Culture crime news 13–19 June 2016


Hot this week: Art buying? Over rated…

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Does it pay to invest in art? Returns in fine art have been overestimated
(15 June 2016;
“Investors should buy paintings if they like looking at them, but not to make money, according to new research from the Luxembourg School of Finance”


Cyprus and Egypt sign organised crime accord (Egypt, Cyprus)
(16 June 2016; In Cyprus)
Among the items of focus are antiquities and trafficking prevention

Two sarcophagi’s lids recovered by Egypt from Israel (Egypt, Israel)
(16 June 2016; Ahram Online)
They were seized from a Jerusalem auction house in 2012 and are now officially back in Egypt.

Police discover Qadafi’s looted ivory dagger in Istanbul (Libya, Turkey, Saudi Arabia)
(13 June 2016; Yeni Şafak)
But on it’s way to Saudi Arabia.

‘Badass Librarians’ Foil al Qaeda, Save Ancient Manuscripts (Mali)
(12 June 2016; National Geographic)
Author Joshua Hammer discusses his new book on the saving of Mali’s manuscripts.

Lobengula spear ‘thief’ nabbed (Zimbabwe)
(16 June 2016; Chronicle)
The thief “allegedly told officers that he did not mean to steal the artefacts but did it on ancestral spirits’ influence”


Not a scam: statue owner (Canada)
(15 June 2016; Delta Optimist)
“The owner of a multimillion-dollar golden eagle statue maintains a robbery…was not part of an insurance scam.”

How Indigenous artists are taking back what the fashion industry stole (Canada)
(17 June 2016; CBC)
Countering cultural appropriation in fashion design, a non-profit that supports Indigenous women in fashion in Toronto.

Privados impulsan medidas para revertir la grave desprotección de naufragios históricos (Private action to redress the severe lack of protection for historic shipwrecks; Chile)
(13 June 2016; El Mercurio)
The Navy will distribute important info about wrecks to all ports and a national register of shipwrecks will eventually be created.

Archaeological Homecoming: Largest Recovery of Antiquities Returns to Peru (Peru)
(13 June 2016; Peruvian Times)
More than 4000 objects were displayed at the Ministry of Culture to celebrate their return from various countries.

Cusco: Falsos arqueólogos realizan excavaciones en centro arqueológicos (Cusco: Fake archaeologists excavate at archaeological site; Peru)
(16 June 2016; El Popular)
A truly astonishing report. Fake archaeologists digging at sites and pretending to be official?

Woman who defaced Western national parks, including 2 in Colorado, pleads guilty (USA)
(14 June 2016; The Denver Post)
The woman defaced rocks in the national park was ordered to serve 2 years probation and complete 200 hours community service.

Fight between Pittsburgh man, Notre Dame over half million dollars of early American art moves to federal court (USA)
(14 June 2016; TribLive)
Did Notre Dame’s museum just buy a collection of Precolombian objects stolen from Jay C. Leff in the 90s?

Meet the man at the centre of the Cranach mystery (USA)
(14 June 2016; The Art Newspaper)
Is Giulano Ruffini selling fakes? He insists he has never presented a painting as the real thing.

Damien Hirst Sued Over Jewelry Line Plagiarism (USA, Canada)
(15 June 2016; ArtNet News)
Hirst says he designed the bracelet in 1988, before the Canadian artist who is suing him created her jewelry.

Picasso Sculpture in Dispute Goes to Leon Black; Rival Owner to Receive Compensation (USA, UAE)
(15 June 2016; The New York Times)
The settlement was announced in May, it is now clear that Black gets the sculpture.

Gravesite looted in Harrison County (USA)
(16 June 2016; Wave 3)
“There is no public access to the cemetery, so investigators believe someone would have to know about the private land where it is located.” The grave was from 1881.

Icon stolen from Wichita church (USA)
(17 June 2016; The Wichita Eagle)
An icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help was stolen from St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.

Karen King Responds to ‘The Unbelievable Tale of Jesus’s Wife’ (USA)
(16 June 2016; The Atlantic)
“Your article has helped me see that provenance can be investigated”: shocking words from a Harvard scholar.

The Unbelievable Tale of Jesus’s Wife (USA)
(17 June 2016; The Atlantic)
Perhaps the most unbelievable part is that credible scholars refused to research the origins of this fake piece.

Bears Ears Cultural Area: The Most Vulnerable U.S. Site for Looting, Vandalism, and Grave Robbing (USA)
(13 June 2016; Center for American Progress)
The area is estimated to contain more than 100,000 cultural and archaeological sites which are unprotected.

More than 700 Archaeologists Urge Obama to Protect Bear Ears Cultural Area (USA)
(15 June 2016; Popular Archaeology)
They are calling Bear Ears “America’s most significant unprotected cultural landscape”.


Austrian Supreme Court Accuses Franz West Private Foundation Of Embezzlement (Austria)
(14 June 2016; ArtNet News)
The board of the artist’s estate has been dismissed over suspicious payments made to themselves.

Scandal strikes Versailles Palace as police detain two top art dealers over ‘fake’ Louis XV chairs (France)
(9 June 2016; The Telegraph)
“Art fraud officers detained the two dealers for questioning were both Paris-based experts in 18th century furniture.”

Greek Police Dismantle Drug Ring Including 3 Army Officers (Greece)
(14 June 2016; Greek Reporter)
Among all the other horribly illegal things the police found metal detectors and looted antiquities. Arrests of 32 people were made in Alexandroupolis, Orestiada, Thessaloniki, Veria, Edessa, Skydra, Mykonos and Santorini.

Man who damaged Monet painting jailed for possession of stolen antique books (Ireland)
(16 June 2016; Sunday World)
Andrew Shannon took 57 books from the library of Carton House in Kildare.

Antique dealer jailed after being caught with 57 books stolen from Carton House (Ireland)
(17 June 2016; The Journal)
Shannon was previously jailed for damaging a Monet painting in the National Gallery in 2014.

Stolen marble head of Rome’s first emperor returns to Italy (Italy)
(14 June 2016; Reuters)
The piece stolen from Napi was returned from the Cinquantenaire Museum in Brussels who bought it from an unnamed private collection.

Slot machine mobster’s confiscated collection goes on show in Reggio (Italy)
(14 June 2016; The Art Newspaper)
The permanent display of the mafia boss Gioacchino Campolo’s seized collection has opened.

Owner of a Modigliani Portrait Is Adamant the Work Isn’t Nazi Loot (Monaco, Switzerland, USA)
(12 June 2016; The New York Times)
Nahmad claims he will not settle and has a 1947 French court record that he claims indicates that the painting he has was not the one that was taken during WWII.

German warship wreckage protected (Norway, Germany)
(17 June 2016; News in English)
The wreck of the Blücher is under state protection orders to prevent looting by divers.

Guardia Civil puts a stop to internet sale of archaeological antiques (Spain)
(13 June 2016; EuroWeekly)
A number of the pieces, including a ‘shrunken head’, were fake. The seized items are currently in the Malaga Museum.

El Cabildo repone la protección de las estaciones de petroglifos en el Pico Bejenao tras “actos vandálicos” (El Cabildo renews protection of petroglyph sites in Pico Bejenao after “acts of vandalism”; Spain)
(17 June 2016; El Diario)
After finding broken locks on the fence that protects the site, looting prevention measures are being enacted.

Spanish police nab 2 in possession of 10,000 stolen artworks (Spain)
(18 June 2016; The Daily Mail)
Police “seized 4,000 archaeological pieces, 5,000 rare coins, 100 paleontological and ethnographic artefacts, 40 paintings and 30 manuscripts dating from the 16th century”

Arsonists who destroyed new Atherton sculpture slammed as ‘selfish and horrible’ (UK)
(13 June 2016; Leigh Journal)
The willow piece, which was chosen by children from a local primary school, was deliberately set on fire.

Stone of Destiny belongs in Perth, says council leader (UK)
(13 June 2016; STV)
Taken, Stolen, Returned…and returned again to Perth? A proposition to move the Stone of Scone to, Perth where Scone Palace is.

Valuable 16th century silver stolen in church raid (UK)
(14 June 2016; ITV News)
16th century silver items were stolen from St Mary’s Church in Fowlmere.

Marine Antiquities Scheme to launch on 21 July (UK)
(14 June 2016; Sport Diver)
A new scheme to encourage voluntary recording of finds in English and Welsh waters.

Vandals damage up to 40 gravestones in Inverness cemetery (UK)
(15 June 2016; BBC News)
“40 gravestones have been deliberately damaged”

Export ban placed on £225,000 Burges vase to keep it in UK (UK)
(17 June 2016; BBC News)
The piece was designed for Cardiff Castle in 1874. This is the last one still in private ownership.

Copper worth thousands stolen from roof of St Mary’s Church in Clothall, Baldock (UK)
(14 June 2016; Hertfordshire Mercury)
The church dates back to the 12th Century and rainwater got into the building, damaging fixtures.

Thieves strip lead off East Meon church roof (UK)
(17 June 2016; BBC News)
Rainwater has now damaged the pews at All Saints Church.

Recovered Verona museum paintings put on show in Khanenko Museum in Kyiv (Ukraine, Italy)
(13 June 2016; Interfax)
The Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko National Museum of Arts will temporarily show the 17 seized paintings.


Bogus Whiteley paintings: lock up fraudsters, says Swans chief (Australia)
(18 June 2016; The Weekend Australian)
A restorer and dealer were convicted of creating Whiteley fakes and are due to be sentenced.

South and East Asia

Villagers in court over stolen statue (China, Netherlands)
(16 June 2016; Shanghai Daily)
The villagers are urging a Dutch court to have the monk’s preserved body returned from a collector.

Lawsuit Underway to Bring Illegally Traded Chinese Self-Mummified Buddhist Statue Back Home (China, Netherlands)
(17 June 2016; The Beijinger)
The monk mummy is thought to still be in the possession of Dutch collector Oscar van Overeem

Officials to carry out raids in idol smuggler’s Karnataka properties (India)
(13 June 2016; The Times of India)
The raids on Deenadhayalan have spread out of Chennai. What more will be found?

‘Hundreds of Bihar antiquities are still in foreign museums’ (India)
(14 June 2016; The Times of India)
Bihar, which houses Jian, Hindu, and Buddhist art, has been one of the worst places in India for looting.

HR and CE Department ups security to protect temple assets, idols (India)
(15 June 2016; The New Indian Express)
“The department elaborated the 46-point security measures for protecting temple assets”.

HR and CE department launches idol survey in 4,000 temples (India)
(16 June 2016; The Hindu)
The “theft of about 10 idols has been reported in the HR and CE temples in these districts in the last four years”

Idols in unprotected temples easy pickings for smugglers (India)
(16 June 2016; The Hindu)
A discussion of remote and unprotected temples and sacred art.

TN temple officials see if seized idols match stolen ones (India)
(17 June 2016; Business Standard)
It is likely that some of the seized idols can be linked to specific temple thefts.

Cracking down on idol-looters (India)
(17 June 2016; The Hindu)
A quick overview of what’s been happening recently in anti-idol smuggling in India.

‘Set up judicial commission to probe idol thefts’ (India)
(17 June 2016; The Hindu)
A call for special squads to prevent idol theft and a judicial commission to question recent thefts.

Octogenarian’s computer may hold key to big idol ring (India)
(14 June 2016; The Times of India)
85 year old Deenadhayalan had a laptop, a computer, some hard disks and pen drives…what is on them?

Catching up with a master smuggler (India)
(15 June 2016; The Hindu)
Looking at the actions of G. Deenadayalan; a wonderful graphic included.

Chennai offices had no role in probe of stolen idols: ASI (India)
(16 June 2016; The Hindu)
The ASI say they issued certificates only to non-ancient pieces and are not being investigated for wrongdoing.

West and Central Asia

High school students restore vandalized Ashdod historic site after ‘paint party’ (Israel)
(13 June 2016; The Jerusalem Post)
“Instead of reporting the remorseful students to the police, the IAA used the incident as a lesson in civic responsibility.”

Raid in upscale Jerusalem plaza uncovers hundreds of illicitly traded relics (Israel)
(15 June 2016; I24 News)
The trader in Mamilla mall had hundreds of antiquities but no license to sell them.

In Other News

Amber Room not found in Poland so far — explorers (Poland, Russia)
(15 June 2016; TASS)
The treasure hunters themselves are probably the only ones surprised that they haven’t located the missing masterpiece.

Lumbees of NC sue Anheuser-Busch over trademark use in Budweiser ads (USA)
(14 June 2016; News Observer)
The Lumbees have filed a complaint against the use of their logo and slogan for beer sales which they say plays into offensive stereotypes.

Legal ivory sale drove dramatic increase in elephant poaching, study shows (Zimbabwe)
(13 June 2016; The Guardian)
Massive sales of seized ivory don’t undercut the market and prevent poaching, it inspires more sales and more poaching.