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March 16, 2016

12 arrests/13 warrents in the Verona Museum Theft

Twelve accomplices, have been arrested in connection with the theft of 17 paintings worth an estimated €10m-€15m stolen on Thursday, November 19, 2015 from the Verona Civic Museum of Castelvecchio shortly before its 8 pm closing time.  At the time of the theft, thieves had made off with seventeen Italian and foreign artworks including rare pieces by Peter Paul Rubens, Bellini, Pisanello, Mategna, the Venetian artist Tintoretto and his son.   

During the art heist, one accomplice stayed with the cashier holding her at gunpoint while two others escorted the watchmen through the museum's exhibition rooms and for more than an hour, removed artworks from their fastenings. The thieves were then reported to have taken the guard's keys, using his automobile for a fast getaway.  

Yesterday, law enforcement announced a sensational breakthrough in the case.  In a joint investigation involving Verona's Police and the Comando Carabinieri per la Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale coordinated by Italian Deputy Public Prosecutor, Gennaro Ottaviano, 12 accomplices have been arrested.

The names of the arrested are:
Anatolie Burlac senior
Vasile Cheptene,
Vasile Mihailov Igor Creciun,
Adrian Damaschin
Denis Damaschin
Victor Potinga
Francesco Silvestri
Ricciardi Pasquale Silvestri
Svetlana Tkachuk
Natalia Tesmann.
Pavel Vasilachi,
Roman Tiganciuc Cornel Vasilita,
Vitalii Voznyi, 

Nine of those arrested were detained by authorities in neighbouring Moldova. Three accomplices were arrested in Verona. In what is developing to look like a classic insider job, one of the detainees, Francesco Silvestri, is the night security guard who had just started his shift at the Castelvecchio museum on the night of the robbery.

Silvesteri's testimony at the time of the incident was not convincing. According to Italy's open public records, he told authorities that armed bandits had entered the side door of the museum just before closing time, a few minutes prior to the time evening alarms are activated. He then elaborated that the thieves quickly captured and disarmed him.  For the next 80 minutes the thieves silently moved through the entire museum, cherry-picking select works.  Caught on the museum's CCTV, the footage recorded the thieves only speaking three words before taking Silvestri's car keys and making a clean getaway with his vehicle.

Silvestri was an employee of Securitalia, a firm that had been awarded the service contract to provide security and surveillance services to the museum.   The guard is believed to have intentionally left the keys of his car available for the thieves to use during the museum heist. Also implicated in the theft is Silvestri’s brother and his Moldovan girlfriend who appears to have been the point of connection between the Italians and the Moldavians criminals who orchestrated the theft.

Announcing the arrest, Italy's Comando Carabinieri per la Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale released footage from the CCTV camera's taken inside the museum on the day of the theft.

While the arrests are significant, authorities have issued no statements as to if any of the missing artwork has been recovered.  When queried by Italian journalists Verona's mayor Flavio Tosi stated "We hope to recover all the paintings and that they are in good condition."

It should be noted that previous dramatic statements suggesting the involvement of Islamic militants  in the theft seem to have been nothing more than unfounded conjecture.