January 11, 2021

Monday, January 11, 2021 - , No comments

New Zealand Police want help in finding the owners of recovered stolen artworks

Image Credit:  Waikato Police

Law enforcement authorities with the Waikato Police have posted photos of numerous artworks to their Facebook page which officers believe were taken during a spate of burglaries from properties around the Waihi Beach and Coromandel area at the western end of the Bay of Plenty in New Zealand's North Island. 

Image Credit:  Waikato Police

ARCA's readers are encouraged to make a report online at 105.police.govt.nz if you recognize any of these artworks or artists in these photographs.  If you have any information and are regionally located in New Zealand you can also call 24/7 on the Police Non-Emergency Reporting number, 105.

 on their Facebook page today which they believed were stolen in burglaries over the past several months.

January 5, 2021

Israel's Antiquities Authority's Robbery Prevention Unit take three people into custody for questioning on suspicion of dealing in illicit antiquities.

Image Credit - Yoli Schwartz / Israel Antiquities Authority

Three people, believed to be involved in an illegal antiquities trading network, have been taken into custody as the result of an extensive investigation in Israel.  All three individuals are said to be residents of Gush Dan, the densely populated region surrounding the city of Tel-Aviv and have been under surveillance for suspicion of trafficking, illegal possession of antiquities, as well as possible instances of fraud and money laundering.  Amir Ganor, the director of the Antiquities Authority's Robbery Prevention Unit told Israeli newspapers that this is one of the "most significant operations carried out in the country against illegal trade in antiquities" involving some €2.5 million worth of ancient art. 

During the past several months, the fraud unit in the Tel Aviv district has conducted a joint undercover investigation, in cooperation with the Israel Antiquities Authority and the country's Tax Authority.  Yesterday, in the early morning, law enforcement announced that they had conducted search warrants on the apartments of the three unnamed suspects, in warehouses and at a gallery in Tel Aviv.

Law enforcement officers recovered ancient objects and coins most of which dates from the 3rd century BCE through the 11th century CE.  The objects are believed to have been removed from their context during clandestine excavations throughout the Mediterranean basin and North Africa and include Red-figure and Black-figure attic pottery from Ancient Greece and Italy, as well as jugs, vases, coins from the Seleucid Hellenistic period, jewellery, statues, and figurines.  Officers also recovered decorated sarcophagus lids, painted wooden boxes, and objects created with faience from Egypt. 

Despite their stunning recovery, the Israel Antiquities Authority has stated that their investigation is just now getting started.   The country will be reaching out to art and antiquities enforcement counterparts in other countries to discuss the origins and perhaps movements of the objects before their arrival to Israel. 

Two of the suspects have been listed in open source reports as a 70-year-old gallery owner and his 40-year-old son though other article sources indicate that none of the detainees were licensed traders in ancient art though some of the suspects were in contact with licensed dealers.  The third suspect has been described as being a 40-year-old resident of the city of Holon, located 10 km outside the Tel Aviv metropolis.   

All three men were brought in for questioning at the offices of the fraud unit in the Tel Aviv district.  Carrying out illegal excavations at antiquities sites in Israel without a license constitutes a severe violation of the country's patrimony law.  If convicted as such, culprits can be sentenced to up to five years in prison.

Operación Nongreta brings in three gun runners and uncovers one suspect's "museum" of Nazi-themed objects

Image Credit: Guardia Civil

Arrested in a complex multinational police action code-named Operación Nongreta one of three gun runners arrested in Spain at the end of December has been found to have maintained a "museum" of Nazi-themed objects, alongside a substantial arsenal of weapons and ammunition.

Within the framework of the year-long Nongreta operation, involving the Information Office (UCE3) of Spain's Civil Guard, with the support of the Bundeskriminalamt, (the German Federal Criminal Police Office, BKA), the Andalusian Area Information Section, the USECIC and the GEDEX of the Málaga Command, and members of the GAR and the Servicio Cinológico, law enforcement successfully dismantled an arms trafficking group known to be dealing with drug trafficking cells working the Costa del Sol and Campo de Gibraltar regions in the south of Spain.   

The operation, born out of a noticeable uptick in murders carried out during drug-related crimes committed on the Costa del Sol in the final stretch of 2019 using modified assault rifles, resulted in the arrested of three key actors - two German citizens and one British, who have each been charged with participation in an organized crime group, storing and trafficking of arms and ammunition, drug trafficking, and use of forged documents.  The arms traffickers are believed to have been in operation for at least three years, operating a sophisticated scheme which funnelled weaponry obtained from Eastern Europian countries, with access to the old Soviet arsenals, to drug traffickers in need of weaponry active in southern Spain. 

In breaking up the ring, investigators focused their attention on a seventy-year-old German citizen, a former gunsmith living in Coín on the pretext of being a simple foreign retiree. Through exchanges of information with Germany's Bundeskriminalamt, Spanish authorities were informed that the suspect had spent four years in prison for the illegal modification of weapons and also had a current outstanding European Arrest Warrant (EAW), after an arsenal was tied to him in a Hannover case in 2019.  In that case, a family member has already been sentenced to prison for their involvement.

In a subsequent search of this suspect's home in Coín, the Civil Guard, with the assistance of a firearm-sniffing K-9, found a sophisticated hidden workshop, complete with complex machinery, which tapped into the city's electrical grid in order to operate a milling lathe, column drills, a hydraulic press and a blueing oven, the latter used after erasing the serial numbers to restore the barrels of the weapons to almost mint condition.  This would make the weapons almost untraceable, and therefore a perfect weapon of choice in the clandestine arms market.

It was here that the suspect would modify weapons such as the Zastava M70, (Застава М70), a standard-issue domestic folding-stock Kalashnikov variant once used by the Yugoslav People's Army in 1970.  Short and easily concealable under a coat or loose jacket, the weapons are perfect for drug factions engaged in quick hits when fighting over competing turf.  The weapons had been purchased from collectors in Eastern Europe disassembled and were modified in the Spain workshop for resale. The second suspect, also a German citizen, is believed to have been responsible for the storage and concealment of the weapons in a rented warehouse. 

Image Credit: Guardia Civil

The Third Reich memorabilia was identified in a second suspect's home in Alhaurín el Grandes, a town located in the province of Málaga on the north side of the Sierra de Mijas.  There, the police found tables, shelves and display cases jammed with Nazi memorabilia including a portrait bust of Adolf Hitler, SS Uniforms, helmets, stick pins, insignias, medals, flags, and armbands of the National Socialist German Workers' Party, many of which were emblazoned in some way with a swastika or the Nazi eagle.

After a search of the suspect's home, officers moved on to a safe house he rented on the outskirts of the municipality.  It is in that rented warehouse where authorities uncovered an arsenal ready for sale.  There, law enforcement seized 160 firearms made up of 121 short weapons, 22 assault rifles and 8 submachine guns.  Along with the arms, officers recovered 9,967 rounds of ammunition of different calibres, eight silencers, 273 magazines, a grenade, and a kilo and a half of military explosives. 

Spanish newspapers have identified the holder of the Nazi memorabilia and the warehouse as a 54-year-old German named Tilo Kränzler, who publically claimed to be "the grandson of the real driver of the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler" during an interview which can be found on the Radio Platja d'Aro program "Enigma Report." He is also known to have saught connections with a Spanish far-right group.

In addition to his involvement with arms selling, the Kränzler sold olive oil on eBay, and operated a stall which sold military and Nazi paraphernalia as well as T-shirts with the face of the Swedish activist and environmentalist Greta Thunberg with the label “persona Non Greta.” It was this play on words that became the code name for the UCE 3 of the Civil Guard's Operación Nongreta.

The third lead suspect is a British national who also resided in Coín, who acted as the group's intermediary in the sale between the arms dealers, taking a cut of the profits for the arms sold to drug traffickers working the Costa del Sol and Campo de Gibraltar.  Previously arrested for drug trafficking, this UK individual also using fake passports to hide his identity, several of which were recovered by law enforcement during the operation.

At the search of the British suspect's home, the Civil Guard recovered a pistol with its serial number erased and more than 1,200 rounds of ammunition. 

For now, the Court of Instruction of Coín has ordered that the three remain in custody pending trial while the hashish drug traffickers who operate in the Campo de Gibraltar area and to a large part of the mafias that have faced each other for years in Málaga's Costa del Sol will have a bit of difficulty stocking up on their firearms.

Image Credit: Guardia Civil

January 4, 2021

Monday, January 04, 2021 - No comments

Another sentencing for Congolese Activist Emery Mwazulu Diyabanza

On 22 October 2020 Emery Mwazulu Diyabanza entered the Musée du Louvre in Paris and after a brief stroll through the Pavillon des Sessions, where the Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac museum collection is exhibited made the latest in a string of protests regarding colonial-period acquisitions in French museum collections. 

During the disruption, Diyabanza began by making a live-streamed speech stating he was taking back "what was stolen and plundered from us… to take back what was pillaged from Africa".  Like in his previous demonstrations, his protest then crossed the lines of legality when the activist lifted an 18th-century Ana deo figure of the Nage people and began walking through the museum with it. 

Ironically, the artefact Diyabanza then carried a short distance through the museum's gallery, hugged to his chest as if carrying a child, represents the tutelar spirits of a clan house, and comes from Flores Island in Eastern Indonesia, not from Africa.  The activist was then intercepted first by a chastising museum patron and shortly thereafter by security from the Musée du Louvre who detained the activist until police could take him into custody.

For this latest escapade, Diyabanza was sentenced by the Paris court to 5,000 euros in fines, including 2,000 euros in favour of the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac which had loaned the artwork to the Louvre.  He was also handed a  suspended prison sentence of 4 months all of which he plans to appeal. 

Diyabanza began his demonstrations during the summer of 2020 and on 13 June entered the Musée du Quai Branly - Jacques Chirac in Paris and removed a 19th-century Chadian funerary pole from its display, arguing the object was originally stolen from Africa by French colonisers.  Initially accused of attempted theft, he was convicted of aggravated theft, after describing his actions as a protest against colonial looting, not a theft, knowing he would be stopped. In this incident, he was acquitted by a Marseille court and received a fine of €1,000.

On 30 July 2020 Diyabanza was again arrested for taking a ceremonial ivory spear from its display at the Musée Colonial de Marseille founded by Dr. Édouard Marie Heckel but was later acquitted of the charges related to the incident.

On 10 September 2020 Diyabanza visited the Afrika Museum in Berg en Dal in the Netherlands and picked up a Congolese statue and marched the statue out of the museum.  The museum staff did not interfere with the demonstration in order to prevent any possible damage to the statue and allowed the group to leave the museum having already notified the Dutch police, who were waiting outside to apprehend the protestors

In early October Diyabanza also visited the Museum aan de Stroom (MAS) in Antwerp and symbolically removed a painting from the 100X Congo exhibition before realizing it was a contemporary and not colonial-period work.

Image Credit: Mwazulu Diyabanza Siwa Lemba official Facebook Page

Conference: "Orphan artworks / Œuvres orphelines

Conference Dates:
4-5 February 2020

Conference Location:
Online (visioconférence)

Conference Fees:
Free with registration

French and English (with simultaneous translation)

Covering the provenance, legality, and responsible stewardship of what is referred to as an "orphan object", i.e., artefacts in circulation within the art market or within existing collections which are determined to have inadequate provenance.

Registration for this online conference is open and a PDF copy of the programme and speakers is available from the Centre Universitaire du Droit de l'Art, headquartered at the University of Geneva, via this link.