Culture crime news 19–25 September 2016


Hot this week: Stolen and smashed…the nation’s Trump statues.

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Progress in Protecting Stolen Antiquities Is Real — But Challenges Remain
(19 September 2016; Asia Society)
Reporting on the Culture Under Threat symposium.


Egypt’s Malawi Museum inaugurated (Egypt)
(22 September 2016; Ahram Online)
This is quite a bounce back after looting in 2013.

Egypt’s Mallawi Museum reopens with looted collection mostly restored (Egypt)
(23 September 2016; The Art Newspaper)
The museum has new security and most of the items looted from it have been recovered.


Ancient artifact hidden in sock by Belgium tourist proves very costly (Canada)
(19 September 2016; GrindTV)
The man stole the fossil from the Burgess Shale Formation in Canada’s Yoho National Park

Last two remaining ‘Indian Bridge’ figures stolen from city storage yard (Canada)
(21 September 2016; Kenora Daily Miner and News)
“The four heritage artworks were created of shaped bar metal when the bridge was constructed in 1948.”

Pre-Columbian sculpture recovered at London auction house after mysterious disappearance (Colombia, UK)
(19 September 2016; The City Paper)
The match to a post-1939 Cartagena museum theft was made by Art Recovery Group.

Hurtan limosnas, dos cáliz y vasos sagrados (Donations, two chalices, and sacred vessels stolen; Mexico)
(21 September 2016; El Universal)
The pieces were stolen from the church of San Francisco de Asís in Gremial

Detenidos por saquear piedras arqueológicas (Arrests for looting of archaeological stones; Mexico)
(25 September 2016; Tribuna)
After a tip, the police arrested three people in Xpujil, near several archaeological sites and in the general area of Calakmul.

Stolen art piece was intended to raise awareness of homelessness in Juneau (USA)
(18 September 2016; KTOO)
The now-stolen figure was hollow “to symbolize the invisibility of homeless people”

Replicas now sit where items were stolen from Roger Maris Museum (USA)
(19 September 2016; Valley News)
“The 1960 MVP award and S. Rae Hickok Belt were stolen in the middle of the night on July 26. Now, replicas of the stolen items sit in their place.”

Vandals damage Holocaust sculpture at Milton cemetery (USA)
(20 September 2016; The Boston Globe)
“Two bronze Stars of David have been stolen from a memorial sculpture at Milton Cemetery for a girl killed in the Holocaust”

Artist Wants Thieves Who Stole Translucent Child Sculpture Punished (USA)
(20 September 2016; DNA Info)
The missing sculpture is by Nicholas Papadakis

Hopi Welcome Tourists But Guard Their Secrets (USA)
(20 September 2016; Fronteras)
“Some worry inviting tourists to their villages has left them vulnerable to thieves”

Over 1,200 Archaeologists and Museum Staff Condemn Destruction Wrought by Dakota Pipeline (USA)
(21 September 2016; Hyperallergic)
“Bulldozers for the pipeline construction plowed through burial grounds and sacred sites in South Dakota earlier this month”

Battle for Ben Franklin manuscripts could be settled soon (USA)
(21 September 2016; Newsday)
“This Benjamin Franklin manuscript and other rare texts found in a Glen Head jeweler’s store after his death has pitted his daughter against the New York Public Library. “

Booker urges ‘justice’ in reclaiming stolen art (USA)
(21 September 2016; New Jersey Jewish News)
“en. Cory Booker (D-NJ) is urging Congress to lift statutes of limitation and other procedural hurdles so that Jews and other victims of the Holocaust can recover their works of art that were stolen by the Nazis.”

The Ancient One Takes Another Step Toward Home (USA)
(21 September 2016; Indian Country Today)
Legislation ordering the repatriation of Kennewick Man now moved to the US House of Representatives.

Rough Riders replace stolen plaque honoring their namesake (USA)
(21 September 2016; Tampa Bay Times)
The plaque was stolen from Tampa, Florida, three years ago.

How the journey of a Rembrandt masterpiece ended here in the North Country (USA, Russia)
(21 September 2016; North County Public Radio)
In Moscow in 1927 “Thieves cut the figure of Christ from the canvas, rolled up the painting and fled.”

Robert Soros in Divorce Battle Over $7.7 Million Christopher Wool Painting (USA)
(23 September 2016; ArtNet News)
“Robert Soros claims that the Wool painting, along with three other works purchased at the same sale, was bought with his personal funds”

Popular art gallery owner shot, killed (USA)
(23 September 2016; Atlanta Journal Constitution)
Kevin Reid, owner of The Australian Aboriginal Art Gallery in Savannah, was killed in a robbery attempt.

Antiques dealers arrested and $4.5m worth of ivory seized in New York (USA)
(23 September 2016; The Art Newspaper)
The raid was against the Metropolitan Fine Arts and Antiques dealership.

Could you return that Declaration of Independence your family stole? Please? (USA)
(23 September 2016; Washington Post)
The Wayside Inn, located in Sudbury, Mass. would like its Declaration of Independence of Independence back.

University of Utah police seeking info over art theft (USA)
(23 September 2016; KUTV)
The piece, by Utah portraitist Alvin Gittens, was taken from the student Union. There is camera footage of the theft.


Art meets history in homage to legendary French Jewish dealer (Belgium, France)
(23 September 2016; The Times of Israel)
The exhibition honours Paul Rosenberg, the famous dealer, who lost much of his collection to the Nazis.

“Die Schatzsucher sind die Hunnen von heute” (“Treasure Hunters are Today’s Huns”; Bulgaria)
(18 September 2016; Der Standard)
“The illicit trade in ancient artefacts flourishing in Bulgaria.”

Exhibition with antiquities from occupied Cyprus opens on September 23 (Cyprus)
(22 September 2016; Famagusta Gazette)
The exhibition is of “antiquities that were excavated before the 1974 Turkish invasion at prehistoric sites, in areas of the island currently under Turkish occupation”

Unsupervised digs and illicit ticket sales rampant at historic sites (Cyprus)
(23 September 2016; Cyprus Mail)
Some of the findings of the audit probe into the excavations around Paphos.

Battle of Jutland war graves ‘vandalised’ by illegal metal scavengers (Denmark, UK, Germany)
(18 September 2016; The Guardian)
“More than half of the war graves from one of the first world war’s largest naval battles have been pillaged”

How the Mona Lisa became so overrated (France)
(20 September 2016; Vox)
Art theft got folks excited about the masterpiece.

François Hollande announces $100m fund to protect cultural heritage in the Middle East (France)
(21 September 2016; The Art Newspaper)
“Hollande also called for a strengthened commitment to cultural preservation that might include “intervention”, for which he gave no details. “

Heir to art-dealing estate in court in major French fraud trial (France)
(22 September 2016; The Guardian)
“Guy Wildenstein faces charges that he hid his fortune in offshore tax havens and a demand for £475m in back taxes”

Germany’s new cultural protection law welcomed abroad (Germany)
(21 September 2016; DW)
A discussion with Assyriologist Markus Hilgert

US tourist steals marble fragment from Pompeii (Italy)
(19 September 2016; New Kerala)
The tourist used his foot to dig a chip of marble out of the floor of the House of the Small Fountain.

Court Orders Marina Abramović to Pay Ulay and Give Him Credit for Their Art (Netherlands)
(22 September 2016; Hyperallergic)
The works in question were made between 1976 and 1988 while the two were partners.

Stolen painting recovered in Leeuwarden is a fake (Netherlands)
(22 September 2016; NL Times)
The Isaac Israels is a fake and the Verschuur is real. Both were stolen 17 years ago in a violent robbery in Bilthoven.

Paintings recovered in Leeuwarden storage unit 17 years after theft (Netherlands)
(22 September 2016; NL Times)
The stolen paintings were found during an illegal firearms investigation.

La «misteriosa» desaparición de los restos de Diego Colón (The “mysterious” disappearance of the remains of Diego Columbus; Spain)
(25 September 2016; ABC)
No one seems to know where Diego Colón’s remains have gone since they were used to identify the remains of his famous brother Christopher in 2003.

Freeports boom highlights risks of shady activities (Switzerland)
(22 September 2016; Reuters)
“The fact that freeports exist in many countries with different legal regimes makes Swiss politicians hesitate to tighten rules that may put the Swiss art market at risk.”

Buddha statue theft from temple treated as hate crime (UK)
(20 September 2016; STV)
The piece was taken from the garden of Edinburgh’s Dhammapadia Temple

St Albans military collector Alan Tissington avoids jail after ammunition discovered at his home (UK)
(22 September 2016; The Herts Advertiser)
He “pleaded guilty to illegally possessing were six rounds of .45 calibre ammunition from 1942, a round of .222 ammunition from the 1950s/60s, a single round of US carbine ammunition from 1943 and three prohibited bullet heads.”

‘Deplorable’ – Anger after thieves raid Grade II-star listed church (UK)
(23 September 2016; The York Press)
Eight sheets of lead were taken off the church’s low-pitched roof

UK to crack down on illegal ivory sales (UK)
(21 September 2016; The Guardian)
“New initiative closes loophole allowing dealers to claim ivory from recently killed elephants is antique without providing proof of age”

UK ivory ban threat: ‘government WILL consult antiques industry’ (UK)
(21 September 2016; Antiques Trade Gazette)
Naturally dealers think that expert authentication, not documentary evidence, is what the government should focus on.


Treasure trove’ of war photos, medals and memorabilia found among stolen loot in a thief’s house – as police seek help to find the owners (Australia)
(22 September 2016; The Daily Mail)
Police discovered medals and photos dating back to the First World War during a raid but don’t know who they belong to.

National Gallery of Australia returns Indian antiquities worth more than $2m (Australia, India)
(19 September 2016; The Guardian)
“An independent review earlier this year found that 22 of the 36 Asian art objects acquired by the NGA between 1968 and 2013 had questionable ownership history and 11 of those were considered to be “highly problematic”.”

The Gweagal shield and the fight to change the British Museum’s attitude to seized artefacts (Australia, UK)
(25 September 2016; The Guardian)
“Activists say symbols of resistance taken when Captain Cook’s men first encountered Aborigines in 1770 must come home, and not just on loan “

South and East Asia

Stolen Artifacts Found in Siem Reap (Cambodia)
(22 September 2016; Khmer Times)
The police who stopped the speeding car the objects were in suspected that it was carrying stolen rare wood.

Dismay over ‘crude’ repairs to ancient section of Great Wall of China (China)
(22 September 2016; The Guardian)
“Defensive works and guard towers were knocked flat as part of the restoration project, officially launched to prevent further deterioration caused by the elements.”

Court unhappy with non-cooperation of ASI officers in idol theft case, summons DG (India)
(18 September 2016; News Online)
Regarding “a 35-year-old case of theft of an antique idol from an ancient temple of Takashakeshwar Mahadev in Allahabad”

Kohinoor our property, govt tells Supreme Court (India)
(20 September 2016; Hindustan Times)
‘With no legal options available, the government said it will “explore ways and means” to negotiate with the British government to get the jewel that adorns the British crown.’

Youth arrested for thefts in 8 temples (India)
(21 September 2016; The Times of India)
The youth was arrested in Ahmedabad and confessed to stealing idols, among other things

Four stolen antique idols retrieved from US (India)
(22 September 2016; The New Indian Express)
The pieces were stolen in 2008 from temples in Tamil Nadu.

Theft of Aurangzeb-era Quran: HC orders CBI prob (India)
(22 September 2016; Kashmir Reader)
The piece, which bears the seal of a Mughal emperor, was stolen form the Shri Pratap Singh Museum in Srinagar in 2003.

Raiders of hidden arks (India)
(24 September 2016; The Hindu)
A dedicated antiquities protection agency in India “could devote itself to the task of documenting antiquities and ensuring that the country’s ports are sealed against smuggling.”

Art of the past (Pakistan)
(24 September 2016; Pakistan Today)
“Illegal trafficking of art and artifacts from the South Asian Region is one of the most disregarded yet the most lucrative black market. “

West and Central Asia

Iraq struggles to stop antiquities smuggling (Iraq)
(19 September 2016; Al Monitor)
Signs of continued smuggling in Mosul in the country’s north

Araiji calls for new antiquities law (Lebanon)
(14 September 2016; National News Agency)
The Minister of Culture would like “to develop a new antiquities law that should take scientific breakthroughs and updates into account”

Slick Replica of Palmyra’s Triumphal Arch Arrives in New York, Prompting Questions (Syria, USA)
(20 September 2016; Hyperallergic)
“Many people remained baffled about why exactly a copy of a 1,800-year-old arch from Western Asia was standing in downtown Manhattan”

Replica of Syrian arch destroyed by Isis unveiled in New York City (Syria, USA)
(20 September 2016; The Guardian)
This is the Institute for Digital Archaeology recreation.

Looting? $283 Million Flow of Artifacts to US Revealed (Turkey, Syria, USA)
(19 September 2016; Live Science)
I warn, please exercise caution with using and believing pricetags.

Saudi strikes raze ancient Yemen towers (Yemen, Saudi Arabia)
(21 September 2016; The Times)
“Warplanes from the Saudi-led coalition have bombed the Old City of Sanaa” (again).

In Other News

Royal Canadian Mint employee allegedly smuggled $140,000 worth of gold in his butt (Canada)
(21 September 2016; The Washington Post)
“The alleged gold heist was an inside job — in more ways than one.”

The memorial plaque for David Bowie in Berlin has been stolen (Germany)
(20 September 2016; Reporter)
The plaque commemorated Bowie’s former home.

Banksy artwork removed from Liverpool street to enter street art museum (UK)
(19 September 2016; BBC News)
“It’s not street art any more if it’s hung up in a museum”

Suspected Drunk Driver Crashes into Museum of Broken Relationships, Injuring Two (USA)
(20 September 2016; ArtNet News)
“The driver, a women in her 30s, was arrested for the hit-and-run collision, and on suspicion of driving under the influence”

Police on the hunt for stolen buffalo statue, thief in Oklahoma City (USA)
(20 September 2016; Fox)
The “X-Ray Buffalo” was taken from outside an orthopaedics office

Have You Seen This Artist’s Converted Metermaid Vehicle, Stolen Yesterday? (USA)
(21 September 2016; SFist)
“Any leads are appreciated, he writes — It ought to be relatively easy to spot this thing: It does have his name on it, after all.”

Who stole naked Trump statue? Police want to ask this guy about it (USA)
(22 September 2016; Miami Herald)
The naked Trump was taken from the rooftop of Wynwood Art Complex in Miami.

Naked Trump statue in downtown Las Vegas vandalized (USA)
(23 September 2016; Las Vegas Review-Journal)
“The platform still has the feet attached, but the body resembling the Republican presidential nominee was on the ground covered in graffiti”

Police find ‘Emperor Has No Balls’ statue depicting naked Donald Trump (USA)
(23 September 2016; ABC United States)
Someone dropped the pinched Trump at Miami police HQ.