Culture crime news 14–20 December 2015


Hot this week: Treasure galleons and the controversial law of the sea.

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Antiquities Tax Fraud and Illicit Cultural Property in Latin America: 2 new papers
(19 December 2015; Anonymous Swiss Collector)
A bit of shameless self promotion. PDF of my new paper in the Journal of Financial Crime on tax fraud through donation of antiquities and a chapter in an entirely free book released by ICOM: “Countering Illicit Traffic in Cultural Goods”.

The Desire of Transparency in the Art Market
(18 December 2015; Art Media Agency)
It is a desire that many of us share.


Stolen relief of Egyptian King Seti I recovered from London (Egypt, UK)
(14 December 2015; Ahram Online)
A curator at the BM notified authorities that the piece was about to be sold at an auction house.

Three stolen Egyptian Mameluk-era lamps recovered from London and Sharjah (Egypt, UK, UAE)
(14 December 2015; Ahram Online)
They were taken from the storehouse of the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization and replaced with replicas.

Reclaimed History: 9 Repatriated Egyptian Antiquities (Egypt)
(15 December 2015; Live Science)
Some Egyptian repatriation greatest hits.

ICOM releases red list of Libyan antiquities at risk (Libya)
(15 December 2015; The Art Newspaper)
Do not buy! Cultural items at risk during current instability in the country and region.

Libya’s cultural heritage ‘being destroyed and plundered by Isis’ (Libya)
(15 December 2015; The Guardian)
…and other people. This isn’t new.

Figurine from sophisticated ancient South African society creates culture war over whether it should be allowed to tour abroad (South Africa)
(18 December 2015; Japan Times)
The gold rhino could be sent to the British Museum, but with a mind to the colonial legacy, should it be?

Trois artistes tunisiens condamnés à de la prison pour usage de stupéfiant (Three Tunisian artists sent to prison for usage of narcotics; Tunisia)
(11 December 2015; Le Monde Afrique)
The men were initially arrested on suspicion of terrorism simply for having beards and a bag.


Hallaron en el río un Cristo que fue robado (Stolen Christ found in the river; Argentina)
(15 December 2015; El Tribuno)
The bronze piece was stolen from a church in Tilcara.

El regreso de la imagen del Cristo de Tilcara (Argentina)
(18 December 2015; El Tribuno)
More on the return of this stolen piece of sacred art.

Closing the book on John Mark Tillmann’s stolen antiques (Canada)
(14 December 2015; Maclean’s)
“One of Canada’s most infamous antique thieves is out on parole”

¿Dónde guardarán los tesoros del galeón San José? (Where will the treasures of the galleon San José be kept?; Colombia)
(13 December 2015; El Universal)
More on the controversy surrounding the Colombian shipwreck.

‘Lost’ Treasure Ship Is Also a War Grave (Colombia)
(15 December 2015; Live Science)
This is something we often forget about shipwrecks in the rush to ‘salvage’ them.

En defensa del patrimonio subacuático (In defence of underwater heritage; Colombia)
(16 December 2015; El País)
From the director-general of UNESCO Irina Bokova

Battle Begins Over World’s Richest Shipwreck (Colombia)
(18 December 2015; National Geographic)
More on the San Jose (in English)

Saqueo de piezas arqueológicas en la Huasteca (Archaeological pieces looted in Huasteca; Mexico)
(17 December 2015; Pulso)
With claims that the INAH is doing little to stop it.

Así fue el robo al Museo de Antropología hace 30 años (This is How the Robbery at the Anthropology Museum 30 Years Ago Went; Mexico)
(19 December 2015; Yancuic)
The shocking Christmas Eve theft of the country’s greatest treasures, and surprises during the recovery.

Ministerio Público archivó unas cuarenta denuncias por afectación cultural (Public Prosecutor filed complaints for around 40 arrested for damaging culture; Peru)
(9 December 2015; La Republica)
Even when sizable seizures of looted artefacts have been made, no one has gone down for them.

Tesoros en el mar peruano (Treasures in the Peruvian Sea; Peru)
(13 December 2015; La Republica)
Colombia is not the only Latin American country with sensitive underwater sites that face a threat of looting.

Policía detiene a huaqueros en zona arqueológica de Cayaltí (Police arrest looters at the archaeological site of Cayaltí; Peru)
(16 December 2015; RPP)
Six recent looters pits were found on site.

Calling Indiana Jones: Looted artifacts, tax scheme send ex-antiquities dealer to prison (USA, Thailand)
(14 December 2015; My News LA)
Dealer Markell has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for their looted Thai antiquities tax evasion scheme.

Police make arrest in $200,000 theft of artworks from trailer in Richmond; all artwork recovered (USA)
(15 December 2015; The Richmond Standard)
The original glass blown art, some of it quite large, was taken from artist Alexis Silk.

Jeff Koons Back In Court: Plagiarism Or Image Sampling? (USA)
(15 December 2015; Artlyst)
A photographer says that Koons reproduced an image he created for a Gordons Gin advert

Lincoln artifact stolen from county museum (USA)
(15 December 2015; Daily Journal)
Taken were a sculpture of the former president’s hands Kankakee County Historical Museum.

Police: Man stole cannonball, other artifacts (USA)
(15 December 2015; The Evening Sun)
The man stole the items out of a Gettysburg garage and tried to sell them on to a Gettysburg militaria store.

United Nations exhibition highlights the protection of cultural heritage (USA)
(16 December 2015; UNESCO)
The exhibition will be open from 14 until 24 December at UN Headquarters.

Former Field Museum employee charged with theft resulting in $900,000 loss (USA)
(16 December 2015; The Chicago Tribune)
The non-management employee was pocketing money from in-person memberships for years.

Odyssey Marine Exploration Executes $21 Million Deal, Retires all Bank Debt, and Retains a Financial Interest in Future Shipwreck Projects (USA)
(16 December 2015;
Seemingly unable to pay their lenders, Odyssey Marine has sold off large portions of itself. Huh.

Retired Effigy Mounds official will plead guilty to removing ancient human remains (USA)
(16 December 2015; The Gazette)
He faced up to $100,000 in fines and a year in jail.

Sentencing delayed in ’12 museum break-in (USA)
(17 December 2015; Herald Dispatch)
The man pled guilty to the 2012 attempted robbery of the Huntington Museum of Art.


Bulgarian Customs Prevent Smuggling of Ancient Coins, Artifacts into England (Bulgaria, UK)
(14 December 2015; Novinite)
The artefacts were found in boxes in a minibus on the border with Romania. Some of the items already had price tags on them in British pounds.

Lichtenstein Investigated Yves Bouvier (Europe)
(19 December 2015; The News Hub)
Already under investigation in France and Monaco, the dealer is being investigated for money laundering in Lichtenstein as well.

Two Warhol Prints and an Otto Piene Artwork Stolen from Gallery Vehicle in Germany (Germany)
(18 December 2015; ArtNet News)
They 3 prints were taken from a vehicle owned by the director of Galerie Hafenrichter.

Does Greece want its marbles back? (Greece, UK)
(14 December 2015; Neos Kosmos)
Greece won’t proceed with litigation because “if we lose things will get tough”.

Museum of WWII stolen artwork raises attention in Italy (Italy)
(18 December 2015; Xinhua)
The Museum of Art Taken Hostage in Cassina de Pecchi

Found: ‘Priceless’ 18th century ‘Bust of the Goddess Diana’ looted by the Nazis in WWII returned to Warsaw’s Royal Lazienki Palace (Poland, Austria)
(18 December 2015; The Daily Mail)
It appeared at an auction in Vienna after being missing for 75 years.

Madrid’s Royal Collections settles dispute with Prado museum (Spain)
(17 December 2015; The Art Newspaper)
The works will stay in the Prado and will not go to the new Royal Collections Museum.

El fuego arrasa dos piezas religiosas del siglo XVI (Fire destroys two pieces of religious art from the 16th century; Spain)
(19 December 2015; Diario de Mallorca)
Authorities are unsure if the fire that destroyed 16th century religious art in this Mallorca church was intentional

El Códice Calixtino optará al Registro de la Memoria del Mundo de la Unesco, lo que reforzaría su protección (The Codex Calixtinus has been placed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World list to ensure its protection; Spain)
(13 December 2015; 20 Minutos)
Following its theft and return, the Codex Calixtinus has been registered with UNESCO

El robo del Códice Calixtino: una peripecia digna de un guión de Berlanga (The theft of the Codex Calixtino: a premise worthy of a script by Berlanga; Spain)
(14 December 2015; El Mundo)
A long read on the theft, recovery, and protection of this manuscript

Another church hit by lead thefts — St Mary’s in Cratfield the latest to be targeted (UK)
(8 December 2015; East Anglian Daily Times)
An estimated 6 tonnes of lead sheet was taken off the roof of this historic church.

Return of the Monuments Men: New UK unit will save priceless artefacts from jihadis (UK)
(13 December 2015; Daily Star)
The headline for this article is preposterous and sexist. Announcement of cultural training for a military unit.

Historic England on a mission to locate publicly subsidised art that has disappeared from view (UK)
(15 December 2015; The Independent)
More on Historic England’s initiative to find out what has happened to missing public art.

Public artworks disappearing before our eyes, says heritage body (UK)
(15 December 2015; The Guardian)
Postwar art has gone missing “through wilful destruction, accidental loss, theft or sale”

Stolen Dutch Art Shows Up in Ukraine, but Getting It Back Isn’t Easy (Ukraine, Netherlands)
(15 December 2015; The New York Times)
The Ukrainian “ultranationalist militia” turned art crime investigators want money, of course. More money, it seems, than anyone will pay.


Unsettled art show accompanies Encounters at the National Museum of Australia (Australia)
(14 December 2015; The Sydney Morning Herald)
An artistic response to the controversial exhibition which sees Indigenous objects from the BM back in Australia but unable to be claimed.

Motunui epa: Maori storehouse carvings returned home after 150 years buried in a swamp, 40-year European exile (New Zealand)
(16 December 2015; ABC News)
I saw these panels in person the day this article came out! They are spectacular. Must read!

South and East Asia

Chinese court accepts suit over stolen mummy (China, Netherlands)
(13 December 2015; ECNS)
Sanming Intermediate People’s Court in Fujian Province will hear a suit that a Dutch collector possess a mummified body stolen in 1995

Brickyard digs into ancient burial site for material (China)
(18 December 2015; ECNS)
Allegations that “an ancient tomb was threatened by the operations of a nearby brickyard in Xianyang, Shaanxi province”

सीकर में जैन मंदिर से चोरी हुई मूर्तियां बरामद, तीन चोर भी गिरफ्तार (Sculptures stolen from Jain temple in Sikar recovered, three thieves arrested; India)
(13 December 2015; News 18)
There was both CCTV and an informant in this case.

Jain community urges CM to give facelift to Lachhuar temple (India)
(15 December 2015; The Times of India)
A request for further security at the historic temple where the looted and recovered Lord Mahavir is being kept.

Theft in temple at Pangala, materials worth Rs 2 lac stolen (India)
(15 December 2015; Daijiworld)
Silver sacred items were the target of a theft from Janardhana temple at Pangala in Kaup.

Bronze statues of Buddha, Ambedkar stolen from Buddhist temple in Kausa (India)
(16 December 2015; The Times of India)
A vegetable vender noticed the locks had been broken on Buddha Vihar at Charni Pada, Kausa area.

मंदिर से चांदी का मुकुट व दानपात्र चोरी (Silver crown and temple donation box stolen; India)
(17 December 2015; Amar Ujala)
The theft from the Durga temple was detected by a priest the next morning.

Bihar to conduct speedy trial of idol smugglers (India)
(18 December 2015; Daijiworld)
Police want a speedy trial for the people who stole the Lord Mahavira idol.

Uma Parameshwari Idol Back From Singapore, Set to Return Home Soon (India)
(17 December 2015; The New Indian Express)
The divine, beautiful Uma Parameswari is almost back in Tamil Nadu

Unravelling International Smuggling Network by Tracing Kapoor’s Art of the Past (India, USA)
(17 December 2015; The New Indian Express)
Looking into Subhash Kapoor’s dodgy dealings via his New York gallery.

No cultural artefact has been stolen from damaged monuments, DoA claims (Nepal)
(13 December 2015; Kathmandu Post)
Post-quake, nothing stolen! Amazing news.

Idols, sculptures of damaged sites safe: DoA (Nepal)
(14 December 2015; Kathmandu Post)
“Not even a single part of our damaged monuments has been lost,”

Man held with $10 million antique items at airport (Pakistan, Thailand)
(19 December 2015; Business Recorder)
The man was stopped with several extremely valuable antiquities on his way to Thailand.

West and Central Asia

Hanukkah at the Arch of Titus (Israel, Italy)
(15 December 2015; Yale University News)
Dr Steven Fine on this depiction of early cultural property theft

Artwork stolen by Nazis found… at Israeli museum (Israel)
(15 December 2015; The Times of Israel)
The work, titled The Beggar, was taken from Paris Jews; it was brought to Kibbutz Ein Harod in 1954

Israeli museum hopes to solve mystery of looted painting (Israel)
(16 December 2015; The Guardian)
More on Eugeniusz Zak’s painting The Beggar.

The Israeli Defense Minister Who Stole Antiquities (Israel, Palestine)
(19 December 2015; Haaretz)
Moshe Dayan used his position to dig at sites of his choosing and keep the spoils.

Scientists work to save antiquities from Islamic State destruction (Syria)
(18 December 2015; Science)
A focus on the work of Kathryn Hanson and Salam Al Kuntar.

Heracles relief suffers damage (Turkey)
(14 December 2015; Hurriyet Daily News)
Although this relief was damaged due to industrial agriculture, the area is also threatened by looters.

Knidos wants to regain its artifacts (Turkey)
(16 December 2015; Hurriyet Daily News)
The Lion and Demeter of Knidos is at the British Museum and at least someone thinks there is any hope of return…

Bricks and mortar fire: Yemen’s cultural heritage is in the crosshairs (Yemen)
(17 December 2015; The Conversation)
Again, we are all forgetting about Yemen.

In Other News

‘Ashutosh stole my Mohenjodaro story’ (India, Pakistan)
(16 December 2015; Mumbai Mirror)
Filmmaker Akashaditya Lama claims Ashutosh Gowariker stole his idea for a period piece set at the Indus Valley Civilisation site.

Nazi gold train: ‘No evidence’ of discovery in Poland (Poland)
(15 December 2015; BBC News)
Looks like I don’t have to eat my hat.

The Sheep Sculpture Stolen By a Browns Fan Has Been Returned (USA)
(16 December 2015; Cleve Scene)
Thank goodness, the neon sheep has been restored.

Taylor Swift accused of hypocrisy for using artist’s design without permission, credit or fee (USA)
(16 December 2015; The Independent)
‘Art is valuable and valuable things should be paid for’

Tyrannosaurus skull sold for $230,000 in New York must go back to Mongolia (USA, Mongolia)
(16 December 2015; The Guardian)
The skull was smuggled into the US and put up for auction int 2007.

A millionaire bought the only copy of Wu-Tang Clan’s new album. Is this the future of art? (USA)
(17 December 2015; Vox)
Sigh. No matter how much we all want it to be so, there is no contractual option for Wu-Tang and Bill Murray to go on a album heist caper. They can still do it (fingers crossed), but it isn’t in the contract.