Sunday, March 30, 2008

Stolen Art Watch, Art Loss Register, Solutions Better than Lip Service !!

'Due Diligence' is just a "ruse"

How can we trust a 'Due Diligence' database company that dissembles when approached by a client to check the provenance of a work of art?

The UK-based antiques trade newspaper, Antiques Trade Gazette (ATG), recently reported the case of art dealer Michael Marks, who has been ordered by a judge to return to their rightful owner two paintings by the late Indian modernist Francis Newton Souza (1924-2002), stolen some years ago and which Mr Marks believed he had subsequently bought in good faith through trade sources.

High Court judge Mr Justice Tugenhadt ruled that Mr Marks had failed to keep a reliable audit trail for the works Head Of A Portuguese Navigator and Chalice With Host by Souza and ruled that they should therefore be returned to Dubai-based collector Aziz Kurtha from whom they were originally stolen.

Having bought the works, and intending to sell them on at a tidy profit, Mr Marks checked with the Art Loss Register to ensure that the works were not listed as stolen. This process is known as 'Due Diligence', although what subsequently occurred explains why that term has become something of a laughable concept in the art trade and beyond. According to the ATG, Mr Marks paid a search fee to the Art Loss Register in order to check the title of the works and "was told there was no problem." The ATG article continues:

"But the High Court revealed that the ALR knew the works to be the subject of a claim by Dr Kurtha and deliberately misled Mr Marks. ALR chairman Julian Radcliffe explained to Antiques Trade Gazette that this was part of a ruse to keep lines of communication open with Mr Marks. The judgment stated that Mr Radcliffe went as far as telling Mr Marks that he had a client who would be interested in buying the paintings from him. Mr Radcliffe further explained that this was all part of bid to recover the works by persuading Mr Marks to bring them into the ALR offices."

A "ruse"? Is this, perhaps, a variation of the ruse that brought the stolen Bakwin Cézanne Bouilloire et fruits (above left) to market in 1999 (US$29.3m/£18.1m at Sotheby's, of which the ALR took a not insignificant percentage)?

On successful recovery of a work, the ALR charges a fee based on the current value of the items at the time of recovery — 20% plus VAT for items worth less than £50,000 ($100,000), and 15% plus VAT for items in excess of £50,000 ($100,000). Souza's record price at auction (at India's Saffronart in 2005) is $1.4m, (or around £700,000) for Lovers (above right), with two further works having sold at Christie's and Sotheby's New York in 2006 for $1.3m.

Am I missing something here, or is there not a conflict of interest where a company offering 'Due Diligence' checks also stands to profit when the recovered item comes back to market (which is the most efficient method of price discovery, as the 1999 sale of the Cézanne made clear.) The fact that Mr Justice Tugenhadt admonished the ALR for being economical with the actualité, perhaps confirms that all is not right with this process.

Isn't it time the auction houses and insurance companies that support such dubious instruments of 'art recovery' woke up to the fact that "ruses" of this kind do nothing to improve the public relations profile of the art trade? With prices in the art market at stratospheric levels and antiquities looting having a catastrophic effect on the future of archaeology, the need for integrity among trade-funded Due Diligence organisations is more critical than ever.

If a dealer cannot lodge a bona fide inquiry with the leading provenance-checking database (for a fee!) without running the risk of having the wool pulled over his eyes, what future for the already endangered concept of Due Diligence? But then with everyone, including the art recovery companies standing to profit from art theft in some way when stolen works finally make it to market, such revelations are perhaps hardly surprising.

Art Hostage comments:

Whilst it would be easy to just follow suit and condemn the Art Loss Register for its shortcomings, I do think we can move on from that premise and try and offer solutions that can improve the tracing of stolen art without the need for bodies like the Art Loss Register to charge fee's.

If we are going to demand the stolen art databases are used free then funding has to come from a central body.

It is all very well for the major auction houses to be shareholders in the Art Loss Register, but it does nothing to address the long term problem of funding the Art Los Register.

Art Hostage has a question for Julian Radcliffe and the Art Loss register:

"How much would it cost per year to run the Art Loss Register without having to charge victims a fee ??"

$1 million, $2 million, if so then surely this can be obtained from insurers, auction houses and Law Enforcement, without the distasteful approaches to victims.

Another distasteful act that is a by-product of the ALR fees, is the forcing of victims to sell the recovered stolen artworks to pay these fee's, thereby making auction houses huge fees for the auction sale.

One could argue the major auction houses have a vested interest in forcing victims to sell their recovered stolen artworks, therefore the shareholding in the ALR is window dressing and the denial of regular funding is in the interests of the Major Auction houses, not the victims.

Art Hostage can only think of one answer, funding comes from law enforcement and insurance companies into a central pot that funds a global stolen art database like the ALR.

I know this would be open to abuse, but far better for the ALR to fund junkets and high wage bills from govts than the victims.

Finally, it is easy to pay lip service, Art Hostage is guilty as others, to the wrongs of the ALR and the whole stolen art recovery business, far better to offer solutions.

Thoughts please !!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Stolen Art Watch,Fighting Art Crime, Like Hitting Corks in a Barrel !!

£29,000 antiques stolen from house

By Matt Wilkinson

Burglars escaped with £29,000 of antiques from a house after getting in through a rear window.

Police are appealing for information after the break-in at Kingston Hill, in Kingston Blount, near Chinnor, overnight between Sunday, March 10, and Monday March 11.

Among the stolen goods are an 18th Century George III sideboard valued at £4,500, a silver fruit bowl engraved "Kingston Blount" worth £2,000 and various items of silver tableware, some of which has a Hanoverian pattern.

The house was occupied at the time of the burglary and detectives believe the thieves escaped through the rear garden.

Pc Dave Edwards, of Didcot police, said: "I'm keen to speak to anyone who saw any suspicious activity taking place in or around Kingston Hill on the night in question. Kingston Blount is a small village, but very close to junction six of the M40.

"I would also like to appeal to any antique dealers who come into contact with anything they find suspicious, or any antiques with the distinctive Hanoverian markings to contact us."

Anyone with information should all Pc Edwards on 08458 505505 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111

Art Hostage comments:

While the Cats away the Mice will become unruly, and play !!
All will become apparent in due course !!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Stolen Art Watch, Monet, Modus Vivendi Reaps Reward !!

Clawed Monet

Oops, sorry, Claude Monet, below !!

Monet, Cezanne stolen from French dealer's home

PARIS (AFP) — Some 30 paintings by masters such as Monet, Cezanne, Corot and Sisley and a Rodin sculpture were stolen on Monday from the home of an antiques dealer near Paris, police said.

Five masked gunmen broke into the home in Le Pecq west of Paris in the early hours on Monday, sequestered the art dealer and fled with the artworks, said police.

A judicial source said that if the authenticity of the artworks is confirmed, the heist would be "priceless."

The thieves' burnt and abandoned 4x4 vehicle was found in a nearby wooded area on Monday.

The antiques dealer was robbed once before, in 2004, but the paintings stolen then were recovered.

Art Hostage comments:

Funny thing, a couple of Brit art thieves/Handlers said they had a bit of work to do, before taking a ferry ride !!

So, this could be the Modus Vivendi between art thieving gangs I have been warning about.
More to come.....

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Stolen Art Watch, Art Loss Register or Julian Radcliffe Rancid Racket ????

CMC Professor Involved in Art Restitution Controversy

Firm clears Petropoulos of legal wrongdoing; ethical questions remain

Elise Viebeck

Claremont McKenna College's administration first learned of the Pissarro affair in early August 2007 when Dean of Faculty Gregory Hess and John V. Croul Professor of History Jonathan Petropoulos met for coffee at Starbucks.

The situation, which has received significant mention in the European press, involves Petropoulos in a controversial effort to restitute a Nazi-looted painting to its rightful owner, in which his associate, a Munich art dealer, has been investigated for blackmail.

"He had told me something, that there was some controversy," said Hess in a recent interview with the Claremont Independent. Petropoulos, also the director of CMC's Center for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights, did not provide Hess with details or articles.

A law firm retained by CMC has since exonerated Petropoulos of legal wrongdoing in the case.

After his first meeting with Petropoulos, Hess did not take any action. "My understanding is some of this material may have appeared in French and other foreign languages," said Hess. "My French is not great. I don't usually trawl French newspapers for things… I don't think that's a very effective way of uncovering and understanding the situation."

An internet mechanism at CMC Public Affairs alerts the college of daily press coverage related to faculty. Highlights are conveyed to senior administration officials, but it is unclear if the system faltered in this case. Hess said he did not know who else among the administration may have known about the affair at the time. Evie Lazzarino, the Director of Public Affairs and Communications at CMC, could not be reached for comment.
The story of the Pissarro begins with Zurich resident Gisela Fischer, 78, who is of Jewish descent. She and her family fled Vienna in 1938 two days after the Nazi Anschluss. The Gestapo looted their home, and among the stolen items was a painting by impressionist Camille Pissarro, Le Quai Malaquais, Printemps.

After the war, Fischer's father successfully located and reclaimed many of his family's stolen assets. After her father's death in 1995, Fischer concentrated her efforts on the Pissarro which had remained elusive. In early 2001, she registered the painting with the Art Loss Register (ALR), a London-based for-profit company involved in stolen art recovery.

The ALR began to research the painting's provenance, or history of ownership, in the hope of ascertaining its location. There was no initial financial arrangement, as at that time the ALR did not charge for Holocaust and World War II art claims.

"When she first registered the painting, we were doing it pro-bono," confirms ALR chairman Julian Radcliffe of the research and recovery effort. Professor Petropoulos, an expert in Nazi-looted art, was involved as a consultant from an early stage.

On January 8, 2007, at a meeting in Munich, a representative of the ALR gave Fischer a message from Petropoulos. He wrote in a letter dated December 7, 2006 that he had located the painting in Switzerland and was communicating with an unnamed contact of its owner. The owner was a "foundation created by the heirs of the person who purchased [the painting] in 1957."

The foundation, he wrote, wished to remain anonymous.

Two days after the meeting in Munich, Radcliffe also sent Fischer a letter, this time to request a finder's fee for the organization's success in finding the Pissarro in Switzerland. Despite its earlier commitment not to charge Holocaust claimants, the company had changed its charging policy for Holocaust art claims, telling claimants that the company could complete restitution "at far less cost and often more efficiently" than the expensive lawyers who took some cases.
The meeting with the ALR in January 2007 was the first Fischer knew of the ALR's changed policy.

For the Pissarro case, Radcliffe proposed an elaborate compensation scheme, including 20 percent of the first $1 million, 15 percent of the second million and 10 percent of any additional value of the painting. Included in his price was a stipend for Professor Petropoulos, who had requested $100,000 from the ALR for his services.

In a letter dated January 23, Fischer's lawyer, Dr. Norbert Kückelmann, rejected the ALR's proposal. Three days later Petropoulos met with Fischer at the Hotel St. Gotthart in Zurich to try a new arrangement.

Radcliffe and Sarah Jackson of the Art Loss Register also went to Zurich, only to find themselves excluded from the dealings. "We went expecting to be included in the meetings with Ms. Fischer only to discover that they had already had meetings without us. We realized we had been cut out," Radcliffe told the CI.

At the hotel, Petropoulos and Peter Griebert, a Munich art dealer, showed her digital photos of the Pissarro, claiming to have taken them that morning. According to an account published in ARTNews magazine, they did not give further details about its location or the identity of its owners at that time.

Professor Petropoulos and Griebert then asked her for 18 percent of the painting's market value as a finder's fee. The percentage was to be divided between the two. Experts estimate the worth of the painting to be $2 to 3 million at minimum, meaning that based on the split, it is likely that each man would earn at least $200,000.

In a letter on January 29, Griebert asked Fischer for an affirmation of this agreement in writing.

Fischer rejected his request in a letter on February 1. "I decline the terms you have repeated: that a separate contract for a 'finder's fee' of 18 percent is warranted by you and Jonathan Petropoulos before you actively establish contact between me and the current holders or their lawyers," she wrote. "To me this constitutes a threat: if I don't obey your demands, the Pissarro will disappear again as it did in 1938."

On April 2, with no progress in sight, Kückelmann filed charges against Griebert in Munich. He based his complaint on § 253 of the German Criminal Code which defines Erpressung, rendered in English as "demanding with menaces," or blackmail. Munich Chief Prosecutor Christian Schmidt-Sommerfeld told ARTNews in summer 2007 that the investigation did not include Petropoulos because he is an American and his alleged crimes would have taken place outside Germany.

In a March 11, 2008 email to the CI Professor Petropoulos defended his actions. "I always endeavored to return the painting in question by Camille Pissarro to the person whom I believed was the rightful heir," he said.

Emails from Petropoulos to Griebert following the Zurich meeting, obtained through a source close to the investigation, paint a different picture.

"If Frau Fischer and Dr. Kueckelmann choose not to engage us, then we cannot say what will happen to the painting," Petropoulos wrote on February 6, 2007. "It would be difficult to give her the names and locations without any compensation. That just won't happen."

"[H]er response is so irrational, it is hard to make sense of it all," he added in an email the next day. "She simply cannot recover the painting without us. At least, I don't know if she would discover on her own the identity of the holders and their current location. We need to keep that in mind. She needs us."

Petropoulos insisted, further, on their original demand for 18 percent. "As we have stressed, we had a deal with Frau Fischer for this amount (and we also hold all the cards right now)," he wrote on February 15.

Protocol and compensation are divisive issues in the world of looted art restitution. Some organizations, like the Art Loss Register, charge fees up front or on recovery for their services. Others, including charitable and non-profit bodies like the Commission for Art Recovery, the Commission for Looted Art in Europe and the Holocaust Art Restitution Project, will pursue claims on a pro-bono basis.

Ori Z. Soltes is a co-founder of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project (HARP), former director of the National Jewish Museum, and a professor of theology at Georgetown University. In a recent phone conversation with the CI, he explained the fine line between ethical and unethical practices in art restitution: "Someone comes to you and says 'Could you do research to help me find this?' and you do so for a fee because that is how you make a living. You agree to a rate for your work. That's different from going to someone and saying 'I'll get it for your once you agree to give me a percentage.'"

Professor Petropoulos told ARTNews in the summer that he had consulted with three lawyers who he said assured him that he was "following accepted practices" with regard to the Pissarro. In his March 11 email, he responded to those who have called for all restitution services for Holocaust victim claimants to be pro bono. "The American Bar Association's definition of 'pro bono,'" he said, "is not that one works for free, but that one reduces one's fees."

In response to recent questions, he also directed the CI to an article in Forbes magazine recounting one of the most famous and lucrative instances of art restitution in American history: the so-called "Klimt case."

In 1998, Los Angeles resident and heiress Maria Altmann hired lawyer E. Randal Schoenberg explicitly to litigate for the restitution of several pieces of her family's art collection that were looted during the Nazi Anschluss. One portrait by Gustav Klimt later sold for $135 million.

Sources close to CMC faculty say that Petropoulos often compares his work with Schoenberg's, now a partner at Burris & Schoenberg, LLP, in Los Angeles. In the unprecedented suit of Altmann vs. Republic of Austria, Schoenberg argued successfully for Ms. Altmann's ability to sue Austria for the restitution of her assets. He then arbitrated the proceedings. It is reported that he received 40 percent of the value of the recovered assets.

The difference between academics and lawyers participating in commercial art restitution is evident to experts.

"Maria Altmann has the resources to engage a lawyer for whatever she needs-in this case, the Klimt," said Ori Soltes of HARP in a recent phone conversation. "Schoenberg was engaged by the family as a lawyer as they would have engaged a lawyer for anything. A finder's fee [for recovering looted art] is nuanced differently."

Marc Masurovsky and Willi Korte, co-founders of HARP with Soltes, concur. "The people who are most likely to collect fees are the attorneys. There is a coterie of researchers and historians who are working with NGOs and policymakers and claimants. None of them have ever engaged in this kind of behavior," says Masurovsky.

The Art Loss Register has created its own good practice guidelines called the "Public Policy Implications of Paying for Information or Return of Stolen Property." They set out terms for negotiation and restitution where criminal connection is possible.

If an owner wishes to remain anonymous, as Petropoulos and Griebert told Fischer was the case for their contact, payment for restitution will "probably be out of the question" even if there are no indications of a criminal connection. The protocol states that there are no circumstances in which anonymity in relation to theft is justified, primarily because anonymity could lead to a withholding of information from the police, increase costs for the victim, and support future crime.

The ALR's Sarah Jackson believes that charging a finder's fee is acceptable when "time and expertise have been invested to solve a case." Fees, however, "should not be passed to any party…who were involved in knowingly handling stolen goods," she says.

The identity of the true owner of the Pissarro throws into question Griebert's and Petropoulos' intentions and account of the painting. In a May 2007 raid of a private safe at the Zurich Cantonal Bank, Swiss investigators discovered the painting in a vault registered to Schönart Anstalt, a trust in Liechtenstein. The trust, in turn, belonged to Bruno Lohse, an art dealer, former Nazi looter, and major subject of Petropoulos' scholarship.

Lohse was born in Berlin in 1911, and joined the Nazi Party in 1937. From 1941 to 1944, he worked with the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg, a Nazi art looting organization in France, and as a personal art purchasing agent and consultant to Hermann Göring. He died in Munich in March 2007.

Legal documents show that Griebert, Petropoulos' associate, had been Lohse's aid and connected to Schönart Anstalt since 1988, and had entered the vault over 20 times.

Petropoulos claimed in ARTNews never to have known of Griebert and Lohse's mutual connection to Schönart Anstalt or their mutual enterprises. He has, however, admitted to meeting Lohse "dozens of times," though in a recent email exchange refused to say how he met Griebert. A source close to the investigation says that it is very likely that as Lohse's aid, Griebert would have been present for Lohse's first meeting with Petropoulos, and that the two were familiar over the succeeding years. In the acknowledgments portion of The Faustian Bargain, Petropoulos' second book, Petropoulos thanks Lohse and Griebert along with many others for sharing "knowledge of the figures in this study."

Petropoulos' next book, rumored to be titled Bruno and Me, will focus on Lohse. Lohse was "a very problematic figure who trafficked in looted artworks and stashed some of them in Switzerland," Petropoulos said in an October 18 press release on the CMC website.

The book-"part memoir, part archival-based monograph, part philosophical reflection"-will recount Petropoulos' attempts to understand Lohse and "untangle his web of lies." It will build on 25 years of research in "Bavaria and Austria most every summer [to] track down the hands-on plunderers," said Petropoulos.

According to sources in the art restitution world, there is a widespread feeling of dismay at the closeness of the relationship between Petropoulos and Lohse and its impact on the credibility of his academic work, especially in light of Petropoulos' role in the Pissarro affair. A historian of the Holocaust, many believe, has a special duty to ensure that there are no conflicts of interest - real or perceived - between his responsibilities as a scholar and his commercial interests.

The statement of "Standards of Professional Conduct" for the American Historical Association directs members to avoid situations in which personal interest "could compromise (or appear to compromise)" their professionalism. Financial arrangements that "benefit or appear to benefit" historians at the cost of their professional charge are also to be avoided.

To Marc Masurovsky of HARP, the Pissarro situation is emblematic of the "dark side" of the art restitution world. "[Petropoulos'] behavior is not becoming of a scholar. I've known Holocaust experts to interview ex-Nazis, but never to engage in long-standing relationships with them," he said in a recent phone conversation.

In his March 11 email, Petropoulos responded to questions of ethics. "I have thought a great deal about ethics," he wrote. "In this particular instance, [I] discussed the matter at length with long-time CMC Professor John Roth, a world-renown expert on the ethical implications of the Holocaust."

In the fall, members of the CMC faculty who had seen the news approached Dean Hess about the affair.

"Faculty members contacted me about some articles in a foreign language. That was probably about the first I'd come across it," says Hess. "You know, we have other things going on at the college."

The college contracted with O'Melveny and Myers, LLP, a top Los Angeles law firm, to begin an investigation "sometime in November or December," according to Hess.

Its goal was to look at two areas: the possibility of "violations of law" and "violations of contractual agreements" in both Europe and America, says Jerome Garris, Vice President for Special Projects at CMC. He did not specify which contractual agreements.

The investigation concluded in late February. According to Garris, no contractual obligations or legal issues with respect to contracts were violated. Hess stressed the difficult logistics of an international probe.

Petropoulos stands by the firm's conclusions, which Hess says will not be released. "As you well know, the College conducted an inquiry and explicitly cleared me of any legal or contractual wrongdoing," says Petropoulos. "I feel completely vindicated by this inquiry."

When asked whether the report dealt with matters of ethics and judgment, as opposed to merely strict legality, both Hess and Garris said that matters of judgment are subjective.

"The college is not in a position of making a value judgment," says Garris. "There is not necessarily a common view enshrined in statutory regulations about what is or isn't ethical, or what is good and what is bad." As administrators, he added, "we're not in a position frankly to apply our personal opinions to this matter."

"They had something. They were getting together on something. In the end, they didn't get together on something. I'm not going to judge it," says Hess.

The board of the CMC Holocaust Center was alerted at an Executive Session in mid-February. Most members had not heard about or read details of the affair.

When the CI spoke with Hess last week on March 6, he said that there had been no communication with faculty on the topic. On March 7, a statement was issued electronically to Trustees and physically placed in the boxes of CMC faculty. It said that in response to the reports of allegations, "the College undertook a thorough review and retained an outside law firm to assist in the four-month investigation." Based on evidence "examined here and abroad, the College has concluded that Professor Petropoulos adhered to applicable contractual and legal obligations in attempting to arrange return of the painting."

"Professor Petropoulos' account of his actions was accurate," the statement added.

Later praising Petropoulos for his professionalism, the statement did not specify which contractual or legal obligations were relevant to the case, nor that ethical implications had been considered.

The administration's statement did not satisfy some. "The attitude of the college with regard to [Petropoulos'] behavior is, at the very least, troubling," says Masurovsky.

He added, "His judgment is one that I would question."

• Elise Viebeck is the Editor-in-Chief of the Claremont Independent and a sophomore at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California. She may be reached at

Art Hostage comments:

Having already agreed to waive the normal Art Loss Register Ransom demand, as this was a case of Nazi Looted Art, Julian Radcliffe, after he discovered the whereabouts of the stolen artwork, wanted 20% of the first million, 15% of the second million, and 10% thereafter. With $100,000 going to a fellow conspiritor, the Greedy Professor.

For this and many other reasons, the Art Loss Register and Julian Radcliffe in partiqular, do nothing to dispell the accusations of being a Weasal Featured Little Turd running an Extortion Racket behind the cloak of respectability, called the Art Loss Register.

Rancid Radcliffe Racket, you decide !!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Stolen Art Watch, Drug Bust Yealds Stolen Strindberg !!

Stolen painting by author August Strindberg found in Sweden, 2 men arrested

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) - Police have recovered a stolen painting by Swedish writer and painter August Strindberg, and arrested two men suspected of theft, police and museum officials said Friday.

Police found the painting _ Svartsjukans Natt, or «Jealousy's Night _ during a raid of a home in a Stockholm suburb late Thursday in an unrelated case Police
spokesman Lars Alm said.

The painting was stolen from Stockholm's Strindberg Museum in 2006, when thieves removed it from the wall while distracting museum staff. It is estimated to have an auction value of more than 10 million kronor (€1 million; US$1.5 million).

Alm said two men arrested in the raid were suspected of theft or receiving stolen goods.

The painting appeared to be in good condition, Strindberg Museum chief Stefan Bohman said, adding that police would return it to the museum after completing the investigation.

The glass, the frame and the canvas are all whole, he said. It means a lot that it's back. The painting is a central piece in Strindberg's production and in Strindberg's life.

Strindberg, one of Sweden's most famous novelists and short-story writers, painted the work in 1893 in Berlin. It is believed to have been an engagement gift to his second wife, Frida Uhl.

Strindberg died in 1912. His most famous works include the play Miss Julie and the novel The Red Room.

Art Hostage comments:

Yet another connection between drugs and stolen art being used as collateral.
The chance discovery of this stolen painting is either a sad reflection of the low priority given to art theft, or this was a set up and the chance nature is being used as a smokescreen.
It's up to you, take your pick !!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Stolen Art Watch, Art Loss Register J.R. Proves to be Art Trades Nemesis !!

PRESS RELEASE: Wednesday 27th February 2007



At the High Court in London, today, two paintings by Indian artist F. N. Souza valued at
£300,000 were awarded to Aziz Kurtha, a well known collector and lawyer, and author of a book on the artist.
Kurtha sued a dealer, Michael Marks, for the return of his stolen pictures. Some
of Kurtha’s collection had disappeared from storage in the 1990s and appeared at Bonhams in
2002 with no satisfactory provenance and after a settlement with the consigners they were
returned to him.

In today’s case, Marks claimed he had bought them from another dealer, Mr Demetriou, one of the consigners to Bonhams, and Demetriou claimed that he bought them from another dealer, Mr Martin.
This case hinged on whether there was a good faith purchase by Martin before 26th Feb
2001 i.e. within the six year Statute of Limitation period which would give him clear title.
Martin relied on an alleged sale by a Miss Barnarse for £200 in cash for which he had no
contemporary evidence except a note which he dictated to her in April 2006.

Demetriou stated that he paid Martin £15,000 in cash for the two pictures, for which there was
no documentation, and planned to sell them on to Marks for £125,000. The Judge found that this sale was bogus and they were probably acting in partnership.
The Judge said that the evidence of Marks and Demetriou was not satisfactory and that Martin may well have known that the pictures were stolen.

The missing pictures were registered with the Art Loss Register who undertook an investigation
into the alleged provenance.

In this important judgement for the art trade, Mr Justice Tugendhat stated “A dealer in
valuable works of art who pays in large amounts of cash, keeps no record, and asks no questions
as to provenance ..., exposes himself and those who buy from him, to other very serious risks,
including queries relevant to tax from HMRC.
a prosecution under the Proceeds of Crime Act (and) a civil recovery order.”

“This case is a classic example of stolen pictures being secreted by those who know they are
stolen and slowly introduced at the bottom end of the market.
Dealers who do not undertake due diligence are likely to pay for it in damages, which in this case may be £150,000” said Julian Radcliffe, Chairman of the Art Loss Register.

The paintings in question are:

Francis Newton Souza, Still Life with Chalice with Host, 1953, 24 inches x 39 inches
Francis Newton Souza, Head of a Portuguese Navigator, 1961, 30 inches x 24 inches

The Art Loss Register (ALR) is the world’s largest private international database of lost and
stolen art, antiques and collectibles that provides recovery and search services to private
individuals, collectors, the art trade, insurers and law enforcement through technology and a
professionally trained staff of art historians.

The ALR was formed in 1991 through a partnership between leading auction houses and art trade associations, the insurance industry and the International Foundation of Art Research.
The ALR has been involved in the recovery of over 1,000 works of art worth with an estimated value of £100,000,000. With over 185,000 items on its database of lost and stolen art and antiques, it undertakes over 300,000 searches a year.
The ALR is recognised as an integral part of art recovery and assists museums and the art trade undertake due diligence.
The ALR is more than just a database as its expertise in the field of art crime, inventory management and title negotiations denote.

For further information contact:
Julian Radcliffe
The Art Loss Register
First Floor
63-66 Hatton Garden
London EC1N 8LE
Tel: +44 (0)20 7841 5780 Fax: +44 (0)20 7841 5781 Email:artloss at

Art Hostage comments:

The grubby, rancid Art and Antiques trade is one of the last bastions of cash dealings.

Whilst other trades have had to comply with money laundering laws the Art and Antiques trade not only still enjoys the dark practice of cash transactions, but also provides a haven for money launderers to wash their ill-gotten gains without scrutiny.

Credit must go to the Art Loss Register, and yes to Julian Radcliffe, whom I described as a Weasel featured little turd on many occasions, having received his O.B.E. for other buggers efforts, (mostly out of envy).

However, when you compare Julian Radcliffe to the likes of Marks, Demetriou, and Martin, J.R. looks positively honourable and noble.

Hence forth Julian Radcliffe will be known as J.R. Shoe-in !!

Stolen Art Watch, Sunday Round Up !!

Hunt for serial criminal

By Mark Jessop

A NATIONWIDE hunt is underway for a serial criminal believed to have committed hundreds of burglaries throughout the Cotswolds and the south of England.

A £1,000 reward is being offered for information on the whereabouts of 33-year-old Peter Sonny Martin O'Halloran, who has been named on the national Crimestoppers most wanted website

O'Halloran, who sometimes goes by the name of Peter Sonny Noon or other aliases, has been a thorn in the side of police since he escaped from Ford open prison in February 2004.

An appeal on BBC TV's Crimewatch programme that year failed to elicit any responses.

In January 2005, the Journal reported that he was being linked to a series of 27 burglaries in south Warwickshire, including some in Shipston, Tredington, Long Compton, Great Wolford, Stourton, Alderminster, Halford, Welford-on-Avon, Haselor and Napton.

At the time, police also linked him to around 140 burglaries in Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Wiltshire and it was thought he had stolen millions of pounds worth of jewellery, silverware and antiques.

He is now believed to have committed a large number of burglaries in the Cotswolds, Essex, Cambridgeshire, Oxfordshire, and Wiltshire. He may also have targeted homes in the West Mercia police area, Hampshire and Suffolk.

Detective Sergeant Dave Doherty of Gloucestershire Constabulary is leading the hunt for O'Halloran.

He said: "O'Halloran has evaded us for some time now and we firmly believe he is still active in targeting residential properties and stealing large values of jewellery amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds.

"We would appeal for anyone with information on his current whereabouts to get in touch, but not to try and apprehend him themselves as he is obviously extremely keen to evade arrest."

In January 2005, O'Halloran was described as white, around 5ft 10ins tall, with green eyes and short wavy brown hair. He has scars on his right forearm and large feet - size 14 or 15.

Anyone with information on O'Halloran's whereabouts should ring Gloucestershire Constabulary on 0845 090 1234, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

Art Hostage comments:

One would have thought that a man alleged to be responsible for many hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of art thefts would command a much higher bounty on his head.

Once again Police show how cheap they are.

I bet if the reward was £100,000 then someone would turn Sewer Rat.

Until then the public will have to make do with crossing their fingers and hoping they do not become the next art loss victim.

In this vacuous world we live in, people only respond if the reward risk factor is worth taking.
At the moment the risks of becoming a Sewer Rat, Snitch, far out way any miserly reward offered.

Millions of euros worth of jewellery

Thieves posing as policemen stole several million euros worth of jewellery from a Milan showroom on the day of the Oscars.

Seven men, dressed in police uniforms, came through the cellar wall of the showroom on Sunday February 24 before tying up staff and running off with some of Damiani’s most valuable pieces.

It has been reported that prior to Sunday’s heist the robbers had dug an underground tunnel from a building under construction next door to the jewellery store.

The seven men, unarmed and unmasked, crept through the tunnel and came through the wall as staff above them in the store prepared the jewels for a celebrity Oscars party.

The gang proceeded to burst into the showroom, tied the staff up with plastic cable and sticky tape and locked them in the bathroom.

The manager was then taken to the safety deposit room and forced to empty the lockers.

The robbery was conducted in a matter of minutes.

The thieves then made their escape via the same tunnel through which they entered, leaving very little trace.

Police say it was an extremely professional job and are working on a theory that the robbers may have had some inside knowledge.

The real value of the items stolen is not yet known, but it is thought to be millions of pounds worth of gold earrings, necklaces, bracelets and rings, which were all studded with diamonds.

Damiani had supplied, among other jewellery, the diamond-studded bracelet worn by British actress Tilda Swinton (pictured right), who had just accepted the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress at the Academy Awards ceremony in the US at the time.

Police: Those That Took Antique Jewels May Be Pros
Esme Murphy (WCCO)

An Edina man is hoping to recover some of the $150,000 worth of jewelry stolen from his home late last month.

Most of the 64 pieces taken are family heirlooms made of gold rubies and diamonds. The victim is so concerned for his safety he asked not to be identified.

He said it is not the monetary loss that has upset him, "it's the emotional value that is really the most painful."

The jewelry had been passed down for generations. Many pieces are antiques from the victims native India.

Normally he and his wife kept everything in a safe but she had been wearing the jewelry through the holidays and had not yet locked the pieces away.

Edina police said they are not sure if the burglars came through the northwest Edina neighborhood and randomly picked that home or if they knew that the jewelry was there and targeted those vicitms.

The burglar broke through the front door locks and through a deadbolt.

It was mid-morning -- no one was home -- and as in many cases these days the burglars left no fingerprints.

Chief Mike Satari of the Edina Police calls it the CSI factor.

He said, "criminals watch it too they know it very well -- fingerprints. They are going to wear gloves."

Police have a system to track stolen goods at local Pawn shops but so far nothing has turned up leading police to think this may be a professional operation and the pieces may already be out of state.

Edina police are trying to determine if this case may be linked to at least one jewelry burglary in Woodbury, Minn.

The Edina Crime Prevention Fund is providing a $3,000 reward in this case.

War hero wants his medals back

A WAR veteran has been left devastated by the theft of his treasured service medals.

Frank Gray, 83, is appealing for the return of the rare minesweeping 1945-51, issue of King George VI medal, which was stolen from his home in Peggotty Close, Higham.

The pensioner discovered he had been burgled when he returned home from shopping to find his cupboards open and a jewellery box emptied.

Two other service medals, a 1939-45 Star and Atlantic Star, had been taken along with his father's pocket watch and Danish Kronas worth £130, which he had put aside for his grandson's forthcoming wedding in Denmark.

Mr Gray, who served in the Navy between 1942 and 1946, is desperate to have his sentimental belongings returned.

He said: " I am very upset that they have taken things precious to me. I would be pleased to have them back again because of my memories of wartime service in the Navy.

"My father was given the watch after 50 years of service at a cement works. It can't be worth much as it was engraved for him. I was going to pass it on to my son along with the medals."

Frank believes around 70,000 men were given the minesweeping medal for their services during the Second World War.

Service was incredibly dangerous and Mr Gray witnessed some horrors.

He said: "I was 18 when I enlisted and we were responsible for disposing of magnetic and acoustic mines. It became a way of life but you always hoped that the mines didn't come into contact with your ship. It happened to a ship next to us. One minute it was there and the next it wasn't."

It is thought by Kent Police that the intruders got in by reaching through the letter box.

Frank has now taken precautionary measures to ensure he is not victimised again.

He added: "It makes you feel very vulnerable. My things are probably long gone but I have had all sorts done to protect my home and make sure it doesn't happen again."

Police in north Kent are investigating the incident which happened between 9am-11.15am on Friday, February 1.

If you can help, call the area crime management unit on 01322 283096 or Kent Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111

Art Hostage comments:

Any glamour attached to art and antiques theft is dispelled by this despicable act.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Stolen Art Watch, Prolific Burglar's Map Leads to Stolen Gold, Diamond Jewels !!

Convicted Burglar Leads Police To Hidden Stash Of Jewels

LOS ANGELES, CA (NBC) -- A convicted burglar led California detectives to a cache of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of stolen jewelry that he buried for safekeeping, and police are working to return the items to their owners. jewellery

Roberto Caveda was convicted on Dec. 18 of various crimes, including felony residential burglary, and was sentenced to 8-10 years in state prison, the Los Angeles Police Department reported.

During the investigation following Caveda's February 2006 arrest, detectives went to a North Hollywood storage facility where they found stolen jewelry worth about $2 million and fine art pieces that included a Degas valued at $10 million, the LAPD reported.

A public showing of the recovered goods led to the identification of residential burglary victims in Glendale, Pasadena and throughout the San Fernando Valley.

On Monday, Caveda, through his attorney, gave police a map that led investigators to a plastic pipe buried near a Freeway in Granada Hills, police said.

The pipe was filled with jewelry that may be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, police said.

It was not immediately known why Caveda gave police the information.

Detectives are preparing an inventory of the jewelry and plan to contact victims of reported burglaries during the time frame of Caveda's crime spree, police said.

Linked here ABC News reports, with video: