Monday, May 01, 2017

Stolen Art Watch, Global Art Crime May 2017

Cambridge Fitzwilliam stolen jade 'lost for generations', expert says

Efforts to trace £57m-worth of Chinese artefacts stolen from a Cambridge University museum five years ago have proved fruitless, police said.
Thieves broke into the Fitzwilliam Museum on 13 April 2012 and escaped with 18 mainly jade items but since then there has been no trace of them.
Despite the passage of time, the museum remains hopeful of their return.
But an art expert believes the objects have been sold into China and could take generations to resurface.
A number of people were jailed for their roles in the Fitzwilliam robbery and other raids on museums and an auction house across the UK.
While items including a rhino head and Chinese artefacts were retrieved and returned, none of those from the Cambridge museum was ever found.
"Artwork is either recovered very quickly, or the thieves realise what they've got is radioactive, and it goes underground for a generation or more," Christopher Marinello, founder of Art Recovery International, said.
With the Fitzwilliam artefacts registered on a number of art databases including Interpol and Artive, any dealer exercising due diligence would realise the items are stolen "and that's how they might be located", he said.
Because the theft was so widely publicised, Mr Marinello believes the Fitzwilliam jade has "gone underground", most likely traded among criminals, perhaps for drugs or weapons.
While Cambridgeshire Police have confirmed the case is still open, the force is not looking for anyone else in connection with the theft.
The Fitzwilliam remains hopeful its jade will be found and returned, a spokeswoman said.
However, lawyer Mr Marinello, who specialises in recovering stolen artwork for museums, churches, insurance companies and private clients, thinks the museum could be waiting some time.
"I believe the Fitzwilliam jade has made its way to the top market for it in the world - and that's China," he said.
"I think they're in Chinese collections and until someone perhaps dies and the next generation decides to sell, I don't think we'll see them for quite a while."

£10,000 painting by J M Barclay stolen from home near East Linton

The Piper to the 2nd Marquess of Breadalbane, which has been stolen
The Piper to the 2nd Marquess of Breadalbane, which has been stolen
A PAINTING valued at about £10,000 has been stolen from an East Lothian home.
Police are appealing for witnesses following a housebreaking at an address near Kippielaw Farm, off Braeheads Loan, near East Linton.
The incident occurred between 5pm on Saturday, April 15, and 2.45pm on Monday, April 24.
Entry was forced to the property and several paintings, including a high-value oil painting, were taken.
The work, entitled 'The Piper to the 2nd Marquess of Breadalbane', by J M Barclay, dates from 1842 and is a 33” x 22” oil on canvas, valued in the region of £10,000.
Four of the other paintings taken were a black and gold Asian style design.
Local police are continuing with their enquiries and are asking anyone with information that may assist to come forward.
Community Inspector Andrew Hill from Haddington Police Station said: "Based upon the specific nature of the property taken it is likely that this is a targeted theft. A vehicle would have been involved.
"The paintings stolen are all originals and very distinctive.
"Crimes such as this are fortunately rare; however, apart from the financial loss to the owner, they also involve a loss of history and heritage.

The Edmonton man who inspired 'Yoga Hoser' arrested for possession of a $1.2-million ancient statue

For a while, it felt like destiny, a string of events so unlikely it could only have been fated. But Simon Metke doesn’t think that way any more.
Instead, for Mr. Metke, it now seems more like a cosmic joke that brought the Edmonton man and an ancient soldier together, thrusting him into a world of Canadian art theft, criminal justice, drug charges, flamboyantly bad Hollywood filmmaking, an army of deadly Canadian Nazi sausages and the creation of the term “yoga hoser.”
“Even though it was such a stressful thing, I still appreciate the beauty of the absurdity of it,” Mr. Metke says. “It’s so easy to try and make it meaningful because of how intense it all is, but it’s so abstract at the same time. People are just like, ‘Yeah, your life is crazy.’”
The story began in 2011, when a friend in Montreal told Mr. Metke about a man who was selling a stone sculpture of a soldier, claiming it was some kind of antiquity. Mr. Metke, who was deeply interested in ancient cultures and heading to Montreal for a visit, seemed a likely buyer.
But when Mr. Metke saw the piece in his friend’s apartment, he was skeptical. It looked to him more like a high-end replica, like a mantle decoration that could be bought at a home store in a suburban strip mall. Still, he appreciated the workmanship and, though the price was high – $1,400 – his friend stood to make a commission on the sale.
Appearing as it did just ahead of the year 2012 (the final year of the Mayan calendar) and in the midst of Mr. Metke’s own intense spiritual journey, well, he thought it was meant to be.
He googled, “Is there a Mesopotamian artifact missing?” but found nothing. So he bought the sculpture, packed it with his clothes and – after his suitcase was briefly lost by an airline – unwittingly brought a 2,500-year-old Persian artifact back to his condo in Edmonton.
At first, Mr. Metke kept it in a meditation area in his living room. But he eventually moved it onto a bedroom bookshelf, where the bas-relief sculpture that once lined the hall in Persepolis sat among an array of Star Wars figurines, stuffed animals and crystals, no more meaningful or special than his other mementos and icons. He thought about taking it on Antiques Roadshow to see if it was worth anything, but never did.
Unbeknownst to Mr. Metke, the sculpture had been stolen from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts a couple of months before he bought it, although the theft was not initially made public. It was valued at $1.2-million, and there was a hefty reward available for its return.
On Jan. 22, 2014, police officers working with the RCMP’s Integrated Art Crime Investigation Team showed up at his door.
“The sun’s coming in through the window, the bougainvillea flowers are glowing, the crystals are making rainbows,” he says, mimicking what he said when interviewed following his arrest for the theft of the sculpture and some drug-related charges.
Mr. Metke’s case – and that colourful quote – caught the attention of Kevin Smith, the American film director behind movies such as Clerks, Mallrats and Dogma, who joked about the story on his podcast. When co-host Scott Mosier mimicked an RCMP officer at the door of Mr. Metke’s apartment saying, “Open up, yoga hoser,” the term took hold.
On April 20 that year – 420, the day that potheads annually celebrate the cannabis culture – Mr. Smith announced he was working on a script for a movie called Yoga Hosers. The plot was not actually Mr. Metke’s story – it’s about two teenaged girls from Winnipeg who save the country from Canadian Nazi sausages – but the film included a flaky yoga teacher character named Yogi Bayer, clearly styled to resemble Mr. Metke.
The movie premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, 2016, with a cast that included Johnny Depp and Natasha Lyonne. Justin Long, who played Yogi Bayer, tried to contact Mr. Metke before it shot to help develop the character.
“He eventually called me, months after I shot my scenes,” Mr. Long said, speaking on the carpet at Sundance.
The movie was broadly panned, with one review describing it as “close to unwatchable” and “a corny Canuck joke, told for 88 surreally unfunny minutes.”
The situation has, at times, felt surreal and unfunny for Mr. Metke, too.
But after more than three years, the case was finally resolved in an Edmonton courtroom this week. Mr. Metke pleaded guilty to one count of possession of stolen property. Two drug-related charges were stayed.
An agreed statement of facts acknowledged Mr. Metke didn’t know the artifact was stolen but that he “could have gone further” to determine where it came from. The case was described variously by the Crown and defence as “very unique,” “very, very unique” and “extraordinary.”
The judge granted Mr. Metke a conditional discharge with a period of probation and community service. Dozens of friends who showed up in court for Mr. Metke broke out in cheers, and some wiped away tears. Mr. Metke hugged the prosecutor.
With the threat of jail and the possibility of a criminal record behind him, Mr. Metke says he plans to get back into projects he had been working on, including shooting documentary footage of ancient landscapes and further developing a vertical garden system he created. He’s refining a theory about life he calls “The Entropy of Irony,” and is trying to find positive things in his strange experience.
He says he started to watch Yoga Hosers once, and may try again one day.
The ancient soldier, meanwhile, is back at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Court heard it returned from its journey in “pristine condition,” carried back by an archeology professor who travelled to Edmonton to retrieve it.
There’s an orange stuffed octopus on the shelf where the artifact used to be. Mr. Metke knows exactly where it came from.

Lindauer paintings stolen in Auckland art heist 'radioactive'

Lindauer paintings stolen in Auckland art heist 'radioactive'

A leading expert in recovering stolen and missing art said media coverage of the recent smash and grab style theft of two high-profile paintings had left them worthless to thieves.
Chris Marinello from Art Recovery International in Italy said the two Gottfried Lindauer paintings snatched from International Art Centre in Parnell, Auckland, were now "radioactive" and no one would buy them.
Marinello, an expert who had seen more than $500 million of art recovered, said last weekend's ram-raid theft of the two paintings was amateur and opportunistic.

Art recovery expert Christopher Marinello has negotiated the recovery of more than $500m of stolen art - including this Matisse. Photo / supplied
Art recovery expert Christopher Marinello has negotiated the recovery of more than $500m of stolen art - including this Matisse. Photo / supplied
"This was not an elegant robbery. It was totally unsophisticated by people who thought they would be able to sell the paintings quickly," he said.
"The level of interest and the publicity in the theft means these paintings are now radioactive - no one in their right mind will touch them."
Marinello is based at Art Recovery International's office in Venice but the company also works out of the UK and United States.
He has helped recover more than $500m of stolen and looted artwork and helped in the recovery of art taken by Nazis in World War II.
Just last year Marinello negotiated the return of a priceless 16th-century carving stolen decades earlier from a historic church in London.
A film crew were working with Marinello as he worked through locating seven high-profile stolen works.
Marinello urged New Zealand authorities to register the Lindauer theft and details of the artworks on the register.
He oversaw the development of the database which is considered the most technologically advanced system in the identification of stolen art.

CCTV footage of the get-away car used in the theft of two Gottfried Lindaeur paintings. Photo / supplied.
CCTV footage of the get-away car used in the theft of two Gottfried Lindaeur paintings. Photo / supplied.
The paintings stolen in the Parnell ram-raid were both by Gottfried Lindauer in 1884 and were known as Chieftainess Ngatai - Raure and Chief Ngatai - Raure. They were about to be auctioned, and were estimated to be worth $1m together.
Czech-born Lindauer trained at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna and migrated to New Zealand in 1874.
He became one of the most prolific and best-known painters of Maori subjects along with Charles Frederick Goldie.
Marinello said there was a possibility a ransom could be demanded for the paintings' return or they could be used to access drugs or weapons or as leverage in a "get out of jail free card".
He said the theft of the well-known paintings was unlikely to be an ordered grab.
If that was the case more care would have been taken, he said.
"We are not talking about stolen to order because of the way the smash and grab was done.
"My thought is it is common thugs looking to make quick cash."

The International Art Centre in Parnell was robbed in a ram-raid and two Lindauer paintings were stolen. Photo / Jason Oxenham
The International Art Centre in Parnell was robbed in a ram-raid and two Lindauer paintings were stolen. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Marinello said paintings in a window attracted smash and grab theft.
"It's the sparkle in the window - they take what they can and they are off."
He said the paintings could be recovered soon - or could take as long as a decade.
Most works were recovered, because it was harder to sell stolen art than it was to take it in the first place, he said.
"There is a bit of a black-market of course but they are offered for only about 5 per cent of their value."
Marinello said there was a market for the Lindauers overseas because they were attractive works of art and that was why the register was so important.
If the pieces were recovered Marinello said their value would depend on damage done.
The high-profile theft of James Tissot's painting Still on Top saw it plummet in value.

The work was stolen from Auckland Art Gallery in one of New Zealand's most high-profile art heists. Ricardo Sannd, also known as Ricardo Romanov, walked into Auckland Art Gallery with a gun and cut the famous work from its frame in 1998.
The painting was found under Romanov's bed a week later but was so badly damaged tiny pieces of it were found on the gallery floor for weeks.
Although it will never be sold the painting went from an estimated $8m to an insured $2m.
Marinello said some works increased in value because the theft contributed to the story.
"There was a Picasso that was stolen and the theft increased the value because it added to the colour of the work's story.
"That is not usually the case though."
Many works were rolled up, treated badly and stored in conditions vastly different to the temperature controlled environments of museums and galleries.
"They are stored under beds, hidden away because they are that hard to sell," he said.
"I had a $6m painting handed to me in a garbage bag out the window of a Mercedes."
New Zealand art expert Penelope Jackson echoed Marinello's thoughts and concerns on the Lindauers' theft.

New Zealand art expert Penelope Jackson. Photo / supplied.
New Zealand art expert Penelope Jackson. Photo / supplied.
She said there was a lot of speculation as to motive but said until the culprits were caught it was largely an unknown.
"We just have to hope they are recovered unscathed because at 130 years old these two pieces are very vulnerable."
Jackson said talk that the gallery should not have had art in the window was a shame.
"It would be a sad thing if we got to the stage where galleries can't display art because there is a risk of theft.
"It's hard to entice people into an auction with blank walls."
Police put alerts on New Zealand boarders after the theft and Interpol was notified. Police continue to investigate.


Most art stolen within New Zealand has been recovered.
The most famous piece still "at large" is Psyche - a 1902 work by British artist Solomon Joseph Solomon.
In her book art thieves, fakers & fraudsters - the New Zealand author Penelope Jackson outlines the mystery of the 1942 theft.
Theories include an inside job and a phoney burglary to cover up damage done by a cleaner.
Hopes were raised in 1982 when a man came forward and said he had seen the life-size reclining nude painting in a Napier house.
It ended up being a similar painting by a Christchurch art student.
Later in the year the gallery received a Polaroid of what was thought to be Psyche.
The photo was later revealed to be a hoax with the clever confession:
Dear Sir,
Psyches sleep, Psyches awake
Some are real, some are fake
Masterpieces are seldom met,
Touch this one, the paint is still wet.
Other recovered high-profile pieces include the 1997 theft of Colin McCahon's Urewera mural stolen from a Department of Conservation visitor centre by Tuhoe activist Te Kaha. The work was returned 15 months later after negotiations.
In 1998 the $8m James Tissot oil painting - Still on Top - was stolen by career criminal Ricardo Sannd, also known as Ricardo Romanov.
Armed with a gun Sannd stole the painting, worth $8m, from Auckland Art Gallery. It was later found hidden under his bed.
Sannd was sentenced to nearly 14 years in prison for the crime.
In 2005 the statue Pania of the Reef was stolen from the Napier foreshore. The motive was never known but Pania was discovered a month later and recovered by police. She was restored, then replaced.


The Mystery of the $2.5 Million Rare Book Heist

In January, three thieves drilled through the skylight of a building near Heathrow Airport and rappelled 40 feet to the floor, bypassing the security alarms, and making off with around $2.5 million-worth of rare books.
There is a special place saved in the pantheon of art thieves for those who commit their crimes while displaying almost supernatural feats of athletic prowess.
Thieves who climb up walls, through windows, or prowl around raising nary an alarm get nicknames like “Spideman” and “Ghost.” They have even inspired their own sub-genre of thrillers—think Catherine Zeta Jones’s Cirque de Soleil-worthy contortions to steal a valuable mask in Entrapment.
But it’s Tom Cruise’s vault heist in Mission: Impossible that is the most apt model when it comes to a recent theft of 160 antique books from a warehouse in London.
Late in the night on Jan. 29, three still-unknown thieves drilled through the skylight of a building near Heathrow Airport and rappelled 40 feet to the floor, bypassing the security alarms.
They went straight to six specific crates that contained three dealers’ worth of books that were en route to the California International Antiquarian Book Fair in Oakland.
Over the course of several hours, they unloaded the books they wanted into duffel bags, belayed their loot to the roof, and took off in a waiting van. The haul totaled nearly $2.5 million.
“Behind these books there is a lot of work because we have to search to try to find out where the books are—auction houses, collectors, colleagues—and there’s big research behind these books,” Alessandro Meda Riquier, one of the affected dealers, tells Sky News. “They are not only taking money away from me but also a big part of my job.”
Riquier was the owner of several of the most noteworthy tomes that were taken in the heist. The most expensive book was a second edition of Copernicus’s On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres from 1566 in which the astronomer introduced his revolutionary theory that the sun—not the Earth—is the center of the universe.
That book alone is worth over $250,000. Among the rest of the trove are several rare editions of Dante’s Divine Comedy and a smattering of Galileos, Newtons, and da Vincis, among other titles from the luminaries of the early sciences.
All in all, it is the quantity of books stolen rather than the individual titles that make this heist so significant.
“The books were there for only a short time in that warehouse, and this is a very exotic commodity so this is not something that the average person thinks that they can sell,” Jeremy Norman, a rare book dealer with a specialty in the early sciences, tells The Daily Beast. “I think it’s a real mystery. You really wonder how they knew the stuff was there, and the timing of it, and how they were shipped off, and what the real motivation was.”
Several theories have been offered as to why the thieves went after this quarry. One suggests that this may have been a “made to order” theft, one in which a buyer specifically commissioned the thieves to take these titles.
Similar to fine art, stolen antique books are very difficult to sell on the legitimate market—and thereby net the title’s full value. When a rare book crime becomes known, organizations like the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America (ABAA) quickly take action to alert their members to the volumes that were stolen so dealers can be on the lookout for anyone trying to offload a tainted treasure.
“If you’re a seller, you’re not going to want to touch something that might remotely be even possibly stolen because you’re going to lose a lot of face with your customer,” Susan Benne, executive director of the ABAA, tells The Daily Beast. She points out that the rare book market deals in a lot of repeat transactions, books that change hands multiple times.
The difficulty of sorting out a stolen book after it has made its way through a few owners ensures that most booksellers are painstakingly principled when it comes to provenance. 
“It’s a real hassle to have to go back through the process of dealing with insurance companies, with law enforcement,” Benne says, noting that “above and beyond wanting to do the right thing anyway” dealing with stolen material in the end isn’t worth it for dealers.
While a wealthy collector with a gleam in his eye could have commissioned the theft, the more likely scenario is that it was a crime of opportunity. In this theory, a gang of nefarious local elements had help from someone inside the warehouse’s operation who tipped them off to the presence of the expensive cargo and the exact details of the books’ schedule and location.
The shipment was only being stored for a few days, so the opportunity to take the books, not to mention the ability to quickly pick the correct crates out of a room full of other goods that were left untouched, most likely required some help. As Norman says, “to coordinate such a thing, this is like in a movie, how would you know?”
But if this is what happened, the three felons are most likely sitting somewhere scratching their heads right now trying to figure out how to get rid of their ill-begotten library. 
“Maybe it was tempting to professional thieves who didn’t understand that this isn’t going to be something that you can fence like jewelry,” Norman says. “I can tell you it’s not going to affect the prices of books, and it’s going to be really hard for these books to be converted to cash if that’s what they want to do.” 
Another member of the community, Chris Marinello, CEO of Art Recovery International, offered The Guardian a more dire warning for what might happen if these thieves find it difficult to cash out.
“The books might then be broken up,” he says. “Some of the illuminated manuscripts and engravings contained therein might be traded in the art market, where many buyers don’t know they were cut out of rare books. It becomes a lot more difficult to trace.”
The antique book community is no stranger to crime, but the London heist broke the previous mold. It’s not uncommon for rare bookstore owners to catch someone slipping a book into their pocket—Norman says he dealt with this occasionally at the store he owned for 30 years. And institutions like libraries that have a permanent collection of treasures are not immune to thefts, whether from outsider thieves or by employees or visiting scholars who are looking to make a few extra bucks on the side. 
“I mean the thefts that have been really disruptive and sort of shocking in our world, a lot of them more recently have come from libraries,” Benne says. 
As a comparison to the London theft, Norman mentions the 1969 attempt on the Gutenberg Bible at the Widener Library at Harvard.
The amateur thief lowered himself by rope into the room where the Bible was displayed, packed the two volumes up in his backpack, and attempted to scale back up to the roof. Unfortunately, he miscalculated how heavy the tomes actually were—over 60 pounds when carried together—and he fell to the ground. Needless to say, the crime was thwarted.
But incompetence isn’t the only thing that separates the 1969 attempted theft from the 160 books successful stolen in January. 
“The books in the Harvard Library were there for years. Everybody knew about them, they weren’t going anywhere, you could target it. That [theft] was daring and it flopped,” Norman says. “[The London theft] took real skill… that’s got to be professionals. So now we’re up against professional thieves, and we could have more trouble than we used to have in the past.”

Hertford artist Alan Davie's window cleaner jailed for stealing paintings worth £500,000

Daniel Pressland leaving court

Daniel Pressland leaving court
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A window cleaner who stole £500,000 worth of paintings from renowned Hertford painter Alan Davie after his death has been jailed for four years.
Daniel Pressland, 42, was aware of the value of Mr Davie's paintings and knew of weaknesses in the security at his home.
He pounced when the Scottish artist died aged 93 in 2014, carrying out a series of burglaries before being caught in the act with three paintings in his van.
READ MORE: World-famous artist's window cleaner accused of stealing art worth £500,000
He claimed he wanted to use the paintings, worth £90,000, as ramps to get his motorcross bike into his van.
Passing sentence at St Albans Crown Court yesterday (April 5), Judge John Plumstead described him as a "vulture".
He said: "You happened on an opportunity to get rich quick by stealing from someone who you had been worked for for years.
"You were like a vulture on a carcass and just helping yourself. You acted disgracefully."

Alan Davie in his Hertford workshopPressland had worked for Mr Davie, whose work had been displayed at the Tate Modern, since 2002, cleaning windows and doing odd jobs.
The judge said Pressland had committed the burglaries not realising the art gallery that acted on behalf of Mr Davie had a complete record of everything he had painted or drawn in his lifetime and would know what was missing.
During his trial, the jury heard that in all he took 31 paintings from the artist's home at Gamels Studio in Rush Green.
Sarah Morris, prosecuting, said the works totaled half a million pounds in value, but that £243,500 worth of art remained unrecovered.
READ MORE: Items that inspired Alan Davie go on auction
The last of Pressland's break-ins took place during the day on April 2, 2015, almost a year after the death of Mr Davie.
Neighbours of the painter, who had been admired by artists such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and David Hockney, were concerned to see Pressland at the house and putting large canvases into the back of a van.
Police were alerted and were quickly on the scene and caught the window cleaner as he was driving away.
The jury was told that during an interview with the police Pressland told them he kept his ladders in the painter's garage and, having gone there to collect them, saw the three works of art which he assumed had been "put out there for the rubbish".

Some of Alan Davie's paintingsBut yesterday (April 5) before passing sentence Judge Plumstead said it was quite possible Pressland had committed more break-ins at the home of Mr Davie using his knowledge of the faulty upstairs window to gain entry.
Pressland, of Outward Common, Billericay, was found guilty of burgling the home of the artist between April and August of 2014, when 11 paintings were stolen.
Fellow defendant Gavin Challis, 42, from Nazeing, was acquitted of possessing criminal property.
He said he had taken Pressland at face value when he had offered him two paintings for £5,000 and had no reason to believe he was buying criminal property. The Davie works found hanging in his home were worth £26,000.
Mr Davie was born in Grangemouth, Scotland and went to the Edinburgh College of Art in the late 1930s.

See the Most Expensive Townhouse Ever Sold in New York City

A Depression-era mansion on Manhattan's Upper East Side sold yesterday for a record $79.5 million, according to public records, making it by far the most ever paid for a New York City townhouse.
That distinction used to belong to another Upper East Side property, the Harkness Mansion, when it sold in 2006 for $53 million.
David Wildenstein, scion of his family's art fortune, reportedly sold the 41-foot-wide, 25,000 square foot limestone-clad mansion to a Chinese hedge fund, according to the New York Post. The Beaux Arts-style building, which has three stories and 20-foot high ceilings, housed the Wildenstein art gallery for almost a century.
The property, though, is not without its share of controversy.
Billionaire Len Blavatnik sued for millions last year after he believed Wildenstein reneged on a verbal agreement to sell his firm the townhouse for $79 million, according to Bloomberg.
Blavatnik made the bid after the government of Qatar, which was in talks to buy the property in 2014, balked at the last minute. The home was then put back on the market for $100 billion.
News reports have accused the Wildenstein family fortune of being buoyed by an alleged history of dealing in Nazi-stolen art.
David's father Guy Wildenstein was recently cleared of charges that he attempted to launder money to avoid a French tax bill.

Taxidermy burglar sentenced after recovery of van full of stuffed animals

A member of a gang which stole taxidermy from a well-known dealer a year ago, has been sentenced
All the items stolen, included two full African lion mounts, two infant zebras, a troop of baboons and a king penguin, were recovered.
Jason Robert Hopwood, 47, of Drummond Road, Romford, who pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to his part in the burglary and fraudulent use of a registration plate, was sentenced to 21 months' imprisonment, suspended for two years, at Kingston Crown Court on April 4. He was also ordered to work 200 hours' community service.
The court heard how at around 19.30 on March 1, 2016, a burglary took place at the warehouse of London Taxidermy at the Wimbledon Stadium Business Centre.
An angle grinder was used to remove the padlocks and the doors forced open. CCTV footage suggests the van left the scene around 20 minutes later.

Valued at £100,000

Dealer Alexis Turner told ATG he had lost a significant portion of his stock following the raid. However, many of the 27 stolen items with a value of close to £100,000 were immediately identifiable.
Press coverage of the unusual nature of the crime aided in the recovery.
DC Stuart Goss, from Wandsworth CID, said: "I would also like to thank the media, as I am sure reporting of our appeal forced the criminals to abandon the stolen goods. Cataloguing and exhibiting the stolen items was a truly unique and memorable experience”.
Acting on information three weeks after the incident, Essex Police found an abandoned van in the Stapleford Abbots area in Essex. False plates were believed to have been attached and inside were all of the stolen goods. Turner told ATG he received all of the items back within a month after forensic testing and his insurance company had paid out on loss of income.
Hopwood, identified as the owner of the van, is the only member of the gang to be prosecuted in relation to the theft. He was arrested on September 29 and charged on November 10.

Photos of Guercino painting, rolled up like a rug by thieves, reveal extent of damage

The work was taken from an Italian church in 2014 and recently recovered in Casablanca
Photos of Guercino painting, rolled up like a rug by thieves, reveal extent of damage
The altarpiece before (left) and after the theft
The first photographs of the Guercino painting stolen from an Italian church in 2014, which was recently recovered in Casablanca, show the extent of damage to the work. Reports in the Italian and Moroccan press suggest that the 17th-century depiction of the Virgin Mary and two saints has lost around a third of its surface paint. The majority of losses appear to be on the lower part of the canvas. But any restoration work will have to wait until the picture returns to Italy. Italian and North African authorities are currently finalising the details.

The painting, entitled Madonna with the Saints John the Evangelist and Gregory the Wonderworker (1639), was tracked to a suburb of Casablanca. It was recovered in February after the thieves tried to sell the picture for ten million dirham (around £800,000). According to the Italian newspaper Modena Today, one of the men arrested in connection with the theft told the police that the painting had been stored rolled up like a carpet, which likely contributed to its current condition.

The altarpiece was stolen from the Church of San Vincenzo in Modena in 2014. At the time of the theft, the art critic Vittorio Sgarbi described the picture as a monumental work that could be worth between €5m and €6m.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Stolen Art Watch, Brighton Antiques Knocker Lee Millis Jailed, Plus April 2017 Art Crime Round Up

Lee Millis, 57, from Sussex, who has admitted a string of burglaries on Teesside

Lee Millis, 57, from Sussex, who has admitted a string of burglaries on Teesside
Former Sussex antiques dealer turned bogus door-to-door salesman jailed for four years after targeting elderly Teesside victims
JAILED: Lee Millis
JAILED: Lee Millis
A BOGUS door-to-door salesman who targeted elderly people and left his victims living in fear was today jailed for four years.
Lee Millis - said to have been an antiques dealer before becoming a heroin addict at the age of 56 - was told his crimes were "despicable".
The father-of-four ended up living in Middlesbrough after a marriage split, losing his job, his driving licence and becoming homeless.
Desperate for money for drugs, the 57-year-old toured streets looking for homes - usually bungalows - where it was obvious old folk lived.
He pretended he bought and sold jewellery and ornaments, had small clear bag full of gold and coins, and a leaflet he gave householders.
But Millis either tricked or forced his way inside the properties, tried to confuse his victims, and usually left having stolen something.
Over the course of three months last year, he struck in and around Middlesbrough at least eight times, Teesside Crown Court was told.
An 89-year-old who lost ornaments, a pendant and an emerald ring, told in a statement how she now sleeps in a different bedroom to feel safe.
A second victim, 80, is frightened to answer her door after she realised Millis had stolen two rings after bluffing his way into her home.
A 76-year-old man with Parkinson's Disease was pushed to the floor after the con-man barged into his bungalow and took an engraved watch.
Judge Deborah Sherwin told Millis, of Shoreham, Sussex: "You have been preying upon the weakest and most vulnerable members of society.
"It is no wonder these people are now facing having to spend what will be their final years worrying about who comes to their door.
"That's an appalling state of affairs in which to have to live. These are despicable crimes. Many of the items were of sentimental value."
Robert Mochrie, mitigating, said Millis's spectacular fall from grace following his separation was the catalyst to his crime-spree.
"He feels utterly appalled by his behaviour," said Mr Mochrie. "He realises he has caused a significant degree of distress to those unfortunate enough to have answered the knock at their doors."
Millis admitted four burglaries, three charges of burglary with intent to steal, and one of attempted burglary at an earlier hearing.

Burglar, 57, pushed over Parkinson's sufferer in 'despicable' raids on the elderly
Lee Millis turned up to pensioner's doors and forced his way in, before taking treasured jewels
A burglar pushed pensioners over inside their own homes before stealing some of their most treasured jewellery.
Drug addict Lee Millis shoved a Parkinson’s sufferer to the ground before taking a watch gifted to him for 25 years of service.
The 57-year-old later broke in to an elderly woman’s home, who had trustingly answered the door, only for Millis to steal a chain given to her by her late son.
His oldest victim was a “frightened” 89-year-old who he knocked over as he barged into her home.
“These are despicable crimes,” said Judge Deborah Sherwin as she jailed him for four years.
”You have been preying on the oldest and most vulnerable members of society.”
Teesside Crown Court heard Millis used a “tool kit” - consisting of a leaflet and bag full of jewellery - claiming he was opening a business.
His first victim, the 89-year-old, was targeted last April when Millis pushed her out the way knocking her off balance.
He priced up her ornaments as she “screamed” for him to leave as he grabbed a pink pendant and £100 emerald ring.
She was left frightened and scared and unable to sleep,” prosecutor Emma Atkinson said.
“She was embarrassed that someone had taken advantage of her.”
That was the first of seven burglaries over the next few months, which often followed a similar pattern.
He would almost always target pensioners, often living in bungalows alone and sometimes in poor health.
The pattern triggered a police probe, which intensified after an appeal in The Gazette last June alerted more victims.
These included an 82-year-old woman who had the chain gifted to her from her late son, a theft she said had caused a “pain and anguish that is unbearable”.
At the time, police said they were looking for two suspects including Millis, who they described as having grey hair and “poorly maintained teeth”.
Eventually he was found, but refused to answer police questions.
It took an ID parade, in which a victim picked him out of the line-up, to act as a breakthrough for the case.
After pleading guilty to seven counts of burglary, his story - described as "tragic" by his solicitor - came to light.
In a matter of months, he had gone from living a happy family life in Brighton to sleeping rough.
Then, at the age of 56, he took the “extraordinarily unusual” step of trying heroin for the first time.
Thursday’s sentencing heard his partner had “vanished”, and had refused to let the antiques worker see their two children.
He was given the chance to move into a pal’s Middlesbrough flat but his drug habit spiralled into a £30-a-day habit.
“He said he had very little choice other than to steal to fund his debt, fund his addiction and allow himself to eat,” said the probation service.
But Judge Sherwin said she had no option but to jail him, adding: “It is clear that over a period of time your life has spiralled out of control.”
“(But) in some cases you have used a degree of violence.”
Art Hostage Comments:
Lee Millis is the illegitimate son of the infamous Tommy (The Sewer Rat) Millis, who also uses the name Thomas Melish.
In court and under oath, Simon Muggleton, former Sussex Police Art & Antiques Unit detective declared
" Sussex Police Art & Antiques Unit had 27, yes twenty seven, Brighton Knocker Boy's signed up as registered Police Informants"
Tommy (The Sewer Rat) Millis/Melish being near the top of the list. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Stolen Art Watch, Bulmer Art Heist, Police Pursue End Game & Art Crime Round Up March 2017

Gold coin worth $4 million stolen from Berlin museum
FILE PHOTO - Picture taken in Vienna, Austria on June 25, 2010 shows experts of an Austrian art forwarding company holding one of the world's largest gold coins, a 2007 Canadian $ 1,000,000 ''Big Maple Leaf''.
A Canadian gold coin named "Big Maple Leaf" which bears the image of Queen Elizabeth II was stolen in the early hours of Monday morning from Berlin's Bode Museum.
The coin is made out of pure gold, weighs about 100 kilos and has a face value of around $1 million (794,344.27 pounds).
"The coin was stolen last night, it's gone," museum spokesman Markus Farr said.

Given the high purity of the gold used in the coin, its material value is estimated to be $4 million.
The museum said on its website that the coin was issued by the Royal Canadian Mint in 2007 and that it was featured in the Guinness Book of Records for its "unmatched" degree of purity.
The coin, with a diameter of 53 centimetres and 3 centimetres thick, was loaned to the Bode Museum in December 2010.
Police said it was probably stolen by a group of thieves who entered the museum undetected through a window, possibly with the help of a ladder.
we have so far we believe that the thief, maybe thieves, broke open a window in the back of the museum next to the railway tracks," police spokesman Winfrid Wenzel said. "They then managed to enter the building and went to the coin exhibition."The coin was secured with bullet-proof glass inside the building. That much I can say," Wenzel added.
"Neither I nor the Bode Museum can go into detail regarding personnel inside the building, the alarm system or security installations."
The Bode Museum has one of the world's largest coin collections with more than 540,000 items.


Bulmer Art Heist Back-Story:

Followed by:


Cops hunt thieves who stole £2.5million worth of art from Bulmers cider tycoon’s mansion while he was on luxury Barbados holiday

Gang fled with art, jewels and silverware of sentimental value to Esmond & Susan Bulmer in horror burglary eight years ago
COPS have issued a renewed appeal for information on thieves who stole art worth £2.5million from the home of an ex-Tory MP and cider tycoon eight years ago.
Esmond Bulmer, 81, of the Bulmers cider dynasty, and his wife Susan, 75, were on holiday together in Barbados when the raiders broke into their decadent mansion and made away with the luxury goods.

Cops hunt thieves who stole £2.5m in art after raiding Bulmers cider tycoon

Fresh pleas … cops are calling for witnesses to come forward and help Esmond Bulmer, 81, and his wife Susan, 75, find artwork taken from them eight years ago
South West News Service
Cops have arrested 11 men in connection with the burglary at The Pavilion, but are yet to recover the majority of stolen goods
They are alleged to have threatened to pour bleach over house-sitter Deborah Branjum, and tied her to a stair banister before fleeing the property with the priceless haul.
Some of the gang are believed to have fled with the paintings, while others loaded the boot of the Bulmers’ Mercedes with a safe with £1million worth of jewellery inside.

Cops hunt thieves who stole £2.5m in art after raiding Bulmers cider tycoon
South West News Service
Italian landscape by Pieter Bruegel … just one of the 15 paintings taken in the raid has been recovered by cops
Cops hunt thieves who stole £2.5m in art after raiding Bulmers cider tycoon
South West News Service
Edward Poynter masterpiece … Esmond Bulmer and his wife Susan were on holiday in Barbados when thieves broke into their sprawling mansion
Up to 15 well-known artworks, along with jewels and silverware were stolen in the March 2009 raid.
The shocked house sitter was found at their house, The Pavilion near Bruton, Somerset, 18 hours after the break-in.
Cops have arrested 11 men in connection with the aggravated burglary.
All remain on bail pending further investigation.
The latest arrest was a 42-year-old man from Small Heath, Birmingham.
The unnamed man was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit fraud, and conspiracy to handle criminal property.

South West News Service
Back with rightful owners … George Frederick Watts’s Endymion was recovered by private investigators
South West News Service
Still missing … Sir George Clausen’s Apple Blossom was among paintings stolen
South West News Service
Richard Buckner masterpiece … thieves broke into Esmond and Susan Bulmer’s mansion eight years ago
South West News Service
Thieves managed to get away with art worth £2.5million after allegedly threatening to pour bleach over a house sitter
Officials have previously arrested suspects in Gloucestershire, West Midlands, London and the South East in connection with the heist.
Renewing their appeal for witnesses eight years on, Avon and Somerset Constabulary said all but one of the 15 paintings taken have been recovered by private investigators.
The outstanding painting is Sir John Lavery’s “After Glow Taplow.”
The jewellery and silverware taken in the heist have great sentimental value to the Bulmer family.

South West News Service
Sentimental value … the gang fled the scene with a number of jewels and silverware which are of great personal importance to the Bulmer family
South West News Service
The gang got lucky with a safe that contained around £1million in jewellery
Mr Bulmer is thought to have made £84million when he and his family sold their stake in the family’s Hereford-based Bulmers cider-making business.
Upon getting one piece of art back in 2015, Mr Bulmer, who was MP for Kidderminster between 1974 and 1983, said he was “thrilled”.
Police are appealing for jewellers and antique and second-hand shop owners who may have been offered the items to come forward.
Anyone able to help should call the Operation Shine investigative team via 101, quoting reference Op Shine 3559609.

South West News Service
Woman sitting at a window by Paul Maze … up to 15 well-known artworks were stolen in the raid
South West News Service
Police have renewed their appeal for witnesses eight years on from the burglary, in a desperate bid to return the goods to the distraught family
South West News Service
One down, 14 to go … upon getting one of the 15 pieces stolen back two years ago, Mr Bulmer said he was ‘thrilled’

Stolen Van Goghs back on display after years in criminal underworld

They spent years under wraps and out of sight in a criminal's safe - but two Van Gogh paintings are now back on show in the Dutch museum they were stolen from in 2002.
The canvases, Sea View at Scheveningen and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church at Nuenen, date from Van Gogh's early period and are described as priceless.
However, Dutch culture minister Jet Bussemaker said their real value would be in the eyes of those who can now see them again.
Thieves seized the canvases from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam - which contains the world's largest collection of Van Gogh works with more than 200 paintings and 500 drawings - after breaking in through the roof.
One of the men convicted over the theft, Octave Durham, has revealed that he was actually after the artist's better known works, but they were harder to steal.
He told a documentary to be aired later that he found it "trivially easy" to break in to the museum.
"The heist took about three minutes and 40 seconds," Durham says in the film, the New York Times reported. "When I was done, the police were there, and I was passing by with my getaway car. Took my ski mask off, window down, and I was looking at them."
He said he and his accomplice had wanted to steal Sunflowers but the artwork was too well guarded, Trouw newspaper reported. They then turned their attention to The Potato Eaters, considered the painter's first masterpiece, but decided it was too big to fit through the hole they had entered through.
Durham told the filmmakers he had selected the seascape because the thick paint convinced him it would be valuable. He was arrested a year later in the Spanish resort of Marbella and convicted in 2005, but had until now maintained he was innocent.
The theft was a case of "art-napping" by an opportunist burglar, art investigator Arthur Brand told the BBC.

"No art collector will pay for stolen art they can't display," he said. But stolen art could be used as leverage by criminals who offer its return in exchange for reduced sentences for their crimes.
Dutch criminal Cor van Hout - who became notorious for kidnapping the beer tycoon Freddy Heineken for an estimated $10m (£8m) ransom in 1983 - wanted to buy them but he was gunned down in a gangland hit before the deal could be done.
Another potential buyer met the same fate and the paintings were eventually sold to Raffaele Imperiale, a low-ranking mafioso who was at the time running an Amsterdam coffee shop.
Imperiale paid about €350,000 ($380,000; £305,000) for the paintings and his lawyers told the New York Times he had bought them because he was "fond of art" and they were a "bargain".
Imperiale was among several suspected dealers arrested by Italian police last January. Another suspected dealer arrested at the same time reportedly told investigators the paintings were at Imperiale's house.
The BBC's James Reynolds in Rome says mafia members are not known for their understated good taste and raids have often revealed a preference for ostentatious, kitsch decoration, so Imperiale was unlikely to have bought the paintings for display purposes.

They were found wrapped in cloth in a safe in a house in the picturesque seaside town of Castellammare di Stabia, near Pompeii, last September.
Van Gogh Museum Director Axel Ruger said it was wonderful to have the works back on display.
"I think it's one of the most joyous days in my career really," he said.
The museum has not made any comment on the upcoming documentary, Trouw said.

Why are the paintings significant?

Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) is widely considered the greatest Dutch artist after Rembrandt.
Seascape at Scheveningen was one of only two seascapes he painted while he lived in the Netherlands.

It shows a foaming, stormy sea and thundery sky, and was painted in 1882 while he was staying in The Hague.
Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church at Nuenen (1884) was painted for Van Gogh's mother, but also partly for his father, who had become a pastor at the church in 1882. When his father died in 1884, Van Gogh added churchgoers, including a few women wearing shawls used for mourning.
Van Gogh committed suicide in France in 1890.

Recovering stolen masterpieces

The 2002 Van Gogh museum raid was one of a series of thefts that shocked the art world.

In 2004, two Edvard Munch masterpieces, The Scream and Madonna, were seized by armed men who raided the Munch museum in Oslo. Several men were jailed and the paintings later recovered after painstaking detective work in 2006.
Another version of The Scream was stolen from the National Art Museum in Oslo in 1994 and that too was later recovered in a sting operation by UK detectives.
In 2012, seven artworks were stolen from Rotterdam's Kunsthal museum, including paintings by Picasso, Monet and Matisse. Two thieves were later jailed, telling a Bucharest court that security at the museum had been lax. Some of the paintings were destroyed in an oven.
Earlier this year, four paintings out of a haul of 24 stolen from a Dutch gallery in 2005 were recovered in Ukraine.

As Stolen Van Goghs Return to View, a Thief Tells All

“View of the Sea at Scheveningen,” a van Gogh seascape stolen in 2002. Credit Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (State of the Netherlands, bequest of A.E. Ribbius Peletier)

AMSTERDAM — “Some people are born teachers. Some people are born footballers. I’m a born burglar.” So says Octave Durham, who stole two priceless Vincent van Gogh paintings on the evening of Dec. 7, 2002.
More than 14 years after he and an accomplice clambered onto the roof of the Van Gogh Museum here, broke a window with a sledgehammer and lifted the canvases off the wall, Mr. Durham has finally come clean about his involvement in one of the most infamous postwar art heists.
He did so in a 45-minute documentary that will show on Dutch television on Tuesday, the same day the museum plans to return the two canvases — recovered in September from the home of an Italian mobster’s mother — to public view.
The confession has no legal impact for Mr. Durham, who was convicted in 2004 and served just over 25 months in prison, but it sheds light on the paintings’ tortuous journey and ultimate rescue, and on the intersection of art theft and organized crime.
“The heist took about 3 minutes and 40 seconds,” Mr. Durham says in the documentary. “When I was done, the police were there, and I was passing by with my getaway car. Took my ski mask off, window down, and I was looking at them.”
He adds: “I could hear them on my police scanner. They didn’t know it was me.”
Mr. Durham, in details that he shares for the first time, after years of claiming innocence, brags of doing “bank jobs, safety deposit and more spectacular jobs than this.” He says he targeted the museum not because of any interest in art but simply because he could. “That’s the eye of a burglar,” he boasts.
The works are of inestimable value because they have never been to market: View of the Sea at Scheveningen” (1882) is one of only two seascapes van Gogh painted during his years in the Netherlands, and “Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen” (1882-84), showing the church where the artist’s father was a pastor, was a gift to the artist’s mother.
(Prices for van Gogh landscape paintings at auction range from about $10 million to about $70 million.)
But Mr. Durham did not know the historical background of the paintings. He said the paintings were the smallest ones in the gallery he targeted, and closest to the hole through which he entered. He stuffed them into a bag, and escaped by sliding down a rope he and his accomplice had put in place. When he hit the ground, he came down so hard that he smashed the seascape, chipping the paint. He left behind a black baseball cap. A security guard called the police, but she was not permitted to use force to try to stop the burglars.
“It was really a terrible day,” Nienke Bakker, a curator at the Van Gogh Museum, recalled in an interview with The New York Times. “A burglary or robbery is always traumatizing, but when it’s a museum and it’s art that belongs to the whole community, and the whole world, really, and it was stolen in such a brutal way, that was really a shock.”
When he returned home, Mr. Durham said, he removed the frames and plexiglass covers from the paintings. He tossed paint chips from the seascape into a toilet. Later, he dumped the frames in a canal.
Mr. Durham could not sell the canvases on the open market, but he put out the word in the underworld. At one point, he said, he met with Cor van Hout, who was convicted in the 1983 kidnapping of the beer magnate Alfred H. Heineken. Mr. van Hout agreed to buy the paintings, but was killed on the day of the planned sale.


Axel Ruger, right, in Naples, Italy, with the 1880s van Gogh painting “Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen,” also stolen in 2002. Credit Ciro Fusco/European Pressphoto Agency

Later, Mr. Durham and his accomplice, Henk Bieslijn, contacted an Italian mobster, Raffaele Imperiale, who at the time sold marijuana out of a “coffee shop” in Amsterdam. He agreed to buy the two paintings in March 2003 for around 350,000 euros (roughly $380,000), divided equally between the thieves.
Mr. Imperiale’s defense lawyers, Maurizio Frizzi and Giovanni Ricci in Genoa, Italy, confirmed that Mr. Imperiale bought the paintings even though he knew they were stolen, because “he is fond of art” and they were “a good bargain.”
He sent them to Italy within two weeks, and never displayed them.
The thieves spent the money over about six weeks — “Motorcycles, a Mercedes E320, clothes, jewelry for my girlfriend, a trip to New York,” Mr. Durham recalls.
Those purchases helped investigators, who were already wiretapping him, catch Mr. Durham. They went to his apartment, but he escaped by climbing up the side of the building — a skill that earned him the nickname “the Monkey.” They searched his house, but the paintings were long gone.
Mr. Durham fled to Spain, where the police arrested him in Marbella, a southern resort town, in December 2003. The next summer, Dutch forensic investigators confirmed a DNA match from the baseball cap he left behind during the museum robbery. Mr. Durham and Mr. Bieslijn were convicted that year.
Mr. Durham was released from prison in 2006, but still owed 350,000 euros in fines; he has paid about 60,000 euros. He returned to prison after a failed bank robbery. In 2013, he approached the museum and, although he still insisted he was innocent, offered to help retrieve the works. The museum rejected his offer because he suggested that they buy them back.
In 2015, he met the documentary filmmaker Vincent Verweij through a mutual friend. Mr. Durham told Mr. Verweij that he wanted to help find the paintings so that he could clear his debt to the museum and abandon a life of crime. But he still maintained his innocence.
“I told him frankly that I didn’t believe him,” Mr. Verweij recalled in an interview. “One day he sent me a WhatsApp message and asked me to meet him in a cafe, and he admitted that he’d told me a lie and that he did the break-in.”
Mr. Verweij began filming in earnest. Along the way he learned about a big break in the case: Mr. Imperiale had sent a letter on Aug. 29, 2016, to Vincenza Marra, a public prosecutor in Naples, informing them that he had the paintings.
In a phone interview, Ms. Marra said the letter merely confirmed a “much-whispered-about” rumor that investigators had already begun looking into.
“I know that if we hadn’t handed the paintings over to the Dutch authorities, they never would have found them,” she added dryly.
Willem Nijkerk, a Dutch prosecutor, credited the Italian police with solving the case, and noted that Mr. Durham played no role in the recovery of the paintings.

Octave Durham, who stole the two van Gogh works, is the subject of a new Dutch television documentary. Credit Vincent Verweij
Last September, Italian investigators raided Mr. Imperiale’s mother’s home near Naples, where the works were wrapped in cloth and tucked away in a hidden wall space next to the kitchen. The recovery of the works made global headlines. Italian investigators also seized about 20 million euros in other assets, including farmland, villas and apartments linked to Mr. Imperiale and an associate, prosecutors said at the time.
Ms. Bakker, the Van Gogh Museum curator, recalls receiving a call in late September asking her to travel to Naples the next day. She wasn’t given details, but she had her suspicions. She grabbed her files on the paintings.
“When I was on the plane, I remember thinking: I hope they’ve been preserved well and people haven’t taken them off the stretchers,” she recalls.
At the Naples police station, members of the Guardia di Finanza, the Italian police agency for financial crimes, took her to a room where the paintings had been placed on blue-and-white cloth on a table.
“I immediately thought and knew that these were the paintings from our museum,” she said. “But I took another few minutes to convince myself. They were all waiting and standing for me to say the words. I did say them, and then there were cheers.”
Ms. Bakker was surprised that the works seemed in relatively good condition.
“When I saw the damage in the lower left corner of one of the paintings, it was substantial, but I looked at the rest and realized it was the only big damage, and I was very relieved to see that,” she said of the seascape. “It was really like being in some weird movie, with all these police officers around me and this strange Mafia story they were telling me.”
After they were recovered, with much fanfare in Italy, the works were first exhibited for three weeks in February at the National Museum of Capodimonte in Naples, and will be restored to the walls of the Van Gogh Museum on Monday.
Mr. Imperiale left the Netherlands for Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, in 2013 or 2014. In writing to the prosecutor, he may have hoped for leniency, but in January he was sentenced to 20 years in prison. The Italian authorities are seeking his extradition. His lawyers said that he was not sure if he would return to Italy.
“He is homesick for his parents, but in Dubai he’s a free man,” Mr. Imperiale’s lawyers said through an interpreter in a telephone interview.
The Van Gogh Museum remains furious at Mr. Durham and did not cooperate with the documentary, which was funded by the Dutch national broadcaster KRO-NCRV. (Mr. Durham, who lives in Amsterdam and works mostly as a driver and an assistant for his daughter, a successful musician, was not paid for his participation, the filmmaker said.)
“The last 14 years have been a roller coaster of hope, disappointment and agony,” the museum’s director, Axel Rüger, said in an interview. “All the time this man is sitting on this information. He knew exactly what he had done and he never breathed a word. To us it feels as if he is seeking the limelight.”
He added: “The museum is the victim in this case, and I would expect very different behavior from someone who shows remorse.”
Mr. Verweij acknowledged the tricky ethics of giving Mr. Durham a platform in the documentary.
“The interesting thing is that you never see documentaries or articles about art theft from the perspective of the thief,” Mr. Verweij said. “It’s always the experts, the museum people, the prosecutors, but never the ones who actually do it, and I think that’s a unique perspective. It’s not meant to be a glorification of this guy.”

16 Years Later, Stash of Stolen Paintings Found Near Crime Scene

One of the stolen paintings ended up at auction.

This painting by Carl Vilhelm Holsøe showed up in the U.S., and led to the thief in Denmark.
This painting by Carl Vilhelm Holsøe showed up in the U.S., and led to the thief in Denmark.

The Art Loss Register announced yesterday, March 14, that a stash of stolen paintings was located in Denmark 16 years after their theft. The paintings were found with the help of local police only 50 miles from the scene of the crime.
Last fall, a painting that had gone missing from a private residence in Denmark re-surfaced at an auction in the United States. The work, by the Danish painter Carl Vilhelm Holsøe—which was consigned by a Danish auction house—came up on the Art Loss Register (ALR) in a routine search of the auction catalogue.
Working together with the Danish police, the ALR were granted a warrant to search the original consignor’s residence, who first sold the painting to the Danish auction house, located just an hour away from the place of theft. 
There, police found seven additional paintings that had been reported stolen from the same private residence over 16 years ago. 
With the Danish police unable to find either the paintings or the thief when the theft of eight paintings was initially reported in December 2000, an insurance company paid out the loss and the works were registered in the ALR’s database for lost and stolen art.
When the Holsøe painting came up during a routine search as part of the auction house’s due diligence, the ALR notified the auction house, the insurer, and the Danish Police.
After seizing the remaining seven artworks, the Danish police returned them to the insurer as the rightful owner, while the portrait by Holsøe remained in the U.S. auction for the benefit of the insurer.