Culture crime news 4–10 April 2016


Hot this week: High-end art and off-shore accounts

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Dashing rogues? No, art thieves are boring goons
(7 April 2016; The Guardian)
The reality of art theft isn’t very pretty.

When Is It Okay To Dig Up The Dead?
(7 April 2016; National Geographic)
Always? Never? Does archaeology cross the line into looting or desecration?

Explosive ‘Panama Papers’ Highlight Art’s Role in Lives of Tax-Dodging Superrich
(4 April 2016; ArtNet News)
The art market and tax dodging are inseparable

How offshore firm helped billionaire change the art world for ever
(7 April 2016; The Guardian)
This is everything we expected out of the art market.


Arab League draft resolution to protect Arab antiquities: Araby (Egypt)
(5 April 2016; Egypt Independent)
It will criminalise the theft of antiquities from any Arab country.

Cultural heritage destruction takes ICC main stage (Mali)
(4 April 2016; Business Day)
Another feature on the Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi Timbuktu destruction trial.


Stolen Easter Island statue deserves a trip home (Chile, UK)
(3 April 2016; Chicago Tribune)
Tying the story of Hoa Hakananai’a in the British Museum to the greater question of artefact repatriation.

Consejo de Monumentos Nacionales demora resguardo de momia Chinchorro por falta de camioneta (National Monuments Council delays safeguarding Chinchorro mummy due to lack of a truck; Chile)
(6 April 2016; El Morro Cotudo)
Newly exposed Chinchorro mummies are at risk of theft as little is being done to protect them.

Roban el copón de las hostias de la iglesia Jesucristo el Buen Pastor en Cùcuta (Custodia of hosts stolen from the church of Jesucristo el Buen Pastor in Cucuta; Colombia)
(3 April 2016; RCN)
Apparently the people who stole it have now been automatically excommunicated.

Roban iglesia de Suesca en Cundinamarca (Church of Suesca in Cundinamarca robbed.; Colombia)
(5 April 2016; Caracol Radio)
Various sacred items were stolen.

Completamente saqueadas urnas funerarias en Altamura (Funerary urns completely looted in Altamura; Mexico)
(4 April 2016; Línea Directa)
Archaeologists wishing to work at the site found it completely looted but will try and excavate there anyway.

Saquean y olvidan Zona Arqueológica (Archaeological site looted and forgotten; Mexico)
(6 April 2016; Diario de Poza Rica)
The site at El Águila in Tihuatlán has been looted and is not being protected.

Mossack Fonseca’s role in fight over painting stolen by Nazis (New York, Panama)
(7 April 2016; The Guardian)
Remember that Modigliani that the Helly Nahmad Gallery claimed not to own? They own it.

Peru archaeological pieces to be repatriated from Chile (Peru, Chile)
(5 April 2016; Peru This Week)
The 75 seized pieces from “the Villalobos Collection” are being transported back by Peru’s air force.

Jute-Sack Case Heats Up: Ibrahim Mahama Countersues Simchowitz, Ellis King (USA)
(31 March 2016; ArtNews)
“The countersuit alleges that Simchowitz and Ellis King broke a contract with the artist that stipulated they would not alter works they purchased from him and sell them”

Man spent $44.5K on Confederate jacket; New Orleans museum says it was stolen (USA)
(4 April 2016; The Times-Picayune)
The Confederate Memorial Hall Museum says the jacket was stolen before 1990; a man from Alabama bought it and now may just donate it back.

Charge dismissed in museum coin theft (USA)
(4 April 2016; News-Press)
“The stealing charge relating to the Pony Express Museum’s missing gold coins have been dismissed against 80-year-old Richard Follett.”

$90,000 Hindu Statue Stolen From UES Gallery During Open House (USA)
(5 April 2016; Gothamist)
Wow. The piece was stolen from Nancy Weiner Gallery, you know…the gallery that had looted antiquities seized from in March.

The Norton Simon Museum’s Multi-Million-Dollar Nazi Restitution Case of Two Paintings by Cranach the Elder, Explained (USA)
(5 April 2016; Artsy)
A great overview of not just this particular case, but a lot of the legal issues involved in restitution of art.

Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation Calls $65 Million Lawsuit a ‘Frivolous Claim’ (USA)
(6 April 2016; ArtNet News)
A photographer/artist says that images he took of Mapplethorpe are being used without his permission. The foundation says “they’re clearly Mapplethorpe works.”

Documentary Examines US Soldier Who Stole Priceless Art (USA, Germany)
(6 April 2016; Voice of America)
‘”The Liberators,” is the story of a U.S. soldier who stole priceless art from a site in Germany and kept it with him in Texas until he died 35 years later.’

If Passed, Could a New Law Stop ISIS Profiting from Looted Syrian Antiquities? (USA)
(7 April 2016; Artsy)
“It’s not so simple”. The Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act.

Court: Navajo due hearing on demand that feds return remains, relics (USA)
(7 April 2016; Arizona Daily Sun)
A federal appeals court has reinstated the Navajo Nation’s lawsuit seeking he return of 303 artefacts and human remains from the National Park Service.

FBI and Interpol alerted: Springfield Art Museum official says Warhol prints stolen (USA)
(8 April 2016; The News Leader)
Prints of Andy Warhol’s “Campbell’s Soup Cans” were stolen.

Pieces of Chihuly statue in Greenville park reported stolen (USA)
(8 April 2016; The State)
Security cameras face the statues at all times and police have requested the footage.

Congress Moves to Spur Return of Artwork Stolen By Nazis (USA)
(8 April 2016; Free Beacon)
On the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act.


Viennese Leopold Museum to Return Nazi-Looted Paintings to Jewish Owner (Austria)
(7 April 2016; Algemeiner)
Two of five drawings by Egon Schiele will go to the heiress of art collector Karl Maylaender.

Senior Bulgarian Civil Servant Caught with Diverse Collection of Archaeological Artifacts, Coins in Anti-Treasure Hunting Raid (Bulgaria)
(31 March 2016; Archaeology in Bulgaria)
Stanislav Stanilov, Director of Bulgaria’s State Archive Agency, was found to have a collection of suspicious artefacts and was detained following a police raid.

Bulgaria’s Customs Capture Nearly 700 Archaeological Artifacts, Coins at Sofia Airport (Bulgaria)
(31 March 2016; Archaeology in Bulgaria)
This was in a parcel that was inspected at Sofia International Airport.

Brass Foundry Is Closing, but Debate Over Degas’s Work Goes On (France)
(4 April 2016; The New York Times)
Valsuani is being liquidated to pay creditors; the question still remains, are they making “real” Degases?

Verdun: le désolant business des pilleurs de cadavres (France)
(4 April 2016; Le Figaro)
The war graves of soldiers killed during the Battle of Verdun were looted, presumably by metal detectorists.

Does My Family Own a Painting Looted by Nazis? (Germany, Netherlands)
(5 April 2016; New York Times)
‘…a “red flag name” that signals “toxic provenance”‘. But who was it taken from? Was it taken from anyone?

Arrests made over 2009 Edvard Munch heist from Oslo art dealer (Norway)
(6 April 2016; The Scotsman)
The lithograph was taken from Nyborgs Kunst art gallery in Oslo.

Stolen Edvard Munch artwork recovered after seven years (Norway)
(6 April 2016; The Guardian)
Two men have been arrested for the theft of ‘Historien’

Panama Papers: Dmitry Rybolovlev used offshore company to hide art from wife, leaked documents reveal (Russia)
(4 April 2016; The Art Newspaper)
“The Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev used a company registered in the British Virgin Islands to hide art from his former wife Elena during their divorce proceedings.”

Billionaire Collector Dmitry Rybolovlev Denies ‘Panama Papers’ Allegations (Russia)
(6 April 2016; ArtNet News)
“The description and references to the divorce proceedings of Mr. Dmitry Rybolovlev are misleading”, so says his lawyer.

Piden tres años de cárcel a cuatro ‘piteros’ por expolio arqueológico (Three years in jail requested for four ‘piteros’ for archaeological looting.; Spain)
(6 April 2016; Ideal)
The pieces they found were valued at over 20,000 euros.

Swiss, German museums to show Nazi-era art hoard (Switzerland, Germany)
(5 April 2016; 7 News)
The public will be able to see Gurlitt pieces.

Hare and the Minotaur sculpture vandalised with white paint (UK)
(4 April 2016; BBC News)
Sophie Ryder’s public art piece in Cheltenham was hit. Only the Minotaur was painted.

Historian Adrian Greenwood found murdered at his home (UK)
(9 April 2016; The Guardian)
The rare book and art dealer was brutally killed in the hallway of his home.

Organised crime gang planned to raid Glasgow’s Burrell Collection and Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum (UK)
(4 April 2016; The Herald)
The men visited Glasgow in March 2013 to surveil the two museums.

‘Rathkeale Rovers’ gang members jailed over multi-million euro rhino horn spree (UK)
(4 April 2016; The Independent)
They all got sentences of over 4 years.

‘Rathkeale Rovers’ to be sentenced over museum raids plot (UK)
(4 April 2016; Dorset Echo)
What type of penalty will this group face following museum thefts?

Inside the Ballsy Irish Traveller Gang That Stole Millions of Pounds Worth of Rhino Horn (UK, Ireland)
(5 April 2016; Vice)
A long read on the so-called Rathkeale Rovers.

South and East Asia

2 swords stolen from Rabindranath’s Kuthibari (Bangladesh)
(3 April 2016; Prothom Alo)
Negligence on the part of the country home’s security is being blamed for this theft from the poet’s residence.

Chinese villagers loot UNESCO World Heritage site while it’s being cleaned (China)
(4 April 2016; Mashable)
The Weihe River was drained for cleaning and villagers began looting, seemingly with total impunity.

नसीराबाद के रामसर से चोरी हुई बलदाउ की मूर्ति (Idol stolen from Nashirabad; India)
(3 April 2016; Pradesh 18)
The piece stolen is said to be about 500 years old.

पहले पूजा की फिर उड़ा दी दस करोड़ की मूर्ति (Ashtadhatu idol stolen from temple; India)
(3 April 2016; Patrika)
The piece was taken from a Ram Janaki temple.

Astadhatu idol of Lord Ganesh worth 25 crore recovered in Kaushambi, 6 held (India)
(4 April 2016; The Times of India)
The group is called an inter-state gang who were arrested while plotting to escape to Mumbai with the idol.

Burglars decamp with Rs. 17,480, 8 silver Chhatrs from Sarwal Temple (India)
(4 April 2016; State Times)
The temple is literally right next door to a police post.

గురజాల రామాలయంలో చోరీ (Theft in Rama Temple of Gurajala; India)
(4 April 2016; Sakshi Post)
The theft was discovered when the temple was open for morning prayers.

Dolls theft: Cops clueless even after 40 days (India)
(5 April 2016; The Times of India)
Over 800 dolls went missing from the Rotary Dolls Museum in Rajkot.

प्राचीन भद्रेश्वर मंदिर से घंटे चोरी (Bell stolen from Ancient Bhadreswar temple; India)
(5 April 2016; Amar Ujala)
The bell was stolen from a Shiva temple that is in the custody of the Department of Archaeology

Ashtadhatu idols stolen in UP (India)
(7 April 2016; Business Standard)
They were taken from a temple in Chaurava village.

Karkala: Theft at Shirlalu Basadi – Sack containing idols found (India)
(8 April 2016; Daijiworld)
Idols stolen from Shirlalu Basadi, Karkala two months ago were found in a sack near Kaduhole, Andaru.

HR & CE official arrested for theft of precious temple jewels (India)
(8 April 2016; The Hindu)
The jewels from Sri Oppiliappan Temple in Thirunageswaram, Kumbakonam were replaced with fake ones.

Online group tracks stolen art and negotiates for its return (India)
(9 April 2016; Digital Journal)
S. Vijay Kumar and the India Pride project.

NU to constitute panel to probe missing coins (India)
(7 April 2016; The Times of India)
“Since whereabouts of the old enquiry report is still not known, we’ve decided to set up a panel only for unravelling the mystery behind missing coins.”

6 more coins from Vakataka era missing from NU dept (India)
(9 April 2016; The Times of India)
Another six coins of the same era as the other 214 missing coins are also missing from the University.

Denuncian robo de 3 campanas de origen colonial en pueblo de Áncash (Theft of three colonial bells reported in Áncash village; Peru)
(7 April 2016; Andina)
A custodia was also stolen from the same church, San Cristobal de Chupan, three years ago.

West and Central Asia

Private collectors fuel demand for looted Mideast antiquities (General)
(7 April 2016; Al Monitor)
Notes from a recent event at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars with quotes from a number of experts.

Is the Israel Museum’s Birds’ Head Haggadah Nazi-era loot? (Israel)
(6 April 2016; The Art Newspaper)
Heirs of the German-Jewish politician Ludwig Marum are pushing to have the Haggadah restituted.

Smuggler of Stolen Artifacts From Palmyra Speaks Out About ISIS’ Illicit Operation (Syria, Turkey)
(6 April 2016; NBC News)
Very little in the way of anything verifiable; no names; no good photo of the object.

Islamic State nets up to $200 million a year from antiquities: Russia (Syria, Russia)
(6 April 2016; Reuters)
No. They don’t. But it behooves Russia to say so.

Turkey ‘probing Russia claims on antiques’ (Syria, Russia, Turkey)
(8 April 2016; Press TV)
“Even though the claims in the Russian media and recently brought to the UN by the Russian authorities have been made for political purposes and as propaganda, they are being seriously investigated,” a Foreign Ministry official said.

Historic castle destroyed by sea and treasure hunters in Turkey’s west (Turkey)
(4 April 2016; Hurriyet Daily News)
The castle in the province of Edirne’s Yayla village was registered for preservation in 2012 and has since been hit by illegal digging; there are no guards on site.

In Other News

ICE returns dinosaur skeletons, eggs to Mongolia (Mongolia, USA)
(5 April 2016; ICE)
“The fossils were recovered by HSI as a result of investigations in Wyoming and New York”

Wikimedia’s free photo database of artworks violates copyright, court rules (Sweden)
(5 April 2016; The Guardian)
The suit was brought by The Visual Copyright Society in Sweden.

British Museum must sever its links with BP (UK)
(3 April 2016; The Guardian)
Letter from Margaret Atwood, Mark Ruffalo, Mark Rylance, Tom Kibble, Naomi Klein, Emma Thompson, Vivienne Westwood and others

Trump’s vast art collection isn’t what it seems (USA)
(3 April 2016; Page Six)
Not quite fakes, reproductions?

Nightlife guru takes to Instagram to report stolen art (USA)
(3 April 2016; Page Six)
A large photo of Madonna was taken from Susanne Bartsch’s partner’s new gym. She shamed it back on Instagram.

Columbus family sues after Air Force museum security holds them at gunpoint (USA)
(4 April 2016;
While their children cried and in public. Museum security misidentified the family’s car as a stolen car.

Museum Accuses Marin County Man of Stealing Missing Gold-Flecked Meteorite Over ‘Seller’s Remorse’ (USA)
(6 April 2016; NBC Bay Area)
“The case pits a “world-renowned” fossil hunter against a collector of “extraterrestrial objects d’art” and a mineral and gem museum”

Guards hop to it: Huge rabbit artwork gets 24/7 security (USA)
(6 April 2016; KEPRTV)
The giant bunnies on display in San Francisco will be guarded at all times due to vandalism fears.

Chris Brown Accused Of Stealing Graffiti Artist’s Tag, Artist Sues Him (USA)
(7 April 2016; Design and Trend)
“Graffiti artist Konfused is suing Brown for the use of a similar Konfuzed tag”