Culture crime news 10–16 July 2017


Hot this week: More Hobby Lobby case fall out.

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Why Are Artworks Pulled from Auction?
(13 July 2017; Artsy)
Many reasons, including legal trouble or suspicion of forgery.

Why archaeological antiquities should not be sold on the open market, full stop
(13 July 2017; The Conversation)
Important words from the Alice Stevenson, Senior Lecturer in Museum Studies at UCL’s Institute of Archaeology.

How Freeports Operate on the Margins of the Global Art Market
(14 July 2017; Artsy)
“Gaming the global legal patchwork is part of effective business practice today,”


Buddha stolen ahead of ‘Dalai Lama’s visit’ (Botswana)
(11 July 2017; Mmegi Online)
500 kg statue taken from a Gaborone North temple, but they don’t think it was tied to the Dalai Lama’s visit

AUC hands over to Egypt 5,000 artifacts from past archaeological excavations (Egypt)
(16 July 2017; Ahram Online)
“Though we legally possessed these artifacts and scrupulously preserved and protected them over so many years, we took the initiative to transfer these important antiquities to the Ministry of Antiquities because we felt that this should be their rightful home.”

Morocco: Stolen, damaged €6 million Guercino painting returned to Italy (Morocco, Italy)
(16 July 2017; Africa Times)
Stolen from the Church of Saint Vincent of Modena, found on the market in Casablanca in February.

Bardo National Museum attack ‘accomplices’ go on trial (Tunisia)
(12 July 2017; Sky News)
“Defendants are charged with voluntary homicide with premeditation and could face death sentences if convicted.”


Robó reliquias de una iglesia valuadas en 15 mil dólares: fue detenido (Relics from a church valued at 15,000 dollars stolen: arrest made.; Argentina, Uruguay)
(9 July 2017; Minuto Uno)
A Uruguayan was arrested in connection to the theft

Edmonton artist turns to public for help after carload of paintings stolen (Canada)
(11 July 2017; Edmonton Journal)
Chris Riley’s car was stolen with 36 of her paintings inside

Cultural gem or ‘tax grab’? $20M in Annie Leibovitz photos caught in Canadian quandary (Canada)
(12 July 2017; CBC)
Gift was “Flagged by the Canada Revenue Agency as a potential tax shelter that could profit the donors.”

Mi’kmaq leaders urge protesters to leave Cornwallis statue standing (Canada)
(13 July 2017; The Chronicle Herald)
Leaders want to see the Halifax statue of Edward Cornwallis removed, but not forcefully removed.

Colombia’s San José galleon to be recovered in joint venture states Santos (Colombia, Spain)
(10 July 2017; The City Paper Bogota)
“The Colombian government faced legal action with the Washington-based salvage company Sea Search Armada that claimed it first discovered the wreck back in 1981”

Galeón San José: Galleons of gold (Colombia, Spain)
(12 July 2017; The Bogota Post)
Both Spain’s and a private salvage company’s claims to the wreck have been dismissed.

Glafira Rosales Ordered to Pay $81 Million to Victims of the Knoedler Art-Fraud Scheme (USA)
(10 July 2017; ArtNet News)
Restitution order followers a sentence of 9 months of house arrest and 3 years probation.

You Directly Copied the Series’: Brad Troemel Accuses Fashion Designer of Ripping Off His Grid Work for Ready-to-Wear Collection (USA, Russia)
(10 July 2017; Art News)
Vika Gazinskaya’ collection is inspired by Troemel but it is infringement?

‘Livid’ Graffiti Artists Sue Fashion Label Vince Camuto for Using Their Artwork in Ads (USA)
(11 July 2017; ArtNet News)
Brooklyn pieces as latest case of street artists asserting their rights.

Native American Artists to Lawmakers: Clamp Down on Counterfeiters (USA, Germany)
(12 July 2017; Voice of America)
As much as 80% of the “Indian” art offered for sale online are is not made by Native Americans

Investigator ‘convinced’ $580M of stolen art from Boston museum is hidden in Ireland (USA, Ireland)
(12 July 2017; Fox News)
Arthur Brand is basing this on IRA leads, but Antony Amore at the museum says that this has been thoroughly investigated.

Historic Scott Plantation Settlement Burglarized (USA)
(13 July 2017; Arkansas Matters)
Almost all the contents of the 1840s cabin were stolen

Cultural Memoranda of Understanding: An Important Diplomatic Tool for Protecting Heritage (USA)
(14 July 2017; Huffington Post)
On the USA’s cultural property MOUs

Second ‘Quackers’ duck stolen from Fountain Park (USA)
(14 July 2017; The Fountain Hills Times)
Public art theft in Arizona

Historical artifacts stolen from Sugar Pine Railroad, deputies say (USA)
(16 July 2017; KMPH)
Locomotive-related artefacts were taken from California’s Madera County.

They stole the chicken noodle soup can art from museum — but left the pepper pot (USA)
(11 July 2017; The Wichita Eagle)
Over a year since the theft and no word of the Warhols

Missouri art museum increases security after Warhol theft (USA)
(13 July 2017; Missourinet)
Opening hour changes and new attendants

Appeals Court Revives 16-Year Lawsuit over $40 Million Nazi-Looted Pissarro (USA, Spain)
(10 July 2017; Artsy)
Possibility that the museum knew that the painting was stolen when it bought it has opened this door.

Nazi-looted Pissarro case can go ahead, says US appeals court (USA, Spain)
(11 July 2017; The Art Newspaper)
The painting is in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation in Madrid

Hobby Lobby emboldens a black market that robs countries of their heritage — and lets the violent profit (USA, Iraq, Israel, Untied Arab Emirates)
(9 July 2017; The Washington Post)
“It is hard to buy Hobby Lobby’s depiction of itself as a novice making ‘regrettable mistakes.'”

Hobby Lobby exposes UAE-Israel antiquities trade (USA, Iraq, Israel, Untied Arab Emirates)
(12 July 2017; Al Jazeera)
The UAE’s “rise as a global centre for illegal antiquities traffic and cooperation between UAE and Israeli dealers on the black market”

Why the Feds Were Smart Not to Throw the Book at Hobby Lobby for Buying Iraqi Loot (USA, Iraq, Israel, Untied Arab Emirates)
(12 July 2017; ArtNet News)
By Leila Amineddoleh who served as a legal expert on cultural heritage to the Eastern District of New York on the case.

Dispelling the Myths Around the Hobby Lobby Antiquities Case (USA, Iraq, UAE, Israel)
(14 July 2017; Hyperallergic)
A must read about this case: very strong, good points from expert Michael Press


Belgium is the “weak link” in the fight against trafficking in cultural property (Belgium)
(14 July 2017; The Brussels Times)
Because it foolishly, shamefully dismantled its Arts and Antiquities unit in 2016.

EU plans tough checks on imports of ancient artefacts (General)
(12 July 2017; Financial Times)
“Brussels will propose common rules on the details that importers must give customs officials and national culture ministries”

Commission targets terrorists trafficking in antiquities (General)
(13 July 2017; Politico)
“Currently, the EU lacks a general framework for the import of cultural goods”

#SecurityUnion: Cracking down on the illegal import of cultural goods used to finance terrorism (General)
(13 July 2017; EU Reporter)
The new rules apply to cultural goods that are at least 250 years old.

EU executive plans crackdown on plunder smugglers, militants (General)
(13 July 2017; Reuters)
A lot of tying antiquities trafficking to terrorism, but some interesting regulation as a result.

Dusseldorf museum pulls painting from show after Nazi loot claim (Germany)
(11 July 2017; The Art Newspaper)
The Museum Kunstpalast received an ownership claim from the heirs of Max Stern

Stolen by a Russian spy, Dutch painting now returned to German museum (Germany, USA, Russia)
(11 July 2017; DW)
“It wasn’t looted by the Nazis, (…) but was literally stolen”

Germany makes arrests over theft of giant solid-gold coin (Germany)
(12 July 2017; BBC News)
It is thought that the coin was broken up and sold as scrap gold.

Four Are Arrested in Theft of Giant Gold Coin From Berlin Museum (Germany)
(12 July 2017; The New York Times)
One of the four was a museum security guard who provided information to facilitate the theft from the Bode Museum.

Pompeii Rises From The Ashes By Rejecting Its History Of Crime And Corruption (Italy)
(10 July 2017; Forbes)
New restorations, new facilities, new events, trying to move away from bad press.

Amsterdam Airbnb Host Shoves South African Filmmaker Down Staircase (Netherlands)
(12 July 2017; Hyperallergic)
Collaborator and friend of the artist Zanele Muholi was pushed down stairs by a man who said “This is not Africa”

Roban el campanil de la ermita Nuestra Señora de los Remedios de Villallano (Campanile of the chapel of Nuestra Señora de los Remedios in Villallano robbed; Spain)
(12 July 2017; SE12)
Another bell was stolen from the local parish church a month before.

Robo de las campanas en la antigua iglesia de Abades (Bells stolen from the ancient church of Abades; Spain)
(13 July 2017; La Voz de Galicia)
Seventh robbery that took place in the church.

El obispo denuncia el robo del copón de la Basílica de San Pascual en Vila-real (Bishop denounces the theft of ciborium from Basilica of San Pascual in Vila-real; Spain)
(16 July 2017; Europa Press)
The priest called it a “grave desecration of the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist”

Thieves Abscond With $3.9 Million in Jewelry From London’s Masterpiece Art Fair (UK)
(7 July 2017; ArtNet News)
Theft from the booth of Geneva jeweller Boghossian at London’s Masterpiece Art Fair

Bermondsey coffee shop owner’s plea to find antique photograph of relative stolen during break-in (UK)
(11 July 2017; Southwark News)
Great-great Uncle Monty’s theft has inspired the #findmonty hashtag

Statues worth £11,000 stolen from Hungerford art gallery (UK)
(12 July 2017; Newbury Today)
All three statues were bronze.

Art dealer faces jail over fraud case involving work by Rolling Stones (UK)
(14 July 2017; Gloucestershire Live)
“Charges concerned either the theft of works of art, pocketing a percentage of the proceeds from the sale of art, or falsely claiming to be entitled to sell artworks owned by clients.”

Twelve charged after paintings stolen in aggravated burglary (UK)
(14 July 2017; Avon and Somerset Constabulary)
All but one of the 15 paintings stolen have been recovered.

Bulmers cider family art robbery: Twelve men charged (UK)
(14 July 2017; BBC News)
“A total of 15 paintings worth £1.7m, and £1m of antique jewellery were stolen.”

South and East Asia

Villagers refuse to relinquish artefact (Cambodia)
(11 July 2017; Khmer Times)
They argue that it should stay in their local pagoda and not with the government’s culture ministry.

Tomb Robbing, Perilous but Alluring, Makes Comeback in China (China)
(15 July 2017; The New York Times)
“It’s a constant battle between us and the criminals,” said Wang Jinqing, head of cultural relics protection in the Shaanxi provincial bureau of cultural heritage.

Dutch court to hear Buddha relic case (China, Netherlands)
(11 July 2017; Global Times)
This isn’t just a statue, it is an identifiable person that the Dutch collector is seeking to own.

Chinese villagers to claim back stolen mummy Buddha in Dutch court (China, Netherlands)
(13 July 2017; ECNS)
A good break down of several of the key issues in this case.

China villagers launch Dutch court bid to retrieve mummy (China, Netherlands)
(14 July 2017; BBC News)
Stolen in Yangchun province in 1995, bought in Hong Kong by a Dutch collector in 1996

Chinese villagers demand identity of stolen mummy Buddha’s new holder (China, Netherlands)
(15 July 2017; Xinhua)
Oscar van Overeem has given the piece to a “collector-investor-intermediary,” whatever that means.

The story of paintings going missing is hardly new (India)
(13 July 2017; The Asian Age)
Paintings bought by an institution when an art lover is at the helm risk being forgotten (and stolen) when leadership changes.

Idols worth over a lakh stolen from Iskcon temple in Greater Noida (India)
(15 July 2017; Hindustan Times)
Twin idols of Gaura and Nitai were taken, along with a donation box.

Idol theft: DSP seeks advance bail (India)
(10 July 2017; The Hindu)
The police officer denies that he was involved in smuggling the idols that he was meant to protect.

Big cases yet to be cracked (India)
(11 July 2017; The Hindu)
“Sources point out that there has been little progress in the investigation against Sanjeevi Ashokan, a main supplier of smuggled idols to international smuggler Subhash Kapoor”

Idols worth crores yet to be recovered from abroad (India, Nepal, Hong Kong, Singapore)
(11 July 2017; The Hindu)
Taken from Tamil Nadu temples, sent to the Indo-Nepal Art Gallery in Mumbai, then taken to taken to Hong Kong, the U.S., the U.K., Singapore and Australia, via Nepal or Kolkata.

Cost of Trinkets: A Growing Archaeological Looting Network Between Thailand and Myanmar (Myanmar)
(12 July 2017; The Irrawaddy)
An interesting longer read on looting in the region by Phacharaphorn Phanomvan, a D.Phil candidate at Oxford

Pakistan yet to bring back stolen Buddha artefact from US (Pakistan, USA)
(10 July 2017; Dawn)
It was seized in New York in 2016 but the Department of Archaeology and Museum found out only last month that the US was still waiting on Pakistan to take it away.

West and Central Asia

Palestinian caught trying to smuggle rare, ancient coins from Gaza (Palestine, Israel, Egypt)
(16 July 2017; The Times of Israel)
“Allegedly smuggled from Egypt into the Gaza Strip and were en route to Israel for sale”

Palmyra artifacts recovered by Syrian Army (Syria)
(14 July 2017; AMN News)
Product of four major busts in the city.

Hands Off the Antiquities (Syria)
(15 July 2017; The America Interest)
“Cultural heritage policy is far more than a matter for law enforcement”

In Other News

Gundam statue heads stolen from Shanghai convention found for sale online (Singapore)
(11 July 2017; Yahoo News)
Leaving headless “life-sized” Gundam statues at CCG Expo in Shanghai

Salvador Dalí’s Body Will Be Exhumed Next Week as Surreal Paternity Battle Comes to a Head (Spain)
(14 July 2017; ArtNet News)
“A psychic’s quest to prove that she is Salvador Dalí`s daughter is one step closer to fruition”

Georgia man pleads guilty to grand theft of Star Wars collectibles (USA)
(10 July 2017; Napa Valley Register)
Stolen from the private “Rancho Obi-Wan” museum.

Can a Monkey Make Money Off Its Art? PETA Presses the Courts to Grant a Macaque Copyright Protection (USA)
(12 July 2017; ArtNet News)
Or is an non-human animal a property owner and not property in itself.

Woman Attempts to Take a Selfie, Damages $200,000 Worth of Art Instead (USA)
(14 July 2017; Mental Floss)
Unexpected domino effect

The Koch brothers open their wallets for the arts. But should arts groups take Koch money? (USA)
(16 July 2017; PRI)
“With the planet in peril, arts groups can no longer afford the Koch brothers’ money.”