Showing posts with label Romania. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Romania. Show all posts

July 15, 2014

Kunsthal Rotterdam: Romanian court instructs convicted art thieves to repay insurers $26 million for paintings

Lucian Freud's "Woman with
Eyes Closed" (2002)
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

The AFP reported in "Art thieves ordered to pay millions over missing Picasso, Monet, Gauguin and Freud masterpieces" that the four convicted thieves who robbed the Kunsthal Rotterdam in October 2012 must pay 18 million euros ($26 million) to the paintings' insurers (unnamed):
Seven paintings that were temporarily on display at the Kunsthal Museum in Rotterdam were stolen in 2012 in a raid that lasted only three minutes, in what the Dutch media called "the theft of the century". A court in the Romanian capital ordered the heist's mastermind, Radu Dogaru, his mother Olga, Eugen Darie and Adrian Procop to reimburse the paintings' insurers. Prosecutors put the total value of the haul at over 18 million euros, while art experts at the time of the heist had claimed the paintings were worth up to 100 million euros. Olga Dogaru had previously told investigators that she burned the paintings in her stove in the village of Carcaliu in eastern Romania in a bid to protect her son when he could not sell them. She later retracted the statement, but a separate investigation is under way to determine if the masterpieces did end up in ashes.
In September 2013, Andrew Higgins for The New York Times reported that the Triton Foundation received $24 million from the underwriter (Lloyd's of London) that insured the stolen paintings in exchange for relinquishing title to the artworks.

Paul Gaugin, "La Fiancée"
Here's a look at the paintings stolen from the Triton Foundation.

The Kunsthal Rotterdam reopened Feb. 1, 2014 after an extensive renovation.

Art theft 'ringleader' convicted in November 2013 and given 6 1/2 year prison sentence; ringleader claims inside help. Three defendants pled guilty in October 2013.

Earlier, in August 2013, a defendants' lawyer claimed that five paintings could be returned if the trial was moved from Romania to The Netherlands.

In July 2013 Andrew Higgins for The New York Times wrote about Facebook's role during the sting operation and how the content from the social media site was used to identify suspects involved in the art theft. The New Yorker blogs that mother of suspect burned paintings. Said mother denies destruction of art; Budapest trial announced; and journalists try to figure out if paintings were actually incinerated.

October 22, 2013

Kunsthal Rotterdam Art Theft: Three defendants plead guilty. Radu Dogaru criticizes museum's security

Radu Dogaru, Alexandru Bitu and Eugen Darie, pled guilty today in a Bucharest courtroom for their part in the October 16, 2012 theft of seven paintings (Monet's Waterloo Bridge, London and Charing Cross Bridge, London, Picasso's Tete d'Arlequin, Gauguin's Femme devant une fenêtre ouverte, Matisse's La Liseuse en Blanc et Jaune, De Haan's Autoportrait, and Lucian Freud's Woman with Eyes Closed) belonging to the Triton Foundation and on display at the Kunsthal Museum in Rotterdam.

In his deposition to prosecutors, primary suspect Radu Dogaru contradicted his mother's earlier confession to burning the paintings telling the court that his mother made these statements under pressure from long interrogation by the Romanian police.

Criticisms of security

Dogaru went on to add disparaging comments about the perceived level of security at the Rotterdam museum saying "At first I thought the paintings were fake, because it was so easy to get inside."   He went on to contrast the security at the Kunsthal with that of the Louvre adding "where they have real security".  In pleading guilty Dogaru told the court he gained entry to the museum by opening the door with a screwdriver, adding he could even have entered without any tools. 

In an even more brassy twist of events, Dogaru's attorney, Cătălin Dancu, stated that they are considering hiring Dutch lawyers to introduce an action in court citing negligent security at the Kunsthal as the mitigating circumstance that led to her client's role in the late night thefts.   In addition to blaming the gallery for her client's sticky fingers, Dancu spoke with reporters during a break from the court proceedings and stated that Dogaru had inside help in the heist.  

When asked by the judge whether he had inside help, Dogaru refused to reveal the alleged unnamed accomplice's identity.

Sources:
http://www.reporterntv.ro/flux/radu-dogaru-eugen-darie-si-alexandru-bitu-au-recunoscut-faptele-de-care-sunt-acuzati-in-dosarul-furtului-de-tablouri

http://nos.nl/artikel/565440-verdachten-kunstroof-dagen-rdam.html

July 28, 2013

Kunsthal Rotterdam Theft: Facebook played a part in Romanian sting operation to identify art thieves

Andrew Higgins reporting July 26 for The New York Times from Carcaliu, Romania in "A Trail of Masterpieces and a Web of Lies Leading to Anguish", describes one of the admitted thieves as using the internet in a failed attempt to dispose of seven paintings stolen from the Kunsthal Rotterdam on October 16, 2012.

Mr. Higgins claims that Radu Dogardu used Facebook to tell alleged accomplice Mihai Alexander Bitu that he would agree to sell the stolen artworks to a local wine producer for 400,000 euro (US $531,000). However, the supposed buyer of the stolen paintings was cooperating with a Romanian prosecutor, Raluca Botea, in an "elaborate sting operation", according to Higgins who indicated that he'd seen 'a record of the exchange' on the social networking site.
Just a few hours later, however, the operation fell apart when Mr. Dogaru received a warning that the police were tapping his cellphone. Today, six months on, the fate of the paintings is still unknown, as law enforcement authorities in Romania and the Netherlands, as well as art lovers around the world, struggle to penetrate the fog of claims and counterclaims about what happened to the masterpieces, from the Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam.
Have they been burned, as Mr. Dogaru's mother, Olga, has at times claimed? Or perhaps spirited away by a tall mystery man in a fancy black car, as she has asserted at other times? Or could they, as many in the desolate village of Carcaliu believe, simply be hidden somewhere in this rural corner of Romania?
Mr. Higgins points out that the prosecutor, Mrs. Botea, has found 'contradictory lies' in what the Dogaru mother-and-son have told her office. This article looks at the village, the personal history of the suspect, and quotes 'an official indictment' that claims that the morning after the theft of the Kunsthal Rotterdam that Dogaru took five of the stolen paintings to Brussels to sell them to a mobster known as "George the Thief" then carried them back to Rotterdam after the sale failed.
Mr. Dogaru appears to have hidden the works initially in his family home but later moved at least some of them in a suitcase to the house of his mother’s sister, Marfa Marcu. Mrs. Marcu, in an interview, said she had never opened the suitcase. She says she last saw it when her sister took it away, along with a shovel, soon after Mr. Dogaru’s arrest. 
Mrs. Dogaru has told prosecutors that, with the help of her son’s girlfriend, she buried the case in the yard of an abandoned house. After a few days, they dug it up, wrapped the paintings in plastic and buried them in a nearby cemetery. 
The trail then goes cold. In an interview with prosecutors on Feb. 27, Mrs. Dogaru said that sometime in January, this time acting alone, she dug up the paintings and, desperate to destroy the evidence of her son’s theft, brought them home and burned them all — in a stove used to heat water for the bathroom and a sauna. 
How she managed to do this is not clear. The stove in which Mrs. Dogaru claimed to have shoved all the artworks is barely a foot wide and seems far too small to contain what would have been a bulky bundle of canvas and wood. 
In a written statement on Feb. 28, Mrs. Dogaru retracted the incineration story and said she had, in fact, handed the paintings to a Russian-speaking man, about 40, who arrived at her house in a black car. She explained that her son, whom she visited in prison to get instructions, had told her to expect such a visitor and to give him the paintings.

July 25, 2013

Kunsthal Rotterdam Art Theft: The New Yorker blogs on Claim that Mother of Suspect Burned Stolen Paintings from the Triton Foundation

Now on blog of The New Yorker writer Betsy Morais has weighed in today with "How to Catch an Art Thief When the Evidence Has Been Torched" by quoting a chemist on the type of "screening process" likely to be used to analyzed the charred remains of what may turn out to be the seven paintings stolen from the Triton Foundation while on display at the Kunsthal Rotterdam on October 16, 2012.
Upon arrival at a crime scene, if investigators were to find nothing more than black ash, analyzing any of it would be impossible. “But fortunately, that’s never really the case,” Tague said. “If things are charred, then you can typically identify which artist would have generated the art.” 
It’s a delicate process. The eye can only see something as small as seventy-five microns, or about the width of a strand of hair. “You’re looking for particles much smaller than that,” Tague said. “So it’s tedious, really tedious. And you don’t want to disturb a crime scene. So it could take weeks or months just to recover the particles.” Even just two or three microns of dust could be the key to identifying the signature of Picasso.
Ms. Morais reported that the director of Romania's Natural History Museum, Ernest Oberlander-Tarnoveanu, 'told me by email that they also found "fragments of paintings with imprints of the canvas".'

July 23, 2013

Kunsthal Rotterdam: Mother of Suspected Art Thief Denies Destroying Paintings to Judges in Budapest Court

The mother of a suspected art thief denied in court that she destroyed paintings stolen from the Kunsthal Rotterdam last October, according to Andrew Higgins reporting from Bucharest, Romania, in The New York Times on July 22 ("Romanian Denies Burning Art"):
Olga Dogaru, the Romanian woman who told investigators that she had incinerated seven works of art by Matisse, Picasso and other modern masters in an effort to protect her son, denied in court on Monday that she had burned the works. 
Standing alongside her son, Radu, 29, who has admitted stealing the paintings in October from the Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam, Mrs. Dogaru, 50, told a panel of three judges that her earlier account of destroyed the works in a stove at her house in the tiny village of Carcaliu was untrue. "I did not burn them," she said in a soft voice.
Here's a link to a description of the stolen paintings. Here's a link to last week's reports on the ongoing police investigation into the ashes found in Mrs. Dogaru's stove.

And here's a link to an "exclusive" article published in Reuters by Radu Marinas, "Romanian expert believes three artworks from Dutch heist destroyed":
"We gathered overwhelming evidence that three (of the seven) paintings were destroyed by fire," said Gheorghe Niculescu, head of the team from Romania's National Research Investigation Center in Physics and Chemistry, which has been examining ashes found in the police investigation. 
However, he could not say which of the seven paintings had been destroyed and did not explain how he was certain that the remains originated from works stolen from Rotterdam's Kunsthal museum last October, rather than other paintings.
Marinas reported:
Until Niculescu spoke to Reuters on Monday, none of the experts involved in examining the ashes had given a firm view on whether any of the paintings had been destroyed.
Niculescu said he was now sufficiently confident that three had been destroyed that his department, a unit of the culture ministry, would be submitting a detailed report to prosecutors this week.
NAILS IN THE ASHES
He said nails used to fasten the canvases to their wooden frames, recovered from the ashes in Dogaru's house, had been a crucial piece of evidence. "Their shape, the way in which they were manually manufactured and the metals they were made of, lead us to our conclusions," he said.
"We used X-ray fluorescence, X-Ray diffraction techniques, electronic and optical microscopy. I also got the best opinion of the national arts museum expert and there's no doubt here."
"Also Prussian Blue, a paint pigment discovered around 1715 and used on a large scale by painters from around 1750 ... which we found in very small traces of canvas, supports the case," Niculescu told Reuters.
 

July 17, 2013

Kunsthal Rotterdam Art Heist: Six People to be tried in Budapest for stealing 18 million Euros of art; DIOCT denies making any conclusions about the destruction of the stolen paintings

On Monday, July 15, Romanian authorities under the umbrella of "DICOT" will be prosecuting six people in a court in Bucharest for the theft of seven paintings from the Kunsthal Rotterdam on October 16, 2012, according to Mediafax.ro.

DIOCT is the Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism, within the Public Ministry/Romanian Police, with 280 prosecutors and another 200 administrators and 40 specialists to combat and prevent organized crime. According to a statement issued on July 17 by DIOCT related to the Kunsthal Rotterdam theft indicates (based upon a Google translation from Romanian to English) that the DIOCT is not confirming or approving any conclusions regarding the stolen paintings (alluding to the question of whether or not the paintings have been destroyed).

The DIOCT's press release dated July 15, 2013 (loosely translated by Google from Romanian into English) announces the indictment of defendants Radu Dogaru; Adrian Procop (în lipså); Eugen Darie;  Alexandru Mihai Bitu; Olga Dogaru; and Petre Condrat (still at large). The prosecutor claims to have evidence that the defendants acted as a criminal group to steal seven works of art stolen from the Kunstal Rotterdam on October 16, 2012, worth an estimated 18 million Euros. One of the defendants (Bitu) is accused of trying to sell the artworks stolen by three of the defendants (Dogaru, Darie and Procop). Condrat is accused of knowingly handling two of the stolen artworks. Defendant Olga Dogaru (mother of one of the suspects) is accused of transporting and concealing the stolen art. The trial will be held in Bucharest.

Kunsthal Rotterdam Art Heist: Journalists weigh in on reports of stove ashes evidence that suspects' mother destroyed stolen paintings when a buyer could not be found

Was this painting destroyed in Romania?
Alison Mutler for the Associated Press reported on July 16th in "Romania: Museum checks if paintings burned" that Romania's Natural History Museum is examining the ashes found in the stove of Olga Dogaru, the mother of Radu, one of the three suspects charged with stealing seven paintings from the Triton Foundation while on display at the Kunsthal Rotterdam on October 16, 2012.
Dogaru told investigators she was scared for her son after he was arrested in January and buried the art in an abandoned house and then in a cemetery in the village of Caracliu. She said she later dug them up and burned them in February after police began searching the village for the stolen works.
Ms. Mutler quotes prosecutor spokesman Gabriela Chiru as saying that it will take months to confirm Olga Dogaru's story.

In late May, the Agency France-Presse reported that Romanian prosecutors suspected that the paintings had been destroyed. Here's a link to that ARCA blog post and others about the art heist.

The Washington Post published an article ("Ash from the stove of woman who claims she burned stolen artworks contains canvas, paint") from the wire service the Associated Press claiming that the results from analyzing the ashes in the stove will be presented to the prosecutors next week:
A Romanian museum official said Wednesday that ash from the oven of a woman whose son is charged with stealing seven multimillion-dollar paintings -- including a Matisse, a Picasso and a Monet -- contains paint, canvas and nails.
The finding is evidence that Olga Dogaru may have been telling the truth when she claimed to have burned the paintings ... Ernest Oberlander-Tarnoveanu, director of Romania's National History Museum, told The Associated Press that museum forensic specialists had found "small fragments or painting primer, the remains of canvas, the remains of paint" and copper and steel nails, some of which pre-dated the 20th century.

"We discovered a series of substances which are specific to paintings and pictures," he said, including lead, zinc and azurite.
He refused to say definitively that the ashes were those of seven paintings stolen from Rotterdam's Kunsthal gallery last year, because he said it was not his postion to do so. He said justice officials would make that decision. 
He did venture, however, that if the remains were those of the paintings, it was a "crime against humanity to destroy universal art." 
"I can't believe in 2013 that we come across such acts," he said. 
Oberlander-Tarnoveanu said forensic specialists at the museum have been analyzing ashes from Dogaru's stove since March, and will hand their results to prosecutors next week.
In The Atlantic Wire, Alexander Abad-Santos speculates that the mother of one of the thieves burned the stolen paintings because the thieves could not find any buyers for the artworks:
According to Romania-Insider, an English-language news site, the suspects stashed the paintings at Olga's house because they were having trouble finding buyers. And citing a local report from Romania, the NL Times is reporting that experts have confirmed that the ashes are the burned remains of Monet and Picasso work. It should be noted, however, that the AP story conflicts with that local report, saying that the main prosecutor and officials said it could take months for the results to be confirmed.

May 31, 2013

Will the ashes in a stove in Romania prove to be the remains of the seven paintings stolen from the Triton Foundation exhibit at the Kunsthal Rotterdam?

Photograph of the image of the Matisse
painting from the Triton Foundation
 stolen from the Kunsthal Rotterdam
 on October 16, 2012.
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA blog Editor 

The prosecutor's office in Romania suspects the seven Triton Foundation paintings stolen from the Kunsthal Rotterdam last October 16 may have been destroyed, Agency France-Presse reported May 29. Art Hostage blogger blames this rumor on the failure to offer a reward for the return of this and other stolen art. Two years ago, reports surfaced that the paintings stolen from the Museé d'Art Moderne de la ville de Paris had been thrown in the trash.

According to AFP, investigators are examining ashes taken from the home of the mother of one of the suspects Kunsthal Rotterdam thieves to determine if they include remains of the stolen paintings, including works by Picasso, Monet and Matisse. Seven Romanians have reportedly been charged with the theft. Destruction of the paintings would eliminate evidence in the even the stolen works could not be sold or ransomed back to the art gallery in The Netherlands.

The Dutch website NU.NL quotes the lawyer for one of the suspects as denying that the ashes are any proof that the paintings were destroyed.

Here is a link to previous posts on the ARCA blog covering the Kunsthal Rotterdam theft, including information about the stolen paintings.

On the blog Art Hostage, Paul "Turbo" Hendry, a self-described former stolen art trafficker, blames destruction of stolen paintings on the lack of financial incentives to recovering or returning stolen art.

April 10, 2013

Louvre closed due to "exceptional circumstances"

Paris' Louvre at night (Photo by CR Sezgin)
The Louvre's website pops up a message today:
Due to exceptional circumstances, the Louvre museum is currently closed. We apologize for the inconvenience and will keep you informed when the museum opens again.
The New York Times' Arts Beat blog reported:

PARIS –The Louvre museum was shut on Wednesday after 200 guards and surveillance agents went on strike to protest the growing number of often violent pickpockets who prey on them and tourists. 
“For more than a year, pickpockets have come here every day,” Thierry Choquet, a member of the main union at the Louvre, said. “They threaten guards by telling them that they know where they live.” 
The pickpockets are often minors from Eastern and Central Europe, Mr. Choquet said, who “buy entry tickets, threaten agents and attack tourists.” 
On Wednesday the museum’s management said that it would beef up security forces at the Louvre, which usually attracts between 25,000 and 30,000 visitors a day at this time of year.
BBC News quoted sources as saying that the pickpockets included children.

The Guardian reported that earlier efforts had failed:
The museum said in a statement that pickpocketing was a growing problem despite measures taken last year, including tighter co-operation with the police and temporary bans on people already identified as pickpockets from re-entering the museum. Late last year, the Louvre filed an official complaint to the state prosecutor over visitors falling victim to the thieves.
The Telegraph reported how it's done:
Many of the thieves are children who get into the museum for free and then start asking people for money. 
“Do you speak English?” is their usual opening gambit, and then they surround victims, helping themselves to money and possessions.
And the difficulty in resolving the problem of the 'children of Romanian immigrants (France's Interior Minister)':
“The children are tough and very well organised,” said one member of [Louvre] staff. “They stop at nothing to get what they want, and work in gangs.
“We can only do so much, but arrests are usually impossible because of their young age. If they are kicked out, they return the next day. They are very aggressive towards staff, putting people in danger of attack.”

March 5, 2013

Dutch Police Arrest 19-year-old Romanian woman in connection with the Rotterdam Kunsthal Art Heist

Matisse painting stolen from Kunsthal Rotterdam
Monday March 4 Dutch police arrested a 19-year-old Romanian woman, the girlfriend of one of the suspected thieves responsible for robbing the Rotterdam's Kunsthal on October 16. 

In January, Romanian police arrested three men in Bucharest suspected of stealing seven paintings attributed to brand name artists such as Picasso, Matisse, Lucian Freud, and Paul Gauguin.

According to Reuter's Thomas Escritt reporting from Amsterdam yesterday, Dutch police's review of the art gallery's surveillance tapes of led authorities to two Romanian men, age 25 and 28, based upon 'their behavior and the frequency of their visits'. Escritt wrote:
Police believe the unnamed woman, the girlfriend of the 28-year-old, was living in the flat where the canvases were stored until they had been removed from their frames and transported to Romania.

January 22, 2013

Organized crime unit of Romanian police arrest three men for Kunsthal Rotterdam theft; no paintings found

Romanian police arrest three men suspected of robbing
Kunsthal Rotterdam last October.
Today DutchNews.nl in its post "Three arrested for Kunsthal art theft in Romania, say local media"cited Nos Television as the source of the information.

The photo to the left is from the online Romanian news service Adevarul.

On the Dutch television channel, Nos cites a Rotterdam police twitter for the information that none of the paintings stolen from a temporary exhibit on October 16 were recovered.  Nos cites Romania's antena3.ro for information that the suspects have been arrested and will be held for 30 days in police custody while the investigation proceeds.  According to the report out of Romania, the police on the case specialize in combatting Organized Crime and Terrorism.

Martijn van der Starre and Irina Savu for Bloomberg News quote police spokesman Roland Ekkers that none of the stolen paintings by Picasso, Monet, Matisse, Gauguin or Lucian Freud were found.  A Bucharest court issued the arrest warrant.
Kunsthal Rotterdam

According to Robin Van Daalen for The Wall Street Journal online (Three Arrested Over Dutch Art Theft), a Romanian police spokeswoman said 'that officers had "carried out multiple activities" at the request of organized-crime prosecutors and that the operations were continuing'.

BBC News covered the theft under Rotterdam Dutch art thefts lead to Romanian arrests.

You can read previous ARCA blog posts about this theft here regarding the theft; the press conference; expert opinions; questions the day after the theft; available information about the owner of the paintings, the Triton Foundation; discussion with former Scotland Yard art detective Charley Hill; discussion with security consultant Ton Cremers; case progress reported by Rotterdam-Rijnmond police; speculation that flipper method opened back door; AP's press conference video (excerpt); Dutch news reporting theft (video); theft shown on surveillance video; the question of fire alarmed doors; former FBI agent Virginia Curry on fire and safety; "overvaluation" of stolen paintings; private art investigator Arthur Brand on last year's rhino theft adjacent to Kunsthal and Irish organized thieves; and Brand on messenger bag used in theft.