Culture crime news 28 December 2015–3 January 2016


Hot this week: Easter Island head-knocking in New Zealand

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Fallen Glory: The Lives and Deaths of Twenty Lost Buildings from the Tower of Babel to the Twin Towers by James Crawford
(3 January 2016)
After a year of massive heritage destruction, this reflection on the ‘death’ of 20 important buildings almost gives one hope.


These Four Assumptions Are Perpetuating the Sale of Nazi-Looted Art
(31 December 2015; Artsy)
Art buyers: education yourself. You might not be as good a ‘good faith’ buyer as you think.


King Amenhotep III statue accidentally recovered in Edfu (Egypt)
(31 December 2015; Ahram Online)
The police were looking for guns and drugs; looted statue surprise.

Antiquities Ministry retrieves two artifacts from Germany, Austria (Egypt)
(29 December 2015; Egypt Independent)
Continues successes for Egypt in recovering smuggled pieces.


En Zonda, ahora robaron una imagen de la Virgen (In Zonda today a statue of the Virgin was stolen; Argentina)
(29 December 2015; Diario de Cuyo)
The piece was a Virgen de Guadalupe.

Denuncian saqueo a zona arqueológica de ‘El Tigre’ (Denouncing the looting of the archaeological site of ‘El Tigre’.; Mexico)
(27 December 2015; El Expreso)
Various sites in Campeche are being hit yet again.

Robar patrimonio cultural es delito federal, advierte el INAH (Theft of cultural heritage is a federal crime warns INAH; Mexico)
(29 December 2015; Pulso)
And carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

Así fue saqueado el galeón San José (Here’s how the galleon San José was looted; Panama, USA)
(3 January 2016; La Estrella de Panamá)
Tragic loss of underwater heritage, denounced by UNESCO

Five Legal Cases Changing the Art Market as We Know It (USA)
(23 December 2015; Artsy)
These really are the cases to watch.

Signs of rebellion? Renwick Gallery is flouting signage rules, groups contend (USA)
(23 December 2015; The Washington Post)
The Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery’s neon signs may violate historic preservation law.

Latest search for Gardner paintings came up empty (USA)
(28 December 2015; The Boston Globe)
The paintings were not stowed at a racetrack.

Plea deal calls for probation, apology in theft of remains (USA)
(30 December 2015; Chron)
I suspect this, from a former National Park Service official, will seem like a slap on the wrist.

Eaton’s Pompeii relics may cause lengthy dilemma (USA)
(30 December 2015; Record Searchlight)
Issues at small museums with historic donations.


Cyprus seeks Lebanese expertise on seized treasures (Cyprus, Lebanon)
(28 December 2015; Ya Libnan)
Because the objects seized from the Odyssey Marine boat in Cyprus may have come from Lebanon, an expert has been called in.

Salvage Vessel Detained Over Antiquities Possession (Cyprus, Lebanon)
(29 December 2015; The Maritime Executive)
Another piece on the Odyssey Marine seizure.

Artist’s Fury After ‘Female Beauty’ Exhibition Combating Negative Body Image Is Denied By Police (Denmark)
(21 December 2015; Huffington Post)
The nudes were deemed ‘indecent’ so were not installed in Copenhagen’s Nytorv square.

France builds grand alliance to protect cultural heritage (France)
(29 December 2015; The Art Newspaper)
Pointing a finger at “cultural freeports”.

Sophisticated art thieves network operating at Rome airport uncovered (Italy)
(30 December 2015; The Telegraph)
The employees colluded to steal paintings from people in transit.

Two British teens to face trial over Auschwitz theft (Poland, UK)
(30 December 2015; Yahoo News)
They pleaded guilty in June and paid a fine. Now have un-pleaded guilty and face jail time.

British Teens Indicted for Stealing Artifacts From Auschwutz-Birkenau Museum (Poland, UK)
(30 December 2015; Haaretz)
The 17-year-olds are essentially claiming that lack of knowledge about the law is an excuse to break it.

Shooting at ancient citadel in Russia’s Caucasus, one dead (Russia)
(30 December 2015; Yahoo News)
“At an ancient citadel in Russia’s volatile North Caucasus region of Dagestan”

ISIS claims responsibility for attack on tourists at ancient fortress in Russia’s Dagestan (Russia)
(31 December 2015; RT)
But the connection is unconfirmed as of yet.

Roban el niño Jesús de la imagen de la Virgen del Rosario de Valencina (Baby Jesus and statue of the Virgin of the Rosary stolen in Valencia; Spain)
(1 January 2016; Diario d Sevilla)
The 17th century pieces were of ‘incalculable value’

‘Lost’ £30m masterpiece now at risk of leaving UK (UK)
(23 December 2015;
An appeal to keep Pontormo’s Portrait of a Young Man in a Red Cap now that a hold has been place on its export.

‘Nighthawks’: Tracking the criminals plundering ancient sites with the latest equipment (UK)
(30 December 2015; The Independent)
In light of pop TV shows, it is worth reminding everyone that this is destructive and harms the past.

Thief stole painting from St Mary’s Church in Beverley during wedding (UK)
(1 January 2016; Hull Daily Mail)
The man, who was homeless, had been staying on church grounds for a while.

Search is on for Sussex’s missing public art (UK)
(29 December 2015; The Argus)
Regional focus after the Historic England initiative to find out what happened to missing sculptures.

Search is on for iconic sculpture (UK)
(2 January 2016; Hereford Times)
Where has the 300-foot “Skylon” gone?

£21,000 of war medals stolen in museum raid remain missing three years on (UK)
(30 December 2015; The Argus)
They were taken from the Redoubt Fortress and Military Museum in Eastbourne

Staffordshire Regiment Museum tracks down medals stolen from display 40 years ago (UK)
(2 January 2016; Tamworth Herald)
The Staffordshire Regiment Museum collection was stolen while on loan to the Lichfield City Museum and now 25 have been found.


Vandals knock over Lyall Bay’s Easter Island statue (New Zealand, Chile)
(31 December 2015; The Dominion Post)
Not a real one, but it was a gift from the government of Chile. I absolutely went to see it knocked over.

Head aches: Easter Island’s missing moai (New Zealand, Chile)
(1 January 2016; Anonymous Swiss Collector)
Reflecting on a broken ‘Easter Island Head’ replica, cultural loss, and return.

South and East Asia

Sting Operation Nets Fake Antiquities Peddlers (Cambodia)
(29 December 2015; Khmer Times)
Selling real antiquities is illegal, of course, but selling fakes as real is fraud.

Idol Stolen (India)
(31 December 2015; The New Indian Express)
The rare ancient stone Lord Vishnu was taken from Vetapadia Matha in Sanahuli village, near Nimapara

Idols and valuables stolen from temple (India)
(31 December 2015; Business Standard)
Two pieces were stolen from Jayanti Devi temple in Jind

Four precious idols stolen in Bihar (India)
(2 January 2016; The Hindu)
The idols of Ram, Janaki, Hanuman and Lakshman were taken from a temple in Bihar’s Vaishali district.

Bihar: 14 idols stolen from Vaishali temple (India)
(2 January 2016; Hindustan Times)
A second theft in Bihar’s Vaishali district! A major one from a 200-year-old math.

Three idols stolen from Bhilwara temples (India)
(2 January 2016; The Times of India)
Two from one, one from another, with significant community outcry

Government working on insurance protocol for art objects in museums (India)
(2 January 2016; The Economic Times)
Currently there is no clear insurance protocol for most museums to follow.

Photographer Wins Suit Against Nikon Over ‘Comfort Women’ Exhibition (Japan, South Korea, North Korea)
(26 December 2015; PetaPixel)
A Japanese court has ruled that Nikon couldn’t not show Ahn Se Hong’s photos just because Korean ‘comfort women’ are a painful subject.

Perhilitan director pleads not guilty to rhino horn theft (Malaysia)
(28 December 2015; The Malaysian Insider)
The Johor Wildlife and Natural Parks Department director allegedly took it from the Johor Royal Museum.

Pillage of prehistory (Pakistan)
(3 January 2016; The Express Tribune)
A worthwhile read about looting of Gandhara artefacts in the Peshwar Valley.

Jackie Chan donates replicas of 12 zodiac antiquities to a museum in Taiwan (Taiwan)
(30 December 2015; ECNS)
The originals were stolen from the Old Summer Palace in the 1800s

Taiwan statues donated by Jackie Chan defaced with anti-China graffiti (Taiwan)
(31 December 2015; The Guardian)
That didn’t take very long.

Two charged after museum protest (Taiwan)
(1 January 2016; Taipei Times)
They defended the vandalism of the replicas as a protest against China.

West and Central Asia

‘Revolutionary’ court victory against antiquity thieves (Israel)
(29 December 2015; Arutz Sheva)
Closing some very well known antiquities smuggling loopholes.

6,500 Smuggled Artefacts Are Back to Syria (Syria)
(28 December 2015; Sputnik News)
An interview with Dr Ma’moun Abdel-Kareem, head of the Directorate-General for Antiquities and Museums in Syria.

Reliefs in Mersin fall victims to treasure hunters (Turkey)
(31 December 2015; Hurriyet Daily News)
Very poor protection of ancient reliefs in Şeytan Deresi Canyon in Mersin

‘Love’ graffiti on historic castle walls creates outrage (Turkey)
(31 December 2015; Hurriyet Daily News)
“Visual pollution” on sites such as Amasra castle

In Other News

Poachers using science papers to target newly discovered species
(1 January 2016; The Guardian)
We know of similar cases with antiquities.

Art Basel Stabber Pleads Not Guilty To First Degree Attempted Murder (USA)
(29 December 2015; Observer)
The 24-year-old graduate student apparently did not know the woman she attacked at the art fair.