Culture crime news 30 March–5 April 2015


Hot this week: Lots of looted Indian and Nepali stuff exposed in USA

Receive ‘Culture crime news’ as a weekly newsletter! Sign up here


Islamic State Destruction Renews Debate Over Repatriation of Antiquities
(30 March 2015; The New York Times)
A particularly choice quote form Ricardo Elia.

The last prisoners of war: Inside the battle to recover Nazi-stolen artwork
(1 April 2015; MSNBC)
Nothing new here, just a general run down of a few cases as part of the Woman in Gold hype.


This Ancient Egyptian Masterpiece Might Be Fake
(1 April 2015; Smithsonian)
The Meidum Geese. We’ll see.


Thousands of artifacts stolen by John Tillmann going home (Canada)
(31 March 2015; The Chronicle Herald)
Tillmann was sentenced to nine years in 2013 and returning all of the stolen material he had has been difficult.

Tráfico de piezas arqueológicas no afecta al estado (The trafficking of archaeological pieces doesn’t affect the state; Mexico)
(31 March 2015; Criterio)
INAH says there have been nearly no reported cases of artefact looting in Hidalgo

Medio millar de sitios arqueológicos lambayecanos vigilados (Peru)
(3 April 2015; RPP)
Heritage professionals and volunteers are monitoring 500 archaeological sites in Lambayeque to stave off traditional Easter Week tomb robbing.

Legislators call for US Treasury sanctions against dealers of looted Syrian antiquities
(31 March 2015; RT)
As usual I say ‘how are you going to prove it came from Iraq or Syria” and ‘how are you going to prove it came post ISIS’?

FBI: No, the Gardner Museum Heist Hasn’t Been Solved
(31 March 2015; BostInno)
Has to be said after poor reporting on the part of Breitbart (expected) and ArtInfo who picked up the false story.

Judge ends Maine man’s attempt to salvage Cape Cod shipwreck
(1 April 2015; 12 News Now)
Sea Hunters LP is no longer able to ‘salvage’ the S.S. Port Nicholson after a criminal investigation and allegations of fraud form investors.

Antiquities looted from India end up at Honolulu museum
(1 April 2015; Houston Chronicle)
The Honolulu Museum of Art has handed over seven artefacts which they bought from disgraced dealer Subhash Kapoor so they were likely stolen from India. Said the museum: Could we have done a better job? Sure,” he said. “Were we a victim? Yes.”

California museum must face lawsuit over art looted by Nazis
(2 April 2015; Reuters)
Sorry Norton Simon, as the judge said: “Stolen property remains stolen property, no matter how many years have transpired from the date of the theft”.

Manhattan Prosecutors Say New York Art Dealer Played Role in Sale of Stolen Artifacts
(2 April 2015; New York Times)
Nayef Homsi, a Manhattan dealer, appears to be going down for selling looted Indian and Nepali sculptures.

Brooklyn Art Dealer Accused of Selling Stolen Ancient Artifacts for $500K
(2 April 2015; DNA Info)
More detail on the Nayef Homsi charges. The sales occurred in 2012 and 2013 and at least one of the pieces was stolen from the Itum Bahal Temple in Kathmandu in 1983 and Homsi apparently said he was too nervous to search the Art Loss Register.

Peabody Essex Museum hands over Indian artwork involved in trafficking investigation (USA)
(3 April 2015; Boston Globe)
More Kapoor loot falls. The museum has several other pieces bought from Kapoor but those appear to be okay.


Curator calls for time limit on returning art looted by the Nazis (Austria)
(30 March 2015; Independent)
Klaus Albrecht Schröder, the director of Vienna’s Albertina Museum.

Germany says Pissarro painting from Gurlitt trove to be returned
(1 April 2015; Yahoo News)
‘La Seine vue du Pont-Neuf, au fond le Louvre’ was determined to be looted during WW2 and will be returned to heirs.

Dutch royal family returning painting stolen from Jewish collector
(31 March 2015; NL Times)
The Hague Forest with a view to Huis ten Bosch Palace, by Joris van der Haagen will be returned to heirs following a provenance inquest led by Queen Máxima.

El robo de la pequeña Virgen del Cristal, posible móvil del crimen de Celanova (Theft of the small Virgin of Cristal, possible motive for the crime in Celanova; Spain)
(16 March 2015; ABC)
The venerated image of the Virgin del Cristal was stolen and a priest was murdered at Vilanova dos Infantes, Orense.

La Iglesia valora la posibilidad de hacer una réplica de la imagen de la Virgen de Cristal (Church considers the possibility of making a replica of the image of the Virgin of Cristal; Spain)
(1 April 2015; Info Católica)
The church of Villanueva de los Infantes in Orense is considering making a replica of the image of the Virgin that was stolen last month. A priest was killed during the theft.

Export bar on ancient Egyptian treasure sold by Northampton council (UK)
(30 March 2015; The Guardian)
Sekhemka isn’t going anywhere fast.

Court sits at British Museum for first time as judge studies looted Libyan sculpture
(30 March 2015; Telegraph)
Everyone went to the BM to see the statue which experts displayed had clear signs of being recently excavated.

RJ Mitchell cigarette case returned to Solent Sky Museum (UK)
(4 April 2015; BBC News)
The case belongs to the designer of the Spitfire and was stolen last month. Returned inside a padded postal bag.

South and East Asia

Chinese villagers write to Dutch PM for return of mummified buddha
(29 March 2015; Shanghai Daily)
The letter was written jointly by the residents of Datian County in Fuijan and overseas supporters.

Stolen artefacts: Relics of plunder (China)
(4 April 2015; The Economist)
A short piece about the stolen mummy-in-a-statue. It credits Lin Yongtun of Yangchun with making the ID of the stolen piece.

Bangalore earning notoriety as market for antique idols
(30 March 2015; The Hindu)
A short article about the stolen idol market in Bangalore with a few cases listed.

West and Central Asia

Use Force to Stop ISIS’ Destruction of Art and History
(3 April 2015; New York Times)
By Hugh Eakin. I will say again, we kill and die to protect lives and that should come first. No one should be sent to die for archaeology. No one should kill for it.

Watch: Historic Jewish text from Prague stolen years ago found in Israel
(4 April 2015; Jerusalem Post)
The book, a record of a Prague Jewish Community, was stolen from a synagog inside a Jewish museum in 2007. It was found in a private home in Petah Tikva. Arrests were made.

Three arrested for defrauding man out of JD200,000 for fake artefacts (Jordan)
(1 April 2015; The Jordan Times)
Yes, selling fake artefacts as real is fraud.

At Jordan site, drone offers glimpse of antiquities looting
(3 April 2015; Houston Chronicle)
Very cool stuff from Dr Morag Kersel’s ‘Follow the Post’ project.

In Syria, National Museum of Damascus races to save antiquities from looting, damage
(30 March 2015; Art Daily)
Basically they are trying not to be another 2003 Baghdad Museum though, of course, museum workers there prepared too.

In other news

St. Cloud State professor arrested, accused of smuggling ivory, rhinoceros horn
(31 March 2015; Star Tribune)
Professor Yiwei Zheng operated an online business that allegedly sold carved elephant ivory that he was smuggling out of China