Showing posts with label arrests. Show all posts
Showing posts with label arrests. Show all posts

July 28, 2014

Monday, July 28, 2014 - ,,, No comments

Police officer with Greece's antiquities protection department arrested in smuggling ring

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

In "Million-euro Marble Statue Seized in Greece", Sotiria Nikolouli reported for the Associated Press on Jul 24, 2014 about the arrest of a police officer from Greece's antiquities protection department "accused of being part of a smuggling ring that was trying to sell an ancient marble statue worth an estimated 1 million euros ($1.35 million)":
Greek Police said on Thursday that the 49-year-old officer was arrested with eight other suspects, following raids and searches at 11 areas in greater Athens and two others in towns in central and northern Greece. The almost intact 1,900-year-old Greco-Roman era statue of a male figure measures 65 centimeters (25.5 inches) from head-to-knee, and is being kept at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens. Police did not say whether the statue had been stolen or illegally excavated but added that a “large number” of less valuable ancient artifacts had also been seized.
In "Greek policeman, 8 others charged with smuggling antiquities" (Tengri News relaying an AFP article) the 49-year-old police officer was arrested along with a 52-year-old Athens antique dealer:
A police statement said the more than 2,000-year-old statue, which measures 65 centimetres (two feet) was the work of renowned fourth-century BC sculptor Praxiteles. Six other suspects in the smuggling ring are still on the run.
This article in a Greek newspaper (http://www.tovima.gr/society/article/?aid=618124) said the arrests were the result of a two-month investigation; five of the six people not in custody have been identified as allegedly taking part in the smuggling ring (one Albanian and 8 Greeks are involved, including the 49-year-old policeman; a 50-year-old middleman; a 52-year-old antiquities dealer with a gallery in the center of Athens, who is represented as the mastermind of the team; and a 70-year-old collector, the former owner of a famous hotel in Syntagma Square in Athens). According to the article, the police office identified is the head of the service that conducted the raids (the Internal Affairs service of the Greek police). The article claims that the statue is by Praxiteles but it may also be just a later Roman copy. The article says that police confiscated many antiquities from the dealer's shop, some from the house of the dealer's daughter, along with two metal detectors, photographic films and photographs depicting antiquities, a computer hard drive and USB stick, and a special machine or digger capable of excavating antiquities.

February 19, 2014

"Riverside County Art Dealer Arrested in Federal Cyberstalking Case" (U.S. Attorney's Office Press Release Feb. 12); FBI Art Crime Team Investigating

FROM:  Thom Mrozek
Public Affairs Officer
United States Attorney's Office
Central District of California (Los Angeles) 

Issued on Wednesday, February 12 at 8:30 a.m. PST. EDS: a copy of the criminal complaint is attached. 
LOS ANGELES – The owner of a Temecula art gallery who allegedly stalked, harassed and attempted to extort several art world professionals was arrested today on federal cyberstalking charges. 
Jason White, 43, of Temecula, was arrested this morning without incident by special agents with the FBI. White’s arrest comes after federal prosecutors yesterday filed a criminal complaint that charges White with stalking, a crime that carries a potential penalty of five years in federal prison. White is expected to make his initial appearance this afternoon in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles. 
According to the complaint, White engaged in a stalking and extortion scheme that targeted several art world professionals with whom he had had business relationships. When those business relationships ended, White posted derogatory information about his former associates on websites he had created, and then used threatening emails to demand hundreds of thousands of dollars in exchange for taking the websites down. According to the complaint, White repeatedly made extortionate demands through harassing text messages and emails, and when his demands were not met, he threatened violence.
In one part of the scheme, White targeted his former employer, an art publisher, as well as his supervisor at the art publisher’s company. After creating derogatory websites in the art publisher’s name, White allegedly sent threatening text messages to the art publisher, the publisher’s son, and his former supervisor. According to the complaint, in a text message to his former supervisor, he threatened to find her family and make her pay with “fear, anguish, and pain.” On several occasions, according to the complaint, White obtained pictures of her child and sent pictures of the child to the victim with comments such as “it will be very unfortunate if something was to happen to him.” During this time, according to the complaint, White continued to demand payment in exchange for taking down the websites he had created, and made it known to these victims that their business reputation would be ruined and that his websites would forever show up anytime anyone searched for their name on the internet. 
Late last month, White allegedly went to the Facebook page of a well-known artist represented by the art publisher and posted a picture of himself, along with a statement that he was focusing on the artist’s wife and child. White allegedly wrote that he would be waiting in the bushes to “knee cap a child.” Through the Facebook message, White told the artist, “your children are my end game.” 

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court. 
The case against White is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Art Crime Team.

CONTACT:    Assistant United States Attorney Sarah Levitt
                        Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section
                        (213) 894-2579 
Release No. 14-022

October 8, 2011

Lessons from Sandy Nairne's book, "Art Theft and the Case of the Stolen Turners": Anti-gang police arrest 3 in Paris museum theft and stolen Picasso paintings from Zurich recovered in Serbia

Interior view of Paris museum (photo by Catherine Sezgin)
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, Editor

Here's a link to ArtInfo's summary of the arrest of three people arrested for the theft at Paris' Modern Art Museum. The story reminds me of Sandy Nairne's depiction of an art theft in his book, Art Theft and The Case of the Stolen Turners. Organized crime was involved and the presence of a specialized police group in Paris seems to indicate professional criminals planned the robbery of the Paris museum. In the case of the stolen Turner paintings, the thieves gave the paintings to a 'handler' who passed the artwork on. Years passed before the Tate was able to negotiate a reward for the return of the paintings.

Nairne, now director of the National Portrait Gallery in London, himself writes in his introduction: "... the loss of the two late Turner paintings in Frankfurt in 1994 appears as part of a sequence that includes the attack on the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in 1990, the thefts of versions of The Scream in Oslo in 1994 and 2004, the loss of Cellini's Saliera in Vienna in 2003 and the theft of of works by Matisse, Picasso and others from the Musée d'Art Moderne in Paris in May 2010."

As Nairne outlines in his book, the Tate in London loans two paintings by J. M. W. Turner (then valued at 24 million pounds and insured to travel) to a public gallery in Frankfurt in 1994 on July 28.  The front entrance door of the Kunsthalle had been locked by the night security guard at 10.10 p.m. the previous night after the last of the evening visitors had departed'.  The guard was attacked and then tied up in a cleaning cupboard. Nairne explains how it happened:

"The thieves had entered the gallery toward the end of the day, staying behind after hours and overcoming the night guard.  But how did they get out again? It seemed by using the guard's keys, unlocking the back entrance area and opening the big doors, so gaining access to the goods lift and from there to the loading bay.  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, connection to Eufinger's [a Frankfurt security firm] headquarters.  This was their way of knowing whether any suspicions had been aroused."

In both the museum thefts in 1972 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and in 2010 at the Musée d'Art Moderne in Paris, the thief or thieves had knowledge of the security systems' vulnerabilities -- in Montreal the repair of a skylight had disabled the alarm and in Paris the security system was awaiting the delivery of a part. Three security guards were alleged to have been on duty the night of the theft in Paris but nothing in the press has explained the whereabouts of these guardians while the small gallery was being robbed.

The initial investigation in Frankfurt, Nairne writes, was conducted by the Franfurt-am--Main Organized Crime Squad.  "After setting up a reconstruction, collecting evidence from the Schirn Kunsthalle staff and from witnesses that evening, the Squad eventually got to the point of being able to make arrests," Nairne writes (page 53).  "Over a period of time they arrested nine suspects, only some of whom they could actually connect with the emerging evidence."

Nairne quotes Jurek "Rocky" Rokosynski, a (London) Metropolitan Police undercover officer's recollections:
"The thieves and the handler were arrested soon afterwards.... Apparently they had an alibi for the actual time of the robbery.... But the clock was hours out of time, and only years afterwards, when the clock was checked against the actual time of the theft, did the truth emerge.... The police had their thumb prints or partial prints right from the start, because they had left them at the Schirn.  There was also a third person, a 'handler'. He was the one that the BKA put an undercover agent onto, to try and obtain the paintings, but each time he was arrested he would keep his mouth shut and would have to be released again."
The partial prints led police to the red light district of Frankfurt and into the criminal underworld.  Rocky recalls: "The van that was used linked to a driving license itself linked to one of the red light district establishments, run by Serbs. But in a police interview, if they don't have to say anything, they just don't say a thing."

It took the Tate over a decade to negotiate the return of the paintings.  You can read the rest of Sandy Nairne's fascinating book to find out how the paintings came home.

In other news, "Swiss Locate 2 Stolen Picassos" from Zurich? Where? Serbia.  In the 1960s it was the Corsican mob stealing paintings in the South of France.  Are we now seeing evidence of Serbian organized crime either commissioning or purchasing stolen art?