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May 23, 2024

4th Francis Bacon painting stolen in Madrid is recovered by Spanish Police

Today, the Spanish authorities announced that the fourth of five stolen paintings, by the artist Francis Bacon has been recovered by the Policía Nacional España.  The operation followed upon the February 2024 arrest of two individuals who, it is alleged were the receivers of two of the stolen paintings. 

This hauntingly circa 1980, oil and pastel portrait, signed on the verso by artist alongside a dedication to its owner, was created in Bacon's vivid and distorted aesthetic.  A hauntingly blend of abstraction and figuration, the portrait's contorted form converges to evoke a profound sense of existential unease and demonstrates the painter's mastery of positive and negative space.  

Earlier, on the ARCA blog, we reviewed the theft, which occurred at a private residence in Madrid during the summer of 2015.  During that incident thieves entered a five-story building on the Plaza de la Encarnación—an affluent area in the centre of Madrid, near the Spanish Senate and the Royal Palace.  Once inside, the burglars broke into the residence while the property owner was out of the country in the UK. 

Entering the apartment without being seen by the doorman or other residents, the raiders went about disabling the apartment owner's alarm system and stole five visceral portraits, made by the Irish-born British figurative painter, in total worth an estimated €30 million.  The team of burglars also made off with jewellery and a collection of ancient coins valued at €400,000.    

In February 2016, the first major break in the case came in when an individual queried the Art Loss Register trying to establish if one of the stolen portraits had been listed as stolen.  Writing anonymously, the inquirer sent photographs of the painting which could only have been taken by individuals with access to the portrait after its theft.

This exchange proved critical to the investigation, and by March 2016 police had identified seven individuals believed to be involved in the theft and attempted circulation of the five stolen paintings.  Some of those,  named by the Spanish press, are stated to be:

• Ricardo Barbastro Heras, the lead organiser for the fencing network who has  a minor but significant criminal record and who is a relative of the later arrested Cristóbal García.  

• Antonio Losada de la Rosa and José Losada Manzano, a father/son duo of antique dealers from el Rastro, the most popular flea market in Madrid.

• Rafael Heredia González, a jeweller

By May 28, 2016 Spanish news reported that agents working with the Central Specialized and Violent Crime Unit (UDEV) had arrested six more individuals in Madrid who were also believed to be connected to the theft or circulation of the artworks. By January 2017 that number grew to seven, bring the total arrests to fourteen.  Others reported by the Spanish press as allegedly having involvement in this crime are: 

• Cristóbal García, a dealer from Castellón who is considered to be one of the leaders of the operation

• Alfredo Cristian Ferriz González, AKA Cristian Ferriz or Christian Férriz, a close friend of García and a real Renaissance man in the criminal world with a long police record, eight of them for robbery with force, three for vehicle theft, one for threats and another for drug traffic.  

• Agustín González Serrano, affiliated with the photo shop which rented the camera used to send photos to the Art Loss Register

• Jorge de las Heras Escámez, a cousin of Ricardo Barbastro Heras, who worked in an art gallery

• Aquilino Jiménez Bermúdez, another seller from Madrid's el Rastro.

In 29 February 2024 the Historical Heritage Brigade of Spain's National Police announced the arrested two more individuals in connection to this increasingly complex police investigation.  

Previous recoveries related to this theft case. 

In 2017 investigators announced the recovery of three of the five stolen Francis Bacon artworks.  

On January 7, 2021 Dutch private investigator Arthur Brand tweeted that the remaining two stolen portraits were being shopped internationally via underworld contacts, complete with "proof-of-life" images which showed that the two portraits were still in relatively good condition despite being in the hands of fences.  One photograph published by Brand depicted the verso of one of the painting's with the Irish painter's signature, and date.  Another photograph provided but the private investigator showed the portrait which was announced as being recovered this week.   This painting was photographed laying on what appears to be a yellow couch cover.

The last photo, depicted below, shows the singular remaining stolen portrait from the Madrid theft.  This 35.5 x 31 cm oil and pastel on canvas painting was photographed lying on a tabletop, partially obscured by a copy of Spanish newspaper El País which is dated October 6, 2019.  

In various articles Brand indicated that he had received communication that indicated that underworld buyers were considering the two stolen Bacon portraits, not yet recovered by the police, telling journalists that he had been passed the video by an unnamed informant.  This person indicated that the two remaining artworks were being shopped by an individual going by the nom de plum, "Jason".  

Accompanying the video was a piece of paper which implied perhaps that the remaining two paintings might still be in Spain, even if the thieves had widened their marketing to contacts internationally.  Handwritten on this document was the would-be seller's alleged name "Jason" noting that it was signed at "Starbucks Madrid," on the date of "2020-5-11."

The artist Francis Bacon died on April 28, 1992 at the Ruber clinic in Madrid at 82 years of age.  Prior to his death he was reportedly in love with the young Spanish financier to whom gifted the paintings.

For now, the last painting remains listed on Interpol's stolen Works of Art database. 

May 16, 2024

Thursday, May 16, 2024 - , No comments

Rising Threats in the Art Market's Cybersecurity Landscape

While Christie's website continues to state “We apologise that our full website is currently offline” redirecting visitors to a temporary page outside of its own web domain, its auctions have managed to continue at a healthy pace.  Market players have underscored the auction house's fine art of resilience since the May 11th incident which occurred just days before the firms scheduled $840M art mega-auction. 

But while the art world's show must go on, tech security experts and the general public would like a little more information.

In its second cyber attack in less than a year, Christie’s assured its clients that its auctions would proceed, with bidders being able to participate in person, by phone, or through Christie’s Live platform.  But the auction powerhouse released no information regarding what systems had been impacted, just that they were working to resolve the situation with a team of internal and external technology experts to resolve this matter as quickly as possible.  Company CEO Guillaume Cerutti referred to the kerfuffle as a “technology security incident” but said nothing about whether or not financial or other sensitive data tied to Christie’s clientele had been compromised. 

Despite the web outage, Vojtěch Kovařík's
‘Hercules with his head in his hand’
sold for $94,500 on May 15th. 
In July 2023 Zentrust Partners alerted Christie’s to an earlier security breach which included sensitive location metadata being accessible from some uploaded photos.  This oversight is believed to have revealed the exact whereabouts of art owned by a percentage of the auction house’s wealthiest collectors,  potentially compromising their privacy and security by allowing access to data which identified the locations of where artworks had been photographed. Within a month, the auction house had enhanced their cybersecurity measures and offered its affected clients support and guidance on mitigating potential risks resulting from the breach.

In 2014 the Syrian Electronic Army hacked Christie's website, as well as 23 other sites including Forbes, The Chicago Tribune, Ferrari, the Independent, and the Daily Telegraph.  In this instance hackers attacked vulnerable sites accessing the Gigiya CDN and injecting a Javascript code which caused all the sites to display a specific  popup, drawing attention to the group's cause  Not engineered to inflict damage, the disrupters signed off with a postscript saying “PS: We would never attack users or damage systems. It was just a message.”

Its worth recalling that on October 29, 2023 the British Library experienced a technology outage with the library issuing a statement very similar to the one issued this month by Christie's CEO.  In that incident, library management described the incident as “a technology outage.”  

The British Library's incident turned out to be a highly sophisticated and disruptive cyberattack by the Rhysida ransomware group which continues to impact the institution's website, online systems, and services, as well as some onsite services, even today.  Like in the Christie's incident, the library was also forced into the position of having to set up a temporary website.  

The Rhysida ransomware group is believed to have originated from a collective of cybercriminals with extensive experience in malware development and network infiltration. Its ransomeware, debuted in mid 2023 and is distinguished by its advanced evasion techniques. 

To attack vulnerable systems, Rhysida utilises obfuscation methods to avoid detection by traditional antivirus and anti-malware solutions.  It is characterised by its rapid encryption process followed by the deployment of ransom demands.  

To access the system, Rhysida primarily exploits vulnerabilities to the systems through phishing attacks and other social engineering tactics.  Once inside, the malware renders its target's critical data inaccessible. 

Another distinguishing feature of the Rhysida group is their use of double extortion. Beyond encrypting data, they exfiltrate sensitive information and threaten to publish it unless a ransom in cryptocurrency is paid in exchange for the decryption key. The malware’s encryption algorithm is robust, and often leaves compromised victims with no choice but to pay the ransom or face significant data loss.

While the root cause of this recent Christie's outage has not been released, high impact incidences like these highlight vulnerabilities within the digital frameworks of important cultural institutions, as well as high-value asset transaction sites in the art market where customer names, accounts, banking details, and credit card information are ubiquitous to the online bidding process. 

May 12, 2024

When morality stops with one's own favourite coin(s).


Q. Servilius Caepio (M. Junius) Brutus AV Aureus

"When collapse is imminent, the little rodents flee."
~ Pliny the Elder 

Unlike today, the ancient Romans didn’t simply number their calendar days in order from the first of the month to the last. Instead, they counted backward in relation to three days: the calends, nones, and ides.  The ides (from the Latin word īdūs) was the fifteenth day of March, May, July, and October, and the thirteenth day of the other months. 

But this post isn't about Roman calendars but rather how one rare coin, a Q. Servilius Caepio (M. Junius) Brutus AV Aureus, known as the Eid Mar Coin saw the rise and fall of one of the UK's numismatic titans for their known handling of unprovenanced coins and for having created fictitious collecting histories. 

Word on the coin collecting street, in late April, was that Roma Numismatics Ltd's April 25th E-Sale would be their last.  This chatter was being fuelled in part by the London-based firm's puzzling habit of changing bank accounts for wires as well as for the larger than the norm sales of Athenian tetradrachms and various other coins sold in their last two auctions.  Likewise, three Roma Numismatics staffers, Gil Southwood, Joe Hazell, Svetlana Egorova resigned from the firm and took up new positions with Andreas Afeldt's The Coin Cabinet. Others remaining stated they were open for new opportunities. 

While some speculated that the firm was experiencing financial difficulties, their publicaly available amended 2022 Statement of Financial Position listed their total assets, less current liabilities as totalling £10,988,553.  Despite this, by the start of the month, the writing was on the proverbial wall.  Letters had gone out to Roma Numismatics consignors telling them to collect their coins by the 17th as the firm would cease trading on May 24th.  For the present, their website remains active, but their sales calendar stops with their last April auction (and also makes no mention of their pending demise).

For background, on 10 January 2023 the director of the firm, Richard Beale was arrested in New York after being named in a New York criminal complaint alongside Italian coin dealer Italo Vecchi.  Beale was charged with making false statements, punishable as a class A misdemeanor pursuant to section 210.45 of the Penal Law.  At the same  time Vecchi was listed as working with Roma Numismatics as a consultant specialist who frequently consigned coins for sale in the firm's auctions. 

By August 14, 2023, in a courtroom session at the New York Supreme Criminal Court, Richard Beale had pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy and three counts of criminal possession of stolen property.  In making his plea the company's owner also made two incriminating admissions.

Beale confessed and acknowledged his awareness that the provenances of the Alexander the Great decadrachms sold earlier by his firm were falsified at the time of their sale, with the intention of concealing their origins from the Gaza Hoard.  This despite the fact that he had been challenged by the producers of a BBC documentary regarding the false provenances listed on Roma Numismatics' auction site.

In total 19 of these, formerly very rare, Alexander decadrachms were sold - 11 of them via Roma Numismatics - with the provenance of the coins listed as either "from a private Canadian collection" or "ex-private European collection" many of which appear to have been traced to another problematic Roma Numismatics associate Salem Alshdaifat, a sometimes Canada based Jordanian. 

Alshdaifat, once based in Michigan has had his own run-in with the US authorities and was charged in U.S. v. Khouli et al. CR.11-340, (E.D.N.Y) .

Court records also indicated that Beale entered into a sales agreement with Vecchi in 2015, to purchase the extremely rare Eid Mar coin, minted in 42 BCE to commemorate the assassination of Julius Caesar on the Ides of March and that the pair had traveled to Munich, where they exchanged €450,000 in cash for the rare coin despite its lack of provenance paperwork or any form of legitimising documentation.

More recently it seems, with the looming closing of this enterprise and Beale's plea agreement, some of his firm's clients who previously closed their eyes to the origins of some of their purchases are getting nervous.  Other complain that Roma Numismatics' once upon a time guarantee on the absolute authenticity of all Lots sold, stating "There is no expiration to this guarantee" are realising instead there is, in fact, an expiration date to the fanciful phrasing of the Bidder's Terms and Conditions. 

Where Beale himself will go after the firms closing is unclear. Perhaps he will pen a Bruce McNall-type autobiography. "Fun While It Lasted" was a great read. And despite being written 20 years ago, the book showed the hubris of tricksters who have, and apparently still do, profit largely from the laundering and sale of illicit material.

By Lynda Albertson

May 5, 2024

Celebrating our 13th year of academic conferences addressing art and antiquities crimes, ARCA will host its summer interdisciplinary art crime conference the weekend of June 21-23, 2024.

Conference Date:
June 21-23, 2024
Location: Amelia, Italy

Celebrating our 13th year of academic conferences addressing art and antiquities crimes, ARCA will host its summer interdisciplinary art crime conference the weekend of June 21-23, 2024.

Known as the Amelia Conference, the Association's weekend-long event aims to facilitate a critical appraisal of art crimes and the protection of art and cultural heritage and brings together researchers and academics, police, and individuals from many of the allied professions that interact with the art market, coming together to discuss issues of common concern. 

This conference is an annual ARCA event, held in the historic city of Amelia, in the heart of Italy's Umbria region where ARCA also plays host to its Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection.

The conference includes a weekend full of multidisciplinary panel sessions, and plenty of time to meet others who are working towards the protection and recovery of cultural heritage.

Confirmed Presentations (additional names will be added as speakers confirm)

The Victimization of Art
Catherine P. Foster
Partner, Argus Cultural Property Consultants, Washington DC
Timothy Carpenter
Managing Director, Argus Cultural Property Consultants, Washington DC

Where’s the Loot
Colonel Andrew Scott Dejesse
US Army CENTCOM CCJ5, Program Director, Strategic Initiatives Group, Amarillo
Marc Masurovsky, M.A.
Co-founder Holocaust Art Restitution Project, Washington DC

The European Union's CULTNET
Christine Casteels
Project Manager EU CULTNET
Member Driver team EMPACT CSE
Federal Judicial Police DJSOC - Belgium

Revealing Entangled Art Markets and Problematic Art Provenance through the Stendahl Art Galleries Records
Kylie King, M.A.
Pre-Hispanic Art Provenance Initiative, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles

Repatriation in Two Acts: Identifying & Recovering Stolen Pages of 16th Century American Theatrical History
K.T. Newton, J.D.
Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Philadephia

Exploring Art Crime in Canada: Uncovering the Norval Morrisseau Forgery Ring
Lauren Elyse Gowler, LL.M. Candidate
Queen Mary University of London; The Institute of Art & Law, London

The Other Genocide of the Twentieth Century: Unique Challenges Facing Armenian Art Restitution
Madison A. King, MLitt, J.D., Litigation Attorney
Kolar and Associates, A Law Corporation, Los Angeles

Fighting Illicit Trafficking in Cultural Goods: RITHMS SNA-based Platform as an Innovative Tool to Dismantle Criminal Networks
Michela De Bernardin, Ph.D., Post-doc
Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Venice

Interactions between Switzerland and EU’s Cultural Heritage Regulation against Illicit Trafficking in a Borderless Area. Latest Developments and Remaining Vulnerabilities
Katharina Nothnagel-Vivas, Ph.D. Candidate
King Juan Carlos University, Madrid

Strengthening international cooperation in the fight against illicit trafficking. How have things changed in the last decade in terms of international cooperation?"
Charlotte Chambers-Farah, LL.M.
Art Loss Register, London

Making Sense of Fair Use in a Post-Warhol World
Judith B. Prowda, Esq.
Partner, Stropheus Art Law, New York

Offende Principle and Aesthetic Judgment in (Street) Writing
Maria Di Maggio, Ph.D. Candidate in Criminal Law - Dipartimento Jonico in Sistemi Giuridici ed Economici del Mediterraneo - Università degli Studi di Bari “Aldo Moro”, Bari

New Frontiers in Art Crime Encroaching on Old Borders: Protecting Artistic Innovation in the Digital Age
Cinnamon Stephens, J.D.
Owner, Kunst Mitos Consulting, Amsterdam
Fred Van de Walle, M.A.
Marine archaeological conservator, Switzerland

Ritratto di Gentiluomo con berretto nero: A Case Study on The Intersection of the Art Market and Cultural Heritage Protection
Serena Sancataldo, Ph.D. Candidate
Team member of the UNESCO Chair on Business Integrity and Crime Prevention in Art and Antiquities Market, University of Campania Luigi Vanvitelli, Criminal Law Department, Caserta

Explaining Money Laundering in the Art Market to a Jury: My Turn to Be on the Witness Stand
Jane Levine, J.D.
Partner and Co-founder Art Risk Group, New York

Smuggling across the ocean: Loschi’s Christ bearing the Cross in the Gardner Museum
Francesca Romana Gregori, Ph.D. Candidate
Università degli Studi di Milano Statale

To register for this event, please go to our Eventbrite page located here.

Conference Networking Events

Saturday and Sunday's conference sessions include complimentary morning and afternoon coffee breaks, with coffee, juices and light pastries or afternoon hors d'oeuvres to allow time for networking. 

Friday, June 21st - Casablanca themed Icebreaker Cocktail "Cena" at the Country House Monastero le Grazie  
NB: To attend this event, please select the correct registration payment option during your conference registration.

ARCA will open its conference weekend with this relaxing icebreaker cocktail at the Country House Monastero le Grazie, an enchanting centuries-old Cistercian monastery adjacent to the Church and Sanctuary of Santa Maria delle Grazie, built in 1300.  This unique conference venue is located in the hamlet of Foce, just a few kilometers outside the centro storico of Amelia and will also play host to Saturday's Gala Dinner. 

Saturday, June 22nd- Cloister Buffet Luncheon in the centro storico of Amelia**
Saturday, June 22nd - Italian Slow Food Conference Dinner at Il Ristoro del Priore, Country House Monastero le Grazie  (Please RSVP by 15 June 2024). **
Sunday, June 23rd - Cloister Buffet Luncheon - in the centro storico of Amelia**

** Ticketing to the optional Gala Dinner and Conference Lunches can be paid for directly at the conference venues:

Please note: The Amelia Conference has sold out in 2019 and 2023.  We recommend that those interested in attending reserve their tickets in advance to ensure availability.   Seating is limited and fire-safety prevention rules prevent us from overbooking.

If you have any questions regarding this conference, please contact the ARCA conference organisation team at:

italy.conference [at]

May 3, 2024

Carabinieri Command: Safeguarding Italy's Cultural Heritage for 55 years

Fifty-five years ago today, on May 3, 1969, a crucial chapter in the protection of Italy's rich cultural heritage was written with the establishment of the special department of the Arma dei Carabinieri known as the "Nucleo Tutela Patrimonio Artistico." Since its inception, this unit has been entrusted with the vital task of safeguarding and protecting the nation's artistic legacy. Over the decades, it has evolved into the esteemed "Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage," earning recognition both nationally and internationally for its unwavering dedication and exemplary work.

At the core of its operations lies a commitment to investigative, informational, and analytical functions aimed at combatting the illicit trafficking of cultural artefacts. Central to its success is the utilisation of the Leonardo Database of illicitly stolen cultural heritage, the largest repository of its kind globally. This database, containing comprehensive information on assets, primarily of Italian origin, and serves as a powerful tool in the ongoing efforts to locate and repatriate stolen treasures.

Moreover, the Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage extends its expertise and support to other law enforcement agencies, fostering collaboration and synergy in the fight against cultural crime. Its partnership with the Ministero della Cultura ensures a comprehensive and coordinated approach to preserving Italy's cultural legacy for future generations.

As we commemorate their milestone, we salute the men and women of the TPC for their tireless efforts in protecting their country's cultural heritage. Their dedication serves as a model in the ongoing battle against the illicit trade in cultural property and affirms Italy's commitment to preserving its cultural identity.

May 2, 2024

The European Court of Human Rights has rejected the J. Paul Getty Museum’s appeal and upholds the decision issued by Italian authorities on the recovery of the “Victorious Youth”

Image Credit: S. King

Today on May 2, 2024 the First Section of the European Court of Human Rights, also known as the Strasbourg Court, (ECHR - Cour européenne des droits de l'homme) rejected the J. Paul Getty Museum’s appeal and entered a ruling in the case of The J. Paul Getty Trust and Others v. Italy (Application no. 35271/19) upholding the decision issued by Italian authorities aimed at the recovery of the bronze statue, “Victorious Youth” (also referred to as the “Athlete of Fano” or the “Lysippus of Fano”), dating to the classical period. This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention, though it may be subject to editorial revision.

The appeal had been lodged with the Court against the Italian Republic under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) by the J. Paul Getty Trust and fourteen American nationals (“the applicants”) on 28 June 2019 made up of:

The J. Paul Getty Trust
Megan Brody Chernin
James Bash Cuno
Bruce Wall Dunlevie
Catharine Drew Dilpin Faust
Frances Daly Fergusson
Maria Denise Hummer-Tuttle
Pamela Joyner
Paul Omer Leclerc
David Li Lee 
Robert Whitney Lovelace
Thelma Esther Melendez de Santa Ana
Neil Leon Rudenstine
Ronald Paul Spogli

The J. Paul Getty Trust and the members of its board of trustees (“the trustees”) alleged that the adoption of the confiscation order constituted a violation of their right to the peaceful enjoyment of their possessions, as guaranteed by Article 1 of Protocol No. 1. They further complained of the risk of being deprived of that right if the Italian authorities succeeded in obtaining recognition and enforcement of the confiscation in the United States of America (US), where the bronze is exhibited, at the Getty Villa in Malibu, California. 

The judicial authorities in Italy had already ruled the the Statue of the Victorius Youth was protected by Italian cultural heritage and customs law, had been unlawfully exported from Italy and then negligently purchased by the Trust despite the absence of an export licence and repeated attempts by the Italian authorities to recover it.

In making the ruling announced this morning, the European Court Chamber, composed of:

Marko Bošnjak, President
Alena Poláčková, 
Krzysztof Wojtyczek, 
Lətif Hüseynov,
Ivana Jelić,
Gilberto Felici, 
Raffaele Sabato, 
and Ilse Freiwirth, Section Registrar,

deliberated in private on 19 March 2024, delivering their judgment today.

In their 92 page ruling on 2 May 2024 the court issued its ruling stating it:

1. Upholds, unanimously, the Government’s objection to the standing of the members of the first applicant’s board of trustees and declares that they have no standing to lodge the present application;

The J. Paul Getty Trust and Others v. Italy Judgement

2. Holds, unanimously, that there is no need to rule on whether the new members of the first applicant’s board of trustees have standing to pursue the present application;

3. Dismisses, by a majority, the other preliminary objections raised by the Government and declares, by a majority, the complaint under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 admissible;

4. Holds, unanimously, that there has been no violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention.

Each of the parties were notified in writing on 2 May 2024, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court, signed by Ilse Freiwirth as Registrar and Marko Bošnjak  as President.

In accordance with Article 45 § 2 of the Convention and Rule 74 § 2 of the Rules of Court, the separate opinion of Judge Wojtyczek was annexed to their judgment.

It should be noted that in accordance with the provisions of Articles 43 and 44 of the Convention, this Chamber judgment is not final. Within three months from the date of its delivery, any party may request the referral of the case to the Grand Chamber of the Court. In such a case, a panel of five judges determines whether the case merits further examination.  Should this occur, the Grand Chamber will seize
the case and will issue a final judgment. 

If the referral request is rejected, the Chamber judgment will become final on the date of the Grand Chamber rejection.

April 26, 2024

Georgia's Prosecutor Pursues Criminal Charges Against Four Nationals in Book Theft Investigation

Yesterday Bakur Abuladze, First Deputy Prosecutor General of Georgia announced the arrest of four individuals in the Eastern European country on charges of stealing rare 19th century books from national and university libraries in the Czech Republic, Germany, Estonia , France, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Switzerland.    The arrests were born out of transnational crime group operation involving law enforcement officers from France, Germany, Lithuania and Switzerland, with coordination assistance via Europol and Eurojust.  Searching aparments and places of sale a large amount of cash and hundreds of books, many with their library watermarks evident,  were recovered, including a 19th-century French-language book allegedly stolen from the National Library of Paris

According to yesterday's announcements, between 2022 and 2023 this network of  accomplices visited libraries across Europe, gaining access to collections using fake IDs with fictitious names and surnames.  Having obtained access to collection material, they then exchanged rare book editions, primarily centring on Russian classics, in particular, books by Alexander Pushkin and Nikolai Gogol which they then substituted with makeshift counterfeits selling the books onward in Russia. 

Along with the financial motive for the crime,  journalists have speculated on a  political motive, where in the large-scale operation was incentivised by buyers seeking to return literary relics to Russia.  For now this theory is just that.