Showing posts with label The Netherlands. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Netherlands. Show all posts

August 1, 2018

Sad Conclusion: The case is von Saher v Norton Simon Museum of Art at Pasadena et al, 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 16-58308.

The protracted multi-million dollar lawsuit regarding the 480-year-old paintings of Adam and Eve by Lucas Cranach the Elder at the Norton Simon Museum that has lasted more than ten years has now come to a close.  A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in a unanimous decision, has ruled in favour of the museum and not Marei von Saher, the sole surviving heir of the Dutch-Jewish art dealer Jacques Goudstikker, who has long sought to recover her father in law’s artworks, looted during the Second World War. 

Throughout this protracted judicial process, Saher, had sought the return of the two 500-year-old biblical-themed paintings, which at one point had been appraised at $24 million.  

Jacques Goudstikker was once considered to be the preeminent dealer of Old Master paintings in Amsterdam and is estimated to have amassed an extraordinary collection of some 1400 works of art of the course of his professional career.  When Germany began its assault on Holland on May 10, 1940, Goudstikker knew that his family's time was up. As Rotterdam burned and the Nazi invasion under Reichsmarschall Göring gained speed, Goudstikker, his young wife Désirée von Halban Kurtz, and their infant son Edo boarded the SS Bodegraven, a ship docked at the port city of IJmuiden, departing for England and then on its way to the Americas. 

Goudstikker inventory of property

Unable to transport his collection with him, Goudstikker carried a neatly typed inventory of his property in a black leather notebook.  This notebook detailed artworks by important Dutch and Flemish artists like Jan Mostaert and Jan Steen, as well as works by Peter Paul Rubens, Giotto, Pasqualino Veneziano, Titian, Rembrandt, Vincent van Gogh as well as the Cranachs.  Unfortunately, in a further tragic twist of fate, Goudstikker lost his life on his journey to safety, breaking his neck in an accidental fall through an uncovered hatch just two days into the departing ship's voyage.

In less than a week after the German Luftwaffe of the Third Reich crossed into Dutch airspace, Dutch commanding general General Henry G. Winkelman surrendered and the country fell under German occupation.   As a result, Amsterdam came under a civilian administration overseen by the Reichskommissariat Niederlande, which was dominated by the Schutzstaffel.  

Goudstikker's collection was quickly liquidated in a forced sale typical of many World War II -era art thefts.  Nazi Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring himself cherry picked many of the choicest art works, including these two 6-1/4 foot (1.9 meters) tall Cranach panels. Göring went on to send more than 800 paintings to Germany, some of which were hung in his private collection at Karinhall, his country estate near Berlin.

On Monday, July 30, 2018, the three-judge panel with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which is the U.S. Federal court with appellate jurisdiction over the district courts in Alaska, Arizona and the Central District of California applied “the act of state doctrine,” validated the 1966 sale of the paintings by the Dutch government, which by then owned them, to George Stroganoff-Scherbatoff who in turn sold them to the Norton Simon in 1971.

“The act of state doctrine,” limits the ability of U.S. courts, in certain instances, from determining the legality of the acts of a sovereign state within that sovereign's own territory and is often applied in appropriations disputes which immunizes foreign nations from the jurisdiction of U.S. courts when certain conditions are satisfied.

The judges held that in order for von Saher’s claim to have been upheld, the  court would have been required to invalidate the official acts of the Dutch government. Specifically, the Dutch government’s conveyance of the paintings to Stroganoff-Scherbatoff would have needed to have been deemed legally inoperative.  Additionally the panel would have needed to disregard both the Dutch government’s 1999 decision not to restore von Saher’s rights to the paintings, and its later statement that her claim to the paintings had “been settled.”

To view the Judges' opinion entirety, please download the file from the ARCA website here.

By:  Lynda Albertson

February 15, 2018

An appeal that could have a strong legal significance on Holocaust-era claims in the United States

The protracted multi-million dollar lawsuit regarding the 480-year-old paintings of Adam and Eve by Lucas Cranach the Elder at the Norton Simon Museum has lasted more than ten years.  The lawsuit against the museum, began with a quest undertaken by Marei von Saher, the sole surviving heir of the Dutch-Jewish art dealer Jacques Goudstikker, who has long sought to recover her father in law’s artworks, looted during the Second World War.   Throughout this lengthy process, Saher, has sought the return of two 500-year-old biblical-themed paintings, appraised at $24 million.  

Jacques Goudstikker was once considered to be the preeminent dealer of Old Master paintings in Amsterdam and is estimated to have amassed an extraordinary collection of some 1400 works of art of the course of his professional career.  When Germany began its assault on Holland on May 10, 1940, Goudstikker knew that his family's time was up. As Rotterdam burned and the Nazi invasion under Reichsmarschall Göring gained speed, Goudstikker, his young wife Désirée von Halban Kurtz, and their infant son Edo boarded the SS Bodegraven, a ship docked at the port city of IJmuiden, departing for England and then on its way to the Americas. 


Unable to transport his collection with him, Goudstikker carried a neatly typed inventory of his property in a black leather notebook.  This notebook detailed artworks by important Dutch and Flemish artists like Jan Mostaert and Jan Steen, as well as works by Peter Paul Rubens, Giotto, Pasqualino Veneziano, Titian, Rembrandt, Vincent van Gogh and many others.  Unfortunately, in a further tragic twist of fate, Goudstikker lost his life on his journey to safety, breaking his neck in an accidental fall through an uncovered hatch just two days into the ship's voyage.

In less than a week after the German Luftwaffe of the Third Reich crossed into Dutch airspace, Dutch commanding general General Henry G. Winkelman surrendered and the country fell under German occupation.   As a result, Amsterdam came under a civilian administration overseen by the Reichskommissariat Niederlande, which was dominated by the Schutzstaffel.  

Goudstikker's collection was quickly liquidated in a forced sale typical of many World War II -era art thefts.  Nazi Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring himself cherry picked many of the choicest art works, sending more than 800 paintings to Germany.   Some of which were hung in Göring's private collection at Karinhall, his country estate near Berlin.

On Wednesday, February 14, 2018, a three-judge panel with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which is the U.S. Federal court with appellate jurisdiction over the district courts in Alaska, Arizona and the Central District of California heard oral arguments from Von Saher’s attorney, Lawrence Kaye from Herrick Feinstein on the return of the paintings from the Norton Simon Museum.  

In his presentation, Kaye disagreed with U.S. District Court Judge John F. Walter's earlier ruling that the Norton Simon Museum is the rightful owner of the paintings on the basis that the Dutch government couldn't assert ownership of artwork it received through external restitution.  In his oral statements he asserted that:


Whatever decision the Appellate court makes in this case will have broad legal ramifications for how forced sale restitution cases are heard in the US Courts.  When the arguments conclude, the judges' panel will either uphold the ruling of the lower court in favor of the Norton Simon Museum,  reverse the earlier decision in favor of von Saher, or send the case back down to the lower court for trial. 

By:  Lynda Albertson

February 6, 2017

Press conference: The Van Gogh of the Camorra on display at the Capodimonte Museum in Naples

Via Miano, 2, 
80137 Naples, Italy

Live Periscope link to event

Image Credit: sAG
In a standing room only event, the two stolen paintings, View of the Sea at Scheveningen, 1882 and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen 1884 - 1885 by Vincent Van Gogh were presented to the international press today at the Museo di Capodimonte in Naples Italy.  This press conference follows the convictions of eight members of the international drug trafficking Amato-Pagano clan, an organized crime network once affiliated with the Secondigliano-based Di Lauro crime syndicate, and an offshoot of the Naples Camorra.  The historic artworks were recovered during a lengthy investigation into the cocaine business overseen by figurative, Raffaele Imperiale.

Image Credit: sAG
The paintings, stolen 14 years ago, will be hosted for just 20 days on the second floor of the Museo di Capodimonte next to the Hall of Caravaggio through February 26, 2017.

Image Credit: ARCA
On hand for the press conference were Antimo Cesaro, State Secretary for Cultural Assets and Activities and Tourism in Italy, Joep Wijnands, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Rome, Sander Bersée, Director General of Culture and Media of the Ministry of Culture and Science, the Netherlands, Luigi Riello, General Prosecutor of Naples, Giovanni Colangelo, the Public Prosecutor of Naples, Herman Bolhaar, Head of the Dutch Public Prosecutors, Lt. Gen. Giorgio Toschi, Commanding General of the Guardia di Finanza, Gen. B. Gianluigi D'Alfonso, Provincial Commander of the Guardia di Finanza in Italy, Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg, Head of the Amsterdam Police as well as the undercover officers and investigators most closely connected to this case.

Image Credit: ARCA
Image Credit: ARCA
The Museo di Capodimonte is open every day except Wednesday from 08:30 to 19:30 (last entry at 18:30).

Image Credit: ARCA

Image Credit: sAG

Image Credit: sAG

Image Credit: sAG

Image Credit: Museo Capodimonte

Image Credit: Museo Capodimonte

Image Credit: VGM

Image Credit: VGM

Image Credit: VGM

Image Credit: VGM

Image Credit: VGM

Image Credit: ARCA



January 31, 2017

If paintings could talk...recovered Van Gogh paintings to go on exhibition in Naples February 6-26 before returning to the Van Gogh Museum


Dear Italian art lovers, 

Despite our lengthy stay in Campania and the hospitality of one of the Camorra's largest suppliers of cocaine to the Bay of Naples, it is, unfortunately, time for us to bid your country and its citizens farewell. 

Following the convictions handed down to our kidnappers, by Italian Judge Claudia Picciotti, we no longer need to remain as witnesses to testify to their crimes and have been informed by the judge that we are free to go home.

To show our appreciation to the fine officers of Italy's Corpo della Guardia di Finanza, which probes financial crimes related to organised crime, and to the Italian Public Prosecutions office, and to the Naples Direzione distrettuale antimafia and to the Dutch investigators who never gave up looking for us, our owners have persuaded us to stay in Naples for a few weeks longer.  

In this way, true art lovers, and not just mafia camorristi, can enjoy the beauty created by Vincent's fine hand.

Fourteen years and two months is a long time for us to be away from our beloved Netherlands and one of us desperately longs for the gentle touch of a conservator to help us heal from the wounds inflicted by our captors, not to mention the chance to shake this dust from our weary canvasses. 

Despite all that, and while we look forward with anticipation to returning to the Van Gogh Museum, we are happy that the director of the Museo di Capodimonte, Sylvain Bellenger and Axel Rüger, the director of the Van Gogh Museum, have encouraged us to remain for just a short while longer.  Under the care of their staff and advisors, we can rest and be exhibited in an atmosphere more befitting to us than a dusty crawl space behind a mafioso's workout gym. 

Being stolen when your famous only makes you more famous afterwards.  We suspect that for months, if not years to come, people will whisper about us, wondering what we went through and talking about the awful men who thought some day to use us, either for collateral or as a means to reduce their sentences for crimes worse than holding art hostage. 

But we as paintings prefer to dwell upon our younger and more carefree days, newly created on stretched canvas.  We like to remember when our paint was still wet and sand specks stuck to us in Scheveningen, the small fishing village where Vincent set up painting, partly to appease his brother Theo. Or when our Vincent began experimenting with colours to capture his mood at Nuenen, rather than using colours realistically.  Just like he sought, with his course application of paint, to define his own unique style, he brought each one of us to life giving each of us a little bit of his soul.  This is what we like to remember, not Vincent's tortured death and certainly not our time held captive by criminals. 

But enough of this talk about the past, let us try and stay in the present. 

Why don't you pay us a visit before we leave Naples for home?  

I am sure the fine people at the Capodimonte can point you to our room on the second floor.  From what we understand, we will be lodging with quite respectable company, in a room right next to the "Flagellation" by  Caravaggio. 

A hearty handshake in thought, and, believe me, 
yours, 

View of the Sea at Scheveningen 
and 
Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

Exhibition Dates: 6-26 February
Via Miano, 2, 
80137 Naples, Italy
Hours: 08.30 to 19.30 daily, NOTE:  Museum is closed on Wednesdays
Ticket price: 8 €
Contacts and information: 081 7499111 

January 20, 2017

Camorra bosses convicted, Van Gogh's can go home to Amsterdam.......shortly.


This week Italian Judge Claudia Picciotti handed down more than one hundred years of prison time in the sentencing of eight members of the international drug trafficking Amato-Pagano clan, an organized crime network once affiliated with the Secondigliano-based Di Lauro crime syndicate, and an offshoot of the Naples Camorra.

The court's adjudication closes down one of the Camorra's largest suppliers of cocaine to the Bay of Naples area, paving the way for two recovered Van Gogh paintings, View of the Sea at Scheveningen, 1882 and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen 1884 - 1885 to return home to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. 

The paintings were recovered during an asset seizure warrant executed in September 2016 at property occupied by the parents of drug kingpin, Raffaele Imperiale in Castellammare di Stabia, near Naples, Italy.

On hand for the sentencing hearing of the trial were:

Prosecutor Stefania Castaldi
Prosecutor Maurizio De Marco
Prosecutor Marra Vincenza
Deputy Prosecutor Filippo Beatrice
Prosecutor of the National Anti-Mafia Directorate Maria Vittoria De Simone
Dutch Liaison Magistrate for Italy Hester van Bruggen
Assistant to the Liaison Magistrate for Italy Royal Netherlands Embassy, Rome Peter Hemmes
Van Gogh Museum Attorney Carel Raymakers

The defendants convicted and sentenced January 19, 2017 include:

Carmine Amato - Before his arrest, Amato was one of Italy's 100 most wanted and dangerous criminals.  Considered the regent of the Amato-Pagano clan, a splinter organised crime group of the Di Lauro clan, dominant in the north of Naples, Amato was sentenced to twenty years imprisonment.

Vincenzo Scarpa - Drug supplier to Camorra clans in the Vesuvius periphery of the Bay of Naples, including the Gallo-Cavalieri, the Annunziata from Torre Annunziata, the i Falanga of Torre del Greco and the Licciardi of Secondigliano.  Scarpa maintained key alliances with Camorra loyal suppliers based in Spain and the Netherlands. He has been sentenced to twenty years imprisonment.

(Fugitive) Raffaele Imperiale - Clan boss of the international drug trafficking Amato-Pagano clan which supplied cocaine to Amato and Scarpa.  Although on the run from the authorities, he admitted to purchasing the Van Gogh paintings and to his illegal operations in letters to the prosecuting authorities.  Imperiale was sentenced to 18 years imprisonment in absentia.  He is believed to be hiding in Dubai.

Mario Cerrone - Clan affiliate and business partner to Imperiale, who provided evidence to state authorities. Cerrone also led Italy's Corpo della Guardia di Finanza, which probes financial crimes related to organised crime, together with the Italian Public Prosecutions office, the Naples Direzione distrettuale antimafia and dedicated Dutch investigators to the whereabouts of the two stolen Vincent Van Gogh paintings.  He has been sentenced to 14 years imprisonment.

Gaetano Schettino - A loyalist and drug broker for Raffaele Imperial, he has been sentenced to ten years imprisonment.

Three unnamed defendants - Sentenced to eight years imprisonment respectively.

Six other defendants are still awaiting the outcome of their judicial proceedings in relation to this criminal investigation.

Originally expected to be held as evidence for future lengthy trials, the court in Naples elected to release the Van Gogh paintings from legal seizure on Thursday.  While talk continues between the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and Sylvain Bellenger, Director of the Museo di Capodimonte about the possibility of holding a brief exhibition in Naples, provided security measures are sufficient to guarantee their safety, the Dutch Impressionist's paintings are expected to be returned to Amsterdam as soon as February.


Once back home, the artworks will go on display at the Van Gogh Museum briefly, in the condition with which they were recovered, to celebrate their return. Then the artworks will undergo close examination and conservation treatment to clean and repair damages sustained during their trubulent time with the Italian crime syndicate.

By: Lynda Albertson


December 2, 2016

Recovered: Marble head of Julia Domna, wife of Septimius Severus

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Massimo Maresca, Commander, Archaeology section of the operational department of the Carabinieri TPC, Pietro Savarino, Amsterdam Police and Justice Officer Willem Nijkerk
The second century CE marble head of Julia Domna, wife of Emperor Septimius Severus, the founder of the Severan dynasty, which was stolen from the Museo del Canopo at Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli in 2012, is now coming home. 

The bust was identified in Amsterdam in May 2015 as having been part of the permanent collections at Hadrian's villa, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, just as it was about to be put up for consignment at Christies auction house in the Netherlands. Suspicious of the very recognizable bust, and the very unrecognizable couple selling it, who seemingly had not prior history as collectors of pricey ancient art, the auction house contacted Dutch authorities and the Italian Carabinieri del Comando Tutela Patrimonio Culturale - sezione Archeologia to report their concerns.  This was truly a proactive step forward in due diligence as the object was not represented in the stolen art databases. 

Working in collaboration with the Dutch police and the Italian authorities, the auction house informed the would-be consignors that they had declined to list the sculpture and Christies returned the marble head to their would-be sellers.  This allowed the legal authorities the opportunity to formally charge two Dutch citizens on suspicion of theft and receiving stolen property.  

As the investigation continued, the object was ultimately relinquished without the need for letters rogatory, which are the customary means of obtaining judicial assistance from overseas authorities in the absence of a treaty or other agreement.

Speaking at the Dutch press conference held in the offices of the Amsterdam public prosecutor Major Massimo Maresca, who led the Italian carabinieri a team said, "Each stolen piece of art that comes back to our museums is like a wound that has healed." Maresca also personally thanked the Amsterdam police for their collaboration.



The sculpture has now been relinquished to the Italian authorities, where it will be held in judicial custody at the disposal of the Public Prosecutor of Rome until such time as any criminal and civil court proceedings have been completed.  At the conclusion of the legal case, the Julia Domna bust, with her fabulous hairdo, will then be returned to Villa Adriana, where it will be displayed in the antiquarium.

While various websites have begun estimating the commercial value of the bust at €500,000 it should be remembered that public objects, especially one depicting the Empress of the Roman Empire from 170 to 217 CE, are not for sale in Italy and should not be expressed in terms of financial value.  Their loss, when stolen is a historic and cultural loss that is heavier than any monetary amount.  

Lastly, we would be remiss for saying thanks also to the employees of Christie's Amsterdam office for their due diligence and prompt notification to authorities that they had been offered an object with collecting irregularities. Bravi tutti. 

November 4, 2016

Anatomy of a Confession - How much are two stolen Van Gogh's worth to an alleged Naples drug kingpin?

In recent developments on the Van Gogh recovery in Italy case, the newspaper La Repubblica has announced that Italian prosecutors have been contacted by the office of Sylvain Bellenger, Director of the Museo di Capodimonte about the possibility of holding an exhibition in Naples of the two Vincent Van Gogh paintings recovered during an asset seizure warrant executed in the Bay of Naples involving alleged-drug kingpin Raffaele Imperiale.  


At present, both paintings are being held under high security as evidence in the criminal case against 14 indicted defendants, 12 in custody and two with outstanding extradition warrants. How long the paintings will remain in Italy while the lengthy court case proceeds remains unclear. 


Since ARCA reported on the initial stages of the Van Gogh paintings recovery, witness testimony and written statements have now been made public which shed more light onto what law enforcement officers and prosecutors know about this cocaine syndicate's "acquisition" of the stolen Van Gogh artworks. 

One time partner and indicted associate Mario Cerrone informed Italian authorities that Raffaele Imperiale purchased the paintings with illicit proceeds from the Amato-Pagano clan's coffers. The Amato-Pagano clan, is a organized crime network once affiliated with the Secondigliano-based Di Lauro clan. This organized crime group is known to have supplied the Bay of Naples area with a steady stream of cocaine distributed by dealers working with the Camorra crime syndicate.

In testimony given as state's evidence, Cerrone indicated that Imperiale purchased the two stolen Van Gogh paintings shortly after the time of their theft in the Netherlands, sometime between the Autumn of 2002 and the first months of 2003. Considering the purchases as investment, Imperiale probably believed he could launder clan funds buying the paintings, then resell the Van Goghs for more than his initial purchase price once the case had grown cold.  Cerrone estimated that the Amato-Pagano clan accumulated USD $15 million annually in illegal crime proceeds meaning that the paintings were a significant investment. 

As most of ARCA's regular blog readers understand, selling stolen masterpieces on the licit art market is virtually impossible. From this we can hypothesize that Imperiale may have held onto the paintings following the arrest of the two thieves in the Netherlands, while planning how to use the artworks as a bargaining chip in replacement for illicit revenue.  

Given the artworks inestimable value, the paintings could have been used as collateral for the purchase of drugs, weapons, counterfeit goods or other clan-needed commodities, or for reducing the amount of liquid capital the clan would need to transfer during any given transaction making them a good substitute for reducing the clans exposure and risk.  As a final alternative, the paintings represented a bargaining tool with prosecutors for if and when members of the clan who knew about them, were arrested. 

Ironically, Raffaele Imperiale himself has now added more information to the puzzle by writing a six page written statement/confession/memoir which he sent from Dubai to the Naples prosecutors, Vincenza Marra, Stefania Castaldi and Maurizio De Marco, who along with the deputy prosecutor Filippo Beatrice and the prosecutor of the National Anti-Mafia Directorate Maria Vittoria De Simone coordinated the investigations conducted by law enforcement.  In his statement, the unrepentant Imperiale informed prosecutors that he has selected two lawyers to represent him, Maurizio Frizzi and Giovanni Ricco. Both Genovese attorneys have relationships with the Amato-Pagano clan.

In addition to naming his lawyers, and perhaps in consideration of lighter sentencing if convicted, Imperiale's statement went on to outline various aspects of his organization's illicit operation.  A direct quote from the clan leader's autobiographical confession, in which he implicates himself in organized crime and drug trafficking, is translated here:







Left - Raffaele Amato 
Top Right- Paolo de Lauro 
Middle Right - Mario Cerrone 
Bottom Right - Cesare Pagano



Imperiale went on to say that he had decided to collaborate with justice by giving his seized "treasure" to the state.  Some of the seized property include thirteen terraced villas in Terracina as well as twelve villas in Giugliano, five of which are ironically, subleased out to NATO under a shell corporation.  In addition to the real estate Imperial also plans to leave the Italian state a fleet of expensive cars  "to be allocated to law enforcement agencies for the fight against organized crime."

When speaking in relation to the stolen Van Gogh paintings, Imperiale indicated that he had purchased (without explaining from whom) "some goods", not simply the two Van Gogh paintings, paying five installments of one million euros each for a total of €10 million for both paintings.   

Sketch of Raffaele Imperiale in Dubai
Imperiale is currently still a fugitive, believed to be living in an undisclosed location in Dubai.  To date, the United Arab has responded negatively to requests for extradition, citing repeated technicalities in paperwork emanating from the Italian court system.

By: Lynda Albertson














September 30, 2016

2 Vincent Van Gogh Paintings Recovered in Italy, Suspected Camorra Entanglements

Breaking News - This article will be updated periodically as ARCA is able to release more news.


The FBI's "Top Ten" unresolved Art Crimes has now been reduced to nine thanks to the dedication and hard work of a division of Italy's Corpo della Guardia di Finanza, which probes financial crimes related to organised crime. Together with the Italian Public Prosecutions office, the Naples Direzione distrettuale antimafia and dedicated Dutch investigators, two of Vincent Van Gogh's historic paintings have finally been recovered during a labor intensive investigation into Italy's organized crime syndicate that is an offshoot of the Camorra.

Fourteen years after their theft from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam on December 7, 2002 the two paintings have been recovered during search and seizure operations connected to an ongoing international cocaine trafficking and mafia racketeering investigation.  The artworks were recovered earlier this week in the Castellammare di Stabia area in the Bay of Naples but were kept under wraps as the investigation finalized certain details.

In January 2016 Italian authorities arrested several individuals long suspected of overseas money laundering and international drug trafficking.  Two of those were affiliated with the Scampia splinter group of the Naples clan.  Raffaele Imperiale was the suspected head of the clan, also had ties to Amsterdam, where he reportedly owns or owned an Amsterdam coffeshop.

Until a few months before his arrest Imperiale had been living with his family in one of the most luxurious hotels in the world, the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, where a room costs upwards of €1500 per night.  Mario Cerrone, a clan affiliate turned state witness, is reported to have been the one who led the police to the paintings location -- Raffaele Imperiale's house at Castellammare di Stabia.

The art works recovered are:

View of the Sea at Scheveningen, 1882
by Vincent van Gogh
oil on canvas, 13 inches x 20 inches
Completed in Scheveningen


This small picture is considered to be one of Van Gogh's finest masterworks. Painted directly on the beach in Scheveningen where the famous Post-Impressionist artist set up his easel and painted “plein-air” (in the open air), Van Gogh's signature style of thickly applied paint still contained grains of sand which had blow onto the canvas and stuck to the paint as the artist worked. 

When ARCA asked investigators who had facilitated the identifications after the recovery of the painting if they had physical access to the paintings and if they could see these fine grains of sand, the investigator responded happily “I have seen them today. And I have smelt the sea.

In terms of its condition upon recovery Managing Director Adriaan Doenszelmann of the Van Gogh Museum stated that the painting appears to have sustained some damage to the paint in its lower left corner causing the paint to break away in an area of approximately 5 x 2 cm.  The painting will undergo full examination by conservators once the Italian authorities release the painting back to the museum.


Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen 1884 - 1885
by Vincent Van Gogh
oil on canvas 41.3 x 32.1 cm
Completed in Nuenen


This painting has been stolen on two occasions.  The first time was on April 14, 1991 when a total of twenty Van Gogh artworks were snatched from the Vincent Van Gogh Museum.  All twenty artworks were recovered in Amsterdam within 24 hours and the four perpetrators involved in that museum heist, including one museum guard and a former employee of the museum's security firm, were arrested and ultimately prosecuted.

Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen appears to have been recovered in fairly good condition.


Outline of the 2002 Van Gogh Museum Theft

Theft Venue: The Van Gogh Museum. The Van Gogh Museum houses the largest collection of the Post Impressionist Dutch masters artworks. In total more than 200 paintings and almost 500 drawings by Vincent van Gogh.
Location: Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Location in Venue: Rietveld Building
Victim (Owner): Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen is owned by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. View of the Sea at Scheveningen is the property of the Van Gogh Museum 

Time of Theft:  Between 7:00 and 8:00 am on December 7, 2002
Open/Closed: Closed. The robbery occurred shortly before opening time.
Duration of Crime: Estimated at less than thirty minutes.
When Discovered: Immediately. When thieves smashed a window and entered the museum it triggered the museum security systems. 
Primary Object(s) Taken: Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen, 1884 and View of the Sea at Scheveningen, 1882 both by artist Vincent Van Gogh
Category of Art Object(s): Both artworks are small oil on canvas paintings
Ancillary Object(s) Touched: None
Ancillary Object(s) Taken: None
Clues Left at Crime Scene: At the entry point thieves left behind a cloth, likely used to reduce the sound of breaking glass,  one ladder, and a rope. They also left objects used to hide their identities, these last two items were found on the steps of the museum.

Suspected Related Crimes: Suspect Octave Durham’s reputation as a thief had already earned him the moniker “the Monkey” for his artful dodger activities.

Entry Method: Thieves used a 15-foot ladder propped up against a first-story window at the rear of the building. The glass window was then smashed with cloth-covered hands or alternative instruments in order for the men to gain entry. 
Exit Method: Same method as entry.
Operational Method: The thieves went straight to the two stolen paintings, removed only these two objects and then exited.
Other Methods of Note: Only method of concealment: head gear to discourage CCTV footage. 

Probable Motive: possibly financial, possibly organised crime related
Follow-up after Post-theft: After the suspects were preliminarily identified police tracked the men for over a year in locations in the Netherlands and in Spain.  Law enforcement authorities then wire-tapped the suspects’ phonesand eleven suspicious phone conversations were documented between February 17, 2003 and May 7, 2004.  
Revised Motive Theory: Financial gain. Likely organised crime related.  Based on the phone conversations and the suspiciously extravagant spending of the suspects after the theft, we can assume the paintings passed from the initial thieves to a secondary party, likely for a significant sum of money. 

Identified People Involved in the Crime
Handler(s): None publically announced.
Accomplice(s): Dutch-born Octave Durham, A.K.A. "The Monkey" and Henk Bieslijn
Organization(s) Involved: Investigators suspect possible Italian Mafia /Syndicate (Camorra) involvement.
Ultimate Possessor: Unknown.
Arrests: In 2004, police arrested Octave Durham in Spain and Henk Bieslijn in Amsterdam.
Total Length of Investigation: Ongoing
In March 2010 Giovanni Nistri, of the Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale stated that he believed that the pair stole the paintings on behalf of the Neapolitan Camorra. According to him at the time, there were "important clues to allow the presumption that members of the Neapolitan Camorra were somehow involved in the theft and the consequent possession of the two paintings. 
Evidence Used In Prosecution: Witness Testimony, CCTV Footage, 11 wire-tapped phone conversations, DNA evidence collected at the scene from discarded headgear found on the scene.  Financial records of the suspects directly after the theft which included suspicious purchases of high value including: watches, new furniture, home renovations, and foreign travel to Thailand, Euro Disney, Ibiza, and the Dominican Republic.
Criminal Sentencing: Octave Durham received a prison sentence of 4.5 years. Henk Bieslijn received a prison sentence of 4 years. In addition, each individual was ordered to pay the Van Gogh Museum €350,000 in damages. Despite their convictions, both continued to deny responsibility.

Artwork Recovered: Yes, in moderately good shape, the week of September 25, 2016

Why Steal Van Gogh?

Van Gogh, who in his lifetime only sold one painting, commands big figures in the contemporary art world. Eight masterpieces by Van Gogh paintings are ranked among the world's 50 most expensive artworks ever sold.    Echoing that, the wave pattern of art theft often mirrors the whimsy of the art market. Then thieves follow the path of least protection or resistance striking at objects known to be of value in places that allow for the opportunity.

How many Vincent Van Gogh artworks have been stolen? 


When opportunity has knocked, art thieves have often had a preference for works of art attributed to Vincent Van Gogh.   But just how many artworks by Vincent van Gogh have been stolen?  Take a look here. 

By: Lynda Albertson

May 13, 1999 - Private Collection Theft, F. van Lanschot Bankiers NV, Den Bosch, The Netherlands

Vincent Van Gogh The Willow, 1885 with Dr. H,J, Hijmersma,
conservator to the F. van Lanschot Bankiers NV Collection
Sometime between the evening of May 13 and the morning of May 15 in 1999 a early Vincent van Gogh painting titled The Willow, 1885 was stolen from the headquarters of F. van Lanschot Bankiers NV in Den Bosch in the Netherlands. s-Hertogenbosch is the official name of the city, but colloquially almost everybody refers to the city as Den Bosch, which translates in English to mean 'the Duke’s Forest'. F. van Lanschot Bankiers NV is the oldest bank in the Netherlands. 

In March 2006 the bank contacted authorities stating that a gentleman had approached them asking about a reward for information leading to the recovery of the stolen work of art.  The bank in turn contacted the authorities. 

Two suspects, the suspected thief, who was at one time a cleaner for the bank and the would-be seller/award seeker were then approached by undercover officers who posed as insurance art loss adjusters interested in buying back the painting. 

Both individuals were arrested and the painting was recovered.  It is now back in the bank's collection.  

By Lynda Albertson

June 28, 1990 - Museum Theft, Het Noordbrabants Museum, Den Bosch, The Netherlands


At around 12:30 in the morning on June 28, 1990 three early Van Gogh paintings were stolen from the Het Noordbrabants Museum in Den Bosch, Netherlands. s-Hertogenbosch is the actual official name of the city, but colloquially almost everybody calls the city Den Bosch, which translates in English to mean 'the Duke’s Forest' .

The artworks taken were: 

Brabant Peasant, seated Study for the Potato Eaters (also known as Farmer's Wife Seated)  Dec 1884 - April 1885
oil on paper on panel 36 X 26.5 cm
Completed in Nuenen


Digging Farmer (also known as Digging Farmer's Wife), 1885-1887
oil on canvas, 37.5 X 25.7 cm
Completed in Nuenen


Wheels of the Mill, Genneper, 1884
oil on canvas,  61.5 x 80.5 cm
Completed in Nuenen


Van Gogh painted about a quarter of his entire body of works, including these three artworks, in Nuenen, less than 20 miles from the Het Noordbrabants Museum.

On the morning of the theft, the culprit(s) profited from a relatively sophisticated, but nonfunctioning, alarm system.  Set to go off when it sensed movement, on the day of the theft the system failed to signal the unauthorised entry and failed to signal a malfunction in the sensors.  The burglar(s) entered the unmanned museum undetected simply by breaking an unalarmed ground floor window which in turn allowed access the museum's collection.

Once inside the criminal(s) quickly absconded with the three early 19th-Century Dutch Impressionist artworks.  At the time of their theft they were estimated to be worth from USD $ 2.7 million to $5.4 million.

The theft marked the third theft of Van Gogh works in just two short years. 

All was not lost however.  One year later, after an anonymous tip-off, The Digging Farmer was found in a safe deposit box rented under a false name in a bank located in Eeklo, a Belgian municipality in the Flemish province of East Flanders .

The other two paintings, Brabant Peasant, seated and Wheels of the Mill, Genneper, were returned in relatively good condition to the museum via a prosecutor, Mr. D. van der Bel Middelburg working in The Hague and a lawyer representing a defendant in a totally unrelated case from Amsterdam. Listed in the judicial records as simply an 'informer' the defendant was not believed to have been one of the original thieves but rather an opportunist who had hoped to influence the outcome of his own case by providing information on other criminal's handiwork.

By: Lynda Albertson

December 12, 1988 - Museum Theft, Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, The Netherlands

At a time in the late 80s when Van Gogh's paintings were listed on the "Top 10 Prices Paid for Paintings" at two of the world's two premiere auction houses, Christie's and Sotheby's, stealing Vincent's artwork might have seen like a fast way to make money. Van Gogh's touchingly poignant Irises, painted in 1889 during the last year before his death at the asylum at Saint-Rémy had just sold (on November 11, 1987) for $53.9 million, the highest price ever paid for an artwork in an auction at that time. 

Perhaps with this in mind, and perhaps because the Kröller-Müller Museum holds the second-largest collection of the Post-Impressionist master in the world, with almost 90 paintings and over 180 drawings attributed to Vincent Van Gogh, the thieves decided to hit the Otterlo museum on December 12, 1988. TO commit their crime, they entered the museum by breaking one of the windows and then made off with three artworks worth an estimated €113 million euros.

The works stolen included: 

The second of three painted sketches titled 
De aardappeleters, (the potato eaters), April - May 1885
oil on canvas mounted on panel, 73.9 x 95.2 cm
Completed in Nuenen


Loom with Weaver, 1885
oil on canvas, 70 x 85 cm
Completed in Nuenen


and

Four Cut Sunflowers, August-September 1887
oil on canvas,  60.0 x 100.0 cm
Completed in Paris 



Loom with Weaver was returned, possibly as a gesture for negotiation in April 1989.  The two thieves then tried to exact a $2.5 million ransom for the remaining two paintings which led to the police recovering the works on July 13, 1989. 

While no ransom was paid, the artworks did sustain damages.  Two men were sentenced to 3.5 and 5 years respectively for their roles in the crime.

By: Lynda Albertson

May 20, 1988 - Museum Theft, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, The Netherlands

In the early morning hours of May 20, 1988, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, located on the Museumplein, was hit with its one and only museum theft to date. The value of the stolen works, which became part of the collection between 1949 and 1951, were estimated by the museum's director Wilhelmus Beeren at the time to be between 25 to 100 million Dutch gilder, the currency of the Netherlands from the 17th century until 2002. 

The Stedelijk was equipped with an electronic alarm system but at the time of the break-in the museum was unmanned.  The alarm went off at five in the morning which prompted the private security service hired by the museum, and who monitored the alarm system from a central office, to contact the Amsterdam police 20 minutes later.

Upon arriving on the scene, law enforcement found a broken window. During an inspection of the museum after the break-in, staff reported that three paintings had been taken from a room close to the entrance of the museum. 

The paintings stolen during the burglary were:

Vase with Carnations, 1886 
by Vincent van Gogh 
oil on canvas, 46.0 x 37.5 cm


Bouteilles et pêches (Bottles and Peaches), 1890
By Paul Cézanne
oil on canvas, 49 x 51 cm


and

La maison du maître Adam Billaud à Nevers (The House of Master Adam Billaud at Nevers) 1874 
By Johan Barthold Jongkind
oil on canvas, 56.5 x 42.5 cm


Interviewed shortly after the theft, Director Beeren stated that the theft could have been done by experts perhaps on a "made to Order" basis.  His hypothosis was based upon the fact that the museum contained many other, more valuable works of art and given the thief also chose to make-off with the paintings' frames. 

Eleven days later, on 31 May 1988, all three paintings were recovered undamaged by police, who had posed as potential buyers interested in Post-Impressionist art when dealing with the criminal. The culprit was then arrested for the burglary and convicted.

By: Lynda Albertson