Showing posts with label Scotland Yard. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scotland Yard. Show all posts

October 5, 2017

Good News: Scotland Yard Art and Antiques Unit will continue, with new permanent unit head.


After many impassioned arguments for the reinstatement of London's Art and Antiques squad London's mayor, Sadiq Khan, has confirmed that the deactivation of the New Scotland Yard unit has been solely temporary.  The squad's three officers, Detective Constables Philip Clare, Sophie Hayes and Ray Swan had been seconded to other duties temporarily as the result of unprecedented demands on law enforcement in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy.   

Later this month, a newly appointed permanent unit head, Detective Sergeant Rob Upham, will take up the post vacated by DS Claire Hutcheon who retired from the Art and Antiques unit last March.  

The Art and Antiques Squad of the New Scotland Yard is a specialised police responsible for the investigation of art and heritage crime in London.  The unit is situated within the section for Economic and Specialist Crime in the Metropolitan Police Service and is responsible for the London Stolen Art Database, a police register which stores information and images of 54,000 items of stolen property. 

August 27, 2017

While London's Art and Antiques is suspended, Mexico creates new federal police division to protect cultural heritage

Course Opening Ceremony Image Credit: INAH
While a lot of the art crime news recently has been about the (hopefully temporary) shuttering of New Scotland Yard's Art and Antiques unit in London as its officers are reassigned to work on the Grenfell Tower fire, Mexico seems to be moving in a more positive direction. 


The objective of the pilot course was to establish stronger links between the Secretariats of Culture and the government, in order to ensure the legal care and protection of Mexico's cultural heritage  as stipulated in the country's federal law on Monuments and Archaeological, Artistic and Historical Areas.

The government also announced the formation of a database to be developed to help police determine which heritage assets are susceptible to damage or theft as well as a documentary repository for information about investigations. 



February 13, 2017

Theft: Antiquarian Booksellers Association's reports dramatic book thief heist of 160 texts, some from the 15th and 16th centuries


The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers and the Metropolitan Police at Scotland Yard have confirmed a brazen the theft at a storage facility in Feltham, west London near Heathrow during the late evening and early morning hours of January 29-30, 2017. 

In what is being characterised as a well-planned and savvy burglary, thieves somehow avoided detection despite a 24-hour monitored intrusion detection system which included CCTV cameras and infrared motion detectors.  Entering the bonded warehouse by scaling up to the roof, the culprits breached the warehouse’s reinforced glass-fibre skylights, dropping down into the storage facility from above.

Once inside, they cherry picked books, some of which are incunabula, meaning they are editions printed in the first half-century of printing – the second half of the 15th century. Once the books were chosen, they were hoisted back up through the skylight and loaded onto a waiting vehicle. 

The thieves made off with 160 historic texts.  Bypassing other items, they specifically targets books from six sealed trunks belonging to three dealers,whose inventory was being held at the storage facility in advance of California's 50th International Antiquarian Book Fair.  

Some of the more recognizable (but not necessarily the most valuable) texts stolen during the brazen burglary are:


Two rare editions of Dante Alighieri's narrative poem "La Divina Commedia" (Divine Comedy), one published by Giolito in Venice in 1555 and another in Venice by Domenico Farri in 1569

Copernicus' major theory De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres), published in the year of his death, 1543. 

an early version of Italian polymath Galileo Galilei's famous Opera , (pictured below) who was tried for heresy in 1633 and sentenced to house arrest for his admiration of Copernicus.  This edition, by Carlo Manolessi, contains many unpublished writings, as well as various writings of opponents of Galilei, Capra, Colombe, Grazia, Grassi and others, with their with their refutations. Zeitlinger: "The first collected edition of Galileo's work". Lacking Dialogue of Maximum Systems and the Letter to Christina of Lorraine, then still at the Forbidden Index and which will have to wait until 1744 and respectively 1808 to be reprinted. However, the allegory of Della Bella, disguising the heliocentric system by Medici coat of arms, he succeeded to declare openly in the Frontispiece the Copernican heresy. Galileo is kneeling at the feet of three female figures inpersonificanti Astronomy, Optics and Mathematics; to them with his hand raised, shows the coat of arms from the center of which depart the light rays and the planets are arranged like the six globes of the coat of arms of the Medici. Riccardi: "This year, though less abundant of succeeding, and bran, it is nevertheless highly esteemed, and not easy to be complete, because the various treaties having numbering and frontispiece particular, they were often distracted by the whole body of works." "Questo esemplare corrisponde perfettamente a quello censito in Iccu. Cinti, 132; Gamba, 482; Zeitlinger, I, 1435-6; Riccardi, I, 518-9, n. 17; De Vesme, p. 255, n. 965; IT\ICCU\UFIE\000447.



An impressive copy of Jo(h)annes Myritius' "Opvscvlvm geographicvm rarvm, totivs eivs negotii rationem, mira indvstria et brevitate complectens, iam recens ex diversorvm libris ac chartis, summa cura ac diligentia collectum & publicatum. (Pictured below). Ingolstadt, Wolfgang Eder, 1590. In a contemporary vellum binding made with parts of a 15th-century missal mss., water-stained and wormed, some slight damage to spine, lack epistles & a full-page heraldic woodcut, and pp. 131-136 with the portrait and another full-page heraldic wood-cut, the penultimate leave with colophon and printer‘s device, and the final blank) 


Sir Isaac Newton's "Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy." (pictured below) Translated into English, and illustrated with a commentary, by Robert Thorp, M. A. Volume the First [all published]. London: Printed for W. Strahan; and T. Cadell, in the Strand, 1777. (and) Newton, Isaac. Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy translated into English and illustrated with a Commentary by Robert Thorp, D.D., Archdeacon of Northumberland. London: T. Cadell Jun. & W. Davies, 1802. The translator Robert Thorp's copy, with his name on title, extensively annotated by him in the mar-gins with diagrams.




Alessandro Meda Riquier of Meda Riquier Rare Books Ltd., in London lost a total of 51 books in the theft.  He estimates his company's losses at close to £1 million.

Speaking with Sky News Mr Riquier stated that 90% of German colleague Michael Kühn of Antiquariat Michael Kühn's books were taken, while Italian bookseller Renato Bado of Antiquariato Librario Bado E Mart S.A.S., from Padua estimates he has lost 60 percent of his holdings including the precious Copernicus.  Bado's stated losses are approximately £680,000. 

But why were the books at a storage facility in the first place? 

Storage facilities such as these are used for off-site storage of valuable rare books and archives in transit and in storage as they provide owners with condition reporting as well as a climate controlled settings to store objects at a museum-approved humidity. High relative humidity (RH) along with high temperature, can encourage potentially devastating biological damage to older texts.  Lower humidity or more accurately, controlled moisture content in equilibrium with lower RH slows can slow chemical deterioration and helps preserve historic texts. This makes bonded warehouses suitable for archives repositories, as well as for shipment intermediary points for historic books that are fragile.  

That is, of course, if the storage facility's security does what it is intended to do.

Theft to order or insider job?

A book antiquarian ARCA spoke with, who asked to remain anonymous, stated that he believes that the theft was ordered by a specific collector, since the stolen texts are quite recognisable and well documented.  Also with the announcement of the theft and the itemization of the texts stolen in the heist, they will be impossible to sell on the open market through legitimate auction houses or through book antiquarians.

Given the thieves went straight for the books, and appeared to know the vulnerabilities of the warehouse's security, it is plausible to consider that the thieves had awareness of what was being stored and how to enter the facility without being detected. 

Why steal rare books? 

Although the bulk of Nicolaus Copernicus’s book, demonstrating that the earth rotated around the sun, instead of the sun around the earth, was already finished in 1535, it was only printed in 1543, the year of the Polish astronomer’s death.

The first edition was printed in Nuremberg in 1543 and a second printing in Basel in 1566.  Around the globe, there are only 560 known copies of these two editions.   Purchased legitimately, like Lot 110 pictured below from a Christie's 2013 auction, first edition texts like this one are not only historically significant, but extremely valuable. 


The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers has published a lists detailing all the texts believed to have been stolen during the burglary.  They can be accessed here.

This listing which contains books and manuscripts from the 15th to the 20th century, covering a variety of topics including mediaeval book art, natural history, science, early renaissance printing, and travel has been logged with The Metropolitan Police's Stolen Art Database and stolen-book.org run by the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers.

Book and manuscript thefts have long been a problem for national libraries and private collectors.  Unfortunately when rare texts go missing, the actual monetary value of these works stands in second place to the incalculable history that is lost.

Since many of these texts may be identified by individual characteristics ARCA urges individuals involved in the rare book trade; collectors, institutions and book merchants to carefully check and verify all provenances, especially on historic texts printed in the second half of the 15th century.

The Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association asks for the book collecting public to be on alert and if anyone offers any of these titles, please contact the Metropolitan Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

For further details on the theft please contact ABA Secretary Camilla Szymanowska on 020 7421 4681 or at secretary[at]aba.org.uk or ABA Security Chair Brian Lake on 020 7631 4220 brian[at]jarndyce.co.uk.

By: Lynda Albertson

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.

July 28, 2016

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

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

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

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



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

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


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

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


November 28, 2012

Richard "Dick" Ellis on Working with Michel van Rijn

Richard "Dick" Ellis is an art crime investigator (with The Art Management Group), the former founder of Scotland Yard's Art and Antiquities Group, and a lecturer at ARCA's post-graduate program in researching art crime.

Here in this video "The Odd Couple of Art Theft" posted on YouTube, Mr. Ellis' discusses working with Mr. van Rijn, an admitted former smuggler.

October 18, 2012

Kunsthal Rotterdam Art Heist: Conferring with Charley Hill, former Scotland Yard art detective and undercover agent

By Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Charley Hill, former Scotland Yard art detective (who helped to recover "The Scream") and private investigator, shared his expertise and opinion with the ARCA Blog on the Rotterdam art heist at the Kunsthal art gallery on October 16, 2012.

ARCA Blog: The space at the 20-year-old Kunsthal Rotterdam shows temporary exhibitions and has no permanent collection. Rotterdam Police have said that the Kunsthal had a very good technological security system but no on-site guards. Did this make the Triton Foundation's collection vulnerable to theft? After all, the exhibit featured paintings by artists known to fetch high prices at highly publicized auctions.
Mr. Hill: If a museum is to show works of great art, it cannot be Fort Knox, nor a high security prison. So whatever the security at a museum, and the state of its alarm system, it will be vulnerable to attack. The best system is a combination of locks, bolts, strengthened glass, CCTV (seeing someone walking around with a balaclava on should be a clue that all is not well, if anyone is watching the monitor) and alarms with good human resources managing them 24 hours a day. That is expensive, and most museums cannot afford that combination, but they should always aspire to it and try to achieve it as best they can, particularly when they have other people's art treasures on loan for an exhibition.
ARCA Blog: This month in Santa Monica, California, a private collector, Jeffrey Gundlach, recovered stolen art valued around $2 million after offering a reward. However, other paintings from art heists -- Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 1972, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990, and the Van Gogh Museum in 2002 have never been recovered. What are the chances of seeing these seven stolen works taken from the Triton Foundation while on display at the Kunsthal?
Mr. Hill: These stolen works of art are likely to turn up again because they were stolen in an intelligent way, probably little damaged. But overall, stealing masterpieces is the most stupid thing a thief or thieves can do. They are not readily realisable as cash assets. They are unsaleable on the open market. The values attributed to them, and I read in the Independent this morning here in London that a figure for all of the stolen pictures was put at £250 million. What nonsense.
I also read that they were for some secret collector and his secret collection. More stuff and nonsense. In my experience the only Captain Nemo or Dr. No character I have ever met who collected stolen works of art is George Ortiz of Geneva. He used to show anyone his superb collection of looted antiquities, and every one of his friends and enemies knows what he has got. His main friends are the city fathers of Geneva who are set to inherit it all, and his enemies begin with Lord Renfrew, the famous Emeritus Professor of Archaeology at Cambridge University. Jules Verne and Ian Fleming (actually, Cubby Broccoli) invented all of that secret collector nonsense. These pictures will turn up in drugs raids and other searches over time, unless the police in Rotterdam get a good tip off soon and hit the place where they are stashed now.
ARCA Blog: The Santa Monica Police and Pasadena police in California were able to recover the stolen paintings from the Jeffrey Gundlach collection at a car stereo business and at a nearby residence. One of the paintings was recovered in Glendale during what appeared to be a sale preview. In the Gundlach robbery, the thieves also stole a Porsche and watches. This robbery is more focused on the art.
Mr. Hill: My view is that this theft was particularly well organised, done quickly and in the almost certain knowledge that the thieves and what they stole would be long gone by the time the police arrived. Also, the thieves were apparently not opportunists such as the two with a ladder at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam some years ago who smashed a window and took the two pictures nearest the broken glass, nor were they Balkan bandits with machine pistols like the ones who hit the Munch Museum in 2004, or the Buhrle Collection in Zurich a few years ago.
The closest pattern I know is of Irish Traveller raids on art in the 1980s through 2010. The pattern in Rotterdam the night before last was closer to that. See the art crimes of The General as he called himself, Martin Cahill of Dublin. Interestingly, one of Cahill's gang, George Mitchell, known as The Penguin, lives close to Rotterdam where he works in commodities with his Colombian, Russian, Dutch, Brit, Irish and other friends. I wonder if he has a part to play in this? He could do something about getting those pictures back, I'm sure, if any good Dutch police officer not in his pay asked him for some help.
Readers may read about Charley Hill's undercover work to recovery Edvard Munch's Scream stolen from the National Gallery in Oslo in 1994 in Edward Dolnick's book The Rescue Artist. The exploits of Dublin criminal Martin Cahill are told in Mathew Hart's book The Irish Game.

We emailed a few questions to Mr. Hill that he thought we should address to our readers in the hopes of generating a thoughtful discussion:
What about the Serbian gangs who had been involved in the theft of the two Turners from the Tate Gallery which had been on loan to Frankfurt (as documented in Sandy Nairne's book Art Theft and The Case of the Stolen Turners)? Do you think the paintings, if taken by someone like that Irish gangs, would be shipped into Britain? If you were to steal these paintings from Rotterdam, what country would you ship them to?

May 6, 2012

Curry and Ellis: New website for Stonehill Art Crime Symposium

Virginia Curry and Richard Ellis at Q&A session
 at the Southeastern Technical High School, September 2011
Virginia Curry and Richard Ellis, formerly of the FBI and Scotland Yard, respectively, have a new website for Stonehill Art Crime Symposium they will be teaching this summer.  (You can read more about this program here on the ARCA blog).

The website address is here.  The program also has a twitter account @artcrimeclass for information updates.

In support of the Stonehill Initiative, ARCA is offering a tuition subsidy for its postgraduate certificate program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection for students who complete the Stonehill short course. 

April 17, 2012

Richard Ellis, founder of Scotland Yard's Art and Antiquities Squad, sets the record straight on recent comments attributed to him on the blog Art Hostage

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

On April 13, 2012, Art Hostage, a blog on art theft, re-printed an article about the recovery of a stolen Cézanne painting in Serbia, then added comments he attributed to Richard Ellis, founder of the Art and Antiquities Squad at The New Scotland Yard, that accused Serbian police of corruption.

The Boy with the Red Waistcoat was one of four paintings stolen from the Foundation E. G. Bührle in Zurich in 2008.  [You may read about it here and here on the ARCA Blog).

The ARCA Blog asked Mr. Ellis about the nature of the comments attributed to him on the Art Hostage blog.  This is Mr. Ellis' reply:
I have had absolutely no contact or conversation with Paul Hendry, aka James Walsh the author of "Art Hostage" since his conviction at Lewes Crown Court in September 2010 for offences of benefit fraud and his subsequent imprisonment.  For some time before his conviction Hendry had taken to making unsubstantiated claims on the Art Hostage blog supported by quotes of his own invention. He has as a result turned what was initially a responsible and informative blog spot, where he would voluntarily edit and correct inaccuracies if requested to do so, in to an unreliable and unbelievable blog supported by lies, made one can only speculate for the benefit of his own ego.
Mr. Ellis explained that Hendry/Walsh was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment and served it in full.

According to Paul "Turbo" Hendry, he 'served three months three weeks in HMP Ford Open Jail; another three months three weeks on electronic tag; then another three months three weeks on probation, reporting to a probation officer once a month, ending August 2011. "The conviction is subject of an ongoing IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Commission) inquiry looking at a cover up by Police," Mr. Hendry wrote in an email. "I pleaded not guilty to the charges/indictments and that is  why I was sent to jail. If I had pleaded guilty I would have been fined. The Police refused to reveal the contents of their files in court under a D-notice, Public Immunity Certificate, which would have vindicted me and proved they authorized the Benefit claim back in the year 2000." [Mr. Hendry's comments are from an email to the ARCA blog dated July 12, 2013].

Mr. Ellis teaches Art Policing and Investigation at ARCA's Postgraduate Program in International Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies in Amelia.

March 21, 2012

FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, March 2012: Noah Charney, Paul Denton, and John Kieberg on Art Theft

"Protecting Cultural Heritage from Art Theft" is an article by Noah Charney, Paul Denton and John Kleberg recently released in the March 2012 issue of the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin.
When someone thinks of art crime, a Hollywood image is conjured, one of black-clad cat burglars and thieves in top hats and white gloves. But, the truth behind art crime, one misunderstood by the general public and professionals alike, is far more sinister and intriguing. Art crime has its share of cinematic thefts and larger-than-life characters, but it also is the realm of international organized crime syndicates, the involvement of which results in art crime funding all manner of other serious offenses, including those pertaining to the drug trade and terrorism. Art crime has shifted from a relatively innocuous, ideological crime into a major international plague. 
Over the last 50 years, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has ranked art crime behind only drugs and arms in terms of highest-grossing criminal trades.1 There are hundreds of thousands of art crimes reported per year, but, despite this fact, the general public only hears about the handful of big-name museum heists that make international headlines. In Italy alone there are 20,000 to 30,000 thefts reported annually, and many more go unreported.2 In fact, even though reported art crime ranks third in the list of criminal trades, many more such incidents go unreported worldwide, rather than coming to the attention of authorities, making its true scale much broader and more difficult to estimate.
You may read the remainder of the article online here which includes a discussion of art police squads around the world (Scotland Yard Art and Antiquities Unit, Italy's Carabinieri Division for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, and the Dutch Art Crime Team).

December 15, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011 - ,,, No comments

Retired FBI Special Agent Virginia Curry to be featured speaker in Los Angeles at the Society of Television Engineer's Holiday Dinner

Virginia Curry with Richard Ellis earlier this year
Retired FBI Special Agent Virginia Curry will be the featured speaker for the Society of Television Engineer's Holiday dinner in Burbank on Thursday December 15.  Curry's talk, "The Fine Art of Crime - Hollywood versus Reality" will talk about art sleuths, those elite detectives who specialize in investigating and solving art crimes - brazen thefts, forgeries, looting and vandalism around the world.

Curry is a charter member of the FBI Art Crimes Task Force. Virginia is one of a small number of detectives who specialize in investigating art crimes. Together with her Scotland Yard colleague, Richard Ellis, Virginia has also been involved in a number of international art related criminal investigations that read like Hollywood scripts.  Her experience has also included studio assets, such as stolen animation cells, piracy and "genuine" (fake) propos from famous films.

During her service with the FBI Mrs. Curry successfully completed many major art crimes investigations and undercover assignments.  She has been honored for her achievements by both the FBI and the City of Los Angeles.  Mrs. Curry has represented the FBI at various national and international symposiums concerning cultural patrimony issues, and has also served as liaison to other national law enforcement agencies, including the Carabinieri of Italy and La Guardia Civil of Spain. Among other awards, Mrs. Curry received a commendation from the City of Los Angeles for recovering Native American artwork stolen from the Southwest Museum. Virginia was also a consultant to the Getty Museum on the Object ID project.

Mrs. Curry holds a graduate degree in Gemology from the Gemological Institute of America and a Masters Degree in Italian as well as Spanish Literature.   She is currently completing a Masters Program in Art History at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.

September 12, 2011

Art Theft Detectives Virginia Curry and Dick Ellis Will Discuss Some of the World's Most Intriguing Cases at Stonehill College on September 20

Art detectives Virginia Curry and Dick Ellis will discuss some of the world's most intriguing cases at Martin Auditorium at Stonehill College on September 20.

Virginia Curry, a retired FBI Special Agent and charter member of the FBI Art Crimes Task Force, has been involved in many high profile art theft investigations throughout her career.

Dick Ellis, an art crime investigator for over 20 years, began the Art and Antiques Squad at New Scotland. He has many notable recoveries such as "The Scream", looted Chinese and Egyptian antiquities, as well as valuable items from private British Collections.

There will be a reception from 5.30 to 6.30 p.m. followed by a presentation from 7:00 p.m. Stonehill College is located near Boston in Easton, Massachusetts.

Mr. Ellis has taught for the past three years at ARCA's Postgraduate Program in International Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies. Ms. Curry has written for The Journal of Art Crime and presented at ARCA's International Art Crime Conference in 2009.

August 23, 2011

Part One: An Interview with Sandy Nairne on his book, "Art Theft and the Case of the Stolen Turners"

Art Theft and the Case of the Stolen Turners
Sandy Nairne
Reaktion Press/ University of Chicago 2011

An Interview by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-chief

An exceptional book on art theft has been published by a museum director who has received permission from his art institution to openly discuss the eight year quest to obtain the return of two stolen paintings. Sandy Nairne, now director of the National Portrait Gallery, has written "Art Theft and the Case of the Stolen Turners" and risked considerable criticism for his transparency. The ARCA blog will spend this week on a series of posts discussing the book in-depth.

In 1994, London's Tate Gallery loaned two paintings by J. M. W. Turner to a Frankfurt public gallery, the Schirn Kunsthalle to be included in an exhibition on "Goethe and the Visual Arts". The 1843 paintings, "Shade and Darkness - The Evening of the Deluge" and "Light and Colour (Goethe's Theory) - The Morning after the Deluge - Moses Writing the Book of Genesis", had been stolen on July 29 with a third painting, Caspar David Friedrich's "Waft of Mist" (1819, on loan from the Hamburg Kunsthalle).
Turner's "Shade and Darkness"

Mr. Nairne, the Tate's director of programs and a trusted associate of Nicholas Serota, the Director of the Tate, oversaw the expenditure of almost 3.5 million pounds to recover the insured paintings. Martin Bailey of The Art Newspaper provided an excellent synopsis of the events in his online article dated August 9, 2011 ("My life as an undercover negotiator").

Turner's "Light and Colour"
ARCA Blog: You have publicly discussed how the Tate negotiated the return of the two Turner paintings even though it has generated criticism about whether or not museums are encouraging art theft by paying money to recovery stolen art. The irony here, of course, according to Martin Bailey in The Art Newspaper, is that it was also a savvy financial deal -- the Tate received the insurance proceeds from the stolen paintings, repurchased the paintings from the insurance company at a lower amount, reinvested the money, and then recovered the paintings values of which have dramatically increased. The museum is more transparent than most about talking about art theft and you may be the first senior museum official to write about the long negotiations involved in recovering paintings. How did you come to break so many taboos? What would you say motivated you and the Tate to go to such lengths? What was it about these paintings that made them so important to the Tate's collection?
Sandy Nairne: These two paintings are part of what is known as the Turner Bequest, and had been selected by the artist as ones that should be specially valued by the nation. It felt like a clear duty for us at the Tate to do everything we could – as long as it was legal and approved by the right authorities – to get them back. 
The insurance payments worked out successfully after the paintings had been recovered, but that might not have happened. It is only possible, of course, with hindsight to see it as a success. 
In writing the book, I was not thinking of ‘breaking taboos’ but simply trying to set out the facts. The narrative from my perspective needed to set right quite a few things that had been mis-recorded in the newspapers in Britain. It became an additional matter to then analyse the wider questions around high value art theft.
ARCA Blog: Three thieves had remained in the gallery after closing time (this kind of theft is known as a 'stay-behind'); attacked and "held the guard, tied up, in a cleaning cupboard"; then used the guard's keys to unlock the back door and take the paintings (then worth 24 million Sterling pounds) out through the loading dock. You write:
This might have been fairly straightforward, but crucially, it was possible only with knowledge of the security system and the internal layout to execute the operation swiftly. While removing the paintings, the three men (two thieves and the waiting driver as it later emerged) would have been listening to the guard's radio, connected to Eufinger's headquarters [private security firm].
An alert was received at the security office 41 minutes after the city museum's front doors were locked. When you arrived in Frankfurt within hours of the theft, how puzzled were you and the rest of the security staff that only three paintings had been taken? Did you wonder why these three particular paintings had been chosen? And from the very beginning did you suspect that the paintings had been taken because the thieves knew they had been insured for the exhibit and that they had a possibility of receiving a ransom for the paintings return?

The Frankfurt police officer initially assigned to the case, Herr Bernd Paul, was a specialist in blackmail and ransom work and immediately began making inquiries in the "Frankfurt underworld" to find out who planned this. Herr Paul began his investigation with the idea that the pictures had been taken "hostage." Do you think this outlook from the beginning set up for a successful recovery of the art? At the same time, you were very concerned that everyone should understand that the paintings were irreplaceable and that not enough resources could be applied.
Sandy Nairne: I think the thieves may have been interrupted and that they had intended to take more than the three paintings. There was a very valuable Raphael painting nearby, though it was large and very heavy, while these three were relatively portable. I am not certain that these three were ‘targeted’ although later I did hear some talk of the police having recovered a list of works from one of the suspect thieves. 
I had no idea initially why the Turners had been stolen. It seemed that it could have been a political matter or a protest of some kind, as much as an act organised by gangsters of some kind. It was only later when I learned much more about art theft that I began to understand how dominant is the financial motive. 
Herr Paul’s reaction was logical, but there was never any ransom note from the thieves or those who had organised the theft. There was never any ghastly ‘pay or the paintings burn’ type of threat. Mostly it was other people trying to cash in on the theft. Criminality breeds criminality.
ARCA Blog: An image of one of the stolen paintings had been used to publicize the exhibition. This indicates that the thieves may have known nothing about the quality of the work and just took what they thought was important and valuable to the museum?
Sandy Nairne: This is possible – the poster may have been an additional point in the thieves mind as to which paintings they went for first.
ARCA Blog: You write that Mark Dalrymple, employed by the insurers to track the operation, is one of the most experienced of specialist loss adjusters in the insurance field. What do you think he did differently in handling this case that maybe someone with less training would have missed?
Sandy Nairne: Mark was always careful to remain very close to the police and ensure that they were informed appropriately, while also seeking independent information and contacts. There had to be trust on both sides. He is very experienced, and that experience counted a lot at the time, later on, when the Tate Trustees’ sub-committee was having to decide what was or was not appropriate by way of any ‘payment for information, leading to the recovery of the paintings’.
ARCA Blog: You alerted Scotland Yard's Art and Antiquities Squad three days after the theft when someone called the Tate looking for "someone in charge" about the stolen paintings. Detective Inspector Jill McTigue and then another senior officer, Dick Ellis, arrived with cameras and recording devices as they were being filmed for a documentary about the Art and Antiquities Squad for the BBC. You had two discussions with a man representing himself as the holder of the paintings which were now allegedly in London and would be 'auctioned' by the thieves unless he was paid 30,000 pounds for information leading to the pictures whereabouts. How nervous were you and how did you manage all of this commotion?
Sandy Nairne: I was very nervous, and it was confusing as I wanted this man ‘Rothstein’ to be real. But of course it emerged fairly soon that he was a confidence trickster only trying to make money by pretending that he had access to the stolen paintings. He was certainly very clever at spinning a yarn. I was relieved when he and his accomplice were both caught – but saddened that it took us no nearer to the actual paintings.
ARCA Blog: In addition, you were assigned an undercover plainclothes specialist to join you as your 'curator.' One of the first things done was to train him as how to pick up and examine a painting. At the beginning, you must have had hope that the paintings would be recovered shortly and not in eight years. Is your book in any way a cautionary tale for other museum staff? After all, you had a job and a family that needed your attention just as much as these paintings did.
Sandy Nairne: I hope it is not a cautionary tale, but encouraging to everyone that it is possible to get important works back into the public domain. I did not stop and analyse – in the sense of a broad view - what I was doing, as I was more concerned to make sure that I was doing it in the most effective way.
ARCA Blog: Your first contact was apprehended and arrested in a police operation that had pretended to pay a reward for the return of the paintings. The suspect and his accomplice did not have the paintings -- which the police had suspected - but a record in deception and petty crime. The entire first week of the investigation in London turned out to be a 'diversion'. However, a year later, on the anniversary of the suspect's arrest, you received a middle-of-the night phone call instructing you to meet in Moscow Square although this was not a part of any ongoing investigation. You cover all of this in the first 50 pages of your book. How did you manage to write your manuscript while working in a high-profile job?
Sandy Nairne: My writing was spread out over many years. I had kept notes and journals from when I was travelling to and from Frankfurt. It was only much later, in 2007, when I had a visiting Fellowship at the Clark Art Institute that I could really do most of the work to sort out the narrative and also do the reading on the existing literature relating to high value thefts of this kind. I have always done some writing very early in the morning, and used parts of weekends.
Additional posts will continue the discussion of "Art Theft and the Case of the Stolen Turners."