Culture crime news 23–29 November 2015


Hot this week: A notorious dealer sorta goes down in Germany, but not really.

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Bog Bodies Uncovered: Solving Europe’s Ancient Mystery by Miranda Aldhouse-Green
(29 November 2015)
Preserved ancient human sacrifice victims as crime scenes to investigate? Yes please.


Meet the lonely online warriors leading the fight against looted art
(24 November 2015; Fusion)
I’m not THAT lonely! About the informal online networks who work in this field.


Mali manuscripts: Nations treasure trove of ancient books saved from jihadists are once again at risk (Mali)
(26 November 2015; The Independent)
The manuscripts are in Bamako and the author asserts that they are under threat there too.


Woman who found 900-year-old ‘Parrot Lady’ statue Canada presented to India still convinced it’s just a ‘nice knock-off’ (Canada)
(27 November 2015; National Post)
The piece was repatriated to India but the woman who bought it on eBay maintains it was a fake.

U.K. fashion house pulls copied Inuit design, here’s their apology (Canada)
(27 November 2015; CBC)
“Did they think we did not exist?” A descendant of the design’s creator took KTZ to task.

Court case of former Art Gallery of Northumberland curator Dorette Carter pushed to Dec. 21 (Canada)
(23 November 2015; Northumberland News)
Carter faces 15 charges including fraud, theft, and forgery following a 6 month investigation into financial irregularities and missing artworks at the gallery.

Quebec police joins search for Nazi-looted Stern art (Canada)
(25 November 2015; The Canadian Jewish News)
“The provincial police force has taken over the files from U.S. law enforcement on the Max Stern Art Restitution Project.”

Costa Rica y Ecuador firman convenio para proteger patrimonio cultural (Costa Rica and Ecuador sign agreement for protection of cultural heritage; Costa Rica, Ecuador)
(27 November 2015; El País)
The bilateral agreement is meant to combat antiquities trafficking between the two countries.

Greek Police Arrest Cuban Man Suspected of Pulling off Major Museum Heist (Cuba)
(26 November 2015; Greek Reporter)
The 71 pieces were stolen from the National Museum of Fine Arts in Havana last year.

Infamous art thief arrested in Athens (Cuba)
(27 November 2015; Neos Kosmos)
Apparently the Cuban has requested asylum in Greece, a country not known for tolerating art thieves.

México recupera piezas arqueológicas y un fósil repatriados de seis países (Mexico recuperates archaeological pieces and a fossil repatriated from six countries; Mexico)
(13 November 2015; INAH)
Over 110 pieces have been recovered by Mexico recently.

Niega INAH saqueo de piezas arqueológicas (INAH denies looting of archaeological pieces; Mexico)
(23 November 2015; Heraldo de Coatzacoalcos)
Authorities deny reports that artefacts are being looted near the community of Tenochtitlán

Peru’s Congress overrides veto to repeal archaeology bill (Peru)
(26 November 2015; Peru Reports)
The bill would allow private companies to provide services to archaeological sites. Congress repealed it, the president vetoed the repeal, and now congress has overridden the veto.

ILR Students Protest Labor Cartoon Exhibit (USA)
(22 November 2015; The Cornell Daily Sun)
The cartoons, which aren’t really very provocative, have become a freedom of speech issue. The faculty have not removed the artworks.

How thieves nearly derailed mural portrait of Clara under the Royal Park Bridge (USA)
(23 November 2015; Palm Beach Post)
Thieves stole artist Hula’s paint and other supplies.

We remember the biggest art heist of Palm Beach County history (USA)
(23 November 2015; Palm Beach Post)
50 years ago the Norton Museum was robbed, Asian jade pieces taken.

Saginaw Tribe repatriating ancestral remains (USA)
(23 November 2015; Midland Daily News)
These are the remains of 31 individuals returned by the University of Michigan.

Stolen painting back on display in Portland (USA)
(23 November 2015; WGME)
The Portland Museum of Art is exhibiting the stolen Wyeth paintings that have recently been located and returned.

Gardner heist video brings in tips, but no solid leads (USA)
(23 November 2015; The Boston Globe)
Still no paintings recovered from the famous Gardner museum heist.

A missing Mayflower leads the list of Plymouth’s monumental mysteries (USA)
(24 November 2015; Wicked Local)
Where have all the Mayflower monuments gone?

Arrest in Swiss Farm Museum Burglary (USA)
(25 November 2015; Grundy County Herald)
Items stolen from this small Tennessee museum were also recovered.

Man charged in the death of muralist shot while painting anti-violence art in Oakland (USA)
(25 November 2015; Los Angeles Times)
Artist Antonio Ramos was killed with a gun stolen from a federal immigration agent

Police investigate bizarre theft of Lincoln bust at Gettysburg museum (USA)
(23 November 2015; Fox 43)
The thieves stole Lincoln but left Ike untouched.

FBI helps Gettysburg search for Lincoln bust (USA)
(27 November 2015; The Evening Sun)
Calling in the Feds for this presidential theft.

Stolen Lincoln bust found near museum (USA)
(27 November 2015; The Evening Sun)
Lincoln has been located.

Unsolved Arizona mystery: de Kooning painting valued at $100 million missing for 30 years (USA)
(24 November 2015; AZ Central)
The day after Thanksgiving 30 years ago a de Kooning was stolen from the UA Museum of Art.

Where’s This Painting? 30 Years After Its Theft, Nobody Knows (USA)
(27 November 2015; NPR)
More on the theft of de Kooning’s “Woman-Ocre”.

Demand for bones leaves prehistoric relics vulnerable to poachers (USA)
(28 November 2015; The Daily Sentinel)
Some are calling poaching of fossil bone in Utah a “gold rush”.

Scientific advancements may help catch fossil thieves (USA)
(28 November 2015; The Daily Sentinel)
Studying chemistry of looted fossils to determine their source.

When is a fake $500 bill worth $15,000? When it’s art (USA)
(28 November 2015; Quartz)
The forgery art of J.S.G. Boggs who spends his bill work in normal transactions. Edgy.

Sacred Chilkat Robe Returning Home (USA)
(29 November 2015; Sit News)
An eBay seller was willing to take a loss; usually when lost/stolen sacred items come up for sale they are too expensive to be bought back.

The case of ‘The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife’ still isn’t closed (USA)
(29 November 2015; The Boston Globe)
A long piece on the possibility that it is a fake.


In France, Fears that Rare Book and Manuscript Fund is a €500m Fraud (France)
(19 November 2015; Art Market Monito)
The French government is looking into Gerard Lhéritier’s “Aristophil” as the fund’s own purchased may be accelerating the market.

Colaboración entre el INAH, la SRE y la PGR, determinante en el fallo condenatorio en contra de Leonardo Patterson (Collaboration between INAH, the SRE and the PGR, leads to conviction of Leonardo Patterson; Germany)
(24 November 2015; INAH)
For selling a fake Olmec head to a German citizen. No jail time.

Task force investigating art trove inherited from Nazi collector achieved ’embarrassing’ results (Germany)
(26 November 2015; DW)
What’s going on with the Gurlitt hoard?

It is hard to overstate the gravity of the Castelvecchio thefts (Italy)
(25 November 2015; Apollo)
A large number of very important works taken.

Italian Politicians Outraged Over Verona Art Heist as Wild Theories Abound (Italy)
(23 November 2015; ArtNet News)
Sigh. ISIS? Someone actually said that. It’s gone weird.

Frescoes stolen from ancient tomb go on display in Italy (Italy)
(26 November 2015; Reuters)
The 5 frescoes stolen and trafficked from Paestum were recovered from the Italian-Swiss border region.

Saquear yacimientos arqueológicos y anunciarlo en Internet: mala idea (Loot archaeological sites and announce it on the internet: bad idea; Spain)
(23 November 2015; Lukor)
Police found dealers of looted underwater artefacts from the looters own website

Spanish museum squabble over Old Masters ends (Spain)
(26 November 2015; The Art Newspaper)
Spain’s National Heritage office tried to transfer 4 works from the Prado including The Garden of Earthly Delights by Bosch. This didn’t go over well.

Investigan el robo a una virgen que han mutilado en una iglesia de Córdoba (Robbery of a virgin that was mutilated in a Cordoba church is being investigated; Spain)
(26 November 2015; Europa Press)
The Virgin of Nuestra Señora del Pozo was stolen from the church of Juramento in Córdoba.

Decapitan a una virgen al robar su corona (Virgin decapitated to steal her crown; Spain)
(26 November 2015; Cordopolis)
More on the theft at the church of Juramento in Córdoba.

Tras los pasos de falsos Picassos, Goyas o Benlliures (In the footsteps of fake Picassos, Goyas, and Benlliures; Spain)
(26 November 2015; Las Provincias)
A look into the police operation that netted these fakes.

«La Puerta Santa abrirá, pero esto no es un año santo compostelano» (The Puerta Santa is open, but this isn’t a Holy Year; Spain)
(29 November 2015; La Voz de Galicia)
After the theft of the Códice Calixtino, the Cathedral realised they had to up their security measures.

Recuperan un farol de plata del siglo XVIII robado en la Catedral en 1977 (Silver 18th century lantern stolen from the Cathedral in 1977 recovered; Spain)
(26 November 2017; La Verdad)
The piece was stolen from a chapel in the Vélez cathedral

Family threaten National Gallery with legal action over Matisse painting (UK)
(22 November 2015; The Guardian)
The Greta Moll portrait case. The National Gallery is citing “good faith purchase”.

UK still a safe haven for dirty money, study finds (UK)
(23 November 2015; The Independent)
Including dirty art money.

Images released over National Museum of Scotland coins theft (UK)
(23 November 2015; BBC News)
Do you know these men? Authorities want to talk to them about the NMS coin theft.

Antique coins stolen from National Museum of Scotland ‘worth £20,000’ (UK)
(27 November 2015; STV)
Images of both the coins and possible suspects in the theft have been released.

Kirkcaldy Galleries tapestry theft remains a mystery (UK)
(26 November 2015; Fife Today)
The Rosslyn Chapel panel of the Great Tapestry of Scotland has not been recovered.

Ancient Gravestone Used As Battering Ram In Lightning Jewelry Store Heist (UK)
(27 November 2015; Huffington Post)
The jewelry robber used the historic gravestone to batter down the door of a shop in St Ives.

STOLEN: Historic Woodhenge Bronze Plaques (UK)
(28 November 2015; Spire FM)
The plaques date from the 1920s.


Encounters exhibition: a stunning but troubling collection of colonial plunder (Australia)
(26 November 2015; The Guardian)
Australian law prevents contentious Indigenous items on loan from the British Museum from being seized

South and East Asia

China: Faking It (China)
(26 November 2015; Al Jazeera)
A video on faking of Chinese antiquities.

Theft in temple (India)
(24 November 2015; The Hindu)
Silver items were taken from Sri Siddeshwara Temple at Jansale hamlet in Siddapura village of Kundapur taluk

Kuvempu memorial ransacked (India)
(24 November 2015; The Hindu)
Valuables and medals were stolen from the ancestral home of the poet.

Poet Kuvempu’s house burgled, Padma medals stolen (India)
(25 November 2015; Times of India)
Kuvempu’s Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan medals were stolen.

Cops release burglar’s pics, suspect old convict (India)
(26 November 2015; The Times of India)
CCTV photos were recovered from smashed cameras in the ancestral home of the poet Kuvempu

State museums still await CCTV cameras (India)
(27 November 2015; The Times of India)
Following the theft at the Kuvempu memorial, a discussion of security in place at heritage sites.

Kuvempu museum theft: three arrested (India)
(28 November 2015; The Hindu)
The poet’s medal has not been recovered; the thieves say it got lost. They were paid in advance for the theft.

Kolkata a hub of antique smuggling (India)
(25 November 2015; Times of India)
Kolkata is not only a transit point, Indian antiquities are flowing out of the city.

Three antique stone idols stolen from temple (India)
(27 November 2015; The Statesman)
The idols were taken from the Chandrasekhar Jew temple located at Kapilash in Odisha’s Dhenkanal district.

Three 700 year old idols stolen from Chandrasekhar Temple in Kapilash, Odisha (India)
(26 November 2015; Odisha Sun Times)
The stone idols are from 3 to 4 feet tall and were taken from the entrance area of the temple.

Ashtadhatu idol worth several crores stolen in UP (India)
(29 November 2015; Business Standard)
The Durga was stolen from a temple in Bansdeeh area, Ballia.

अष्टधातु की दुर्गा प्रतिमा चोरी (Ashtdhatu Durga idol theft; India)
(29 November 2015; Amar Ujala)
More on the Durga theft in Ballia

Double loss: two idols worth several crores stolen in two days (India)
(29 November 2015; Catch News)
Focus on the thefts in Bihar and Ballia.

Bihar: 2,600-yr-old Mahavir idol stolen from Jamui temple (India)
(29 November 2015; The Indian Express)
A 250kg idol of Lord Mahavira was taken fro a Jain temple near Lachuar village in Jamui.

Bihar Chief Minister Orders Probe Into Theft of 600 BC Idol (India)
(29 November 2015; NDTV)
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is pushing for a probe into the theft of the Lord Mahavira.

Uneasy the head that wears the crown (India)
(29 November 2015; The Hindu)
The Koh-i-Noor “as a particularly irksome reminder of the injustice of colonialism”.

Moment in history: ‘Ancient sites vanishing due to vandalism’ (Pakistan)
(23 November 2015; The Express Tribune)
Discussions at an event at the Lahore Museum focused on site destruction.

Philippines launches search for Imelda Marcos’s lost treasures (Philippines)
(27 November 2015; The Guardian)
The country is hoping to gather tips about the whereabouts of about 200 missing pieces owned by Imelda Marcos.

Three fake Manansalas in one month—art forgers are getting bolder, more brazen (Philippines)
(29 November 2015; Philippine Daily Inquirer)
Fake Vicente Manansala artworks are coming up regularly. What does this mean for the Filipino art scene?

Singapore, India sign strategic partnership to boost cooperation in key areas (Singapore)
(24 November 2015; Channel News Asia)
Part of this is a long-term loan of artefacts to the very museum that just returned Kapoor loot.

West and Central Asia

Objects of historical interest seized in Tehran (Iran)
(24 November 2015; Iran Front Page)
Police seized 278 antiquities and 10 fakes and arrested 6 smugglers

Swiss return two ancient cuneiform tablets to Iraq (Iraq)
(24 November 2015; Swiss Info)
They were not declared as “cultural goods” when they were imported which is a violation of Swiss law.

Cops bust antiquities dealer with over 3,000 ancient coins (Israel)
(26 November 2015; Times of Israel)
Important: this was a licensed antiquities dealer with a lot of illegal coins.

Hamas Seizes Chest of Ancient Gold Coins Accidentally Discovered in Gaza (Palestine)
(23 November 2015; The Algemeiner)
The Ottoman coins were discovered in Gaza and police were called when a disagreement broke out because of them.

War, More Than ISIS, Is Destroying Syria’s Ancient Sites (Syria)
(25 November 2015; National Geographic)
Real research, based on satellite info.

Artifacts stolen from Syria seized in eastern Turkey (Turkey)
(25 November 2015; Daily Sabah)
The objects were reportedly stolen from the Palmyra Museum.

In Other News

Major seizure of woolly mammoth tusks and precious stones bound for China (Russia)
(25 November 2015; The Siberian Times)
200 kg of tusk! Impounded on the Russia/China border hidden under the false floor of a truck.

Alexander Keith’s beer bottle may be seized from Halifax diver (Canada)
(27 November 2015; CBC)
A sealed 125-year-old beer bottle is still legally a heritage object.

The Black Years: how Nazi art came back to Berlin (Germany)
(27 November 2015; The Guardian)
An exhibition of artworks from the Nazi era in Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof museum

India police sorry for detaining artist over cow installation (India)
(23 November 2015; BBC News)
You can see why a polystyrene cow dangling from a helium balloon might have bothered some people in Rajasthan but that isn’t an arrestable offence. Note, it was a pro-cow installation.

Denuncian a un artista por “profanar” hostias consagradas que robó en iglesias (Artist denounced for “profaning” consecrated hosts that were stolen from churches; Spain)
(23 November 2015; La Región)
An association of Christian layers has issued a criminal complaint against artist Abel Azcona for using consecrated hosts in his artwork.

Oasis caricature worth £1,500 stolen from Lord Clifden pub (UK)
(23 November 2015; Birmingham Mail)
A tragic loss for us all.

SKULL THEFT FEUD: York travellers’ site & 4 others raided, 7 arrests made, sub-machine guns seized – UPDATED (UK)
(27 November 2015; The York Press)
A massive feud which include the theft of skulls from traveller’s graves. The skulls have not been recovered.

That Dogs Playing Poker Painting Just Sold for Over $650,000 (USA)
(20 November 2015; GQ)
“It’d be a steal at twice the price”

Man stole brains from medical museum and put them on eBay (USA)
(25 November 2015; The Guardian)
David Charles has pleaded guilty to the brain theft from an Indiana medical museum.