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

July 17, 2020

Greek Police arrest accountant for the possession of 5,533 ancient coins and other antiquities.

Image Credit:  Hellenic Police Services
On Wednesday, 15 July 2020 a 64-year-old accountant was taken into custody in Greece following a police operation involving Department of Cultural Heritage and Antiquities of the Security Directorate of Thessaloniki. The unnamed coin collector was from Dráma (Greek: Δράμα), a city in northeastern Greece in Macedonia, who is said to have amassed a substantial collection, which included 5,533 ancient coins dating to the Iron Age, the Archaic, Classical, Roman, Hellenistic, Byzantine, and Ottoman periods as well as 70 non-monetary artefacts dating as far back as the 3rd century BCE.  Articles in Greek refer to the collector's home as seemingly a private museum.  

Image Credit:  Hellenic Police Services
Now before the coin collecting folk start to say, he was simply protecting and preserving and should be allowed to collect...

The protection of cultural heritage has long been a State responsibility since the early days of the modern Greek State. According to the Constitution of Greece, “the protection of the natural and cultural environment constitutes a duty of the State and a right of every person” (Government Gazette, 85/A/18-4-2001, Art. 24).  The Greek government has a comprehensive and detailed system of protection regarding movable and immovable monuments and artefacts. 

Image Credit:  Hellenic Police Services
As such, the legal holder or owner of movable antiquities may be recognized as a collector, and issued a license, upon application through the Minister of Culture, after an opinion by the Central Archaeological Council (KAS).  This license can be granted according to the character and the importance of the collection and upon certain conditions being met by the applicant. 

Those include providing the necessary guarantees for the protection, safeguarding and preservation of the objects forming the collection and providing the necessary guarantees for compliance with the other duties of the collector.  One thing that will surely not get you a license in Greece, is if the person in question is an antiquities dealer, or an employee or partner of a natural or legal person with a similar business.

The fact that the Greek authorities took this man into custody, likely means he failed to meet the thresholds for the above. 

January 21, 2020

Cairo Criminal Court in Abdin convicts former Italian diplomat for antiquities smuggling

Image Credit Left:
Image Credit Right:  Italian Carabiniri
Today the Cairo Criminal Court in Abdin convicted Cav. Ladislav Otakar Skakal, the former honorary consul of Italy in Luxor, in absentia.  In doing so the courts sentenced the former diplomat to 15 years imprisonment for the smuggling of Egyptian antiquities out of Egypt.  

The Egyptian authorities had previously requested that Skakal's name be placed on INTERPOL's Red notice in connection with his involvement in the smuggling of some 21,855 artifacts from the port of Alexandria.  These objects had been discovered inside a diplomatic shipping container, of the type used to transport household goods, sent through the port of Salerno in May 2017.  

Prosecutors in Egypt had produced evidence in the court case that Skakal was actively involved in the smuggling of the artifacts, which had been seized from inside a diplomatic container shipped in his own name.  The court also found cause to believe that Skakal had worked in agreement with an official of the shipping and packaging company responsible for shipping his container, specifically with a view of exploiting the privileges of his honorary office to illegally export artefacts from the country of Egypt, without informing the government and with the help of accomplices working inside Egypt.

Cav. Ladislav Otakar Skakal's whereabouts are currently not known. He was last known to have returned to Rome.  The mandate of the former honorary consul expired in 2014 and since then, Skakal has no longer had ties to the Italian embassy in Cairo. 

January 20, 2020

Trial begins with the testimony of witnesses in the case against Raouf Boutros Ghali, while Egypt continues to seek the arrest of Italy’s former honorary consul in Luxor, Ladislav Otakar Skakal

Image Credit Al Dostor News
During a court hearing on Sunday, January 19, the Cairo Criminal Court of Abdin, headed by Counselor Mohamed Ali Mostafa El-Feky, began hearing the first of witness testimony in the trial against Raouf Boutros Ghali and others on various charges related to the smuggling of Egyptian antiquities into Europe.  During that hearing the Egyptian prosecution layed out its investigation into the case into the smuggling of 21,855 Egyptian artifacts which had earlier been seized by Italian authorities. 

Holding passports for Italy and San Marino, the defendant, Raouf Boutros Ghali, has been held in custody as a flight risk since his original arrest, February 14, 2019 and was seen held in a caged dock during throughout sunday's proceedings.  While his trial is underway, the Egypt's Prosecutor General, Nabil Sadek had previously requested precautionary custody pending the conclusion of his trial for his alleged involvement in the the scheme to illegally export Egyptian heritage in contradiction of the country's laws.  

In total some 21,660 coins along with 195 artifacts were seized, some of which include 151 miniature figurines made of faience, 11 pottery vessels, 5 mummy masks, some gold-plated, 3 islamic era ceramic tiles, 2 canopic jar heads, two wooden decorative objects, and a wooden sarcophagus. 

In statements given to the court via council the defendant Mr. Raouf Boutros Ghali confirmed he would be fighting the charges against him and represented that he had inherited the exported pieces from his grandfather, Boutros Ghali Pasha, the first Coptic Prime Minister from 1908 to 1910.  It should be noted that the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) is the institution entrusted with the protection of the Egyptian heritage in accordance with article 8 of the Antiquities Protection Act of Law No. 117 of 1983 which states:

Anyone owns any archaeological object in accordance with the provisions of this Law must notify the Council of such object within six months starting from the beginning of March 2010 provided that such persons are required to preserve such objects until the Council registers it.
Early, on May 25, 2018, Shaaban Abdel Gawad, who heads up Egypt's antiquities repatriation department within the Ministry of Antiquities, confirmed that while the Egyptian authorities had deemed the artifacts to be authentic but the objects did not appear in any of the country's antiquities registries. 

On Saturday, the prosecution also underlined its September 17, 2019 demand for the rapid arrest of Italy’s former honorary consul in Luxor,  Ladislav Otakar Skakal. Egyptian authorities had requested that Skakal be placed on INTERPOL's Red notice in connection with his involvement in this case as the ancient objects were discovered inside a diplomatic shipping container, of the type used to transport household goods, when it came through the port of Salerno in May 2017.  

September 17, 2019

Egyptian prosecutor requests that former honorary consul of Italy be placed on INTERPOL’s red notice list

Image Credit:
Today, Egyptian Attorney General Nabil Ahmed Sadek ordered the arrest of Italy's former honorary consul in Luxor, Cav. Ladislav Otakar Skakal and requested that his name be placed on INTERPOL's Red notice in connection with his involvement in smuggling 21,855 artifacts from the port of Alexandria.  The objects were discovered inside a diplomatic shipping container, of the type used to transport household goods, sent through the port of Salerno in May 2017.  The mandate of the former honorary consul expired in 2014. Since then, Otakar has no longer had ties to the Italian embassy in Cairo. 

On May 25, 2018 Shaaban Abdel Gawad, who heads up Egypt's antiquities repatriation department within the Ministry of Antiquities, confirmed that the Egyptian authorities had deemed the artifacts to be authentic but the objects did not appear in any of the country's antiquities registries.  This meant that the ancient objects in the container, dating from the Predynastic to the Ptolemaic, as well as the Islamic era, had not been stolen from any known museum collection, but were likely the unrecorded finds of clandestine excavations of archaeological sites, possibly from the area near the Nile Rover city of Minya in Upper Egypt, 250 kilometers south of Cairo.  The objects were restituted to The Arab Republic of Egypt on  July 30, 2018.

Widely known as INTERPOL, the International Criminal Police Organization's colour-coded "Notices" are law enforcement communication tools used to enable INTERPOL's 194 member countries to share alerts and requests for information worldwide on missing persons, criminal activity and criminals who are believed to have fled to other jurisdictions to try to evade justice. Created to enhance worldwide police cooperation, a Yellow notice is an alert to help locate missing persons.  A Red notice is effectively a request by a member country to other countries asking for help in locating and making a provisional arrest pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action on a person wanted in a criminal matter.  No country however is obliged to act on the notice and INTERPOL itself recognizes that "each member country decides for itself what legal value to give a red notice within their borders".

Raouf Boutros Ghali who holds passports from Italy and San Marino, is the brother of the former Egyptian Minister of Finance, Youssef Botros Ghaly whose served in that role under then President Hosni Mubarak from 2004 to 2011.  He is also the nephew of Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Secretary-General of the United Nations from January 1992 to December 1996 who died in 2016.  

The Egyptian Public Prosecutor also ordered the search of the Italian defendant's residence in Cairo as well as his bank's safe deposit box.  In carrying out this search warrant, other artifacts belonging to the Egyptian civilization were subsequently seized.  

July 28, 2014

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

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

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

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

February 19, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

October 8, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

"The thieves had entered the gallery toward the end of the day, staying behind after hours and overcoming the night guard.  But how did they get out again? It seemed by using the guard's keys, unlocking the back entrance area and opening the big doors, so gaining access to the goods lift and from there to the loading bay.  This might have been fairly straightforward, but crucially, it was possible only with knowledge of the security system and the internal layout to execute the operation swiftly.  While removing the paintings, the three men (two thieves and the waiting driver as it later emerged) would have been listening to the guard's radio, connection to Eufinger's [a Frankfurt security firm] headquarters.  This was their way of knowing whether any suspicions had been aroused."

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

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

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

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

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