Vermeer's The Concert

Vermeer's The Concert

Friday, June 08, 2007

Stolen Vermeer, Hunt for Whitey Bulger brings Charlie Hill, out of the Closet !!

Breaking news:
INLA Leader conveniently found dead in cell

Does this help smooth the way for Gardner art to surface, yes when FBI/Irish Authorities take "Yes" for an answer

Chris Roberts/A.K.A., Charlie Hill and FBI Bulger Squad get in character to trace Whitey Bulger !!!!!

UK expert on the trail of godfather suspected of masterminding $350m art heist
Sandra Laville in Las Palmas
Monday June 4, 2007

The Guardian
"No, the legs are wrong. The walk is wrong. He'd be wearing a hat, and sunglasses, always sunglasses."
Along the two-mile promenade of Playa de las Canteras, elderly men with white hair and skin the colour of worn leather pass the time of day with friends. Some walk purposefully along the beach skirting the surf line, baseball hats pulled down on their heads. Others sit on benches smoking cigarettes.

Secreted here, amid the sweep of hotels, facades of broken-down buildings and surfers' haunts, is a British art crime investigator working under the pseudonym Chris Roberts to protect his anonymity. Nearing 60, he is a loner, with strong contacts in the criminal underworld and a reputation for finding what he seeks. He is convinced he will know the man he wants when he sees him. The legs will be distinctive, strong and significantly bowed, lending an unmistakeable sway to the walk. The face will be chiselled, the arms muscular despite his 77 years and the blue eyes hidden behind aviator sunglasses. He will be carrying a knife.

For 12 years James "Whitey" Bulger has evaded capture. The violent and feared godfather of the Irish mob in Boston, Massachusetts, Whitey fled the US in 1995 after being tipped off by a corrupt FBI agent, John Connolly, that an indictment was heading his way. With Connolly now in jail in the US, Whitey, so named because of his slick of white hair, is wanted for 19 murders, violating the laws against organised crime, extortion, drug dealing and money laundering, all committed from the early 1970s to the mid-80s. Considered armed and extremely dangerous, he ranks in the top 10 of the FBI's list of most-wanted villains and carries a $1m (£500,000) bounty.

In 12 years the FBI's Bulger taskforce has searched England, Ireland, France, Italy, Thailand and Brazil for Whitey - the man on whom Martin Scorsese is said to have modelled Frank Costello, played by Jack Nicholson in the Oscar-winning film The Departed.

What might appear to be a search for a needle in a haystack has recently focused on Spain. The US attorney in Boston, Michael Sullivan, will not comment on the investigation but it is understood a Spanish arrest warrant has been issued for Bulger and investigators from the justice department have recently travelled to the Canary Islands in the hunt for him.

What brings Roberts, one of Britain's leading specialist art crime investigators, to Gran Canaria dates back to 1990 in Boston, a city where nothing moved in the underworld without the Irish godfather knowing about it.

In the early hours of March 18, as Boston's St Patrick's Day celebrations drew to a close, two thieves, dressed in ill-fitting police uniforms, carried out one of the biggest art heists in history.

Thirteen paintings worth $350m - including Rembrandt's only seascape, The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, The Concert by Jan Vermeer, Landscape with an Obelisk by Govaert Flinck, five Degas drawings and a Manet portrait - were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

The thieves handcuffed and bound the guards and ripped the canvases from the frames, leaving the ragged edges of the masterpieces protruding from the smashed glass and splintered wood.

The crime may have taken place 17 years ago, but the hunt for the paintings continues. Many investigators believe Bulger was the mastermind. "Find Whitey and you find the paintings," said Roberts.

Armed with tips from informants, Roberts treads the beaches of Gran Canaria scanning the groups of old men in their 70s, watches the ferry port and sits scouring hotel lobbies, a digital camera and a notebook in his pocket. "It's like a painting, it tells you whether it's real or not if you know what you are looking for and look closely," he said.

Roberts's success in recovering masterpieces for museums and private individuals during his 30-year career belies the hard work and tedium of the traditional gumshoe. Hunting for a fugitive requires good informants, patience, instinct, tenacity and an ability to take repeated, crushing disappointments. Investigators immerse themselves in the lives of their subject in an attempt to get inside their minds. In Bulger's case the FBI lists his predilections as walking on beaches, exercise, historical buildings, libraries and a love of animals.

"He will be in a place away from the tourists, somewhere with a slightly seedy edge, where he can walk along the beach unnoticed and have control over his surroundings," said Roberts. "What he won't want is to draw attention to himself. He is very proud of his physique, so will be keeping fit. He has to be in a place where he can escape quickly, not some small village where he would stand out and could be trapped."

Roberts is one of at least two British experts trying to crack one of the art world's greatest mysteries. Other freelance bounty hunters are also looking for the paintings, attracted by the $5m reward for the safe return of the works.

Unlike most crimes, where the trail goes cold the longer the investigation continues, when it comes to high-value art thefts, the years that pass make a breakthrough more likely. "You are not looking for the thieves. It is the handlers you want, the people who have hold of the art and have laid it down to await further instructions," Roberts said.

Contacted last year by the US attorney in Boston, he has visited Spain and the Canaries four times in his search. In October last year he believed he had spotted the fugitive in a rundown part of Alicante, exercising in the early morning on the seafront. "When I saw him I took pictures, and went back and watched again. It was his walk that gave him away, I was convinced it was him."

He took several photographs, contacted the lead investigator from the US attorney's justice department in Boston and sent off the pictures. "It took seven weeks for them to turn up in Spain," he said. A return visit by Roberts during a wet, cold November drew a blank. "By then I think he was long gone."

Accusations abound that the FBI and the US attorney's justice department have been leaden-footed in the 12-year manhunt, fuelled by the history of the mobster's relationship with the bureau. For nearly two decades Bulger was a top-tier secret FBI informant and as such was given protection by his corrupt handler, Connolly, from prosecution by other agencies, including the police. The allegation is that the last thing many within the FBI want is to find Bulger and stir memories of the rampant corruption within the agency in the city.

As for the paintings, sources within the art crime underworld and the Garda believe they have been laid down in a secret hideaway in the west of Ireland, a result of strong links between Bulger's Irish mafia in Boston and senior figures within the IRA leadership at the time.

"If Bulger is caught there is no need for those who hold the paintings to hang on to them," said Roberts. "That is the moment you are likely to have a breakthrough. At the moment it is not worth the lives of those holding the art to do anything differently from what they have been told by the people who are supporting Whitey's fugitive status."

A security source within the art world said the paintings may be used as a bartering tool by known criminals. "Art thefts in general are often carried out not for actual cash but for collateral for drugs or bartering your way out of charges," said the source. "People steal art, store it away and hold on to it. When they get into trouble, they use it as a means of trying to get out of trouble."

It is known that before he fled America, Bulger travelled to Ireland, the UK and elsewhere in Europe, leaving money and other possessions in deposit boxes as a means of support when on the run. Scotland Yard became involved in the case, the Guardian understands, when one of the many boxes deposited by Bulger was found in the security vaults of a bank near Piccadilly Circus. Inside, officers found $50,000 and the key to another deposit box in Dublin. In Boston, the head of security at the Gardner museum, Anthony Amore, believes the $5m reward will eventually attract vital information."There are a number of investigations going on," said Mr Amore. "Primarily, the FBI has the jurisdiction, and they are heading up the investigation into the theft.

"From our perspective I will walk over broken glass to get the paintings back. We are optimistic. There are a number of very good people who are investigating the theft and issues around it," he said. He went on to name Roberts and another Briton.

But for Roberts the hunt ended in Gran Canaria, albeit temporarily, in disappointment and a trail gone cold. His continued conviction, however, that Bulger holds the key to finding the art comes as no surprise to museum staff.

"He was the main crime boss in Boston at the time, he knew everything that went on," said a museum source. "No one really knows what the FBI are up to, they don't tell us, but his name certainly cannot be ruled out."

Today, the empty frames of the paintings still hang on the museum walls. A notice next to the space where once Vermeer's The Concert hung reads: "On the night of March 18 1990 thieves stole 13 priceless works of art including The Concert and The Storm on the Sea of Galilee. Anyone with information is asked to contact the FBI."

Mr Amore often pauses to stare at the empty frames. "We like to look at those empty frames as place holders for our art," he said. "They are not there to mourn the loss of the paintings, but to hold a place for those important pieces which we are sure will one day be returned to the Gardner collection."

Artful dodgers

Charles Hill talks to Stephen Armstrong about catching culture thieves

Charlie Hill begins by shattering my illusions. "Jules Verne did it first," he says. "In Captain Nemo's ward room he had all these stolen masterpieces. Then you get Dr No where Sean Connery and Ursula Andress walk past Goya's portrait of the Duke of Wellington that had been stolen a couple of years before the film was made and Bond says 'Oh, that's where it went.' Then there's the Thomas Crown Affair and countless others - writers perpetuating the idea that collectors have paintings stolen to order." He pauses. "That's almost all bullshit."

Hill should know. He's got one of best records in the business for recovering stolen art. In 1993, while working for the art and antiquities unit of the Metropolitan police, he went undercover and returned with Vermeer's Lady Writing a Letter With Her Maid, seven years after it had been stolen by the brutal Irish gangster Martin "The General" Cahill.

In 1994 he helped track down Edvard Munch's The Scream after it was stolen from the National Gallery in Oslo.

Since leaving the force, he has helped the Marquess of Bath find Titian's Rest on the Flight into Egypt, which had been missing since 1995, and he tried unsuccessfully to negotiate for the return of the Henry Moore bronze stolen last December. "I got a call saying it had been melted down," he says regretfully. "That's the most frustrating part of the job, hearing that art has been melted down for scrap. I find it very disheartening."

Right now, Hill is pretty disheartened. A spate of bronze thefts around London shows that - after a lull - art theft is back in a new and depressing way. "The National Trust hasn't been hit for 18 months," Hill explains. "There had been plans to hit Knole [an NT property near Sevenoaks, Kent], but the gang changed their minds after they were told it wouldn't be worth their lives. One of the men, who is behind a lot of the art theft from houses - the paintings-lifted-from-walls jobs - issued instructions they weren't to do the job. The gang knew his reputation - a very violent, multifaceted criminal - so they did an ATM instead."

He says this as we wander through Kew Gardens, near his home in Twickenham, on the day news broke that one of Lynn Chadwick's Watchers had been lifted from the grounds of Roehampton University. "These bronze thefts - they're part of something new." He seems gloomy at the prospect. "When my contact told me the Moore had been melted down, he said they'd got a couple of grand for it and considered it a good night's work."

This new type of theft depresses Hill because there's so little time between the crime and the crucible. He works on jobs that take years - years spent following ripples in a murky pool of criminal gangs and dubious art dealers until he can fish out his painted prize. "The amount of beauty matched by moral turpitude in the art world generally, but specifically in the world of art crime, is fascinating." Hill half smiles beneath his well-trimmed beard. "There's a great fluctuating moral tide and people just bob along on it."

Most of the actual thieves who snatch the pictures do so out of ignorance - they're the kind of petty criminals who could take a JCB to an ATM one day, sell some weed the next and rip a Vermeer from a stately home at the weekend. "Most art collections are very badly protected," Hill points out. "The reason is, they're on public display. You can't turn the National Gallery into Fort Knox, what's the point? They do what they can within budget, but if you're determined you can probably get away with it. The thieves are told the things are worth a fortune, that they're relatively easy to steal so they steal - then they have to get rid of them."

The bronze thefts worry him, because turning them into cash is easy. With picture thefts it's different. Once most thieves get their hands on something they've no idea how to sell it on and usually let priceless pieces go for tiny sums. It takes a few more transactions before the picture brushes against the art world proper, and then it's legal for reward money to change hands - which is usually where Hill steps in.

The only theft he can recall that matches the Technicolor glory of heist flicks was the 2003 theft of a Benvenuto Cellini gold saltcellar from the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. The thief had worked out that the museum's infrared detector beams met behind the cellar's plinth, so during building work he climbed the scaffolding, entered the gallery through the window and, despite triggering an alarm, made off with $58m worth of condiment.

"The cellar was recovered last Saturday by the Austrian police." Hill sounds impressed with their detective work. "What's interesting is that the guy had just buried it in a box. He'd taken quite good care of it - there was only a little damage. He was pleased with himself that he'd stolen it and he was keeping it for his own pleasure - although he had tried to turn it in for a reward, which is how they'd cottoned on to him."

If art crime is some way from fiction, Hill's own life is a proper adventure yarn. His American airforce father and British ballerina mother met during the second world war. After the war, the family became camp followers as his dad was posted around the world, "like Mother Courage", Hill jokes. He went to a dozen different schools in Europe and the US. His mother would take her kids around galleries, and it is from her that he picked up his love of the art world. He was still the son of a soldier, though, and in 1967 - one year after his father's accidental death - he volunteered for the draft, spending two years in the US infantry including a tour of Vietnam with the 173rd Airborne. He survived without a scratch and earned a reputation as a lucky charm. Other soldiers clustered around him in battle, convinced that his juju would protect them.

Hill returned to college in Washington DC in 1969 and spent his Sunday mornings watching Kenneth Clark's Civilisation at the National Gallery. Winning a Fulbright scholarship allowed him to pursue post-grad work at Trinity College, Dublin - where he met and fell in love with his wife, but fell out of love with academia. After briefly considering the church, he opted instead for the Metropolitan police and, by 1978, was a beat officer in Stoke Newington, north London.

"My beat was the top of Stamford Hill - three different groups of Orthodox Jews in the area and high immigration so it was a high-pressure job," he recalls. "I mainly arrested muggers, because I was fitter then and a good middle-distance runner - if they couldn't get away from me in the first 100 yards, I had them."

A career in CID followed, and it was while undercover that his artistic expertise came to the force's attention. He was posing as a collector looking to buy a stolen picture from two career criminals who saw the job as their retirement fund when he realised the painting was a poor Victorian forgery. He told both the crooks and his bosses and - after they'd busted the pair - he started working on art and antiquities full time. Typically he'd be undercover as a blustering American collector, although for The Scream, he posed as a representative of the Getty Institute offering a $5m reward.

"It's often easier at the robbery level to go through the criminal world, as money talks," he explains. "That's why it's so important to have rewards. Some people feel uneasy because I do cultivate bad guys I feel can help. Take the gangster who stopped the Knole job. He's the head of a large Irish travelling family over here and they'd been involved in Bath's Titian but he now feels they have to get away from raiding historic houses. Mind you, a lot of people in his family don't like him being friendly with me. I've been to his main site where his family is and I felt like Hawkeye going into the camp of the Huron chief to rescue Colonel Munro's daughters. They feel I've twisted the mind of their boss."

As we're talking, he gets a call from a guy in Scandinavia who thinks he's got a lead on the two Munch paintings stolen in 2004. Hill is delighted. He's been hoping for the call all week. He's sure that if he can talk to the people with the paintings - the thieves have all been caught and are on trial - he should be able to get them back. "It's about persuading people that they can return things and not go to jail," he says.

We head back towards the station and he ruminates on his low pay now that he's working for himself. "I left the force when I was 49, 10 years ago," he explains. "There's not much money in this game though. My wife has had to go back to work full time. Financially it's a struggle, but it's enormously worthwhile. I've held a Goya, a Munch and a Vermeer in my hands that I personally helped recover. There's nothing else I want to do. This is my vocation - I intend to do it for as long as people steal things. Which is for ever."

Stealing the show: Hill's recoveries

Lady Writing a Letter With Her Maid (Vermeer)
Russborough House, the late Sir Alfred Beit's home in Ireland, has been raided at least four times. Before the 1986 raid, Martin Cahill joined guided tours of the Beit Collection, and returned in the early hours of May 21. His gang deactivated an alarm, and hid while gardai checked the premises. They then loaded 18 works of art into stolen cars, abandoning the seven least valuable next to a nearby lake.

The Scream (Munch)
The 1994 theft of the painting (one of four Screams) took less than a minute. At 6.30am on February 12, two men smashed a window in the National Gallery, Oslo, cut the wires holding the painting in place and fled before guards responded to the alarm.

Rest on the Flight into Egypt (Titian)
The thieves entered Longleat House, Lord Bath's Wiltshire home, through a broken window on January 6 1995, a week after Charles Hill, then head of the art and antiques squad, warned art owners to improve their security.

Art Hostage comments:

Chris Roberts is the pseudonym Charlie Hill uses when he goes on a Gay Gangbanging Guardian junket. "Dick Ellis, June 4th 2007"

Charlie Hill's favorite Karaoke track, variation of the George Michael song:

"Don't Let Your Son Go Down On Me"

"Charlie Hill was once so depressed he tried to drown himself, he was found clinging to a Boy"
Michel van Rijn June 4th 2007

Charlie Hill loves Chinese food, his favourite soup:

"Cream of some young Guy"

O'h and while Charlie Hill is having a jolly up at the Guardian's expense, poor old Jimmy Johnson is languishing in Jail doing four years.

Jimmy Johnson's only crime was to try and recover stolen high value art and collect a reward.

Wonder what Jimmy Johnson will think when he next gets a visit from Charlie Hill all tanned and mincing into the visiting room like Liberace on speed??

Charlie Hill, in full regalia, ready to visit Jimmy Johnson in Jail.

Charlie, we are just joking, having a laugh, nothing personal, no offense intended.
Furthermore, Charlie Hill is certainly not Gay, in fact he has been described as the most virile Hetrosexual man ever to serve at Scotland Yard in the London Met Police.

To matters at hand:

I have been saying until I am Blue in the face that the only safe way to recover the Gardner art without the Gardner Museum paying a reward to the bad guys via Chris Roberts AKA Charlie Hill, is for General Thomas Slab Murphy to secure the Vermeer and co, paying what money is owed to underworld figures, then allowing the Vermeer and co to surface via a confession box (Symbolism of absolution)

Subsequent to the recovery of the Gardner art the Sectarian prosecution and bogus tax demand of $40 million is withdrawn against the Murphy family and that is that.

By taking this route there are no payments made that could be given to bad guys thereby not encouraging further art thefts.

It seems that authorities keep on trying to pull the tail of the Celtic Tigers, so don't be surprised to if the Tiger turns round and bites their hands off, metaphorically so to speak.

Now there is power sharing in the North it is about time there was an amnesty for past moneymaking operations and a cut off date set as May 8th 2007.

Any Republican or Loyalist moneymaking activity before May 8th 2007 should be consigned to history alongside the dark days of the Struggle/Troubles.

This amnesty should also include Jackie McDonald as well as Brian Arthur's.

If good old Bobby Storey can get a car, expense account and new job, why not afford this to other former paramilitaries?

Finally, a week in the sun courtesy of the Guardian, looking for men with bow legs sounds like a junket to me, also there is a risk of being arrested for importuning and the accusation of a sexual fetish.

I wonder if Chris Roberts had his bushy moustache, leather hat and handkerchief in the back pocket to attract the attention of Whitey Bulger??

Charlie Hill in his Spanish Undercover outfit !!!

A quick rendition of Y.MC.A

"Young man, there's no need to feel down, I said young man, ................"

Whitey Bulger was in Spain last year but now he has been in South of France, on his way to Ireland for the Summer, via Channel Tunnel, then ferry from Stranraer to Belfast.

Word is Whitey is already in West of Ireland hooking up with Dessie O'Hare,
see wikipedia search for Dessie o'hare and Sean O'Callaghan
A throw-back to the historic connections between the Boston Underworld and the I.N.L.A. namely, Joe Murray, Whitey Bulger and Dominic McGlinchey now Whitey Bulger is close to Dominic's children Dominic jnr and Declan.
Declan McGlinchey is why the FBI and Irish Authorities will not allow any reward to be paid for the Gardner art, because they fear Declan McGlinchey will use it for Terrorist purposes.
Joe Murray was murdered by Whitey Bulger, with FBI approval and not by his wife, as reported by the FBI controlled media Whores.

To be continued...............................................

The Foxes Guarding the Hen-House ?????????????????

To be continued..................................................................

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dick Ellis is trying to sting the Irish guys who hold some Gardner art.

He is going to get them all arrested soon, so beware of the Dick Ellis false promises and undercover sting operation happening now in Ireland.
July 3rd 2012