Culture crime news 23 April–7 May 2017


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UK museum security and management folks: We want to hear from you!

We’re conducting a pilot project about museum security preparation and training and we’d like speak to people who are making museum security decisions in the UK. Is that you? Are you in UK Museum Security or Management? Are you up for a quick phone or email chat about it? Email me!

More info:…to-hear-from-you.html


Nowhere to hide: new tool brings technical firepower to the fight against fraudsters
(21 April 2017; The Art Newspaper)
The target is said to be forgeries on the dark web, but who is buying art on the dark web?

Black Market Art: How To Restore Ethics To The Antiquities World
(24 April 2017; WBUR)
“Museums should teach not only about the object in its original historical context, but also about the often violent or unethical social life that led it to the museum’s wall.”

How transparent is the art market?
(28 April 2017; Financial Times)
“Self-regulation does not work because the individuals who work in galleries and auction houses have differing moral and ethical standards”

The Art Market’s Modigliani Forgery Epidemic
(1 May 2017; Vanity Fair)
“There have been lawsuits, charges of slander, death threats, hoaxes, and thefts.”

Remix Culture Nears Its Logical Conclusion
(3 May 2017; The Atlantic)
Digital sharing makes it easy to both steal art ideas and detect intellectual art theft.


Egyptian ministry staff face trial over theft from Giza Pyramids (Egypt)
(24 April 2017; Ahram Online)
“The 12 former ministry employees are accused of helping two German archaeologists steal samples from King Khufu’s tomb and other restricted locations”

Two men killed in house collapse as they dig illegally for Egyptian artefacts (Egypt)
(1 May 2017; Ahram Online)
Were digging for antiquities beneath their home in Assiut.

Egypt cabinet approves bill raising max penalty for antiquities trade to life in prison (Egypt)
(4 May 2017; Ahram Online)
To that this is harsh is an understatement.

Return our stolen artifacts, Benin monarch tells British High Commissioner (Nigeria)
(4 May 2017; The News)
“Oba Ewuare II, has asked the British government to return all the Benin artworks illegally carted away by the British and other European countries during colonial rule in Nigeria.”


Las iglesias de Jujuy reforzarán sus sistemas de seguridad (Churches of Jujuy strengthen their security systems; Argentina)
(26 April 2017; MDZ)
In response to the various thefts they’ve suffered lately.

Brazil suffers biggest rare book heist in national history (Brazil)
(1 May 2017; Plus55)
303 rare books were stolen from Rio de Janeiro Federal University (UFRJ)

Cuthand: Indigenous artifacts belong with indigenous people (Canada)
(29 April 2017; Saskatoon Star Phoenix)
“To us, life is a circle and everything eventually returns to the earth. It’s the circle of life and it’s an important part of our spirituality.”

Para prevenir saqueos inspeccionan fragata “Blanco Encalada” sumergida en bahía de Caldera (Inspection of the frigate “Blanco Encalada” submerged in Caldera bay to prevent looting.; Chile)
(3 May 2017; El Que Hay de Dierto)
The underwater site has shown evidence of looting before.

Roban corona de oro de la Virgen de la iglesia Santa Lucia de Chía (Gold crown of the Virgin stolen from the church of Santa Lucia in Chía; Colombia)
(2 May 2017; Pulzo)
Stolen nearly a week after easter, the valuable crown had inlaid diamonds.

Relinquished to feds by local gallery, fate of stolen sculpture uncertain (Mexico, USA)
(27 April 2017; Santa Fe New Mexican)
Everyone agrees it was stolen from a church in Hidalgo in 2007, but what will happen to it next?

Roban parte de la corona de oro del “Niño Jesús del Cerrito” en Nopalucan (Part of the gold crown of the “Niño Jesús del Cerrito” of Nopalucan stolen; Mexico)
(1 May 2017; E-Tlaxcala)
New surveillance cameras had already been installed in the church.

Montículos mayas, sin indicios de destrucción (Mexico)
(1 May 2017; La Jornada Maya)
Several Maya sites in Campeche, including Becán and Xpujil had recent looting reported

Reduce INAH los recursos a Quintana Roo (INAH reduces resources for Quintana Roo; Mexico)
(3 May 2017; La Verdad Noticias)
Despite continued threat to looting of Maya sites, the archaeology budget for the state is being slashed.

Desinterés Del Inah Provoca El Saqueo De Vestigios Arqueológicos En Lázaro Cárdenas (INAH’s disinterests provokes the looting of archaeological ruins in Lázaro Cárdenas; Mexico)
(4 May 2017; Jorge Castro)
Allegations that the sites aren’t registered or cared for properly with locals having to effect protection themselves.

National Museum Burgled (St. Kitts and Nevis)
(29 April 2017; WinnFM)
“The only valuable things we have there is our history, our heritage, our artifacts”

Stolen sculptures recovered, another placed (USA)
(24 April 2017; Maryville Daily Forum)
Artwork by Sue Quinlan of Boulder, Colorado was taken

Valuable painting missing from Provo school found in Springville museum (USA)
(24 April 2017; Daily Herald)
The piece probably wasn’t intentionally stolen and the school district, for now, is letting it stay in the museum.

Democrat displays ‘cops as pigs’ painting on the House floor (USA)
(26 April 2017; Washington Examiner)
Rep. William Lacy Clay of Missouri showed the painting that had previously been removed in what some see as political censorship.

Mark Bradford Claims New York Times Published Photos of His Work Without Permission (USA)
(28 April 2017; Hyperallergic)
“The problem: The profile includes four images of unfinished works that will be included in the show. Bradford owns the images, which were taken by his friend, photographer Joshua White, and the Times never asked permission to publish them.”

Native America’s Necessary And Imperfect Law (USA)
(28 April 2017; Huffington Post)
Thoughts on NAGPRA from Chip Colwell of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science

Huntsville police need help finding sculpture theft suspect (USA)
(1 May 2017; WAFF)
Police have identified a suspect in the theft of the large arrowhead sculpture, they just can’t find him.

Naked man in a box who crashed the Met gala is arrested (USA)
(2 May 2017; The Art Newspaper)
Fyodor Pavlov-Andreevich is “facing charges of public lewdness, obstructing governmental administration, criminal trespass and disorderly conduct”

All artifacts recovered from Herrett Center theft (USA)
(3 May 2017; KMVT)
Alleged Idaho museum thief is in custody, facing felony charges.

MFA Boston Reaches Settlement in Nazi-Related Claim Over Rare Figurines (USA)
(4 May 2017; ArtNet News)
It’s a “moral responsibility of the current possessor to redress these past injustices.”

Santa Fe duo sentenced in immigration fraud, artifacts-smuggling case (USA, Pakistan)
(5 May 2017; Santa Fe New Mexican)
Khan and Lautt used forged documents that they said were from the government of Pakistan to illegally import looted antiquities.

Michelle Obama Muralist Stole My Work Then ‘Attacked’ My Character: Artist (USA)
(28 April 2017; DNA Info)
Gelila Mesfin, an artist and student from Ethiopia, feels she is under attack from Chris Devins who apparently stole her design for a mural.

Theft of military memorabilia at Naples museum (USA)
(26 April 2017; Fox)
The museum is located in the Naples, Florida, Municipal airport.

War memorabilia disappears from Naples Airport museum (USA)
(29 April 2017; Naples News)
The article implicates a museum volunteer in the disappearance of the items.

Disputed Painting, Stolen By Nazis, Returns To France (USA, France)
(24 April 2017; News 9)
“Shepherdess Bringing In The Sheep” by Pissarro had been in the collection of the University of Oklahoma

Nazi-Looted Painting Returns to Paris Almost 80 Years Later (USA, France)
(26 April 2017; Newsweek)
“Léone Meyer’s biological family died at Auschwitz. She survived.” And she found this painting in Oklahoma via a blog post in 2012.

Painting stolen by Nazis to rotate between Paris and US (USA, France)
(28 April 2017; The Times of Israel)
“Legal settlement will see [The Pissaro] displayed at University of Oklahoma and French museum”


A painting stolen by Nazis is up for auction despite a Jewish familys demand for its return (Austria)
(24 April 2017; The Washington Post)
Bartholomäus van der Helst’s “Portrait of a Man”, claimed heirs of Adolphe Schloss.

‘It’s not for moral reasons’: Owner withdraws Nazi-looted painting from auction after receiving threats (Austria)
(27 April 2017; National Post)
In other words they have bowed to pressure but are not willing to say they are not the legal owner of the work.

Nazi-Looted Libraries: Items Must Be Returned To Owners And Heirs (Belarus, France)
(5 May 2017; Huffington Post)
“The Looted Art & Cultural Property Initiative will continue to sponsor projects to make Nazi records publicly accessible, in the hope that the light of justice will find its way to finally return these stolen items to their rightful owners.”

Church regains three icons stolen from the north (Cyprus, Germany)
(5 May 2017; Cyprus Mail)
Located in a Düsseldorf auction house, the icons will be repatriated soon.

Exhibition of art looted from Czech Jews opens in Prague (Czech Republic)
(3 May 2017; Prague Daily Monitor)
“The exhibition was prepared by the Centre for the Documentation of Property Transfers of Cultural Artefacts of World War Two Victims that is in charge of the search for the property of its former Jewish owners in Czech state collections.”

CoE adopts Convention to fight cultural destruction (General)
(4 May 2017; Famagusta Gazette)
“Convention on Offences relating to Cultural Property aims to foster international co-operation to fight crimes, which are destroying the world’s cultural heritage.”

Europe’s Tainted Art Works (General)
(4 May 2017; Varsity)
WWII complications in Europe’s art world.

Search for stolen gold coin throws up plenty of clues but no suspect (Germany)
(26 April 2017; Daily Sabah)
Obviously the police fear the piece has been or will be melted down.

Holocaust memory under siege in political and artworlds (Germany, USA)
(27 April 2017; New Jersey Jewish News)
More on the Guelph Treasure dispute.

Alex Katz Painting Stolen From Munich Gallery in Broad Daylight (Germany)
(2 May 2017; ArtNet News)
“‘Box Flower 1’ was swiped off the wall of Galerie Klüser during its opening hours.”

Milos island prepares a home for much-desired return of Aphrodite (Greece)
(29 April 2017; eKathimerini)
This is after a bit of a scene at the Louvre. Good luck!

Rembrandt, Renoir paintings stolen in a 29-million-dollar heist in Italy (Italy)
(26 April 2017; Daily Sabah)
The men gained the dealers trust through several visits to Monza.

Italian Art Dealer Swindled Out of Paintings by Rembrandt and Renoir Worth $30 Million (Italy)
(28 April 2017; ArtNet News)
Thieves posed as legit buyers in a meeting in downtown Monza. They said they were going to make coffee and then walked off with the paintings.

Auction of Soviet art triggers probe; art market on guard (Russia)
(27 April 2017; The Daily Mail)
Sale of the collection in London in 2014 has now triggered a criminal investigation.

Wreck of Nazi ship believed to have been carrying priceless stolen artwork when it was sunk in 1943 by a submarine attack is discovered close to Crimea (Russia, Ukraine, Germany)
(28 April 2017; The Daily Mail)
Well, maybe it was. It’s a Daily Mail story so hard to pick much out of this.

How an art museum in Russia became the target of Kremlin police raids (Russia)
(3 May 2017; Christian Science Monitor)
Nicholas Roerich Museum says the raid is part of a state effort to seize control of its collection.

Priceless cross back on display at Murcia cathedral museum 40 years after being stolen (Spain)
(24 April 2017; Murcia Today)
A cross worn by the Virgin de la Fuensanta was stolen in 1977 but recovered last year.

Roban un Cristo del siglo XVI de la capilla del cementerio de Artea (16th century Christ stolen from the chapel of the cemetery of Artea; Spain)
(27 April 2017; El Correo)
A regular visitor to the chapel noticed the historic piece was missing; some speculate it was specifically targeted.

Man who faked well-known artwork arrested by National Police (Spain)
(27 April 2017; EuroWeekly)
He stole the identity of a dead art expert to produce fake lithographs.

Bern museum awaits works from Gurlitt art collection in June (Switzerland, Germany)
(26 April 2017; News 1130)
Bern will receiving 200 artworks from the controversial collection within the next few weeks.

Roman Jewellery Stolen from Shop (UK)
(25 April 2017; York Press)
Antiquities for sale were stolen from The Red House Centre in Duncome Place, York

Police hunt thieves who stole six-foot African sculpture (UK)
(27 April 2017; The Courier)
The 6 foot stone Shona sculpture was taken from a property in Alyth.

Art worth thousands stolen from Lincolnshire home (UK)
(28 April 2017; Lincolnshire Live)
Jewellery, tools, and a TV were also stolen from the home in Stanthorpe in Horncastle

Seamstresses restore stolen tapestry panel (UK)
(1 May 2017; The Scotsman)
Great Tapestry of Scotland’s Rosslyn Chapel panel was stolen in 2015.

Museum-Goers Beware: That Ancient Artifact May Be Stolen (UK, Italy, Greece)
(1 May 2017; National Geographic)
Feature on the forensic archaeology work of Dr Christos Tsirogiannis.

14 pieces of art which decorated Leigh’s roads for pop art trial stolen (UK)
(2 May 2017; Halstead Gazette)
“Spookily all the missing pieces were to do with the resurrection of Jesus.”

Ancient gate has chunk of stone knocked out by housing developers (UK)
(3 May 2017; Daily Gazette)
Colchester: “One of our subcontractors was installing new path edgings adjacent to the Abbey Gate when the edging caught the Abbey Gate wall.”

Police inquiries under way as jewellery and paintings taken in house raids (UK)
(28 April 2017; The Herald)
Besides the paintings, a large amount of jewellery was taken from the property in Penicuik, Midlothian; a 19th century painting of a piper was taken in another incident near East Linton.

Piper painting worth £10,000 stolen in ‘targeted theft’ (UK)
(28 April 2017; BBC News)
The Piper to the 2nd Marquess of Breadalbane by JM Barclay has been taken in the most Scottish art theft possible.


Wendy Whiteley stunned by forgery case acquittals (Australia)
(22 April 2017; SBS)
The men were found guilty in 2016 of faking Brett Whitely’s so this is a surprise verdict.

New short film honours return of Northland chief Te Pahis medal (New Zealand)
(30 April 2017; Maori Television)
It “was gifted to the senior Northland chief by New South Wales Governor Phillip King in 1806.”

‘Menace to society’ Anthony Ricardo Sannd heading back to jail over theft of $130,000 motorcycle (New Zealand)
(3 May 2017; New Zealand Herald)
Same man boosted a painting from the Auckland Art Gallery among many other crimes.

South and East Asia

Ancient Artifacts in London Returned to Cambodia (Cambodia, UK)
(24 April 2017; The Cambodia Daily)
“Details remain unclear regarding how the artifacts left Cambodia in the first place, the identity of the private collector who owned them and the motivation behind their return.”

Ancient Angkorian Jewelry Set Recovered From UK Art Dealership (Cambodia, UK)
(26 April 2017; Voice of America)
“Jewelry was listed by the Jonathan Tucker Antonia Tozer Asian Art dealership in its online catalog of Asian art”

Chinese history buff uses feng shui knowledge to raid ancient tombs (China)
(28 April 2017; South China Morning Post)
“Man and eight accomplices located ancient graves by day and plundered them by night”

Foreigner enters Puri Jagannath Temple, creates flutter (India)
(24 April 2017; The Times of India)
This isn’t a heritage theft case but the site has over 100 security personnel and yet this guy got in. Something to consider.

Missing ancient coins: Ex-HOD still missing (India)
(25 April 2017; The Times of India)
Nagpur University coin theft case seems to be going nowhere.

SSB seizes antique idol being smuggled to Nepal (India, Nepal)
(27 April 2017; India)
Man arrested said that the idol would go to Nepal then out on to the international market.

Three panchaloha idols stolen in Thanjavur (India)
(2 May 2017; The Times of India)
Because the idols have been lifted, the Chitra Pournami festival has been cancelled.

8 get 3 years jail for idol theft (India)
(2 May 2017; India)
For the theft of 32 idols from 12 temples in the Ariyalur district 17 years ago

Mumbai Crime: Diamond-studded gold strips stolen from Jain temple at Marine Drive (India)
(2 May 2017; Mid-day)
Second time in two months that the temple has been robbed of the same pieces which cover the foreheads of idols.

Idols stolen from temple (India)
(5 May 2017; The Hindu)
A Shiva and a Vinayaga were stolen from a temple near Sankarankovil railway station.

Japan preserves Buddhist statues and cultural artifacts with 3D scanning and 3D printing (Japan)
(5 May 2017; 3Ders)
Digital preservation is seen as a way to deal with damage or theft.

Restoration may have disfigured Buddhist monastery, a world heritage site (Pakistan)
(2 May 2017; Dawn)
This allegedly shoddy preservation work was undertaken at the monastery of Bhamala in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

West and Central Asia

Carpet stolen by Armenians from Karabakh, taken to US to be exhibited in Baku (Azerbaijan, Armenia, USA)
(5 May 2017; News.Az)
The true owner of the carpet has not been located.

Official launch of public database of ‘at risk’ archaeological sites (General)
(1 May 2017;
The EAMENA project’s online database has launched

Hatra: IS damage to ancient Iraqi city less than feared (Iraq)
(1 May 2017; BBC News)
It will be interesting to see what comes from full survey of the site.

Surprenantes fragrances romaines au BIEL… (Surprising Roman fragrances at Biel…; Lebanon)
(28 April 2017; L’Orient Le Jour)
The column drums have been left by the sea, not transferred to a protected area.

Stolen Second Temple period antiquities recovered in Samaria (Palestine, Israel)
(25 April 2017; Arutz Sheva)
“The search in the suspects house and store revealed hundreds of coins, pitchers, figurines, earthenware scales, jewels, basalt stones used to grind wheat, copper utensils, water and oil jars as well as a Sten gun and a rifle.”

How Jews and Arabs Collaborate on Antiquities Theft in the West Bank (Palestine, Israel)
(5 May 2017; Haaretz)
Insecurity and theft at sites is everyone’s fault.

Damascus Museum shows ancient treasures rescued from war (Syria)
(4 May 2017; NRT)
“Abdul Karim says more than 300.000 items have been saved so far during the war, 7,000 of which were stopped from being smuggled out of country, 89 that were returned from Lebanon and dozens stopped from being sold in markets such as London, Belgium, Switzerland and France”

At least 89 stolen artifacts returned to Syria: director (Syria)
(4 May 2017; AMN News)
Confiscated by European authorities

Smuggled Torah, artifacts seized in Turkey’s northwest (Turkey)
(25 April 2017; Hurriyet Daily News)
Raid occurred in Ayvalık but the objects are thought to be from Istanbul and Bingöl

Illegal excavations stir reaction in Myndos (Turkey)
(29 April 2017; Hurriyet Daily News)
“Treasure hunters are looting the national treasures of Gümüşlük, Bodrum and Turkey and nobody is taking a measure against it”

Turkey seeks return of 5,000-year-old marble figure (Turkey, USA)
(29 April 2017; Hurriyet Daily News)
Thought to have been taken from Gallipoli, the Guennol Stargazer is likely to be the subject of legal action for return.

Smuggled Anatolian idol sold in US (Turkey, USA)
(30 April 2017; Hurriyet Daily News)
The disputed stargazer sold for $14.5mil but it may not be gone quite yet.

Ancient mummies rot as Yemen war vexes even the dead (Yemen)
(1 May 2017; Reuters)
Yemen’s national museum lacks electricity due to conflict.

In Other News

Maple Syrup Thief Gets 5 Years in Prison, $1.2 Million Fine (Canada)
(24 April 2017; Jezebel)
“To be fair, hot maple syrup is probably way easier to unload than, say, stolen art.”

Booming trade in mammoth ivory fuels fears over elephants (China, Russia)
(2 May 2017; The Telegraph)
Tusks are melting out of Russia due to global warming, but does maintaining the demand for any ivory put living elephants at risk?

Art dealer ‘forgets’ €1.5 million picture in Paris taxi (France)
(2 May 2017; The Local)
He left the Lucio Fontana in the back of a cab and walked away.

Paris cabbie returns US$1.6m artwork forgotten in boot of his taxi (France)
(3 May 2017; South China Morning Post)
They located the taxi and the Fontana. Huzzah.

MFA Boston Is the Latest Museum Driven Crazy by Instagram Censorship (USA)
(26 April 2017; ArtNet News)
“Nude images from its Imogen Cunningham exhibition were taken down from the image-sharing app.”

UVM Offers Reward For Stolen Rhino Horn (USA)
(3 May 2017; VPR)
Museums and Unis: secure your antique horns. They will be targeted.