Culture crime news 4–17 September 2017


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Poor Egyptians dig up homes in search of antiquities (Egypt)
(4 September 2017; The Sunday Times)
Digging for antiquities under homes has been an issue in Egypt for a while. It is sometimes fruitful and often very dangerous.


Robo de los atributos de la virgen: “Estamos muy apenados”, asegura el padre Federico Lagoa (Theft of the attributes of the Virgin: “We are very sorry”, says Father Federico Lagoa; Argentina)
(7 September 2017; Noticias Mercedinas)
Not the first sacred art theft in the Cathedral Church of Mercedes.

‘Free Our Sacred’ Campaign Calls for the Liberation of Sacred Afro-Brazilian Objects (Brazil)
(6 September 2017; Rioonwatch)
Taken during the First Brazilian Republic and during the era of President Vargas

Night at the museum: Why the great skylight caper at the MMFA remains unsolved, 45 years later (Canada)
(4 September 2017; CBC)
Through a skylight in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, tied up the guards, stole $2mil in art.

Public art policy suspended by Calgary city council pending review (Canada)
(14 September 2017; CBC)
Measures taken due to recent cultural appropriation row.

Theft of Artifacts Sets Back Scientists Tracing Human History (Mexico)
(7 September 2017; Observer)
Pictures of the skeleton were posted, then they were looted, then the remaining bones were found to be 13k years old. What a loss.

Thief steals $300,000 of jewelry made by ‘Art in the Pearl’ vendors, report says (USA)
(4 September 2017; The Oregonian)
Pieces taken out of the trunk of the jewelry maker’s car

Graves Of Fallen Soldiers Desecrated, Relics Stolen In Historic Cemetery (USA)
(7 September 2017; Wester Journalism)
Old Church Cemetery in Waynesboro , Georgia. Revolutionary, Civil, and WWI wars.

Mysteries In The Museum: Crime And Deception In Art (USA)
(8 September 2017; WNPR)
Radio show with some top guests talking art crime.

Stubborn Stand-off Over Stolen Gardner Museum Art Could End With Sentencing Of Hartford Gangster (USA)
(3 September 2017; Hartford Courant)
“Authorities could lose any leverage they have over a formerly obscure gangster who many believe once possessed, at least briefly, two of the stolen paintings”

Judge delays sentencing of accused mobster tied to Boston art heist (USA)
(5 September 2017; Reuters)
Gentile is ill and cannot remember pleading guilty


Marcellin Desboutin’s stolen painting found after 28 years (France)
(4 September 2017; Blouin Artinfo)
It was found at the Musée Anne de Beaujeu in Moulins after they published a research notice and was stolen from the Anne de Beaujeu Museum in 1989.

Forgery: Bona fide or bogus? (France)
(8 September 2017; Financial Times)
Revamped vetting process for the Biennale des Antiquaires after recent forgery scandals.

German Police Uncover $3 Million Art Heist, Including Baselitz Work (Germany)
(5 September 2017; The New York Times)
“A 39-year-old man from the western city of Düsseldorf used insider knowledge to steal 19 pieces of art owned by Mr. Baselitz from the depot near Munich between June 2015 and March 2016”

Fossil footprints of early human ancestor stolen from archaeological site in Kasteli, Crete (Greece)
(14 September 2017; Tornos News)
10 of 40 ancient human footprints found in 2002 were taken.

Electric Picnic thieves stole art installation by 90 year old nun (Ireland)
(6 September 2017; Buzz)
Sister Columba’s outdoor knit creations were stolen.

Cospicua men charged with stealing €34,000 worth of items from parish church (Malta)
(7 September 2017; Malta Today)
They defaced the titular painting of the Collegiate Church of the Immaculate Conception in Cospicua

Two in court on Cospicua church robbery charges (Malta)
(7 September 2017; Times of Malta)
They gained access to the church via scaffolding which they used to climb to the roof.

The Netherlands Is Still Hoarding a Massive Collection of Art Looted From Jews by Nazis (Netherlands)
(7 September 2017; Haaretz)
On the Netherlands’ continuing Nazi art problems

Thieves break into Armenian Orthodox church in Istanbul’s Beyoğlu, steal artefacts (Turkey)
(15 September 2017; Hurriyet Daily News)
They took a statue, a cross, paintings, and books but were arrested.

Jailed YouTuber: ‘Not proud’ of prank (UK)
(3 September 2017; BBC News)
Fake heist in London’s National Portrait Gallery caused panic as they pulled it immediately after the Bardo attack

‘Fake’ Tom Roberts painting bought for £7,500 could sell for £300,000 after BBC show reveals it’s genuine (UK)
(4 September 2017; The Telegraph)
Another find on the BBC’s Fake or Fortune programme

Heartless thieves steal mosaics designed by Perthshire school children (UK)
(6 September 2017; The Courier)
The sparrowhawk and the osprey were taken from the Muthill community cycle path.

Bruce Seals may be fake but ‘still important for Scotland’s history’ (UK)
(7 September 2017; Dunfermline Press)
Real or replicas, the seals are important.

Ancient ‘fairy fort’ in Tyrone badly damaged by diggers before PSNI move in (UK)
(8 September 2017; Belfast Telegraph)
Iron Age ring fort at Lisnabulrevey, near Fintona in Co Tyrone. Police moved to halt the work.

‘Stolen art’ and ammunition found in west Belfast (UK)
(14 September 2017; BBC News)
Very little information about the paintings is offered.


Winery painting thief escapes with spent conviction (Australia)
(15 September 2017; Western Australia Today)
Drunk on a wine tour, he stole the painting in front of people.

South and East Asia

India’s antiques, neglected at home but treasured abroad (India)
(4 September 2017; The Indian Express)
Negligence may be at the root of Chandigarh’s loss of Le Corbusier furniture.

Amid ‘smuggling’ controversy, govt to go in for antiquity audit (India)
(7 September 2017; The Tribune)
Apparently Vijay Nanda was into Le Corbusier furniture loot, not just antiquities

Idol theft probe: Madras High Court warns of notice to officials (India)
(6 September 2017; Mirror Now)
Unclear why the Tamil Nadu government hasn’t appointed Manickavel “as the special officer to probe the idol theft cases” yet.

Tamil Nadu: Absconding DSP held for idol robbery (India)
(15 September 2017; Deccan Chronicle)
The police officer is accused of robbing idols 9 years ago at gunpoint.

Campaigners call to preserve rubble from archaeological buildings (Nepal)
(15 September 2017; OnlineKhabar)
“Nepali Army personnel were throwing rubble from such monuments, which was kept at Tundikhel of Kathmandu, like other rubbish.”

Ayutthaya temple fire damages ancient Buddha statue (Thailand)
(15 September 2017; The Nation)
Fire started behind the Phra Buddha Kodom statue in Ayutthaya’s Mueang district.

West and Central Asia

U.S. returns Saddam Hussein’s precious chess board (Iraq, USA)
(2 September 2017; Iraqi News)
Taken in 2003 during the invasion.

Artifacts stolen by IS from Mosul museum recovered (Iraq)
(3 September 2017; Iraqi News)
A displaced family returned them to the police.

Turning detective in hunt for artifacts (Turkey)
(7 September 2017; ECNS)
Ottoman-era losses specifically

Armenia’s Ministry of Culture Seeks Return of Ancient Armenian Church Bell from Iran (Turkey, Iran, Armenia)
(7 September 2017; Asbarez)
Belonged to one of the Armenian Churches in Van.

Roman sarcophagus of Hercules returns home to Turkey (Turkey, Switzerland)
(14 September 2017; Hurriyet Daily News)
Illegally excavated in Perge and seized in the Geneva freeport

In Other News

Caravaggio the criminal: The violent life and crimes of an artistic genius (Italy)
(3 September 2017; Salon)
The artist as a criminal

Morocco opens an investigation into the selling of dinosaur fossils on the Internet (Morocco, Ireland)
(6 September 2017; Al Arabiya)
Dino only found in Morocco, Morocco doesn’t allow export, how is it for sale in Ireland?

The amazing story of how Soviet Russians pirated music in the 1950s (Russia)
(8 September 2017; Tone Deaf)
On stolen X-rays!!

How Forest Forensics Could Prevent the Theft of Ancient Trees (USA)
(6 September 2017; Smithsonian)
Ideas for discouraging “midnight burlers”, people who steal redwoods

The Cactus Poachers of Phoenix who are Ruining the Arizona Desert (USA)
(14 September 2017; The Independent)
Thriving black market for endangered cactus.