Adrien Jean Maximilien Vachette, the French goldsmith.  The snuffbox is engraved with "No. 35.E", the same number handwritten on a sticker inside the case that bears the coat of arms of the emperor.

In September 1979, the Smithsonian Institute reported the theft of a $125,000 gold snuffbox, a gift from the Russian Empress Catherine the Great to one of her lovers, Prince Gregory Orlov.  Three years later, the FBI revealed that the gold box had been stripped of its diamonds and melted down.

February 3, 2013

Cultural Property: Upcoming Conference on the Protection of Cultural Property in Asia

Here's a link to the Conference on the Protection of Cultural Property in Asia to be held February 15-18th in Thimpu Bhutan.  This conference, sponsored by INTERPOL and the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs,  will include a session on the issues of working with INTERPOL in protecting and recovering cultural property in Bhutan.  We'll amend this post to include the final agenda once posted online.

November 12, 2012

Conclusions of Interpol's first international conference on counterfeit art

Last month Interpol's first International Conference on Counterfeit Art arrived at a list of "Conclusions" in Lyon.  The conference identified "a rising trend in all forms of counterfeit art, fakes, forgeries and international misattribution of works of art and cultural heritage" causing "significant economic prejudice and non-material damage" by "substantial criminal assets generated by the production and distribution of counterfeit art" due to the lack of awareness and of appropriate national laws and international legal instruments."

The Interpol conference recommended that member countries:
"(1) RAISE public and political awareness of the increasing trend in counterfeit art, fakes, forgeries, and intentional misattribution, and the impact on cultural heritage, the art market and historic and scientific knowledge";  (2) ENFORCE, review and, if necessary, adapt existing national laws to be able to fight the above-mentioned crimes effectively;  (3) CALL FOR counterfeit art to be explicitly included in regional and international laws criminalizing other types of counterfeiting or DEVELOP specific regional and international legislation on this subject;  (4) DEVELOP mechanisms and procedures to fight counterfeit art effectively, if necessary by creating working groups and inter-sectorial commissions;  (5) SUPPORT national  law enforcement agencies in preventing and suppressing the above crimes and in allocating adequate resources;  (6) DEVOTE, where possible; additional efforts and resources to tracing assets generated through the above crimes so as to dismantle the criminal networks involved;  (7) ENHANCE the information exchange on the above crimes through INTERPOL channels, and share experiences and best practices among member countries; (8) DEVELOP AND DISSEMINATE a checklist of precautions to be taken by potential customers to prevent them from acquiring fake objects; (9) DEVELOP AND DISSEMINATE a set of principles for professionals to prevent them from becoming invovled in the commerce of fake objects.
Here's a link to an article published last week in the New York Times: "With rules Murky, Fake Artworks Stay on the Market."

November 11, 2012

Interpol’s International Conference on Counterfeit Art

By Colette Loll Marvin

Recently, I had the honor of being invited to speak at the first ever International Conference on Counterfeit Art, sponsored by Interpol and held in Lyon, France.  The two-day meeting (October 23 and 24), gathered nearly 70 representatives from law enforcement, private institutions and international organizations from 22 countries, and focused on the need for increased information exchange and for enhanced public and government awareness of art forgery and related crimes. This global trade in illicit art runs into the billions of Euros each year.  Link to press release.

The most exciting part about participating in this conference was meeting law enforcement officials from all over the world, many presenting specific case studies about organized art forgery rings they have been successful in stopping and prosecuting. The German police summary of their work on the Beltracchi case was especially impressive! Also, it was important to hear from several artist foundations and artist right’s holders about their ongoing challenge to protect the cultural legacy of modern masters from the dilution caused by the massive influx of forgeries, many from online sources. The economic, legal, aesthetic and scholarly implications of this crime are far reaching.  I presented a lecture entitled “Fakes, Forgeries and EBay” detailing some of the challenges of investigating Internet art fraud.  I was joined by a materials scientist and an art historian from an art forensic laboratory.

This cultural heritage conference culminated with a collective draft of a very specific set of conclusions that the delegates worked together to create and refine.  Ultimately, the collective hope of the delegates is that this rising trend in all forms of counterfeit art, fakes, forgeries and intentional misattributions of art and objects of cultural heritage can be reversed with increased educational awareness and corresponding increases in law enforcement resources dedicated to this specific criminal phenomenon.

June 11, 2012

Anniversary of Gustave Courbet's Birth and the Number of Stolen Courbet Paintings Reported by Interpol

Courbet's Coastal Landscape in North of France/Interpol
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Huffington Post contributor Priscilla Frank saluted Gustave Courbet's birth on June 10, 1819 with a tribute to the artist and a selection of ten of her favorite paintings.

On the ARCA blog, we've covered a Courbet painting stolen from a gallery in Swansea, Wales in 1957; a landscape stolen from the Montreal Museum of Fine Art in 1972; and a Nazi-era looted painting of a dead deer.

Interpol's Stolen Art Database lists 10 works by Courbet that remain stolen (identified by their Interpol titles in English): Coast Scene with Cliffs and Breaking Waves (Swansea, 1957); Self-Portrait (Italy, 1971); Landscape with Rocks and Steam (Canada, 1972); Head of a Young (France, 1981); Standing Man (Switzerland, 1984); La Mer (Switzerland, 1992); Stream of Consolation (France, 1997); Landscape (Paraguay, 2002); Coastal Landscape In North of France (Switzerland, 2008); and   Shot Deer (Slovenia, 2010).

May 12, 2012

Courthouse News Service: "Stolen Pissarro Turns Up with Walrus Tusks, Polar Bear Belts"

On May 3, Purna Nemani reported for the Courthouse News Service that stolen paintings had been found by an undercover wildlife agent in Anchorage, Alaska.

Five stolen works of art found include a chalk study, three watercolors,and an oil painting: "Study of Alexa Wilding," by Dante Gabriel Rossetti; "Milton" by Lucien Pissaro; "Nests at Kilmurry" by Mildred Anne Butler; "Castle and Figures in a Farmland" by William Payne; and "Landscape and Cattle on the Thames" by Henry Garland.  Nemani wrote:
All were originals and/or signed; most were produced in the 19th century and had been auctioned to private sellers at Christies and houses at museums in America and London, accordign to the police report (Bloomfield Police Report) and the federal complaints.  Three of the five works had been reported stolen by a private owner, Nicolette Wernick, and were valued at $68,000, according to the police report and complaint.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife discovered the stolen art in September 2010 in a suspect's home.  According to the forfeiture complaint:
He told the agent how the paintings were stolen by his half-brother, later identified as Mario Murphy, and some other 'cousins,' from the Wernick Collection approximately five years before.
The suspect apparently wanted the undercover agent for the Fish and Wildlife Service to find a buyer for the stolen artwork in exchange for a finder's fee.

Interpol did not list the Lucien Pissarro painting in its Stolen Art Database; the only painting by the artist identified on the list is "Fog over Herblay" stolen from France in 1999.

Nemani reports that 'three of the five paintings were confirmed as stolen through the "Art Loss Register" and are currently in custody of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

May 10, 2012

More confirmation of old news? Pietro Grasso, head of the anti-Mafia crime unit, confirms in May that Caravaggio's Nativity of Palermo eaten by pigs

Caravaggio's Nativity from Palermo
In 2009, Judith Harris wrote for the ARCA blog a post titled "Breaking News on the Stolen Caravaggio Nativity" that a member of the mafia told law officials that the painting was likely destroyed in the 1980s.  But just last week, Journalist Noel Grima for The Malta Independent online reported May 6th that Pietro Grasso, the head of the anti-Mafia crime unit, confirmed again that legal authorities believe that the Caravaggio of Palermo has been eaten by pigs.

Possibly no one wants to believe that the painting has been so carelessly destroyed; the FBI and Interpol still list the painting as stolen and missing.

Grima repeats a formerly published article in "Arezzo, il Procuratore antimafia Pietro Grasso: il Caravaggio di Palermo mangiato dai porci" dated April 22 reports that Grasso confirmed during a press conference earlier rumors that the Nativity paintings with Saints Lorenzo and Francis of Assisi has likely been tossed around by criminals and ended up in a pig sty and eaten by rats and pigs over the years.
"Ci verrobbe tempo perché è una lunga storia ... ma riteniamo che il quadro sia finito nelle mani di ignoranti che l'hanno hascosto in una porcilaia, dove magari porci poi se lo sono mangiato."
Grima translates:
The anti-Mafia's head's reply was a chilling one: "We need more time because the situation is rather complicated, but we believe the painting ended up in the hands of ignorant people who hit it in a pigsty where the pigs ate it."
The Malta connected dates back to the 17th century when the artist was imprisoned there.  Caravaggio himself lead a tumultuous lifestyle documented in Italian police records.

Grima claims that a painting similar to The "Nativity" by Caravaggio would be worth $200 million while the FBI website estimates the value at $20 million.

In October 1969, two thieves entered the Oratory of San Lorenzo in Palmero, Italy, according to the FBI, and removed Caravaggio's Nativity with San Lorenzo and San Francesco from its frame.

Interpol still reports the painting as missing on its stolen art database and places the date of the theft as October 18, 1969.  Interpol lists nine other works by Caravaggio (or from the school of or in the manner of) as stolen: Portrait of an Old Woman, Montepulciano, Italy, December 22, 1970; Doubting Tomas from Frascati, Italy, March 15, 1974; Beggars and Invalids (copper painting) from San Sebastian, Spain, April 1978; Man with a Pendant Earring, The Draughts Players, and Venice Feeding the Cupids, from La Storta, Italy, December 1, 1979; Saint Gerolamo, from Dozza, Italy, June 4, 1985; Two Men Playing Dice, from Lessona, Italy, July 27, 1986; and Los Jugadores from Santa Fe de Bogata, Colombia, October 24, 1999.

April 27, 2012

Interpol's Stolen Art Database Reports Eight Cézanne Paintings Missing

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog

Interpol is the international police organization established in 1923.  In 2009, its database for Stolen Art was made available to the public.  It takes about one to two weeks to obtain permission and a password to access the lists of recovered and stolen art objects.

Earlier this month, police in Serbia recovered a painting by Paul Cézanne that had been stolen from an Impressionist museum in Zurich in 2008.  Interpol lists eight stolen artworks created by Cézanne.

Auvers sur Oise
Period: 1889-18892
Measurements: 46 cm x 55 cm
Stolen from Oxford, United Kingdom, on January 1, 2000.

La Montagne Sante Victoire
Period: Circa 1865
Measurements; 33 cm x 49 cm.
Stolen from Le Pecq, France, on March 27, 2008.

Peches sur un plat
Period: 1872-1877
Measurements: 23 cm x 30.50 cm
Stolen from Argentina, Buenos Aires, on December 26, 1980.

Still Life
Measurements: 49 cm x 64.20 cm
Stolen from Oberageri, Switzerland, on April 25, 1996.

Paysage au Lac
Period: 1896

Sentier parmi les roches
Period: between 1899 and 1902

Vue dans un jardin (watercolour)
Stolen from France on December 8, 2003.

Human Face

Stolen from France on December 8, 2003.  This watercolour is painted on the reverse side of another painting, Vue dans un jardin.

March 14, 2012

Joshua Knelman Launching "Hot Art" at The Flag Art Foundation in New York on March 22

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

"Interpol and UNESCO listed art theft as the fourth-largest black market in the world (after drugs, money-laundering, and weapons).  But what did that mean? ... one point was clear: don't look at the Hollywood versions of art theft -- the Myth.  This is a bigger game, with more players, and the legitimate business of art is directly implicated.  A lot of the crimes are hidden in the open.  Stealing art is just the beginning.  Then the art is laundered up into the legitimate market, into private collections, into the world's most renowned museums." -- excerpt from Joshua Knelman's Hot Art

Toronto journalist Joshua Knelman, author of Hot Art: Chasing Thieves and Detective Through the Secret World of Stolen Art (Tin House Books, 2012), will launch the American Trade Paper version of his  book from 6 to 8 p.m. on March 22 at The Flag Art Foundation in New York.

Knelman’s four year investigation of stolen art began with a local story about a burglary at a gallery in Toronto and ended with an international perspective. His nonfiction book begins in Hollywood in 2008 with the Art Theft Detail of the Los Angeles Police Department in a ride along with Detectives Don Hrycyk and Stephanie Lazarus who are investigating the robbery of an antiques store on La Cienega Boulevard.  Knelman immediately contrasts the meticulous and steady work of the police (he describes Hrycyk working art theft cases "with the patience of a scientist") with the images of glamorous heist movies such as The Thomas Crown Affair (1999).

In the first two chapters ("Hollywood" and "Law and Disorder") he links organized crime with art theft: the Los Angeles District Attorney's office had identified an Armenian gang for the antique-store job on La Cienega. In the second chapter, Knelman describes his coverage for The Walrus, a Canadian magazine, on a burglary at a small art gallery in 2003 and how the thief threatened him, tried to hand over stolen property to him, and then tries to educate him "about how art theft worked as an industry" as a way of distracting Knelman for the thief's own crimes:
He discussed how poor the security systems were at most of the major cultural institutions and of course at mid-sized and smaller galleries.  That made his job easier.  So there was that angle -- art galleries and museums weren't adequately protecting themselves against pros like him. 
Then he veered in another direction. 
"Okay, this is how it works," he said.  "It's like a big shell game.  All the antique and art dealers, they just pass it around from one to another."  He moved his fingers around the table in circles and then looked up.  "Do you understand?" He looked very intense, as if he had just handed me a top-secret piece of information, but I had no idea what he meant.  What did art dealers have to do with stealing art?  But our meeting was over.
Knelman published an article in The Walrus in 2005, "Artful Crimes", about international art theft.

In his book, Hot Art, Knelman meets cultural property attorney Bonnie Czegledi (author of Crimes Against Art: International Art and Cultural Heritage Law (Carswell, 2010) who introduces him to the roles of Interpol; the International Council of Museums; the International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR) and the Art Loss Register.  Knelman traveled with Czegledi to an International Council of Museums conference in Cairo, at his own expense, getting shaken down by a conference organizer for additional hotel fees above and beyond what he had agreed to pay the hotel manager.  Knelman meets Canadian police officer Alain Lacoursière and speaker Rick St. Hilaire, then a county prosecutor in New Hampshire who lectured on the impact of art theft in the United States and "knew a lot about the impact of art theft on Egypt." He visits the Egyptian Museum in Cairo with St. Hilaire and provides a great history of the collection and Napoleon's visit in the 19th century.

Knelman provides a personal account, both thrilling and dangerous, and admirable.  The book contains primary information for research into the black market of art, including a few chapters with an art thief, Paul Hendry, in England.

The book also provides a detailed profile of Don Hrycyk at the LAPD and the history of the Art Theft Detail, beginning with the work of Detective Bill Martin and includes information about Hryck's investigation of a residential art robbery in Encino in 2008; other cases ("his work was the most detailed example I found of a North American city interacting with the global black market"); a tour of the evidence warehouse which included fake art that had been the subject of a string operation into a Dr. Vilas Likhite; and an anecdote of an attempted theft at an unnamed major museum under renovation in Los Angeles.  In 2008, Knelman also interviewed artist June Wayne, founder of Tamarind Lithography Workshop (now the Tamarind Institute), who had a tapestry stolen in 1975; Leslie Sacks, owner of Leslie Sacks Fine Art in Brentwood, who discusses security measures and two burglaries; and Bob Combs, director of security at The Getty Center.

Both Hrycyk and Czegledi reference art historian Laurie Adams' book, Art Cop, about New York Police Detective Robert Volpe, the first detective in North America to investigate art theft full-time (1971 to 1983) after his role as a undercover narcotics cop in the late 1960s in a famous case memorialized in the film The French Connection about a ring of heroin dealers importing the drug from France.

Knelman also interviewed Giles Waterfield, director of the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London when a Rembrandt was stolen in 1981; Richard Ellis, founder of Scotland Yard's Art and Antiques Squad; and Robert K. Wittman, the first FBI agent to investigate art theft full-time, when Wittman was six months away from retirement; and Bonnie Magness-Gardiner from the Art Crime Team at the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Alain Lacoursière, Montreal police officer investigating art crimes in Quebec, including the unsolved 1972 robbery of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

The book features the anonymous blogger Art Hostage (Paul Hendry) that turns out to be Knelman's source on art theft; Jonathan Sazonoff and his website The World's Most Wanted Art; and Ton Cremers and The Museum Security Network (MSN).

Joshua Knelman will also be speaking at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 20, at Book Soup in Los Angeles.

March 23, 2011

Wednesday, March 23, 2011 - ,,, No comments

UNESCO 1970 Convention Today: Last week's conference

Dr. Jorge Sánchez-Cordero speaking at the public debate.
by Catherine Schofield, Editor

Home from Paris, I will continue coverage of the UNESCO meeting on the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the 1970 Convention, the still to be ratified by one-third of the signatories of an international effort to stop the illicit trafficking of cultural property, as does the looting of archaeological sites all over the world.

The 1970 Convention, formerly known as the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property 1970, can be read here on UNESCO's website.

On March 15, in one of the auditoriums at the UNESCO building in the 7th arrondissement of Paris just a few minutes walk from Napoleon's Tomb, the meeting, "The 1970 Convention: Past and Future", began with a public debate moderated by journalist Louis Laforge. The speakers included Irina Bokova, Director-General, UNESCO; Bernd Rossbach, Director, Specialized Crimes and Analysis, INTERPOL; Dr. Jorge A. Sánchez Cordero, Director of the Mexican Center of Uniform Law; Stéphane Martin, President, Musée du Quai Branly; and Jane Levine, Worldwide Compliance Director and Senior Vice President, Sotheby's Auction House.

One of the scheduled speakers, Dr. Zahi Hawass, Egyptian's brief former Minister of Culture, was 'unable to leave Cairo' to attend the meeting. Instead, he sent a message that said he supported the fight against the illicit theft of cultural property and asked that people help Egypt find the items recently stolen from the Cairo museum.

"The art market is sometimes painted as the enemy," Jane Levine, a former American prosecutor said, after UNESCO's introductor remarks. Her job at Sotheby's, she said, is to train staff on how to ask questions about the provenance of objects. She works with a full-time department of lawyers and admits that her appointment is a change in the market's "new attitude" of focusing on the due diligence aspect of archaeological objects.

Mr. Rossbach told the audience that INTERPOL is a "crucial partner with UNESCO" in fighting the illicit trafficking in art and cultural objects. INTERPOL seeks the cooperation of specialized organizations like UNESCO and stressed the importance of training. INTERPOL released a summary of his statements on the group's website here.

Mr. Sanchez-Cordero said in Spanish, according to UNESCO's English translator, that the 1970 Convention 'has to play a prominent role in the new cultural order'. He said that the convention 'only protects objects placed on an inventory list, a problem in implementing the 'effectiveness' of tackling this problem and one that 'runs counter to archaeological sites and is a problem for countries of origin.' Another shortfall, he said, was that it was just not enough to adopt the international convention. "We shouldn't stop at that but follow-up and give countries of origin (of cultural objects) a system to follow up the convention and to take remedial action.'

Mr. Martin said in French, and I also paraphrase him through UNESCO's English translator, that French museums will not complete collections with objects that unlawfully entered the market. 'Most objects in museums haven't been created to be in a museum,' he said, 'so the wish to place them there doesn't fit in with all cultures, such as placing a religious object outside of a church. What is La Jaconde? Is it an Italian object because Leonardo da Vinci painted it? Or French because François I purchased it? Or is it Japanese because it's viewed by the Japanese?' It's a fascinating and complex issue. Everyone rejects a nationalistic view of the world. It's a cultural issue for everyone and counter to trade.'

UNESCO's Director-General, Madame Irina Bokova, said that she wanted to "ring the bell of the alarm" and find out how to "strengthen and implement" the 1970 Convention, mentioning that there was a "new conscience" in the past 40 years that supports cultural exchange, diversity, knowledge and art, but is against the "pillaging" of archaeological sites, the trafficking of illicit cultural objects which is "robbing" people of their identity, rights, and destroying archaeological sites and excavations. She commended the countries of Belgium, The Netherlands, and Switzerland who recently signed the convention. "Without international cooperation, it would be difficult to curb this trade."

Mr. Laforge asked INTERPOL's Rossbach if there are any major routes for illegal trafficking of cultural objects. "There is always a reaction and an action," Rossback said. "We cannot be fixed on one route. We are working with partners to identify those gaps."

Interpol has opened a new office in Singapore, Laforge asked as translated from French to English, is this indicative of a new market? "Yes," Rossbach answered. "Singapore is a sign."

According to UNESCO:
"The illicit trafficking of antiquities is estimated to be superior to US $6 billion per year, according to research conducted by the United Kingdom's House of Commons on July 2002.  Ten years later, the UN report on transnational crimes calculated that the world traffic in cocaine reached US $72 billion; arms, $52b; heroine, $33b; counterfeiting, $9.8B; and cybercrime, $1,253B.  Together with the trafficking in drugs and arms, the black market of antiquities and culture constitutes one of the most persistent illegal trades in the world."
We'll continue coverage of this UNESCO 1970 Convention meeting tomorrow.

January 26, 2011

Glasgow Police Recover A Corot and Two Other Paintings Stolen from Glasgow Museums but not Reported to Interpol's Stolen Art Database

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

The Herald in Scotland reported today that police have recovered a painting by French artist Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot and two other works (a landscape by the Scottish Post-Impressionist painter Samuel Peploe and another work by the Italian Renaissance painter Federico Barocci) that were "linked" to thefts of art from museums in Scotland in the 1990s.

A curator recognized Wooded Landscape with Figures by Corot in an auction catalogue last November, The Herald reported in "Exclusive: Police recover stolen art".

This Corot painting was not listed on Interpol's Stolen Art Database as one of the 16 Corot paintings reported stolen between 1972 and 2008 from Canada, Italy, France, the Czech Republic, Germany, and Slovenia. The retrieved Corot landscape was once part of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum which features French Impressionists and 17th-century Dutch and Flemish Paintings. The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow was closed for renovation from 2003 to 2006.

The article speculates that a member of the Glasgow City Council may have been involved in selling art from the Glasgow Museums due to the poor inventory controls. The investigation continues.

In addition to theft, Corot's art is one of the "most faked," according to Freemanart Consultancy which advertises itself as an expert in the fine art of authentication. Corot himself signed many faked and copied works by either his pupils or those of his artistic friends who needed money, according to Freemanart Consultancy.

Photos: Young Girl Leaning on Left Elbow (top) and Girl Musing by a Fountain (bottom), as titled in Interpol's Stolen Art Database, were two paintings by Corot taken from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 1972 and remain missing.