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February 3, 2023

The Paris Court of Appeal has ruled not to drop the antiquities trafficking indictment against former Louvre director Jean-Luc Martinez and curator Jean-François Charnier


In the French courts today, the investigative chamber of the Paris Court of Appeal ruled on the request to cancel the indictments against Jean-Luc Martinez and Jean-François Charnier requested by the Advocate General. 

Last summer, the country saw Martines, its former director of the Musée du Louvre from 2013 to 2021 and the  former scientific director of the Agence France Museums charged with “complicity“ in money laundering "by facilitating the false justification of the origin of the property of the author of a crime or an offense".  Charnier for his part, was suspected of having intentionally favoured the sale of €50 million in acquisitions of illicit material to the Emirati museum in spite of warnings about their problematic.  


The heart of the accusations has been the costly purchases of several Egyptian artefacts between 2014 and 2018, including:
  • a pink granite stele of Tutankhamun, acquired for 8.5 million euros
  • a bust of Cleopatra, acquired for 35 million euros, 
  • a golden funeral coffin ensemble for Princess Henouttaouy, acquired 5 million euros 
  • a bronze sculpture of Isis
  • a blue earthenware hippopotamus 

The brokers and handlers of these artefacts include French intermediary Christophe Kunicki, himself already under indictment for having sold illicit Egyptian material,  Lebanese art dealer Roben Dib who is currently in French custody awaiting trial and Dib's Germany-based business partner Serop Simonian.

Today, the Investigating Chamber of the Paris Court of Appeal rejected both defence counsels' request to lift the “mise en examen” (the indictment by the investigating judge in the context of a judicial investigation) and confirmed that both the former president of the Louvre and the former scientific director remain under indictment.  Martinez has been indicted for laundering and complicity in organised fraud, Charnier, for laundering by facilitating the false justification of the origin of the property of the author of a crime or a misdemeanour and placed under judicial control." 

Through their lawyers, both Martinez and Charnier will appeal today's court decision, and will remain free on judicial supervision while their case proceeds through the French court.

The OCBC's investigation built upon collaborative investigations with the New York County - Manhattan's Antiquities Trafficking Unit, who first unravelled the network of traffickers during their investigation into the illicit trafficking of the ancient gold mummiform coffin, inscribed in the name of Nedjemankh.  Like in the New York case, the French case centers on artefacts which were laundered by means of falsified documents, in particular false invoices and export licenses.

February 1, 2023

Ukraine very own, "Arsène Lupin" is sentenced to five years in French prison


In 2018 a painting Le Port de La Rochelle by French Neo-Impressionist painter Paul Signac was stolen from the Musée de Beaux-Arts in the city of Nancy, in north-east France.  The theft, which took place in broad daylight, involved at least three accomplices, one of whom removed the painting from the wall and then sliced the canvas away from its frame using a box-cutter.  The culprits then rolled the painting up, and walked out of the museum, deftly hiding the stolen painting under a raincoat one of the thieves were wearing.

At the time of the theft, the artwork was estimated to be worth more than one and a half million euros.

Flash forward to April 2019 when Kyiv police raided the home of a suspect allegedly linked to the murder of a jeweller named Serhii Kiselyov, shot dead in his car on March 5, 2019 in Kyiv in a daytime assassination-style killing.

As they searched the residence in the Ukrainian capital, this suspect informed them that there was a valuable painting hidden in a cupboard in the home, advising them to handle it carefully.  The painting turned out to be the stolen 1915 oil painting by Paul Signac.

Interrogated by officers, this suspect implicated Vadym Huzhva, a Ukrainian  collector and sometime art thief from Kharkiv, who at the time was already serving a prison sentence in Austria for art theft.  In that case, Huzhva was one of three well-dressed men in jackets and coats who, working in tandem, waltzed into the Dorotheum auction house in Vienna and stole Golfe, mer, falaises vertes by Pierre-Auguste Renoir in November 2018.  This stolen painting was worth some €120,000 and €160,000 at the time of its consignment. 

At the conclusion of his Austrian prison sentence, Huzhva was extradited to stand trial in France in June 2020, where he was held in pre-trial detention until his court case began on January 30th.  But not just for the stolen Signac artwork, but also the theft of several art works, including a second Renoir, Portrait d'une Jeune Fille Blonde.  This painting was taken on September 30, 2017 from the wall of a gallery in the Parisian auction l'Hôtel des Ventes de Saint-Germain-en-Laye (Yvelines) operated by SGL Enchères/F. Laurent de Rummel where the artwork had been on display just prior to its auction.  

CCTV Image captures three thieves in the Dorotheum theft

Meanwhile, Le Port de La Rochelle was restituted by the Ukrainian authorities to the Musée de Beaux-Arts in September 2021. 

By the time Vadym Huzhva finally appeared for trial in France before the Specialized Interregional Court (Jirs) this week, an investigation entrusted to the SRPJ of Nancy and France's Office central de lutte contre le trafic de biens culturels (OCBC) had documented that this Ukrainian "Arsène Lupin" was responsible for a total of at least five thefts in France.  In addition to the Signac, and the second Renoir, Huzhva was also implicated in the thefts of a rare book with 12 gouaches by Russian artists stolen from the Hôtel Drouot auction house, the theft of another painting "Composition with Self-Portrait" by Giorgio De Chirico stolen on November 16, 2017 from the Fabrégat Museum in Béziers, and two stolen artworks by Eugène Boudin and Eugène Gallien-Laloux, taken from the Chateau de Versailles auction house in Versailles in 2018. 

A quick search of Ukrainian news outlets shows that Guzhva has also been implicated other art thefts in his home country, one of which involved a painting  stolen from the Odessa Art Museum on 21 June 2005, which was discovered by police rolled up and sealed in a bag, and stuffed under the seat of his Opel-Astra car in 2006.  And just like in this case, while appearing before the court, the defendant railed angrily against his prosecutors and his charges, claiming he was falsely accused and citing far-fetched conspiracies.  

Yet, despite being held in pretrial custody in Ukraine for several years, the Odessa Museum theft charges failed to stick, despite suspicions that Guzhva that he might be responsible for as many as two dozen museum thefts.

Back in France, prosecutors pointed to the fact that Guzhva's flights into the country coincided with the periods of each of the theft incidences occurred, as did his hotel reservations near each of the intended targets.  CCTV footage also revealed the same, or quite similar, modus operandi, and illustrated that the targets were often quite similar.  Artworks found on his phone, as well as the contact details for accomplices which matched descriptions in CCTV footage, also provided further evidence in the prosecution's favour. 

So, after just two days before the court, Vadym Huzhva was sentenced by the French judge to 5 years in prison.  The court also sentenced two of his known accomplices, tried in absentia, to three years each.  A fourth suspect, a woman, has not been publicly identified.

January 22, 2023

Sunday, January 22, 2023 - No comments

"Con il traffico di opere d'arte ci manteniamo la famiglia." Words from Cosa Nostra Boss Matteo Messina Denaro?

«Con il traffico di opere d'arte ci manteniamo la famiglia

"With the trafficking of works of art we support our family."  So read a purported intercepted pizzini, stated to have been written by Cosa Nostra boss Matteo Messina Denaro to one of his men.

Pizzini, literally little messages, are generally codified messages which represent the orders, thoughts and concerns of the mafia's men in power. Provenzano for instance, was known to write his on a small typewriter, folding and taping them into tiny squares, so that he could communicate his orders among the uomini d'onore through these tiny secret messages while on the run as a mafia fugitive.

When captured and deciphered by law enforcement, pizzini like these can serve as evidence, paper accomplices, which like informants, give concretised clues on mafia operations and in some cases, outlining specific orders given in the commission of crimes by clan bosses. 

News of this leaked message was first published in a 2021, in a Huffington post article by Vincenzo Musacchio, a Jurist and Professor of Criminal Law.  It is now making the airwaves again, following Messina Denaro's arrest.

But even if this pizzini turns out to be real evidence, proven to have been written by Messina Denaro, it merely confirms what we already know.  

The trafficking of art as a form of "currency" has already been concretised through other well known organised crime cases in Italy.  One of the more dramatic examples, a few years back, is that of Camorra clan boss, Raffaele Imperiale, who held on to two Van Gogh paintings, first stolen in Amsterdam and later recovered at a property connected to him in the Bay of Naples.

While both were potent actors in Italy's organised crime syndicates, Imperiale and Messina Denaro are not the only mobsters who have used art for illegal means. The art market is a global one, allowing for easy movement of assets across borders. 

Art and antiquities are attractive financial instrument, especially for the underworld, as it can be used by criminals as a means of concealing the proceeds derived from illicit activities.  This can also include purchasing legitimate works of art with dirty money, selling it at a later date for a profit and thereby "washing" the money so that it appears that the funds come from a legitimate, and now more traceable, source. 

Criminals may also use art and antiquities as a means of transferring large sums of money across international borders, as art is not subject to the same regulations and scrutiny as financial banking transactions. 

Art and antiquities can also been used as collateral for underworld loans, or when the location of stolen material is disclosed during plea deals, may sadly serve as a bargaining chip used by charged offenders as a means of negotiating lower prison sentences, as we have just seen in Germany this week.

What comes out publicly in the Messina Denero investigation, related to art and antiquities crime, which might back up this slip of paper should be interesting. 

For now, we will have to settle with seeing the back side of the Sicilian crime boss' wardrobe, in one of his hideouts.  A space where Messina Denero could access - via a sliding wooden wall - an armoured room, complete with boxes of jewels, precious stones, and it seems, paintings...but also empty boxes. 

Four confessions to a museum burglary all started with a photo of the Green Diamond

This month, has proved an interesting month in the ongoing trial of six burglars, believed to be responsible for the theft of 18th-century jewels stolen from the Green Vault (Grünes Gewölbe in German) museum within the Dresden Castle in Saxony.  This week, four out of six members of the large Remmo family, brothers Wissam and Mohamed, and cousins Rabieh and Bashir Remmo entered formal confessions before the district court in Dresden, in hopes of receiving lighter sentences for their cooperation. 

Family members Abdul Majed and Ahmed Remmo have seemingly been exonerated by the confessions of the others. 

Family members who have confessed to active roles in the museum burglary, stated that they orchestrated the theft after Mohamed Remmo, twin brother to Abdul Majed Remmo, received a photo from an unnamed person who had visited the museum during a school outing. That photo was apparently of the Dresden Green Diamond. 

Set in a hat clasp, this dramatic 41-carat, 8.2 gram natural green diamond, from the mines of India, is the largest green diamond in the world.  Too well guarded, the team of would-be burglars turned their sights to other jewels which they believed would be easier to access.

Abdul Majed Remmo's role, had been stated as having been to gather supplies used for the theft, though his family members on trial downplayed his role, saying he performed inadequately, purchased inferior tools, and wasn't present on the day of the heist. 

After scouting the building in a lead up to the November 25th 2019 theft, Rabieh Remmo, caught on CCTV footage with a flashlight, entering the closed museum shortly before 5 a.m.  He admitted that he is the thief depicted in video footage and to smashing the display case, struck an estimated 56 times in less than 30 seconds.  Rabieh also admitted to filling a sack with €113.8m. worth of pieces from the Green Room's historic jewellery collection.

Pieces stolen during the theft include:

  • a Hutkrempe der Diamantrosengarnitur by Christian August and August Goffhelf Globig, Dresden, 1782-1789;
  • a Shoulder loop (epaulette) (diamond rose set) (part available) by 
  • Christian August Globig and August Gotthelf Globig. Dresden 1782-1789;
  • Christian August and August Gotthelf Globig's Sword (diamond rose), 1782-1789, inv. no. VIII 16 with a diamond-studded hilt containing nine large and 770 smaller diamonds as well as its scabbard;
  • the Jewel of the Polish Order of the White Eagle (diamond rose set) by Christian August and August Gotthelf Globig, Dresden, 1782-89
  • Breast Star of the Polish Order of the White Eagle (set of brilliants) Jean-Jacques Pallard. Geneva/Vienna between 1746 and 1749;
  • Queen Amalie Auguste's Great Pectoral Bow by Christian August Globig, Dresden 1782, 51 large and 611 small diamonds, silver;
  • Necklace of 177 Saxon River Pearls, obtained from Vogtland waters before 1734, lined up in 1805;
  • 10 Rock Buttons from the Diamond Rose Set (each preserved)
  • Jean Jacques Pallard, Geneva 1753, inv. no. VIII 9/1-10;
  • Two arched shoe buckles from the Diamond Rose Set, workshop of Christian August Globig, Dresden 1782-1789, inv. no. VIII 12/ a,b;
  • Large Diamond Rose (Diamond Rose Set)inventory no. VIII 15;
  • Piece of jewelery in the form of palmettes (set of diamonds)
  • Jean Jacques Pallard, Vienna, 1746-1746;
  • Epaulette with the so-called "Saxon White" from the diamond set
  • Franz Diespach; Christian August or August Gotthelf Globig; Jean-Jacques or André Jacques Pallard; 1782-1789;
  • Hat decoration, so-called heron tail from the diamond set
  • August Gotthelf Globig, Dresden between 1782 and 1807, inv. no. VIII 26; 
  • Part of a muff hook, workshop of Jean Jacques Pallard, Geneva/Vienna 1746 and 1749, inv. no. VIII 34;
  • Queen Amalie Auguste's diamond necklace (preserved in parts), 
  • Ignaz Konrad Plödterl, Dresden 1824, inv. no. VIII 38;
  • Aigrette for the hair in the shape of a sun by August Gotthelf Globig, Dresden, 1782-1807;
  • Aigrette for the hair in the shape of a crescent moon (The diamond jewelry and the pearls of the queens)
  • August Goffhelf Globig, Dresden, 1782-1807;

Wissam and Mohamed Remmo informed the court, through their lawyers, that they too were immediately involved in the heist. Wassim copped to having cut the bars on a window in the vault prior to the burglary and also to standing guard outside of the museum to receive the stolen items and tools used in the break-in.  Mohamed Remmo admitted, through his lawyer, to being outside the museum on the morning of the theft and to to receive the stolen items.

In a later than the others admission, Bashir Remmo, through his lawyers, told the court on Friday, that he had not been initially involved in the preparations for the burglary, but admitted to standing guard on the morning of the theft and to receiving the stolen items.

The thieves involved then made their getaway in an Audi A6 which they set fire to some four kilometers away from the palace in an underground car park, in Dresden-Pieschen, hoping by doing so, to any destroy evidence they may have theft behind.  They then proceeded back to Berlin in a Mercedes disguised as a taxi.

In an early Christmas present to Dresden, German authorities have been able to retrieve 31 of the jewellery pieces stolen in the 2019 robbery between December 16th and 17th.  Several of the most valuable pieces are still unaccounted for. 

Conservators testified during the trial that several of the recovered diamond-encrusted jewellery pieces had been broken and all bear traces of a whitish substance. This could be discharge residue from the fire extinguisher that the burglar discharged in an attempt to destroy traces of the team's DNA.  Some of the recovered diamonds also appear to have been damaged and it is believed that they were submerged in water for an extended period of time.

All of these confessions were spurred by efforts to lower time in prison, where the maximum period of incarceration could be up to 15 years for the museum theft and the accompanying charge of aggravated arson in the underground car park. 


January 21, 2023

Saturday, January 21, 2023 - ,,, No comments

Twitter user @ArtFreak, (George S) sentenced in the theft of a Picasso, a Mondrian, and a Guglielmo Caccia


The thief that burgled Greece’s National Gallery-Alexandros Soutsos Museum in Athens eleven years ago has been sentenced.  

Citing that the Court recognised the thief's good behaviour after his arrest for the heist, the Single-Member Court of Criminal Appeals of Athens handed down a six-year suspended probationary sentence with limited electronic monitoring, which will allow Giorgos Sarmantzopoulos, a circulating distance of three kilometres from his residence so that he can hold down a job and care of his elderly and sick parents. Previously, during the trial phase, he had been on complete house arrest.

On 9 January 2012, George S set off the security alarm at the Greek museum by opening a door 6 or 7 times, until the guard believed that the alarm system was malfunctioning and disabled the system. Then, at 4:30 a.m., he entered the museum through an separate unlocked balcony door and swiftly stripped four artworks from their frames, knocking others off the wall in doing so. 

Originally he selected: 

Head of a Woman, 1934 by Pablo Picasso
Stammer Windmill with Summer House, 1905 by Piet Mondrian 
Landscape with a Farm by Piet Mondrian 
St Diego de Alcala in Ecstasy with the Holy Trinity and the Symbols of Passion by Guglielmo Caccia, who was known as il Moncalvo.

But after using a knife to cut the artworks out of their frames, he dropped Landscape with a Farm by Mondrian and left it behind.  He successfully made it out of the museum with the other three artworks in just 7 minutes.   

The case brought widespread attention in Greece due to the high value of the stolen works of art.  The museum estimated the value of the Picasso at 2 million euros, the Mondrian at €200,000 and the Moncalvo drawing at €1,000.  Public outcry at the time of the burglary was so great that the National Gallery-Alexandros Soutsos Museum subsequently closed for an 8-year-long, $70-million (€59 million) revitalisation, which included security and risk management upgrades as well as  doubling the museum’s size.

In July 2021 two of the paintings — Picasso’s Head of a Woman and Mondrian's Stammer Windmill with Summer House— were recovered shortly after George S. AKA Artfreak, was arrested as a suspect.  

Undone by an ex, who had informed private investigator Arthur Brand that her significant other had confessed to the museum theft, George S also purportedly told the woman that at one point the stolen Picasso and Mondrian had been stored behind a brown wall in an apartment in Keratea, a town in East Attica, Greece.  

Arrested and taken into custody, George S. quickly confessed to investigators that he was responsible for the 9 January 2012 theft.

George also went on to lead law enforcement detectives to a deep, narrow gorge in an area near the seaside resort town of Porto Rafti, east of Athens.  There he handed a plastic-wrapped briefcase which held the stolen Mondrian and Picasso inside over to officers.  The third artwork stolen in the heist — the pen-and-ink sketch by Renaissance artist Guglielmo Caccia has not not recovered. 

According to In.gr, one of several Greek news sites covering the sentencing, comments attributed to the convicted museum thief relating to this theft were leaked across Greek media, which the suspect’s lawyer, Sakis Kehagioglu, confirmed to be accurate.

George S admitted that "The theft was so simple and stupid that no one could imagine that this would happen from an ordinary citizen. The museum had one guard when he should have had five."  He also claimed that he acted alone and had scoped out the museum and its vulnerabilities for six months prior to committing the actual theft.  He lastly claimed to have no accomplices and to have selected artworks at random with no particular painting in mind.  

But is it as simple as that.  Does a bumbling thief truly spend six months in preparation for a heist? 




January 20, 2023

Ceremony on the return of 58 antiquities to Italy

On Monday, January 23, 2023, at 1 pm in Rome, a formal ceremony will be held regarding the return to Italy, from the United States, of 58 antiquities valued at nearly $19 million.  This event will be held at the Ministry of Culture's Sala Spadolini inside the Consiglio Nazionale al Collegio Romano.

The objects returned are the direct result of investigations in the United States regarding international traffickers of antiquities conducted by the Antiquities Trafficking Unit at the District Attorney's Office in New York in Manhattan, in collaboration with the Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale (TPC).  

Present for the event will be the Italy's Minister of Culture, Gennaro Sangiuliano,  the Deputy Prosecutor of the Republic at the Court of Rome, Angelantonio Racanelli; the Commander of the Carabinieri TPC, General B. Vincenzo Molinese; and New York Assistant District Attorney Col. Matthew Bogdanos. 

This event will be direct streamed via the YouTube channel of Italy's Ministry of Culture for those who wish to attend the ceremony digitally. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-RcYKNBHtk&ab_channel=MiC_Italia

Marble head of Athena, ca. 200 BCE

In discussing these returns in a press release issued by the New York County District Attorney's Office, the New York authorities stated that these artefacts had been trafficked by Giacomo Medici, Giovanni Franco Becchina, Pasquale Camera and Edoardo Almagiá.  Twenty one of the pieces had been seized from the Metropolitan Museum of Art while the other thirty-seven were recovered from a New York collector and an antiquities dealer.

When speaking of these objects homecoming to Italy, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr., was quoted as saying:

“These 58 pieces represent thousands of years of rich history, yet traffickers throughout Italy utilised looters to steal these items and to line their own pockets. For far too long, they have sat in museums, homes, and galleries that had no rightful claim to their ownership.”  

Discussing the recent Italian restitutions Bragg also addressed the difficulty and time needed to work these complicated cultural property crime cases stating:

“Exposing these schemes takes years of diligent and difficult investigative work, and I applaud our team of prosecutors and analysts, who in coordination with our law enforcement partners, are continuing to make unparalleled progress in returning stolen antiquities.”  

Assistant US District Attorney Col. Matthew Bogdanos, who heads up the Manhattan Office's Antiquities Trafficking Unit, and who will be present at Monday's ceremony, has often related his department's work to an axiom of jurisprudence “that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.” R v. Sussex Justices, ex parte McCarthy, 1 KB 256, 259 (1924).  Something this publicly streamable restitution will undoubtedly demonstrate.  

Each of these objects should be viewed as a reminder to collectors, dealers, and art institutions, that the US authorities treat stolen cultural property seriously and public prosecutors continue to pursue the rightful return of plundered goods.

January 17, 2023

Are there connections to Becchina enterprises? Questions surrounding the enterprise of Matteo Messina Denaro's fiancheggiatore, Giovanni Luppino

Police standing watch outside Messino Denaro's
residence in Campobello di Mazara

Following the arrest of fugitive mafia super boss Matteo Messina Denaro, there are some interesting avenues worth exploring regarding the diversification of mafia holdings. One of which may, or may not, strike close to home with regards to the  economic activities of 83-year-old former antiquities dealer Gianfranco Becchina in his later years.  Messina Denaro was captured yesterday after 30 years on the run.

Back in May 2022 Italy's Direzione Investigativa Antimafia, the country's anti-mafia investigation division, issued a confirmation confiscation decree on Gianfranco Becchina's property holdings, based upon a request from the Public Prosecutor's Office of Palermo.  As per that decree, the DIA's action finalised the confiscation of a significant portion of Becchina's movable, real estate and corporate assets "attributable to a well-known international trader of works of art art and artefacts of historical-archaeological value suspected of links with the mafia gangs, in particular in the province of Trapani." While the DIA's final seizure announcement didn't name Becchina as the businessman living in Castelvetrano, whose assets were seized, the regional and National newspapers did.   

But back to yesterday's arrest of the mafia crime boss

According to searches coordinated by the Deputy Prosecutor Paolo Guido, fugitive Matteo Messina Denaro had been staying, at least for the most recent period of his time on the run, at a residence located on a secluded street, Vicolo San Vito, in the heart of Campobello di Mazara.  This is the same town where his driver and fiancheggiatore (flanker), Giovanni Luppino, also resided.  Campobello di Mazara, in the province of Trapani, is a short 7.7 km from Castelvetrano where Gianfranco Becchina resides and where Messina Denaro was born in 1962 building an empire of Cosa Nostra controlled business enterprises which included waste disposal, wind energy, retail and agricultural sectors. 

A municipality in a strategic position, Campobello di Mazara is a town of 11 thousand inhabitants closely rooted to the mafia, with some residents in these days even lamenting his arrest, saying the Trapani cosca put food on the tables. The city is also home to Alfonso Tumbarello, the physician now under investigation for having treated Andrea Bonafede, alias Matteo Messina Denaro, who is also the doctor of the real Andrea Bonafede. Tumbarello, it is reported wrote prescriptions in Bonafede's name for the cosa nostra boss.

It is also home to mafia boss Francesco Luppino and loyalist Raffaele Urso, AKA Cinuzzo.  Wire interceptions confirmed that Luppino, arrested in September 2022, was in close contact with Messina Denaro for land management.  While Urso, the boss's ambassador to business in Italy's capital, was arrested in April 2018, and sentenced to 18 years and 4 months in prison for his involvement in the Trapani clan.  

Other interesting Campobello di Mazara residents include the former city councillor, Calogero Jonn Luppino, who had 6 million euros in assets seized for mafia association, including 10 companies and related business complexes, 6 parcels of land, 14 bank accounts, 1 motor vehicle, 1 racehorse, cash, and gold bars.  That Luppino was involved in mafia rackets and extortion which forced various businesses in the Trapani area to install gambling devices in their businesses or risk threatening retaliation.  

Even the city's former mayor Ciro Caravà, was indicted in 2012 for mafia association as part of the Campus Belli anti-mafia operation.  Following his arrest the Municipality was dissolved for mafia infiltration on July 27, 2012.  Strangely, after  Caravà's sentence was overturned and he was released from custody, he died by suffocation, at age 58, purportedly trying to swallow a piece of bread. 

All this to say that Campobello di Mazara is not your typical bucolic Sicilian town, making it not at all surprising that this boss was able to hide in plain site here. 

But who is Giovanni Luppino, aside from being Messina Denero's driver?  

This Luppino is not believed to be a relation to  Messina Denaro loyalist Franco Luppino.  Nor, it is claimed, is he a relation to an olive oil producer of the same name.  However, the driver, Giovanni Luppino also worked in the olive oil biz and reportedly had storage warehouses in Campobello di Mazara and Castelvetrano and worked with wholesalers buyers from the Bay of Naples as well as local growers of Nocellara del Belìce olives, a protected denomination of origin (PDO) olive varietal, consumed as table olives and used for the production of extra-virgin oil.

If this olive sounds familiar to ARCA's blog readers it is because Gianfranco Becchina also invested in this money-making olive.   Beginning in 1989, one of Becchina's companies produced his own Nocellara del Belìce olive oil, harvested from the olive trees on Tenuta Pignatelli, a one-hundred-acre expanse of olive groves and lemon trees with a historic main villa from the early 1800s on the outskirts of Castelvetrano, once owned by the Princess Pignatelli of Spain.  

Sold in upscale boutiques, Becchina's olive oil was marketed to USA-based customers for an eye-popping $36 a bottle and is known to have medalled in the New York International Olive Oil Competition over the course of three years, 2018, 2019, and 2021.  

Patrizia Messina Denaro - Sister of the Boss, and Capodonna representative of the Castelvetrano, family also had an olive-oil company belonging to her and her husband impounded.

Nocellara del Belìce olives are cultivated in a fertile area which encompasses the municipalities of Castelvetrano, Campobello di Mazara, Partanna, Poggioreale, Salaparuta and Santa Ninfa, all towns in the province subject to the heavy influence of the Trapani mandamento of the Cosa Nostra.  With some 5,000 olive growers who produce this kind of olive, the province of Trapani in the west of Sicily is a lucrative agricultural market, known for its mafia infiltration, as well as an important stop in the seasonal labor cycle, with the majority of harvesters being sub-Saharan Africans who are all too often exploited, treated as human farming tools, no different than tractors. 

Whether there is a connection between the mafia boss, his driver the olive oil merchant, or the former antiquities dealer has not been proven. But what is known is that in November 2017 Italy's Anti-Mafia Investigative Directorate, through the Court of Trapani's penal and preventive measures section, filed a seizure order for all movable assets, including real estate and corporate enterprises attributable to Gianfranco Becchina on the basis of an order issued from the District Attorney of Palermo based upon investigations conducted by Italy's anti-mafia DIA, under the coordination of the Palermo Public Prosecutor's Office.  That order resulted in the seizure of not only Becchina's cement trade business, Atlas Cements Ltd., Demetra srl., and Becchina & company srl., but also his olive oil venture, Olio Verde srl.   

Much like antiquities, olive oil is a highly lucrative and diversified, income stream making it appealing to Italy’s organised-crime syndicates

Police data shows that there is a known and profitable agromafia active in Italy related to olive cultivation.  Data also shows that all of Italy’s major crime syndicates — the Neapolitan Camorra, ’Ndrangheta, and Cosa Nostra have profited from  farming investments.  

The economic importance of agriculture for mafia organisations like Messina Denero's can be deduced from the frequency of ongoing trials and the confiscation sentences of agricultural, or agro-industrial assets, in and around the province of Trapani.  Many of which have been tied to trials and seizure orders relating to  individuals found to have been associated with Messina Denaro or his enterprises. 

With respect to olives specifically, it has long been the common view that the Neapolitans control the distribution of olives and the olive oil market in Sicily, via a price fixing of sorts, tacitly condoned, if not formally agreed upon, between the Cosa Nostra and the Camorra.  And studies have shown that members of both organised crime organisations have profited from the selling of counterfeit extra virgin olive oil, controlling farmlands, price fixing, and in some cases labor exploitation.   

How important, olive holdings are to the mechanisations of Messina Denaro's Trapani cosca has never been publicly disclosed. But we do know that this syndicate's reach extends beyond the underworld and into diversified revenue streams, like Italy’s illicit antiquities trade and the very path our food travels before reaching our supermarket trolleys and our dinner tables.  

And with margins as high as 700 percent, profits from olive oil are higher than cocaine — making it an appealing channel for money laundering. 

January 16, 2023

Having Eluded Capture for 30 Years - Matteo Messina Denaro, A.K.A. "Diabolik," has been captured.


Palermo prosecutor Maurizio de Lucia and with the deputy prosecutor Paolo Guido confirmed today that longtime fugitive, Cosa Nostra boss, Matteo Messina Denaro, A.K.A. "Diabolik," has been captured by anti-Mafia Carabinieri, this morning during the early hours.  He was arrested at a bar, adjacent to “La Maddalena” a private health clinic and hospital in the San Lorenzo, district of Palermo where he had been undergoing treatment.  The hospital is a medical-surgical level III facility for oncology. He's since been photographed being walked out of a  Carabinieri palazzo in dark glasses and an oversized coat, before being placed in a a waiting vehicle to transport him to a secure cell. 


Sentenced to life in prison in absentia in 1992, Messina Denaro solidified his position in the mafia following the arrests of two of his predecessors, Salvatore "Totò" Riina in 1993 and Bernardo Provenzano in 2006.  A fugitive since 1993, he had been convicted for the Sicilian mafia's bombing campaign in the early 1990s, which killed two anti-mafia prosecutors, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino,  and others in Sicily, Rome and Florence.  

One of Cosa Nostra's more brutal bosses, he once boasted "I filled a cemetery all by myself." 

In 2012, while still on the lam, Matteo Messina Denaro was one of mafia members people given an additional sentence of life imprisonment, this time for the murder of 12 year old Giuseppe Di Matteo, dissolved in a barrel of acid.  Di Matteo's father, Santino Di Matteo, was one of the participants in the killing of Antimafia judge Giovanni Falcone on 23 May 1992.  After his arrest on 4 June 1993, he became a government witness – a pentito, a move which ultimately made his son a target.

According to Giovanni Brusca, an Italian mobster and former member of the Corleonesi clan, Matteo Messina Denaro was also the facilitator of the 1993 Uffizi gallery bombing in Florence.  During that incident, a Fiat car packed with 100kg of explosives detonated killing six people, and destroying three paintings - two by Bartolomeo Manfredi and one by the Gherardo delle Notti.  

Messina Denaro was also implicated in the bombing of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome.  

While in hiding, his name has come up several times as linked to Gianfranco Becchina, where it was alleged [though never proven] that the disgraced antiquities dealer from Castelvetrano was involved in the clan boss's operations. Eventually the Court of Palermo dismissed the charges of mafia association against Becchina on the basis that the testimonies given by Vincenzo Calcara, an exMafia soldier and pentito (collaborator of justice) and now deceased former drug dealer Rosario Spatola, were deemed "unreliable" however the seizure of his business assets remained in effect. 


Messina Denaro is credited with having created Trapani branch of Cosa Nostra,  which infiltrated the economy, businesses and banks in the area.  Investigative seizures made by authorities in connection with this boss are so extensive it is hard to tell where the economy of western Sicily stops and Denaro’s mafia-controlled empire begins.  

As the word spread throughout Palermo of his arrest, officers received hugs and praise,  as cars throughout the city, blared their horns welcoming his arrest.


But those who have long lived in the shadow of the powerful clans, are worried that the apparently ailing mobster, now 60 years old, had already handed over the reigns to another, and may have gotten sloppy about where he was, or even perhaps let law enforcement in on his treatment.  With a police press conference scheduled for 17:00 CET, perhaps more will be discussed regarding his underlying medical condition, which some say is a tumour in his stomach that he was being treated for over an extended period of time, benefiting from the use of a false identity document.  

Will the medical issues of this crime boss affect his sentencing?  This remains to be explored. 


What is known is that he comes from a long blood line of mafia family members, some of whom are equally worth remembering. 

Francesco Messina Denaro - Capo Mandamento of the Castelvetrano family, and the head of the mafia commission of the Trapani region, died in hiding in 1998 while he too was a fugitive from justice.  It was after his father's death that Matteo Messina Denaro took over his father's enterprise.  A close ally to the Corleone faction led by Salvatore "Totò" Riina and Bernardo Provenzano, Francesco Messina Denaro was known as Don Ciccio, and headed the Castelvetrano family from 1981 until 1998.  
he was believed to have been behind the theft of the famous Efebo of Selinunte, a 5th century BCE statue of Dionysius Iachos, stolen on October 30, 1962 and recovered in 1968 through the help of Rodolfo Siviero.  Every year, since 1999, despite being on the run, his son managed to place a In Memoriam notice dedicated to him in the Giornale di Sicilia. Mysteriously, the purchaser of the ad is never traced.

Patrizia Messina Denaro - Is the sister of the former fugitive and is believed to have served as a Capodonna representative of the Castelvetrano family while living in that city.  Incarcerated, she is serving a 14 year and 6 months sentence for acting as stand in for her brother.  She was found guilty of being a full member of the Mafia and not an affiliate mafia. Several firms including an olive-oil company belonging to her and her husband were impounded and a number of bank accounts frozen.

Salvatore Messina Denaro was arrested on 15 March 2010, along with 18 others in operation "Golem 2" as a principal in a network surrounding his fugitive brother. Living in Campobello di Mazara, he was charged with organising Matteo Messina Denaro's secret correspondence in order to help him remain on the run, as well as mafia association, corruption and protection rackets.  In this case Palermo financial police in execution of three separate orders issued by the Prevention measures offices of the Palermo and Trapani Courts seized real estate holdings worth 1.8 million euros. 

Update 17 January 2020
The carabinieri ROS and the Palermo prosecutor's office have identified the hideout of where Matteo Messina Denaro, arrested on January 16 at the Maddalena clinic in Palermo, had apparently been hiding, for at least part of the last thirty years.    This residence is in the heart of Campobello di Mazara, (7.7 km from Castelvetrano), the same city where his driver and fiancheggiatore, Giovanni Luppino, is from.  Luppino himself is an olive merchant, who before yesterday was said to have a clean record. He is not believed to be a relation to Messina Denaro loyalist Franco Luppino.

What officers uncover in this house or other houses used by the boss and his facilitators, as well as in his phone, could prove  interesting. The fugitive boss, in addition to his own criminal history, is said to have  possibly held the Totò Riina archives, once held in a safe that was removed from Riina's hideout in via Bernini.  The documents in that safe might demonstrate a lot of the mafia's strategies during the Years of Lead. 

According to a news reports published by ANSA, Matteo Messina Denero's arrest came following leads which had been developed through a traditional policing investigation and not via an informant's leak of the crime boss' location yesterday.  Using the methodology of draining the lake around the fugitive; law enforcement worked to remove his network of low level and influential godfather loyalists charging as many of them as possible for aiding and abetting.  

Officers also tapped telephones including those of family and clan members thought to be co-involved.  It is from these wiretap interceptions that officers first learned of Messina Denero's illness, even if many of these recorded conversations were coded, as those under observation were aware that their phones were likely tapped. 

From there investigators began combing through health records from the Ministry of Health, focusing on male cancer patients, narrowing down the list of individuals who had or were undergoing treatment who were on/around the same age as Messina Denaro.  Among those, was an individual with the name "Andrea Bonafede." Which, aside from the irony of the last name, matches a known family relative, whose medical records indicated had purportedly undergone surgery at La Maddalena one year ago, to remove liver metastases that had formed from colon cancer. 

Following this lead it was determined that the real Andrea Bonafede was at his home on the purported day of this surgical intervention and with this lead a sting was arranged to coincide with one of the imposter's scheduled chemotherapy appointments, who had been using Bonafede's identity for scheduled treatments for the last year.  This resulted in the dramatic capture of Messina Denaro yesterday while he waited in the queue having done his COVID test prior to receiving treatment.  This while other patients were kept outside the facility, for hours, to allow officers to more readily identify the mafia boss when he arrived for his scheduled appointment time.


January 11, 2023

Not surprisingly, and despite all of his protestations earlier, Ali Aboutaam has been convicted.


In a hearing that took less than an hour at the Geneva police court, Ali Aboutaam, the owner of the Geneva gallery Phoenix Ancient Art SA has been sentenced by the Swiss authorities.  Following on a complex and multi-year criminal and procedural investigation by officers and analysts with Switzerland's customs and anti-fraud divisions, working with the Geneva Public Prosecutor's Office, the Swiss-based merchant has been found guilty of forgery of titles.  A misdemeanour under Swiss law on the transfer of cultural property, his admissions come with an 18-month suspended prison sentence, three years probation and requiring him to pay procedural costs totalling 450,000 francs or approximately €454,410.

The courts also confirmed the seizure of 42 artefacts, confiscated due to their illicit origin which will be devolved to the Federal Office of Culture.  Several dozen other antiquities will be returned to the countries of origin.

Aboutaam's conviction and sentencing comes in response to a conspiracy which proved that the art dealer, with the help of accomplices, produced false certificates of provenance in relation to ancient art objects in circulation. Aboutaam was also found guilty of having knowingly paid at least one accomplice, who sourced antiquities from illicit excavations in various countries of the Middle East.

A statement extracted from the Swiss indictment read: 
"Ali Aboutaam knew or must have assumed that they had been wrongfully acquired". 

This particular Swiss investigation dates back to 20 December 2016 when around 5:10 p.m., at around 17:10 hours, when arriving from France by car, a Swiss border patrol officer stopped a grey Land Rover vehicle, registration No. GE777994 registered to the company Phoenix Ancient Art SA, rue Verdaine 6 & 1204 Geneva at the Veyrier border checkpoint. The car had been driven by Ali Aboutaam's driver and was transporting then-Germany based antiquities dealer Roben Galel Dib as a passenger. 

The testimony of the two persons revealed that Dib was in possession of an antique oil lamp, which neither the driver, nor the purported owner of the lamp, were able to provide documentation for proving the object’s provenance to the officers’ satisfaction.  Dib told authorities he was coming to Switzerland to "meet a girl" and that he was carrying the lamp with him because he had just had an appointment on this subject in Paris to have it restored. The object was sequestered, and an inspection of the car revealed the presence of 3 receipts for the rental of two storage units at the company Flexbox Self Storage, route du Nant-d'Avril 40 in 1214 Vernier, in the name of a conservator in Chanoy. 

Both the driver and Roben Dib were released after questioning around 2:00 AM the following morning, while on or around that same time surveillance footage of the storage warehouse listed on the receipts found in the car captured Ali Aboutaam’s wife, Biljana Aboutaam, the family's chauffeur and a housekeeper participating “several movements of merchandise".  Predicated on the foregoing, Swiss Customs Administration developed a “strong suspicion” that the warehouse was being used to store illegally imported art and antiquities. 

As is publicly now known, Roben Dib is the business partner of Hamburg-based dealer of Egyptian art Serop Simonian.  Dib was arrested in Hamburg by German police on suspicion of art trafficking in August 2020 and released after only five weeks behind bars.  

Subject to a European Arrest Warrant, Dib was then rearrested in Paris, France on 22 March 2022 after traveling there to discuss charges related to dealing in illegally trafficked Egyptian antiquities with French authorities.  

Both Dib and Simonian have been tied to million dollar illicit antiquities which have made their way (illegally) into the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Louvre Abu Dhabi, and museum and private collections throughout the world on the basis of false provenance documentation, a subject which has been covered with frequency on this blog.  

In January 2016, a 3rd millennium BCE, alabaster plaque was displayed at the European art fair BRAFA after first passing through Port Franc, the free port of Geneva to Inanna Art Services, a subsidiary of Phoenix Ancient Art.  This artefact, according to a qualified Syrian archaeologist, likely came from the ancient Mesopotamian city of Mari.  This artefact was confiscated following an inspection operation, carried out by the Belgian Federal Public Service Economy (French: SPF Économie, Dutch: FOD Economie) along with a marble table in the context of a suspicion of illicit trafficking in antiquities. 


The plaque was first identified in the Aboutaam's Phoenix Ancient Art 2012 - Crystal IV catalogue, which listed the 39.5 cm 3rd millennium BCE plaque with an image of ritual worship as having a provenance of: 

"Ex Elie Bustros Collection, Beirut, 1950s-1960s"

implying that the artefact may have come from the Beirut dealer Elias (Elie) Bustros, purportedly active from at least the 1930s through by some records the 1980s.   

It should be noted that in addition to its Ottoman Empire laws an antiquities, the Syrian Republic's Antiquities Law, Decree No. 222, was enacted in 1963.  That law vested ownership of all antiquities in the State and prohibited the sale or transfer of antiquities without governmental approval. 

This is not, however, the only incidence where "Ex-Elie Bustros Collection" has been used in connection with an artefact handled by Phoenix Ancient Art.


Provenance:
Elias Bustros, Beruit 1950’s-1983;
By descent, 1983-1986?;
(Gawain McKinley, England, on behalf of Selim Dere and Sleiman Aboutaam, 1986)

Selim Dere is the owner of a New York antiquities gallery, Fortuna Fine Arts where Manhattan authorities executed a seizure warrant in June 2018. Erdal Dere (the son of Aysel Dere and Selim Dere), was indicted in the US indicted in relation to a conspiracy to defraud buyers and brokers in the antiquities market with the use of false provenance documentation. 

The Belgian identifications resulted in a separate four-year investigation overseen by the Belgian federal prosecutor's office into the activities of the Aboutaam brothers, who opened a branch of Phoenix Ancient Art in the city of Brussel's Sablon in 2017.  This branch was subject to police raids in 2019 ordered by Judge Michael Claise. 

By June 2021, a Lebanese intermediary of Phoenix Ancient Art had already been condemned by the Geneva public prosecutor for having imported archaeological objects looted in the Middle East.  This individual was identified as having travelled to Geneva four or five times a year, for four years, to deliver ancient objects to Ali Aboutaam. Arrested in Romania, he was extradited at the request of the Geneva public prosecutor's office.

That same year, in November 2021, Ali Aboutaam was handed a 1.6 million francs fine via Swiss customs, including the costs of the proceedings. The tax authorities came after the dealer in this instance for having imported 37 million francs worth of antiquities into Switzerland between 2010 and 2017 without paying the applicable VAT. 

Which brings us back to the present, the Swiss indictment, accepted by Ali Aboutaam within the framework of a simplified procedure, acknowledges the following, verbatim:

"Ali Aboutaam, in his capacity as administrator of Phoenix Ancient Art SA, has asked art experts, or has asked employees of Phoenix Ancient Art SA to obtain from art experts: produce and/or sign false invoices; and/or produce or cause others to produce documents indicating source that are contrary to reality, sometimes contained directly in invoices; and/or provide untrue source indications for use by others."

In another section of the indictment, Aboutaam agrees that the falsification  of provenance documentation was done to launder the artworks, giving them: 

"a pedigree aimed at dispelling suspicion of illicit provenance and/or to facilitate their customs transfer with a view to their sale on the art market through Phoenix Ancient Art SA, Tanis Antiquities LTB and Inanna Art Services SA, i.e. companies of which Ali Aboutaam has Control."

The mention of Tanis is significant.  It helps conceptualise the range of years where this shell company has been linked to questionable transactions and laundered antiquities.  In 13 December 2003 Hicham Aboutaam, Ali's brother, was arrested in the United States and charged with smuggling the silver ceremonial drinking vessel known as a rhyton into the United States from Iran and falsely claiming that it came from Syria.  That 2003 government complaint identified the gallery’s affiliate office in New York as "the Bloomfield Collection" and informed that the invoice for the artefact, declaring Syria as country of origin was issued by Tanis Antiquities, Ltd.  

Tanis Antiquities, Ltd comes up again very recently in the ongoing important French investigation involving materials sold to the Louvre Abu Dhabi.  As reported by the French newspaper Liberation, French investigators discovered that Jean-François Charnier's sister, Marie-Christine Charnier, had received money from the Aboutaam family via an account opened in a Moroccan bank, paid from the offshore structure controlled by the merchants, again, Tanis Antiquities Ltd., based in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.  

The legal representative for Tanis Antiquities Ltd is, a Canadian citizen, of Lebanese origin, resident of Geneva, Ali Aboutaam.

I will close this article by mentioning that this is not the first occasion where the Aboutaam family, or Ali personally, has had run ins with legal authorities for their involvement  in the circulation of suspect artefacts originating from varying jurisdictions regarding trafficked objects from the Middle East.  In April 2004 Ali Aboutaam was tried in absentia in an Egyptian court and pronounced guilty and sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison in a long-running trafficking ring that had smuggled Egyptian artefacts through Switzerland to Western dealers and galleries.  That investigation resulted in the convictions of 25 defendants, including several high-ranking Egyptian police and government officials and nine foreigners. 

January 10, 2023

A timeline of a convicted seller of Andy Warhol forgeries, who now faces an investigation into the disappearance of his wife


Brian R. Walshe came onto the art crime radar after pleading guilty to the sale of two fraudulent artworks which were purported to have been painted by American visual Pop artist Andy Warhol.  In 2023 his life got a whole lot more complicated. 

This is a timeline of the two Washe investigations.


1994
Brian Walshe meets a Korean friend while attending Carnegie Melon University in Pittsburg, PA for a year.  He does not graduate but the two remain in touch, even after this friend graduates and returns to South Korea.

A later affidavits will claim that Walshe left university due to mental health issues, checking himself into the Austin Riggs Center, a psychiatric in-patient treatment facility. 

Beginning on/around approximately 2004 through 2011
Brian Walshe's Korean friend is now known to be collecting art.  This friend subsequently purchases:
two Andy Warhol Shadow paintings, 
an Andy Warhol silk screen print of a dollar sign on a handkerchief and two Keith Haring prints

Through an arrangement with Walshe, who tells his friend that he can sell his artworks at a profit, Brian's friend hands over the two Andy Warhol Shadow paintings, the Andy Warhol silk screen print of a dollar sign on a handkerchief, the two Keith Haring prints, and a Tang Dynasty porcelain statue so that Walshe can find buyers for the pieces.

3 May 2011
Brian Walshe attempts to consign an Andy Warhol artwork to Gagosian Gallery in New York City, who declines on the basis that Walshe did not have the bill of sale for the artwork.  

At this same time, Walshe is known to have still possessed the Andy Warhol silk screen print of a dollar sign on a handkerchief and the two Keith Haring prints, as well as possibly the Tang Dynasty porcelain statue.

21 September 2011 
Brian Walshe consigns an Andy Warhol silk screen print of a dollar sign on a handkerchief to Christies who sells the artwork at auction for $40,000 

2012 and later 
Brian Walshe is known to have visited his university friend in Korea on several occassions.  His last visit was in 2012 to attend his friend's wedding but to date, and despite his claim to be able to sell the art works handed over previously, no payments for the works have been forthcoming.   

When pressed for answers, Walshe eventually begins to avoid his friend's calls.
 
After several failed attempts at communication and attempts through two different  intermediaries, Walshe is forced to hand over the two Keith Haring prints and the Tang Dynasty porcelain statue when confronted at his home during an impromptu face to face meeting with an intermediary who is a friend to the Korean owner. 

The Andy Warhol Shadow paintings are not recovered at this time. 

March 2015 - July 2020 
According to Brian R. Walshe's Linkedin Page, he is now employed as an International Business Strategist for Ten Sail Consulting. brw@tensailconsulting.com   

21 December 2015
Brian Washe marries Ana Knipp, who maintains her maiden name.  The family go on to have three children. 

Early November 2016
Los Angeles gallery owner Ron Rivlin notices two Andy Warhol paintings for sale via the online auction site eBay via a seller with the user name:
ancili2012:

The eBay listing, on Ana Knipp's seller account, sets the price for the paintings in the advertisement at $100,000 and reads as follows: 

"We are selling 2 Andy Warhol paintings from our private collection. We are parting with these pieces only because we need the money for renovations to our house. Our loss is your gain. Pieces bought from a former Martin Lawrence art dealer in California. We over paid terribly in 2007 for the art. Price paid $240,000. We have enclosed the Christie's estimates as of 2011 for the art as well.  Auction range $120,000 to $180,000. We are trying to sell on Ebay because it is much cheaper and because Christie's won't be able to auction our pieces till May 2017. The pieces are numbered and registered with the Warhol Foundation. Pieces are from 1979. Size 14 inches by 11 inches. Synthetic Polymer Paint and Silkscreen ink on canvas. Warhol Foundation # PA65.049 & PA65.032."

As part of the advertisement, the eBay seller included a picture of an invoice from Fleishman Fine Art for both of the Warhol Shadow paintings with Warhol Foundation numbers and a purchase price of $240,000. 

The eBay seller also included photographs of a label on the back of the painting from the Jablonka Gallery with the number PA65.049; and a photograph of a Christie's document listing the two paintings and two other works by Keith Haring.

The BillTo/Ship To: Name of the purchaser was a family member of Brian Walshe's friend in Gangnam-gu, Seoul, Korea.

Between 3 and 5 November 2016
California art dealer Ron Rivlin is interested in the two Andy Warhol "shadow" paintings and contacts the Walshe's using eBay's messaging service, inquiring about the work and requesting that "Ana" call him, providing the seller with his number. 

Rivlin speaks directly with Brian Walshe – the seller – between 3-5 November 2016 and works towards negotiating a purchase for the Warhol artworks for $80,000.  Walshe in turn negotiates to complete the sales transaction outside of eBay platform so that he can avoid the eBay seller fees. 

After an agreement is reached, Rivlin draws up a DocuSign contract on 3 November 2016 in which both parties sign-off agreeing that the purchaser has three days to terminate the contract and get a full refund if the buyer fails to accept the artwork.

7 November 2016
Ron Rivlin’s assistant flies to Boston to meet with Brian Walshe and to take possession of the two Andy Warhol "shadow" paintings.  

After taking a cursory look at the paintings and forwarding digital photos to Rovlin the buyer's agent takes possession of two artworks during a meeting at the Four Seasons Hotel in Boston and provides Walshe with a cashier’s check for $80,000. 

As the paintings are in frames, the backs of the paintings are not inspected on this date.  According to bank records, reviewed as part of the subsequent investigation into Walshe's activities, this cashier’s check was deposited on the same day into an account controlled solely by Walshe.  

Rivlin's assistant flew back to Los Angeles with the art works. 

Between 8 and 21 November 2016
Brian Walshe makes a series of withdrawals and payment transactions from the same bank account where he deposited Ron Rivlin's payment of $80,000.  In total he withdraws or makes payments for outstanding depts totalling $33,400 in the span of 13 days. 

8 November 2016 and later
Ron Rivlin’s assistant brings the two purchased paintings to the Rivlin for his inspection. In examining the two paintings, Rivlin removes the paintings’ frames and discovers that neither artwork has the Warhol Foundation authentication stamp on the back.  He also ascertains that both of the canvasses and the staples appear to be new. 

When Rivlin compares the paintings to the original photographs of the Andy Warhol "Shadows" from the eBay listing, he realises that the artworks delivered to him after his purchase do not appear to be those previously depicted in the photos for the sale on eBay.   He concludes that the two paintings he purchased and which were delivered to his assistant by Brian Walshe are not authentic.

Subsequent to this realisation, Rivlin repeatedly tries to contact Walshe, by telephone, text message and email, but initially receives no replies.  Rivlin then contacts Brian’s mother, whose name was on the title to Brian Walshe and Ana Knipp’s home, as well as Knipp's place of employment in Boston demanding that Brian return his calls or risk legal action. 

16 November 2016
According to the 2018 complaint charging Brian Walshe with wire fraud, Rivlin received a email reply from the Walshe on November 16, 2016 which makes excuses for the delay in refunding the California dealer's money.  Walshe claimed both that he didn’t have access to his phone  and that the time difference between Boston and L.A. made it difficult to call.  He promised Rivlin that he “would like to return your $80,000 ASAP.”
 
See transcript of the email from the court document here:
"Hello [redacted], Thank you for calling my wife. She said you were very kind and respectful, which is how I remembered you from our first interaction. I was going to call on Tuesday (election day) to ask about the 'shadows', but because of the time difference I was unable. I was in meetings and buildings all that day which did not allow me to have my phone. Once I saw your messages, things had already escalated to an uncomfortable level. Mr.  [redacted] is our family lawyer. He was trying to resolve the matter without unnecessary litigation. He was not going to represent me formally in any civil or criminal proceedings, but was hoping to satisfy you as a client. On Friday he did offer a full refund to your lawyer, but from your Saturday email it seemed it was too late to resolve this matter without a drawn-out court case. The information you explained to my wife is very troubling. If the photos I sent you are clearly different then the ‘Shadows' you have now, then that is a serious problem. However, regardless of the problems with the 'shadows', you have a right to a full refund according to our written agreement in section 9.3. I have no reason to believe that you would mis-represent any information. When I spoke to you last I had the impression that you were a fair and honest businessman. My wife has the same impression since your conversation yesterday. I was just surprised with how quickly things escalated. I am traveling this week, but I would like to return your $80,000 ASAP. Please send me your Bank of America information and I will send you the money. Once you receive your money please send me the 'shadows'. I need to investigate what happened on my side of this transaction. Once I have the ‘shadows' and can confirm your information, I will also refund the cost of sending [redacted] to Boston. I don't want you to suffer financially from this transaction. Especially, if the fault is on my side. Thank you again for reaching out to my wife. I will be in touch directly with you later this week. Best Brian".

22 - 28 November 2016
After continued excuses and delays, Brian Walshe has only made two partial payments totalling $30,000 to Ron Rivlin via Ten Sail Consulting LLC. 

8 December 2016
Ron Rivlin informs Brian Walshe that he has spoken with the FBI regarding the the lack of total refund for the purported Andy Warhol "Shadow" paintings. 

May 2018
Brian Walshe is arrested on a criminal complaint filed in the US District Court in Massachusetts following the FBI's investigation into his sale of two fake Andy Warhol paintings. 

Investigations by state and federal authorities allege that Walshe initially gained access to authentic Warhol paintings through a second victim, his Korean friend, who was known to have purchased Andy Warhol artworks.  Walshe had also been present with the aforementioned friend on one occasion when that individual purchased one work of art by Warhol.  Later, this same friend also purchased the two authentic Warhol Shadow paintings.

According to the criminal complaint, afterwards, while visiting the victim in South Korea, Walshe told his friend that he could sell some of this individual's art for a good price and an agreement was made to let Walshe take possession of the two Shadow paintings by Warhol and other fine art pieces.

After Walshe took the items however he became unreachable to the victim. 

The FBI investigators allege that Brian or his wife Ana Walshe subsequently used her eBay account to advertise the two Warhols.  

The Federal complaint did not charge Walshe's wife, but documents that she had a somewhat active roll in as much as it was her eBay user account and she fielded phone calls from Ron Rivlin.

September 2018
Brian Walshe's father,  Thomas Moorecroft Walshe III, dies at age 71 in India.  

At some point thereafter, the father's lawyer contacted the deceased man's son to inform him of the news, at which point, according to legal documents presented during the probate dispute, it is alleged Walshe asked for a key to the $710,000 beachfront property in Hull, Massachusetts, after the attorney went himself and took pictures of the original will – dated May 2016.

October 2018 
Brian Walshe is formally indicted by a federal grand jury on four charges in the paintings fraud case, including wire fraud, interstate transportation for a scheme to defraud, possession of converted goods and unlawful monetary transaction.

December 2018
Three months after his father’s death, Brian Walshe had himself appointed as personal representative of his father’s estate on the grounds his father had no will, a document filed by federal prosecutors in the Warhol theft case states.

By July 2019
Brian Walshe is involved in a legal dispute in Plymouth Probate and Family Court with family members regarding his father's estate in which family and friends allege that he has been estranged from his father for more than ten years and that after his father's death, arranged to destroyed at least one document, his deceased father's will, before wrongly took over management of his father’s estate, despite family members claiming that his father had left his son out of his 2016 will,  stating only his “best wishes but nothing else from my estate,” as per the words of his will.

Relatives allege Brain Walshe stole $100,000 from his father's bank account and stole/sold artwork and luxury items – including paintings by Salvador Dali and Joan Miro – as well as a car and attempted to sell the house in the period where his father's estate was being contested. 

A friend of the father Jeffrey Ornstein, stated in a 2019 affidavit that Walshe's father relayed to him that his only son had been a “long-term patient” at the Austin Riggs Psychiatric Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and had been diagnosed as a “sociopath.”

The dates of this hospitalisation and diagnosis have not been confirmed. However after the disappearance of his wife in 2023 varying news outlets report on this earlier hospitalisation.

November 2019 
In his own affidavit submitted to the Probate Court, Brian Walshe alleges that in the years prior to his father’s death, the two of them had reconciled, especially after the birth of his son in 2016.

He also claimed, somewhat ironically, given the charges he was facing, that the digital photo of his father's 2016 will “is a possible forgery” because his father's medical condition would have prevented him from writing it at the time it was dated. 

August 2020 - May 2021
According to Brian R. Walshe's LinkedIn Page, he is now employed as the Chief Financial Officer of Capital Letters Consulting. 

1 April 2021
Acting United States Attorney Nathaniel R. Mendell and Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Office announces that Brian Walshe has plead guilty on this date to three of the four counts in exchange for a recommended sentence from prosecutors of incarceration, supervised release and fines.  

He also agreed to either return the artworks or pay for them.

The counts Walshe plead guilty to are:
one count of wire fraud, 
one count of interstate transportation for a scheme to defraud, 
one count of possession of converted goods and an unlawful monetary transaction. 

He is subsequently scheduled for sentencing on 2 August 2021. 

May 2021 - Present
According to Brian R. Walshe's LinkedIn Page, he is employed as the CFO and Co-Founder of LETS: Leadership & Effective Teamwork Strategies.

March 2022
Ana Knipp is hired by a Washington, DC, real-estate firm Tishman Speyer.Her new role requires her to work in DC so she commutes back and forth while her husband (who remains on home confinement) and kids remain in Cohasset, Massachusetts.

June 2022
The 2 August 2022 date that U.S. Senior District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock was scheduled to sentence Brian Walshe in connection with his conviction is postponed.  US District Court Judge Douglas Warnock orders a hearing on Brian Walshe’s role in managing his father’s will and to allow time for the US Attorney’s Office to investigate Walshe’s current finances after Walshe failed to inform US Probation about two IRA's at Fidelity – one of which he contributed $91,000 – and left off a 2014 Fiat and 2015 Maserati, which his wife Ana drove.

In the interim, Walshe is placed on federal pre-sentencing probation with conditions which require home confinement with GPS monitoring.  Under these release conditions Walshe is required to request permission to exit his home via his supervising officer at the US Probation and Pretrial Services.  To do so he must specify precise times, locations, and necessity for being outside of the residence before authorisation can be granted. 

October 2022
Brian Walshe files an affidavit In probate court stating that he had prepared an inventory and is "in the process of organizing a full account of the estate and intend to file it with the court as soon as it is complete."

A pretrial conference in the probate case is subsequently scheduled for April 19, 2023.

27 December 2022
Having made plans to visit a friend near Washington, D.C., Ana Knipp (Walshe) texts her friend to say that she has to work late and will be delayed.  After two hours, Walshe responds to her friend stating that her phone died and she could not use GPS to get directions, so she returned home. 

The two friends reschedule their visit to Jan. 5, 2023.

28 December 2022
Ana Knipp (Walshe) texts a friend and tells her that she now has a new SIM card for her phone.

4 January 2023 and later
Ana Knipp (Walshe) is formally reported missing by her employer, real estate company Tishman Speyer after she fails to show up for work in Washington DC.   

The Walshe’s are known to now have a residence in the District, in addition to their Cohasset residence.

4 -5 January 2023
Shortly after Ana Knipp (Walshe) is reported missing, law enforcement question Brian Walshe regarding his wife's movements prior to her disappearance, and his movements after her disappearance. 

When interviewed by the police, Walshe claimed that his wife, who regularly commuted between Massachusetts and Washington, had been  heading out early on January 1, 2023, to take a flight into Washington, D.C.

According to the later-filed charging document, Brian Walshe told law enforcement investigators that he last saw his wife at their home in Cohasset early on January 1 when she had briefly woken him up to kiss him goodbye before she ordered a vehicle from a rideshare service to pick her up to bring her to Boston's Logan Airport.

Walshe also told officers that on the same day he had driven to the house of his mother in Swampscott, a 40-mile drive from Cohasset, but didn’t take his phone and “got lost,” making the trip take longer.  That same day he stated he visited Whole Foods and CVS in Swampscott to run errands for his mother. 

Knowing that his home confinement only allowed him out of the house during school drop-off and pick-up times to get his kids from school,  Walshe also informed law enforcement that on the morning of January 2nd, during the authorised morning release window for school drop off, he took one of the family's sons out for ice cream, on a day when school was closed. It is unclear where the other two children were at this time. 

5 January 2023
Cohasset police publicly announce that Ana Knipp (Walshe) is missing.  Police also do a preliminary search of the Walshe family home. 

6 January 2023
A fire breaks out and causes heavy damage to a resident located at 725 Jerusalem Road in Cohasset.  Ana Knipp (Walshe) bought this property for $800,000 in 2020 and sold it for $1.385 million in March 2022. 

Authorities later state that the fire was accidental and is not considered suspicious.

6-7 January 2023
Massachusetts State Police, trained in search and rescue, begin a comprehensive search for Ana Knipp (Walshe)'s whereabouts, canvassing the areas around her home in Cohasset, 20 miles southeast of Boston, utilising drones, dogs, and K-9 units.  

8 January 2023
Following up on the statements made during the interview, investigators find no record of Ana Knipp (Walshe) having taken an Uber or Lyft ride share or arriving at Logan Airport in Boston on January 1st as planned.  They also document that her cell phone pinged at the family's home address overnight on January 1st into the 2nd.

During the investigation, neither receipts, nor surveillance video, at Whole Foods or CVS corroborate Brian Walshe's reported visit to the two stores. Surveillance video footage does show, however, that Walshe visited a Home Depot Rockland on January 2 (a detail he withheld from officers).  There he bought $450 worth of cleaning supplies, including mops, a bucket and tarps.  During this trip he wore a surgical mask and gloves and paid in cash – visiting the store during his authorised time out of the house to pick up his kids from school in the afternoon, which was not open that day. 

As a result of the numerous discrepancies identified to the statements made by Brian Walshe, investigators request and obtain authorisation to further search the family home on January 8, 2023. 

In the home's basement, officers from crime scene services find both blood and a damaged, bloody knife.  They also find search queries on Brian Walshe’s internet records which include “how to dispose of a 115-pound woman’s body” and how to dismember a body. 

Brian Walshe is taken into custody and charged with misleading a police investigation. 

9 January 2023
Brian Walshe, is arraigned in Quincy District Court on a charge of misleading investigators who are searching for Ana Knipp (Walshe).  In reviewing the criminal affidavit Prosecutor Lynn Beland discussed the inconsistencies found in Brian Walshe's statements regarding his movements on the days of Sunday, January 1, 2023, and Monday, January 2, 2023.

A plea of not guilty is entered on Brian Walshe’s behalf by his counsel, Tracy Miner and with the Court ordering a $500,000 cash bail.  

Today, officers collected trash bags with blood, a hatchet, a hacksaw, a rug and used cleaning supplies, at a waste transfer facility in Peabody, about an hour from the family's home Cohasset home.  No information from police has been released as to if this evidence provides more information on what happened to 37 year old Knipp (Walshe).

Brian Walshe remains in custody after he fails to meet the $500,000 bail requirement set by the judge.  His next hearing is scheduled for February 9, 2023.  

The couple's three boys, ages 2, 4 and 6, are in state custody at the present time.