Culture crime news 31 August–6 September 2015


Hot this week: Marion True talk.

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How to buy antiquities (General)
(4 September 2015; Financial Times)
A mix of useful and bad advice to potential antiquities buyers.


Germany offers €50,000 grant to help restore Tutankhamun’s mask (Egypt)
(1 September 2015; Ahram Online)
The mask was accidentally broken in 2014 and allegedly poorly restored.

£1.5m ancient Greek statue looted from Libyan heritage site ‘must be returned’ (Libya)
(2 September 2015; The Independent)
The piece is from Cyrene and was smuggled into the UK in 2011.


Sticky fingers deprive city of special artifacts, from cannons to 300-pound sculptures (Canada)
(30 August 2015; The Star)
“Wanted: four paintings, two vases and a replica cannon.” Heritage thefts in Toronto.

Richmond man pleads guilty to complex Chinese treasure ‘gold’ scam (Canada)
(4 September 2015; The Province)
A man has pleaded guilty in a Vancouver court of an elaborate fraud that included the sale of fake ancient Chinese gold

Canada’s biggest art theft still unsolved (Canada)
(4 September 2015; Radio Canada International)
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts was robbed in 1972, only one painting has been recovered.

Frenar invasiones en las zonas arqueológicas, pide Lilia Mendoza (Curb incursions at archaeological sites says Lilia Mendoza; Mexico)
(31 August 2015; NSS Oaxaca)
The politician is calling for action to be taken against the looting of and building on archaeological sites.

Reforzarán seguridad de iglesia tras robo (Church security reinforced after robbery; Mexico)
(3 September 2015; El Siglo de Torreón)
After several robberies and robbery attempts at the Sagrado Corazón de Jesús church in Gómez Palacio, security is being increased

Urge que fuerzas federales cuiden vestigios encontrados en Altamira (Federal forces needed to safeguard remains found in Altamira; Mexico)
(4 September 2015; Hoy Tamaulipas)
Federal forces will be needed to secure archaeological areas in Altamira and prevent looting.

Arequipa: millonario robo en museo de la Unsa (Peru)
(28 August 2015; La Republica)
Thieves stole major pieces from the José María Morante Maldonado Archaeology Museum which is 100m from a police station.

Queenstown man won’t serve time in theft of $3.5 million stained-glass windows (USA)
(31 August 2015; Baltimore Sun)
It is still unclear exactly what happened in the case of the theft of these windows from storage in a Maryland shed

The True Report of a Former Getty Curator Lost in Scandal (USA)
(31 August 2015; Hyperallergic)
A punny headline. Is there a true True?

Rock art allegedly vandalized by college geology students (USA)
(3 September 2015; KSL)
The police are investigating the graffiti left at Chicken Creek Canyon, Utah. It appears to have been done by students of Ohio State University.

Utah park wants to educate, not prosecute, after defacing (USA)
(5 September 2015; The Columbus Dispatch)
Although it is likely the students broke federal law, the US Forest Service would rather educate the vandals rather than prosecute them.

Trailer full of artwork stolen in Palm Springs (USA)
(4 September 2015; The Desert Sun)
The trailer was filled with art from a Palm Springs gallery

Banner over OU football stadium to push return of stolen painting (USA)
(5 September 2015; Tulsa World)
The frightfully’ named “Americans for Limited Government” will be flying a plane over a University of Oklahoma football game to promote the return of stolen art.


Mystérieux vols dans le trésor de Lézat sur Lèze: la gendarmerie de Castelginest (31) démantèle un réseau de pilleurs d’église (Castelginest police dismantle a church robbers network; France)
(31 August 2015; Ariege News)
The pieces, stolen from a number of churches, were recovered from a Toulouse apartment

Ancient Greek Coin to Be Sent Back to Greece from Switzerland (Greece)
(3 September 2015; Greek Reporter)
The silver octadracm was located in a Swiss auction in 2009. It will be repatriated in September.

Third Piece Of Legendary “Christ Trilogy” To Be Removed From Debrecen Museum After Talks Collapse With National Bank (Hungary)
(27 August 2015; Hungary Today)
The National Bank was meant to buy the piece to keep it from leaving the country, but hasn’t

Detienen a una segunda persona por el robo en las 22 iglesias y ermitas (Second person arrested for robberies of 22 churches and chapels; Spain)
(31 August 2015; Diario Palentino)
The Bulgarian national was arrested in Zamora. The other person arrested in these cases was Bulgarian as well.

Roban piezas de orfebrería de la Virgen del Carmen en la Iglesia del Santo Ángel (Jewelry pieces stolen from the Virgen del Carmen in the church of Santo Ángel; Spain)
(4 September 2015; ABC de Sevilla)
The police believe the pieces from this historic church are being sold on the black market.

Thief steals war memorial plaque featuring his great-grandfather’s name and tries to sell it for scrap (UK)
(31 August 2015; The Herald)
He was reported by a the scrap dealer but the plaques from the Orwell War Memorial in Milnathort have to be recast.

Visitors to Orkney’s Italian Chapel to be charged entrance fees (UK)
(31 August 2015; The Herald)
Following a tragic theft at the chapel, they are charging entry to pay for repairs

Britain has a ‘hidden’ art collection worth £3.5bn (UK)
(4 September 2015; BBC News)
A group is calling for a sell off of artworks in the Government Art Collection that are not on display

Diver jailed for fraudulently selling three cannon found in UK waters (UK)
(4 September 2015; The Guardian)
The diver has been given 2 years jail time for claiming that the cannon were found in international waters so that he could sell them.

Woman dressed as nurse wanted for art theft (UK)
(5 September 2015; ITV News)
Eleven paintings were stolen from the building; a man and a woman were seen acting suspiciously.

Millions of pounds worth of paintings stolen from the country mansion of cider heir found by ‘The Scream’ sleuth (UK)
(6 September 2015; The Daily Mail)
Thanks to the work of Charles Hill and Dick Ellis, 15 paintings stolen in 2009 have been recovered.


Who stole two Steele artworks (New Zealand)
(1 September 2015; NZ Catholic)
A PhD researcher is looking for these missing works: a pastel of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi and a crucifixion scene.

South and East Asia

Mysuru’s Srikanteshwara Temple to get hi-tech security (India)
(1 September 2015; The Times of India)
The Sri Srikanteshwara Temple in Nanjangud taluk is getting a new CCTV system to help prevent theft.

Bail Plea of Idol smuggler Subhash Kapoor rejected (India)
(4 September 2015; The New Indian Express)
This was Kapoor’s fourth bail application.

West and Central Asia

New Digital Archaeology Effort Attempts to Capture Cultural Heritage Before It’s Gone (General)
(4 September 2015; Hyperallergic)
The UK-based Institute for Digital Archaeology plans on distributing 10,000 3D cameras in West Asia in the next few years.

Artifact rescuer says world must protect antiquities (Iraq)
(3 September 2015; The Times of Israel)
Col. Matthew Bogdanos says that ‘the West needs to deploy force’ to protect threatened heritage sites

Police investigating suspicious east Jerusalem tunnel adjacent to Rockefeller Museum (Israel)
(1 September 2015; The Jerusalem Post)
It is unclear why the hole was being dug next to the museum but the police think that an art heist motive is unlikely.

Rare Sarcophagus Discovered at Ashkelon Building Site (Israel)
(3 September 2015; Arutz Sheva)
Builders in Ashkelon found the sarcophagus then decided to hide it under metal sheets and poured concrete. They were attempting to hide that the build site was archaeological.

Canada returns seized Phoenician artifact to Lebanon (Lebanon)
(5 September 2015; CBC)
The glass bead was seized in Montreal in 2006 and has spent 10 years in legal limbo.

Fincham: Syria will need the culture that ISIS hopes to destroy (Syria)
(28 August 2015; Houston Chronicle)
Fincham argues that museums can support preserving sites in Syria (and elsewhere) by only acquiring antiquities with the permission of the source country.

More than 3,000 artifacts seized in Istanbul raid (Turkey)
(1 September 2015; Daily Sabah)
The objects were seized from a truck in Pendik port which was headed to the Netherlands

Dispute raises fears for one of world’s most unique art museums (Uzbekistan)
(31 August 2015; The Irish Times)
Was the director of this Nukus museum forced out for political reasons or was she involved in a forgery and theft scheme.