Culture crime news 5–11 September 2016


Hot this week: Mass conviction of French auction house workers

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Egypt documenting Jewish artifacts (Egypt)
(5 September 2016; Al Monitor)
The registration is an “attempt to protect them from theft and neglect”.

Egypt bans statues that do not have official government approval (Egypt)
(7 September 2016; The Guardian)
“It is forbidden to set up or renovate statues, murals or sculptures in Egypt’s public squares except after a thorough review by the ministries of antiquities and culture,” said the prime minister, Sherif Ismail; this is a lot less controversial than it seems, quite normal around the world.

Egyptian statuette recovered from Mexico is authentic: Antiquities ministry (Egypt, Mexico)
(7 September 2016; Ahram Online)
The piece was found by a Mexican in a house they just bought. They turned it in and it’s presumed stolen and trafficked.


Roban figuras religiosas desde iglesia jesuita en Calera de Tango (Religious statues stolen from the Jesuit church in Calera de Tango; Chile)
(4 September 2016; 24 Horas)
All of the stolen pieces date to the 18th century.

Robo de figuras religiosas: PDI da consejos para facilitar la búsqueda de piezas valiosas (Theft of religious statues: PDI gives suggestions to help facilitate the locating of valuable pieces; Chile)
(11 September 2016; Economía y Negocios)
This comes in the wake of several sacred art thefts

Roban copones con hostias consagradas de iglesia en Bucaramanga (Cups and consecrated hosts stolen from church in Bucaramanga; Colombia)
(6 September 2016; Vanguardia)
Two sacred chalices as well as donation boxes.

Piden al INAH frenar saqueo en zona arqueológica de Totimehuacán (INAH asked to prevent looting at the archaeological site of Totimehuacán; Mexico)
(7 September 2016; El Sol de Puebla)
This comes a week after the local archaeological association denounced the looting of eight tombs at the site.

Pequeño robo indigna porque fue de objetos religiosos consagrados (Small robbery angers because it was consecrated religious objects; Mexico)
(6 September 2016; Sipse)
Eight plates and and a chalice were stolen from the Merida, Yucatan church.

Hombre entró a iglesia de Ciudad Constitución y se robó las limosnas y manteles sagrados (Man enters the church of Ciudad Constitución and steals offerings and sacred mantels; Mexico)
(8 September 2016; BCS Noticias)
The theft occurred at a church in La Paz, Baja California

MUNA construction damaging ancient remains (Peru)
(5 September 2016; Peru This Week)
“You cannot put a museum on top of an archaeological site that has not been fully explored, building a museum in that area would mean destroying all previous civilization that was buried there”

He Denied Blacks Citizenship. Now a City Is Deciding His Statue’s Fate. (USA)
(4 September 2016; The New York Times)
To keep, contextualize, or scrap a bust of Maryland tobacco planter and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Roger Brooke Taney.

Sen. Cornyn replaces military medals of late WWII POW stolen from his family in Fort Worth (USA)
(6 September 2016; Dallas News)
“After staff in Cornyn’s office read about the robbery in The Dallas Morning News, Cornyn reached out to the Department of Defense to arrange for the replacements.”

Thief steals $50,000 in art from Naples gallery (USA)
(7 September 2016; NBC)
The thief smashed the back door glass of the Shaw Gallery in Naples, Florida.

Ponytailed Man in Tie-Dye Shirt Caught on Video Stealing Art Mural from East River Waterfront Esplanade (USA)
(7 September 2016; NBC)
Images of the person who stole the 60-foot long Kenny Scharf banner mural.

US Judge Approves Warrant for Acoma Shield Listed for Sale by Paris Auction House (USA, France)
(7 September 2016; Hyperallergic)
“The grant of this warrant powerfully demonstrates the commitment of the United States to protecting tribal cultural patrimony. “

Caregiver Charged With Theft Of 600+ Pieces Of Art (USA)
(8 September 2016; CBS)
The pieces were stolen from artist Dee Toscano’s home and were, in large part, her own work.

Jho Low Used Goldman Sachs to Illicitly Buy Van Gogh Work (USA, Malaysia)
(8 September 2016; ArtNet News)
The US Government is seeking to seize the paintings which were allegedly bought with embezzled funds.

Reputed Mobster In Hospital After Prison Fall, Trial Delayed (USA)
(9 September 2016; CBS)
Robert Gentile, implicated in the Gardner Museum heist, remains hospitalized.

Opera Gallery Wins $2.4 Million Decision Against Infamous Art Dealer (USA, Belgium)
(9 September 2016; ArtNet News)
Gailord Bovrisse sold the gallery two Chagalls and later withdrew them from sale saying they were fakes. The Gallery’s money was not returned.

Gifts Roundup: Holocaust Museum Gets $1 Million From War-Crimes Lawyer (USA)
(6 November 2016; The Chronicle of Philanthropy)
Benjamin Ferencz also worked towards the return of artworks to Jewish families.


AG to decide about antiquities irregularities (Cyprus)
(8 September 2016; Cyprus Mail)
The auditor “will hand over to the attorney-general information collected by his office about irregularities at the Paphos Antiquities Department”

New twist in fake antique furniture scandal overshadows opening of Biennale des Antiquaires in Paris (France)
(8 September 2016; The Art Newspaper)
The Louvre is the latest institution caught up in forgery case involving Kraemer and Aaron galleries

Verdict expected in vast theft scam at French auction house (France)
(6 September 2016; Salon)
“The works included a Courbet painting, Chagall lithographs and stage costumes of famous French mime artist Marcel Marceau.”

French auction workers convicted in vast theft scam (France)
(6 September 2016; CTV)
“Of the 33 auction workers convicted, 19 were sentenced to prison terms from six months to 18 months, and the other 14 were given suspended sentences.”

Paris auction workers jailed over theft scam (France)
(6 September 2016; BBC News)
“Three auctioneers at Hotel Drouot also received suspended jail sentences”

Letters I: Elgin Marbles dispute can be resolved by making 3D marbles of artifacts then returning them to Greece (Greece, UK)
(8 September 2016; The National)
The UK can keep the copies and send the real ones back home.

Call for action as Battle of Kinsale tourist signs stolen (Ireland)
(6 September 2016; Irish Examiner)
The signs were taken from “one of the most important battlefield sites in Irish history.”

Two British schoolboys appear in Polish court accused of stealing buttons, shards of glass and a hair clipper belonging to former Auschwitz prisoners (Poland)
(9 September 2016; The Sun)
The teens allegedly took the items while on a school trip.

La iglesia de Santa María de Laredo sufre un nuevo intento de robo por la noche (Church of Santa María de Laredo suffers a new robbery attempt in the night; Spain)
(8 September 2016; El Diario Montañes)
Yet again, the thieves were not able to force the iron reinforcements that protected the historic church doors.

Los dos acusados por robar la Custodia llegan al banquillo (Two accused of the Custodia theft face trial; Spain)
(10 September 2016; Diario Jaén)
The two could face up to 9 years in jail for the theft of the piece form the Convent of Las Bernardas

Thirty works of art recovered in Torrevieja (Spain)
(11 September 2016; The Leader)
First looking into the theft of 400 beehives, police found antiquities, art, and elephant tusks, all presumed illicit.

¿Dónde está el brazo de San Juan Bautista? (Where is the arm of Saint John the Baptist?; Spain)
(11 September 2016; El País)
Who owns sacred relics when orders fold? No easy answers.

V&A director’s decision to quit hastened by Brexit vote (UK)
(5 September 2016; The Guardian)
Martin Roth is German and was leaving soon anyway, but this has hastened his decisions. Worth thinking about.

£1,000 painting stolen from Ripley gallery found in Bradford (UK)
(8 September 2016; Harrogate Advertiser)
The piece was taken from the Ripley Chantry House art gallery

Bronze book stolen from Borders poet’s memorial (UK)
(8 September 2016; BBC News)
“A bronze book has been stolen from the top of a memorial cairn between two Borders villages”, presumably to sell for scrap.

Plea over missing 1986 Sir Antony Gormley sculpture (UK)
(8 September 2016; BBC News)
The life-sized statue was removed when a festival it was made for closed, now the UK is looking for it.

London’s National Gallery sued in NY over alleged stolen Matisse (UK, United States)
(7 September 2016; The Daily Mail)
“The National Gallery of Art in London was sued on Wednesday in New York for the return of the 1908 Henri Matisse painting “Portrait of Greta Moll” by three grandchildren of its subject, who claim it was stolen.”

Greta Moll’s Heirs Say Stolen Portrait Is at London Museum (UK, United States)
(7 September 2016; Bloomberg)
Three of Moll’s grandchildren are suing for the 1908 Matisse which was “allegedly stolen in the wake of World War II”


Aboriginal artefacts in Sotheby’s auction prompt questions over provenance (Australia, UK)
(11 September 2016; The Sydney Morning Herald)
“It’s a challenging idea. If something was sold was it under duress? Were people in a position where they could refuse a sale?,”

South and East Asia

The Amateur Tomb Raiders Pilfering China’s Artifacts (China)
(9 September 2016; Sixth Tone)
The allegation is that the looters have been inspired to loot by online novels.

दुर्गन मंदिर से चोरी तीन मूर्तियां बरामद (Theft in Temple; India)
(5 September 2016; Amar Ujala)
The three stolen sculptures were recovered.

जैन मंदिर से चोरी, एक प्रतिमा बरामद (Digsr: Jain temple statues recovered; India)
(6 September 2016; Patrika)
Four pieces were recovered by thieves but it is unknown what temple they came from.

25 kilo laddu stolen from Ganesh pandal (India)
(10 September 2016; The Times of India)
The piece was seen in the hand of the deity in the morning.

Thieves break into temple, steal antiques worth crores (India)
(10 September 2016; The Times of India)
Idols, golden umbrellas, and jewellery were stolen from Khandelwal Digambar Jain Mandir near Shivaji Stadium

Raghunath Trust to strengthen security & management shrine: CM (India)
(9 September 2016; Himvani)
The controversy about the management of the temple post-idol theft and recovery continues

Himachal Pradesh encourages priests to keep guns for gods’ safety (India)
(9 September 2016; The Times of India)
Desperate measures for protecting rural temples from sacred art thieves.

500 seized coins date back to ancient times: Customs dept (India)
(7 September 2016; Tribune India)
“One consignment of 239 coins was seized from an Indian national who entered India via the Integrated Check Post, Attari”

Art collector Lance Dane’s ‘so-called’ adopted son refused relief by the Bombay High Court (India)
(10 September 2016; DNA Info)
“After Dane passed away in May 2012, Gejge approached the court challenging order of Mumbai City Collector issuedin 2013, directing Mahim police to seize the art work, antiques and other things and give it to the Hinduja Foundation.”

15 ancient pagodas in Bagan suffer severe damage (Myanmar)
(6 September 2016; Eleven)
Others were also damaged, but less severely

KP lacks archaeological experts to preserve priceless heritage (Pakistan)
(9 September 2016; Pakistan Observer)
The spectacular sites of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa face natural and human threats.

Suspect in Colombo National Museum theft further remanded (Sri Lanka)
(5 September 2016; Daily News)
Six others were previously arrested in this case but have been released on bail.

Suspect detained in Taipei after theft of science artifacts (Taiwan)
(9 September 2016; Taipei Times)
The pieces were taken from the Eikichi Ido Memorial House which is on a National Taiwan University farm.

West and Central Asia

Digital Troves, Providing Insights and Reuniting Antiquities (Iraq)
(8 September 2016; The New York Times)
Using old photos to track down or ‘preserve’ historically-excavated artefacts, some of which have since been stolen.

Amman hosts conference to launch regional task force to combat cultural racketeering (Jordan)
(6 September 2016; Petra)
The conference was held ” to advance cooperation between Arab countries in the fight against the illegal smuggling and sale of cultural artifacts from the region.”

Kuwaiti official urges end to theft of Arab culture (Kuwait)
(8 September 2016; Kuwait News Agency)
The Kuwaiti representative was talking at the Culture Under Threat conference held in Jordan.

Fake antiquities flood out of Syria as smugglers fail to steal masterpieces amid the chaos of war (Syria)
(6 September 2016; The Independent)
“Much of Syria’s cultural heritage has been saved from being destroyed by Isis”

Plea for holiday photos to help preserve world heritage (Syria, Libya, Afghanistan)
(9 September 2016; The National)
Coverage of the Curious Travellers project which will use digital images to build digital 3D reconstructions of damages monuments.

Turkish government shuts down important archaeological dig, apparently to punish Austria (Turkey, Austria)
(6 September 2016; Science)
“The decision was reportedly made by Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. No reason for the closure was given, but Austria’s chancellor, Christian Kern, had antagonized the Turkish government in August by saying the country was not fit to join the European Union.”

Police searching stolen vehicle finds 2nd century tomb in Bursa (Turkey)
(10 September 2016; Daily Sabah)
The police chanced upon a spectacular sarcophagus which appears to have been unearthed in illicit excavation. Perhaps moving the piece is why they stole the truck?

In Other News

Rhinos being killed for horn’s value as collectible, study finds (General)
(10 September 2016; Portland Press Herald)
Thus strange consumption is not the only reason the horn is trafficked.

VIDEO: Vandals destroy ancient Oregon’s landmark (USA)
(5 September 2016; Gephardt Daily)
It was originally thought that the Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area fell naturally but a video shows people toppling it.

ICE-rescued ancient fossil on display at Carnegie Museum of Natural History (USA, China)
(6 September 2016; ICE)
After it’s shown in Pittsburgh, the looted and recovered fossil will be sent to the Geological Museum in Beijing.

The Disappearance and Return of the Original Ground Zero Flag (USA)
(8 September 2016; The Atlantic)
“Who took it from the pole in the five hours after the September 11 attacks? And how did it end up on the other side of the country?

Plymouth teen charged with stealing lobster statue (USA)
(9 September 2016; The Patriot News)
It comes as no surprise that the mosaic lobster was taken by a teen.