Saturday, November 29, 2008

Stolen Art Watch, Churchill Letters, Underworld Currency !!

Churchills letter stolen after valuation on TV show

London, Nov 29 (ANI): A letter written by former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill has been stolen from council offices.

The theft comes just days after it was suggested on TVs Antiques Roadshow that a similar note could fetch a huge amount of money.

Churchill was a minister in 1910 when he wrote the letter to Cranbrook, Kent, thanking locals for their sympathy to George V after his father, Edward VII, died.

It is believed that the thief might have been tempted to nick it after watching the BCC1 show, reports British tabloid The Sun.

The antique letter is worth up to 10,000 pounds.

Handwritten letter by Churchills wife found in drugs raid

London, Aug 9 (ANI): A hand-written letter from the wife of Sir Winston Churchill has been found by police during a drugs raid at a house in Mexborough, South Yorkshire.

British officers found the letter and three cheques mounted on a card inside a plastic sleeve with a quantity of heroin.

The note from Clementine Churchill thanks a woman for making a donation to a Red Cross fund of which she was the president.

Police want to trace the owner of the letter, which is dated 1942.

The letter says: “This is to acknowledge with grateful thanks your contribution to Mrs Churchill’’s Red Cross Aid to Russia Fund.”

The Aid to Russia fund, set up by the Red Cross in 1941 to pay for clothing and medical supplies to send to Britain’’s Russian allies, raised 8million pounds.

Mrs Churchill was the fund’’s president.

A 55-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of theft and possessing class A drugs at the property.

The woman’’s 32-year-old son and her sister, 41, were also arrested on suspicion of theft. They have been bailed until October while police make further inquiries.

“The address on the letter is not in Doncaster but it is South Yorkshire. I am confident it is not a reproduction as it is handwritten on both sides. We urge anyone with any information about the letter or who believes it may belong to them to get in touch with us, The Independent quoted PC Steve Roberts of Doncaster police, as saying. (ANI)

Art Hostage comments:

These two cases connected ????

What these two cases show is a direct link between art theft and the drugs trade.

Unfortunately, victims and art lovers can only wait until Police stumble across stolen art during drug raids.

By treating stolen art recovery as a bonus of other Police raids, drugs mostly, rather than an intention of a Police raid looking for stolen art, mainstream stolen art recovery has been reduced to almost zero, not withstanding the high profile cases, whereby Police are forced to devote resources for political reasons.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Stolen Art Watch, Dumb and Diller !!

Romania undercover police recover stolen paintings

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) _ Art thieves who tried to sell a Florentine painting worth 2.5 million euros ($3.15 million) to undercover officers for 5,000 euros ($6,300) have been arrested by Romanian police, officials said Wednesday.

The thieves stole "Madonna with Child, Two Saints, Two Angels" from a private collection in Vienna and transported it in the trunk of a car to the central Romanian city of Brasov, slightly damaging it, said Codrut Olaru, head of Romania's anti-organized crime police.

The thieves also took a second painting by Ferdinand Georg Waldmueller worth 1 million euros ($1.26 million), Olaru said at a news conference.

He said a Romanian and two Hungarians had been arrested in Brasov after trying to sell the more valuable work — painted in about 1400 by a Florentine-school painter — to the undercover police for a fraction of its value. They were charged with theft.

Police also recovered the Waldmueller painting and around 30 other items, including other paintings, icons and silverware. The items, some of which were also damaged, will be returned to their owners.

Stolen clocks found
years later

Clocks found in France
Last Edited: Wednesday, 19 Nov 2008, 3:07 PM CST
Created On: Wednesday, 19 Nov 2008, 3:06 PM CST

By SHAWNA OHM, Associated Press Writer
JERUSALEM (AP) - Timepieces from a priceless collection stolen from a Jerusalem museum were discovered in French bank vaults, police said Wednesday, more than two decades after the heist.

The 43 watches and clocks will return to Israel, where they will join dozens of others from the collection found two years ago, police said Wednesday, reuniting most of the collection of 106 rare artifacts. The 1983 theft from the L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art was the costliest heist in Israel's history.

Included in the original collection was an 18th-century watch made for French queen Marie Antoinette by famed watch maker Abraham-Louis Breguet, valued at $30 million by museum officials.

According to Israeli investigators, the first break in the case came two years ago when officials told them the museum paid about $40,000 to an anonymous American woman to buy back 40 items, including the Marie Antoinette watch. Museum director Rachel Hasson told The Associated Press that the watch is "the Mona Lisa of the clock world." She said that find included another piece by Breguet known as the "Sympathiques."

Police forensics experts then examined the clocks, and detectives questioned the lawyer who dealt with the sale. Eventually, police were led to Nili Shamrat, the widow of Naaman Diller, an Israeli thief notorious for heists in the 1960s and 70s.

Diller confessed to his wife on his deathbed, police said.

In the heist, police said, Diller bent the bars to a museum window and used a ladder to climb inside. They added that the thief appeared to have staked out the museum and knew where the guard was stationed and that the alarm was broken.

When Israeli and American law enforcement officers questioned her at her home in Los Angeles last May, they found more stolen clocks.

From there, Israeli police continued pursuing tips on where Diller may have scattered the remaining collection, until the 43 pieces turned up in France.

While none of the recently discovered timepieces rival the Marie Antoinette watch, Hasson said, "It is an amazing collection, they are beautifully designed."

Of the 106 rare timepieces taken in 1983, 96 have now been recovered. Police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said. After the first batch showed up, Hasson said she hoped to display the clocks within two months.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Stolen Art Watch, Dadd Heist Foiled, Madness, its all Bloody Madness !!

Thief escapes after failed bid to steal painting

A THIEF is on the run after failing in an attempt to swipe a painting from the Museum of Croydon yesterday (Thursday) afternoon.

Officers from the Met's Art and Antiques Unit were called to the museum, in the Croydon Clocktower, in Katharine Street, after the incident.

Security guards were able to stop the picture being stolen, but were not able to stop the man from escaping.

The attempted theft, which happened around 12.45pm, was of a painting by Richard Dadd, entitled "Portrait of a young man".

Police say the painting is safe and undamaged and will remain on display with increased security.
Anyone with information should contact the Met's Art and Antiques Unit on 0207 230 2150 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.

Art Hostage comments:
Madness, bloody madness !!
Richard Dadd the artist stabbed his father to death thinking he was the killing the Devil, Dadd was sent to the mental asylum Bedlam and spent his last 42 years in custody.
There is a bad vibe about stealing a Richard Dadd, so it seems ironic this attempt was thwarted, especially as nearly all art heists prove to be successful.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Stolen Art Watch, Underwood Stroke Thwarts Police, Again !!!

Antiques Charges Dropped !!

Criminal charges against a man accused of being an antiques "Knocker" and duping elderly women have been dropped after he suffered a stroke.
Michael "The Ambassador" Underwood, 64, was taken seriously ill at Brighton Crown Court and the trial was abandoned.

The Crown Prosecution Service has decided not continue proceedings against Underwood, of Copenhagen Court, Brighton Marina, who denied concealing criminal property and perjury.

The case is to continue against Anthony Blok, 71, of Fulham, who denies eight charges including perjury and posession of criminal property.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Stolen Art Watch, Simon Muggleton's Revenge, Best Served When Retired !!

Antiques Rogue Who Deceived Women

An Antiques "Knocker Boy" duped elderly women into selling valuable heirlooms for as little as one hundredth of their true value, a court was told.

Michael "The Ambassador" Underwood appeared on the doorsteps of wealthy widows in Crowbourgh, London and the Isle of Man to persuade them to part with treasured possessions, it is claimed.

His solicitor, Anthony Hershal Blok, is accused of hiding a £300 receipt for a painting Underwood bought worth £30,000 or more on the open market.

Underwood, of Copenhagen Court, Brighton Marina, went to prison in 2006 rather than reveal the fate of the work, entitled "Girls On A Beach" by Sir William Orpen, Brighton Crown Court was told.

He is accused of failing to declare ownership of the work when he filed for bankruptcy in 2002 so it would not be seized to pay his debts.

The court was told that Underwood had been a client of Blok since 1995.

The prosecution claims Blok had files containing the cash proceeds of crime by other clients in his office.

Blok is accused of lying to a court by claiming he did not know the identity of the Orphen painting's owner.

Blok is also accused of failing to pass on information about suspected money laundering by people he represented as a criminal lawyer.

Amanda Pinto QC, prosecuting, said Underwood had tried, since obtaining the painting in 1993, to get it removed from a register of missing and stolen artwork so he could sell it.

She said, "They made concerted efforts to legitimise the painting, which had been obtained in criminal circumstances by Mr Underwood."

Blok, 71, of Gowan Avenue, Fulham, faces charges including two counts of perjury, three counts of failing to disclose evidence of money-laundering, and one count each of transferring criminal property, assisting another to obtain property which was a proceed of crime, and possession of criminal property.

Underwood, 64, of Copenhagen Court, Brighton Marina, is accused of concealing criminal property and perjury.

Underwood has a previous conviction for dishonestly obtaining property from an elderly woman in Chelsea. In that case, retired Sussex Police Art and Antiques Squad Detective Simon Muggleton, of Corsica Road Seaford, traced a stolen Porcelain plaque back to 1948, thereby showing Underwood and his accomplice Lee O'Donell were guilty of deception, for which Underwood was jailed.

Both men deny all charges. The trial is expected to last five weeks.

Art Hostage comments:

This is a case of sweet revenge for ex-Sussex Police Art and Antiques Squad icon Simon Muggleton, who has had a long personal feud with Michael "The Ambassador" Underwood.

Although Simon Muggleton retired a couple of years ago, he doggedly worked to seek his vengeance on Underwood and Blok and with the current court case it seems his vengeance is complete, guilty verdict or not.

To be continued.....................

Posted by Art Hostage at 11:38 AM 0 comments Links to this post

Tuesday, May 06, 2008
Stolen Art Watch, Brighton Antiques Mafia, Godfather and Lawyer go on Trial !!
The Crown Court

at Lewes

Daily List for Tuesday 6 May 2008 at LAW COURTS, EDWARD STREET, BRIGHTON.

Court 3 - sitting at 10:00 AM


For Trial

T20087048 BLOK Anthony H

T20080064 UNDERWOOD Michael D

Intriguing to say the least, I'll keep you posted as and when further news emerges !!
Posted by Art Hostage at 2:13 PM 0 comments Links to this post

Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Stolen Art Watch, History Provides Clue to Court Appearence !!

Art dealers jailed for Lowry theft

From August 7th 1998

Two art dealers who stole valuable L S Lowry oil paintings from their 94-year-old owner have each been jailed for four years.

Michael Openshaw and Robert Barrett ignored the protests of the pictures' owner Dr Percy Thompson-Hancock as they took the two canvasses - 'Children on a Promenade' and 'Family of Three' - from his living room wall, leaving a £10,400 cash 'payment' behind.

They sent Dr Thompson-Hancock £6,000 in the post a few days later but it still came nowhere near the true values of paintings, the jury at Southwark Crown Court were told.

The distraught doctor and his family desperately tried to retrieve the paintings, unaware that they had been auctioned off by Bonhams for £78,000.

Eight months after the theft, the two appeared - with a price tag of £215,000 - at a Bond Street art gallery where they were spotted by Dr Thompson-Hancock's granddaughter.

'Despicable' act

Neither of the two men showed any reaction as the jury convicted them of two counts of theft. They rejected their claims that they had been victimised by the former doctor's "greedy" relatives after they had realised how much the oils were worth.

Passing sentence, Judge David Elfer QC told them: "What you men did was despicable. It was in fact a determined crusade by you to get from the doctor the best pieces that he had."

He said they had pestered their elderly victim repeatedly to part with the paintings, until finally they decided to take no more notice of his refusal to sell.

The court later heard that Mr Openshaw had only one previous conviction against him, but that Mr Barrett had a list of court appearances dating back 28 years.

They included stealing £9,000-worth of antique furniture from the home of a 90-year-old deaf and bed-ridden man.

Police believe the pair had spent years preying on elderly people across southern England.

Case officer Detective Constable Tim Snuggs said: "This case highlights the danger waiting for the old and frail, who should receive respect but don't, who cannot defend their homes and valuables and who don't know whom to trust."

He said it was difficult to gauge the extent of this sort of crime as victims were often too old and scared to come to court.

The five-day trial heard that Dr Hancock and his wife had built up a small collection of antiques and works of art including the two Lowrys over a number of years.

About five years ago, Robert Barrett and Michael Openshaw called round expressing an interest in some of the items.

They seemed "nice and sociable and appeared genuine" the doctor recalled, and he sold them a number of his pieces.

However, he always made it clear that the paintings, which he intended to leave to his two daughters, were not for sale.

It now seems likely that the two oils will eventually be returned to Dr Thompson-Hancock and his wife.

Fast forward to the Court listings for April 23rd 2008, see below:

The Crown Court

at Lewes

Daily List for Wednesday 23 April 2008 at LAW COURTS, EDWARD STREET, BRIGHTON.


Court 3 - sitting at 10:00 AM



For Mention
T20087048 BLOK Anthony H

Re:trial date
T20080064 UNDERWOOD Michael D


Published: 22 April 2008 at 16:17 MLK/246883
Page No: 10 of 11

Art Hostage comments:

The link between the two cases.

A certain Anthony Hershal Blok was the solicitor, from Sears Blok and co, representing Barrett and Openshaw in the 1998 Lowry case.

Barratt and Openshaw complained about the £30,000 fee charged to them by Sears Blok for which they still got 4 years jail.

Michael David Underwood is a notorious Brighton Antiques Knocker Boy, nicknamed "The Ambassador" who was jailed, along with another Brighton Knocker called Lee O'Donnall for duping an elderly woman out of a porcelain plaque and was jailed for around 2 years.

The appearance together at the Court April 23rd 2008 as defendants leaves me wondering if the Brighton Antiques Mafia Lawyer has been caught up some kind of Art related criminal activity ??

Perhaps someone out there could clarify why these two, Anthony Hershal Blok and Michael "The Ambassador" Underwood are appearing together ??

Heart attack on the way ????

Sounds like a job for Owen Thomas QC

Hope it is not the same Owen Thomas who passed away last April, as Michael "The Ambassador" Underwood got 10 "Not Guilties" on the spin, when represented by Owen Thomas, Ironically, the one time Owen Thomas was not representing Michael "The Ambassador" Underwood he was found guilty, on the plaque charge and recieved 2 years jail.

Heard the other day Michael (Mickey) Underwood bought a Plane...... and for the other leg he bought a Razor !!!