Vermeer's The Concert

Vermeer's The Concert

Friday, October 26, 2007

Stolen Art Watch, Goldie for Freedom !!

Stolen art returned to Auckland Uni

Three priceless art works and manuscripts stolen from the University of Auckland over Christmas have been returned.

Thieves stole a $100,000 Charles Goldie painting, seven Colin McCahon poems worth $7000 and an unbound copy of the Oxford Lectern Bible valued at $100,000 from the library's special collections room while the university library was closed during the Christmas holidays.

A university spokeswoman said the items would be back on display soon but the Oxford Lectern Bible needed some repair work before it could be returned to display.

On Saturday, the New Zealand Herald reported an "elaborate deal" between police and an accused criminal had been brokered in an attempt to recover the items.

Police arranged for minor charges to be dropped against the man, who arranged the return of the artefacts.

The man, who appeared in Auckland District Court last week, was not involved in the theft but had learned who had taken the items and where they were.

Through a series of e-mails, the man said he had learned where the items were and that police would never find them.

The negotiation was conducted in secret, and included a show of "good faith" when the man returned the Oxford Lectern Bible.

The deal was concluded last week with the return of the Goldie.

Following the theft, the university increased security on significant art works and other valuable items in its collections.

The spokeswoman said a review of its security arrangements meant the university would be able to protect its collections while enabling access to them by the university community and visitors.

Art Hostage comments:

Miles Connor of Boston did the self same thing as this back in the 70's.

Miles lifted a Rembrandt from a Boston Museum and then returned it to authorities to get off other criminal charges.

In this case I think this guy facing charges got his mates to steal the Goldie or he paid the thieves to be able to use the Goldie painting as leverage in getting his criminal charges dropped.

A classic buy-back with criminal charges being the reward currency.

2007 is becoming the year of Stolen Art Recovery, which I shall review shortly.

Still time left in 2007 for some world breaking important news, keep you posted !!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Stolen Art Watch, Moron of the Week, Steven Lee Olson !!

Carlstadt man held in $1M art theft

Thursday, October 25, 2007


The Record North Jersey

Susan Tranquada said she wasn't impressed when her boyfriend showed her an old painting last year that he said he'd found in the basement.

"When you look at it, the faces of the children, they're scary," she said Wednesday.

On Tuesday, federal authorities arrested the heavily tattooed trucker and charged him with stealing the work -- an 18th-century masterpiece painted by Francisco de Goya y Lucientes that had been swiped from a truck on its way to the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan last November.

Steven Lee Olson contacted the FBI last year, telling the agency he found the 1778 oil painting, "Children With a Cart," in the basement of a rented home in Succasunna, Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth Kosto told a federal judge in Newark on Wednesday.

Olson contacted his lawyer, who arranged to turn the painting over to the FBI at his Hackensack office.

So Tranquada said she was shocked when agents burst into their Carlstadt apartment late Tuesday as Olson sat eating takeout fried chicken in his underwear.

"[The FBI] said they cleared him six months ago. They said they found nothing on him," Tranquada, a 47-year-old waitress, said Wednesday outside the Hoboken Road home they have rented for two months. "And now they arrest him one year later?"

Without disclosing details, authorities said they slowly and meticulously traced the theft of the painting, leading to an indictment Monday that was unsealed with Olson's arrest.

Olson, 49, was brought into federal court in Newark wearing jeans and a gray "Hog Wild" T-shirt that featured a pig on a motorcycle. U.S. Magistrate Judge Patty Shwartz ordered him held without bail pending a hearing next Wednesday. Kosto earlier called him a risk to flee and possibly to threaten potential witnesses.

Olson is charged with a single count of stealing an object of cultural heritage from the custody of the Toledo Museum of Art, a crime that carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.

The oil painting was snatched Nov. 8 from an unmarked truck as it was being transported from its home in Ohio to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, where it was to be included in the exhibition "Spanish Painting from El Greco to Picasso: Time, Truth, and History."

Insured by the Toledo museum for more than $1 million, the crated work was in the care of professional art transporters who stopped overnight at a Howard Johnson Inn off Route 80 in Bartonsville, Pa., about nine miles west of the Delaware Water Gap.

When they got up the next morning, they told investigators, they found that the lock on the back of the truck had been broken and the painting was gone.

Within two weeks, amid extensive media coverage, the painting was mysteriously recovered undamaged. The FBI provided no details of the recovery but acknowledged that its success was due in part to tips investigators received after posting a $50,000 reward.

Tranquada said she, Olson and their 5-year-old daughter were renting the Morris County house last year from a close friend. The day the painting was stolen, they had attended a birthday party for their friend's son, 27-year-old Roman Szurko, she said.

Tranquada said she didn't recall Olson slipping out that night, although FBI agents say they have records of him making a 10-minute call to her at 12:45 a.m. on Nov. 9. She told The Record she didn't remember that call.

Two days later, she said, Olson told her he'd been rooting around their basement when he discovered the painting. He proposed hanging it in their apartment, but she refused, citing the subjects' faces.

"I wouldn't put this on my wall," she said.

Some days later, while in the Union City office of Olson's employer, Hart Transport, Tranquada spotted a story in a New York City tabloid about the art theft.

She and Olson debated what to do.

"I literally wanted him to leave it on the side of the road and to call the cops," she said. But Olson told her he couldn't do that.

"He was in shock. We didn't care about the reward. We just wanted the thing gone and off our hands."

They took the painting to Olson's longtime lawyer, Warren Sutnick of Hackensack, who insisted on calling the FBI, Tranquada said. Agents came over and interviewed the couple separately at the lawyer's office, she recalled.

Sutnick could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

Over the ensuing months, she said, they stayed in touch with the FBI, and were eventually told that the investigation was over.

Then Tuesday night, a quartet of FBI agents took him away, Tranquada said.

"They said, 'You must've known we were coming.' "

N.J. Man Arrested in Goya Painting Theft

By CHRIS NEWMARKER – 3 hours ago

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A truck driver who stole an art masterpiece from an unattended transport truck, then claimed he found it in his basement was charged with theft, authorities said.

Steven Lee Olson, 49, was charged with stealing "Children with a Cart," a 1778 painting by famed Spanish artist Francisco de Goya, federal prosecutors said Wednesday. The painting was insured at a value of about $1 million.

In an initial appearance in federal court in Newark on Wednesday, Olson through his lawyer decided not to immediately contest his detainment. A bail hearing was scheduled for Oct. 31.

The federal public defender representing Olson didn't immediately return a phone message. A message left at a number listed for Olson also wasn't immediately returned.

The painting was being trucked to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City from Ohio's Toledo Museum of Art last November. It was stolen as the transport drivers spent the night at a Pennsylvania motel. They discovered it missing the next morning.

Within days, Olson contacted federal authorities through an attorney to say he found the painting in his basement, said U.S Attorney's office spokesman Michael Drewniak.

After a lengthy investigation, authorities determined that Olson, a self-employed truck driver, had lifted the piece himself, Drewniak said.

"It was a crime of opportunity that didn't pay," FBI agent Sandra Carroll said.

Olson was arrested without incident at his home in Carlstadt on Tuesday. He is charged with theft of an object of cultural heritage from a museum, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The painting was returned undamaged to the Toledo museum. In February, the museum allowed the painting to be included for a few weeks in the Guggenheim exhibit.

Goya painted "Children with a Cart" in 1778 as a model for a tapestry planned for the bedroom of a Spanish prince. The group of four children includes one boy blowing a horn and another with his back to the viewer.

Art Hostage comments:

Thankfully, this moron Olson has a brain the size of a Walnut.

First, to try and offer the painting back so soon was a fatal mistake because it shows recent possession.

Elizabeth Gibson waited years before she attempted to return the stolen Tamayo Mexican artwork, see story below:

She seems to have cracked it by being awarded $15,000 and a percentage of the sale price.

It appears she has stood up to public scrutiny, and maybe Law Enforcement scrutiny, so she collects her reward.

However, Elizabeth Gibson could find there is a sting in the tail, if Law Enforcement has its way, remember Olson was left hanging for a year, a sting in the tail could still be on the cards, more likely than not, they are working on it !!!!!!!

To really overcome any Public and Law Enforcement scrutiny when returning stolen art, the person should be able to command respect and be of a position whereby any suspicion would be counter-productive.

Second, "I found it in my basement" not as good as "I found it in a dumpster, years ago"

Criminals cannot hide behind a lawyer anymore because of legislation that obliges Lawyers to inform on their clients if they are party to information about possible wrong-doing, therefore any lawyer taking possession of, or control of stolen art is liable to prosecution, as we see in the Da Vinci case.

The moral of this story is:

"Art Theft, Forget about it"

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Stolen Art Watch, Whitey Bulger in Rendition Flight !!

Art Hostage has learnt that Whitey Bulger will be appearing on TV in America shortly, after being arrested and flown straight to the States.

The extradition warrants have been sorted out, so due process will take about 30 seconds.

To save money and cut the American deficit, Whitey Bulger will share the flight back to America with Osama Bin Laden.

Oops, and, you've done it again, jumped the bloody gun !!

And next weeks lottery numbers are....................................

Stolen Art Watch, McAllister Fate in President Bush's Hands !!

Hib leaders plead McAllister case to president

By Ray O'Hanlon

The nation's highest ranking Ancient Order of Hibernians leaders have appealed to President Bush to intervene in the case of Malachy McAllister and his family.

The men's and ladies AOH national presidents have sent a letter to Bush on behalf of Belfast native McAllister, who, along with two of his four children, faces potential deportation to Ireland at any time.

In a separate statement, Massachusetts-based Jack Meehan and Dorothy Weldon acknowledged with gratitude legal and legislative initiatives of among others, New Jersey Representative Steve Rothman and Senator Charles Schumer, who has written to the Department of Homeland Security on behalf of the McAllisters.

""But let's face it. Now is the time for those who believe in the promise of America to act. The President alone or acting in concert with Congress can demonstrate what the Irish peace accord is supposed to mean - deliver justice to

Malachy and end his family's nightmare," AOH National President Jack Meehan said in the statement.

"The Attorney General and Homeland Security have spent millions to legally lynch this lone Irishman in a pointless exercise that could not possibly contribute one iota to national security," Meehan said.

Meehan's plea was echoed in the statement by AOH ladies president, Pennsylvania-based Dorothy Weldon

"We appeal to President Bush, whose concern for government excess is well known, and to his sense of what America must mean to those who have fled Afghanistan, Iraq and Burma. Malachy is just as entitled to asylum or relief from deportation as those who fled those conflicts and government persecution.

"Indeed, he has spent the last twenty years proving how worthy he is of a home in America," said Weldon.

The two Hibernian leaders, in their letter to the president, describe a case

in which McAllister is a "victim of a government bureaucracy that has run amok and lawyers too blind to do their duty to seek truth and justice."

The letter states: "We plea for your help in granting Mr. McAllister permanent residency status for three reasons.

"First, as a man who had served a prison sentence in Northern Ireland, Malachy was marked for death by loyalist vigilantes. He survived one attempt on his life and escaped garrison rule in Northern Ireland by fleeing with his family to Canada in 1988 and eventually to America.

"He has lived, worked, and led an exemplary life here ever since. A fundamental part of the 1998 Belfast Agreement, which we both have wholeheartedly supported, is reconciliation, release of prisoners, and justice.

"These concepts seem to have escaped the notice of the Department of Homeland Security which, on its own initiative, and not acting upon any government request, has relentlessly pursued deportation of Malachy nearly ten years after the accord was signed! This legal vendetta is wholly unwarranted. Malachy is no threat to this nation as a Federal Appeals Court has indicated. Cases such as this may keep an army of lawyers employed at government expense, but at the same time erode respect for the rule of law.

"Second, as the latest report of the Northern Ireland Independent Monitoring Commission indicates, the loyalist paramilitaries have not disarmed and are a real threat to individuals and to the peace process. Malachy's potential deportation to the North of Ireland has already prompted these same thugs to issue death threats to him and his family. The priority attention given to this deportation proceeding by the Attorney General and the Department of Homeland Security suggests a determination to add yet another victim to the tragic conflict in Ireland.

"Third, we share your concern for the reform of immigration law. Our support, and I believe yours, is derived in no small measure from an awareness of the hopes and dreams of the many who come to this country seeking a way of life free of poverty and despair, who wish to build a new life and to breathe the air of freedom and democracy enriched by the rule of law and justice.

"Malachy McAllister is the poster boy for the many in this country whose young lives knew nothing but persecution and who saw in America a place where one could live free of such fears. When President Reagan told the "freedom man" story of the Vietnamese boat people, he could have been talking about Malachy McAllister's life."

Meehan and Weldon conclude their letter by asking President Bush for his "early consideration of and action upon" their appeal on behalf of the McAllister family and "their legions of supporters here in their adopted country."

Art Hostage comments:

Please keep praying for divine intervention.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Stolen Art Watch, I Confess, Nearly Perfect, Almost There !!

Elizabeth Gibson with the painting.

Published: October 23, 2007

It’s hardly a place you would expect to find a $1 million painting.

But one March morning four years ago, Elizabeth Gibson was on her way to get coffee, as usual, when she spotted a large and colorful abstract canvas nestled between two big garbage bags in front of the Alexandria, an apartment building on the northwest corner of Broadway and 72nd Street in Manhattan.

“I had a real debate with myself,” said Ms. Gibson, a writer and self-professed Dumpster diver. “I almost left it there because it was so big, and I kept thinking to myself, ‘Why are you taking this back to your crammed apartment?’”

But, she said, she felt she simply had to have the 38-by-51-inch painting, because “it had a strange power.”

Art experts would agree with her. As it turns out, the painting was “Three People,” a 1970 canvas by the celebrated 20th-century Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo that was stolen 20 years ago and is the subject of an F.B.I. investigation.

Experts say the painting — a largely abstract depiction of a man, a woman and an androgynous figure in vibrant purples, oranges and yellows — is in miraculously good condition and worth about $1 million. On Nov. 20 it is to go on the block at Sotheby’s as one of the highlights of a Latin American art auction.

Ms. Gibson said she did not suspect that the painting had any commercial value when she found it. “I am not a modern-art aficionado,” she said. “It was so overpowering, yet it had a cheap frame.”

The painting had been missing for so long that the owners, a married couple whom Sotheby’s would not identify, had long since given up hope of ever seeing it again. The husband, a Houston collector and businessman, had purchased “Three People” at a Sotheby’s auction in 1977 as a birthday present for his wife. He paid $55,000 for it.

Ten years later, when the couple were in the midst of moving from a house to an apartment in Houston, they put the painting into storage at a local warehouse. It was there that it disappeared.

The couple reported the theft to the local and federal authorities, and an image was posted on the databases of the International Foundation for Art Research and the Art Loss Register. They also offered a $15,000 reward to anyone who could help them recover it. But no credible leads surfaced.

The couple later moved to South America, and the husband died. It is his widow who is putting the painting on the market.

How “Three People” got from a Houston warehouse 20 years ago to the streets of New York remains a mystery. The painting’s disappearance so troubled August Uribe, an expert at Sotheby’s, that he volunteered to appear on “Antiques Roadshow” in a “Missing Masterpieces” segment in May 2005.

Ms. Gibson had hung the painting in her living room, but remained curious about it. She had gone back to the Alexandria the day after taking it home and asked the doormen there if anyone could tell her who had put it on the street.

“No one remembered anything,” she said. “All they said was that 20 minutes after I took it, the garbage truck arrived. This was truly an appointment with destiny.”

It took three years for her to realize that she possessed a stolen painting.

A few months after she hung it in her apartment, she said, she called a friend who had worked at an auction house and described the painting to him. “He asked me if it had a signature,” she recalled. It did. In the upper right-hand corner the artist had signed it “Tamayo 0-70.”

But her friend did not seem very interested in her discovery, she said.

More time passed, and one day she removed the painting from the wall and examined the back. There she saw several stickers — one from the Perls Gallery in Manhattan, now closed; another from the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville in Paris, where it had been exhibited in 1974; and a third from the Richard Feigen Gallery in Manhattan.

She called the Feigen gallery and told someone there about all the information on the labels. Days later, she said, the gallery called back to say it had no record of the painting.

A year or so after that, she said, she told another friend about the painting. “He showed me a Sotheby’s catalog where a Tamayo had sold for $500,000,” she recalled. He also went to the library and came back with a pile of books on the artist. One — a 1974 monograph of his work by Emily Genauer — had her painting on the cover. “I was stunned,” Ms. Gibson said.

She made an appointment to do more research at the Frick Art Reference Library, at the Frick Collection on East 70th Street. A librarian there directed her to the nearby Mary-Anne Martin gallery, which specializes in Latin American art.

She walked three blocks to the gallery, where she says she was told by someone that it was a “famously stolen” painting. “I was in a state of shock,” she said.

Realizing that she might have something very valuable, Ms. Gibson built a false wall in her closet to conceal the painting, carefully wrapping it in old shower curtains. After Googling the artist’s name, she discovered an image of “Three People” at the “Antiques Roadshow” Web site in reference to the “Missing Masterpieces” segment.

Searching the Web in May, she discovered that the episode would be rebroadcast the next day in Baltimore. She traveled to Baltimore by bus and checked into a hotel to watch the segment.

“It was very nail-biting, but the moment I saw it, I knew it was my painting,” she said.

Upon returning to New York, she immediately called Sotheby’s and made an appointment to see Mr. Uribe. “Just call me a Mystery Woman,” she says she told his office, not wanting to reveal her story until she was face to face with Mr. Uribe. She asked a minister from her church, the First Church of Religious Science, to accompany her and introduced herself as Mrs. Green.

“I asked her to describe the painting,” Mr. Uribe recalled. “And when she said it had a sandy surface, I knew it was the painting.” (Tamayo frequently ground sand and marble into his paint.) She also told Mr. Uribe about the stickers on the back, which offered further confirmation that she had the real thing.

Mr. Uribe visited Ms. Gibson’s Upper West Side apartment, and she began dismantling the false wall. “I saw only a corner of the canvas, yet I knew it was the painting,” he said. “The colors and surface were unique to Tamayo.”

Ms. Gibson will receive the promised $15,000 reward from the seller, as well as a smaller finder’s fee from Sotheby’s, which the auction house declined to disclose.

Sotheby’s informed the F.B.I. that “Three People” had been found. James Wynne, the agent in charge of the case, said that because a criminal investigation was continuing, he could not discuss whether the agency had any clues to who stole the work years ago.

“Finding a $1 million painting in the garbage is very unusual,” Mr. Wynne said. “It’s a real New York story.”

Art Hostage comments

With a little tweaking, this could be a foretaste of bigger and brighter times ahead !!

Hail Mary...................

Ah, tis a Silver tongue ya have there Art Hostage !!
If anyone finds this cartoon, below,offensive please ask, and I will remove.

It is meant as a sincere comical reaction to some incredible news.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Stolen Art Watch, Could Adams Involvement be Good Sign for McAllister Family ??

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sinn Fein boss Gerry Adams last night vowed to lobby George W Bush about an ex-republican prisoner who is facing deportation from the United States.

The west Belfast MP made the pledge after meeting with Malachy McAllister - whose two children could also be sent home - in America last week.

The senior republican, who has close links to the US administration, has urged President Bush to allow the McAllister family to remain in New Jersey.

Sunday Life understands the father-of-four - who fled Belfast in 1988 after a Red Hand Commando gang came within inches of killing his family - is expected to hear next week if he will be allowed to stay in his adopted home.

Speaking to us from his New Jersey home, the 50-year-old, who also met with victims' campaigner Raymond McCord last week, welcomed the support of the Sinn Fein president.

He said: "I met Mr Adams last week when he was in the States and we had a good meeting. He was very supportive of my case.

"The support I have received in the last few weeks has been tremendous and I hope to discover the outcome of my campaign very soon.

"We have a strong body of support here, because people know that this is a humanitarian issue. A wide range of people have been supporting me."

Although the Belfast man has received support from a number of high-profile politicians, he received a boost last week when leading senator Charles Schumer urged US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) chief Julie Myers not to deport the Belfast family.

Said the US politician: "This family faces immediate deportation to Northern Ireland unless the ICE and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grant 'deferred action' status to the McAllister's on humanitarian grounds.

"I have spoken with Julie Myers and made a strong case to grant the McAllisters deferred action status - it is the right thing to do.

"Malachy has made a life here and is a valued member of the community and it makes no sense to send him back into harm's way. Since the family has exhausted all legal appeals, the case is now entirely in the hands of DHS. It would be inhumane if this man and his family were sent home."

McAllister was jailed when he signed a police statement after being implicated by republican supergrass Harry Kirkpatrick.

The weapons used in the attack on his home were later found - along with McAllister's personal details - in a loyalist arms dump.

Art Hostage comments:

I sincerely hope and pray the McAllister family are allowed to stay in the United States.

Normally Senior Politicians do not get involved publicly unless they are assured of a positive outcome.

I really hope this is the case and Gerry Adams intercession is all part of the choreography.

Lets also hope this Gerry Adams intercession is the first step of a reconciliation between the INLA/IRSP and IRA/Sinn Fein.

Like all political organisations, the Irish Republican movement should encompass all aspects of Irish Republicanism.

Be that from the right wing, middle, or left wing.

For far too long now those with left leaning Irish Republican views have been treated shamefully and it is about time political parties like the IRSP are welcomed into the mainstream.

I firmly believe if there is to be a complete Irish Republican cessation of all military action the IRSP has a vital role to play.

The McAllister family being allowed to stay in America goes some way to uniting Irish Republicans in a manner that will benefit the Irish Republican cause no end.

This coming week my thoughts and prayers are with the McAllister family !!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Stolen Art Watch, Cavalier That's Not Bloody Laughing !!

A cavalier frame of mind

With international art trafficking valued at $8 billion a year, a recent NSW gallery theft is just one of many masterworks abducted, writes Philip Cornford.

On a wet Sunday in June, A Cavalier, a 17th century Dutch masterpiece insured for $1.4 million, was boldly taken from a wall during morning viewing hours at the Art Gallery of NSW.

All that was required was a Phillips head screwdriver to remove two $2.45 wall fastenings. About 60 seconds.

A Cavalier, oil on wood panel, was small, 20 x 16 centimetres, and easily concealed. The thief walked out with it.

Among many uncertainties, police are sure of one thing: this was not a spur-of-the-moment theft. It was not an impulse but calculated, the risks assessed.

Probably the most important factor was that A Cavalier was vulnerable, its frame secured to the wall by two keyhole plates at the top left and right, the screws clearly visible although painted the same colour as the wall, and accessible.

There was no CCTV surveillance. A guard was present only occasionally. No inside information was required.

Confronting his worst fears about the self-portrait by Frans van Mieris (1635-81), gallery director Edmund Capon says gravely: "My instinct is that I'm not likely to see it again ... I don't know why. I can't explain it. I just have this feeling."

Capon smiles sadly. Around him, the gallery canteen is full of sightseers, noisy with carefree innocence. Probably, few of them had ever heard of van Mieris or his painting, which had hung in the Fairfax Gallery.

It is perhaps Australia's biggest art theft. But four months later there are no answers.

Police believe it is "most likely" A Cavalier has been spirited overseas, probably the day it was stolen, to London or Amsterdam, where there are long-established markets for stolen art for which dealers pay a maximum of 10 per cent of the legal market value.

Although notionally that would value A Cavalier at $140,000, the United Kingdom's best-known art blogger, Art Hostage, a reformed art and jewel thief, says: "The insurance price is inflated. I'd estimate it's worth $20,000 max traded on the black, but maybe only a few thousand to the thief, who's looking to do a deal. A few snorts of coke."
It seems such a degrading and depressing possibility.

"There are no suspects, no forensic evidence," Detective Senior Constable Gavin McKean says. No fingerprints, no DNA, no witnesses. Not even the screws.

Just two empty screw holes and a blank space in the room where A Cavalier was the smallest of 13 paintings on display.

The same keyhole attachments were on other paintings and were quickly replaced.

However, there is intelligence about trafficking of stolen art between Australia and Britain. A week ago, at the request of London police, Sydney detectives seized two copies of maps drawn by Greek astrologer and cartographer Ptolemy (83-161 AD). Printed in Germany in 1482, they were stolen from the Spanish National Library in Madrid on August 21 and sold at a London auction to an Australian antique dealer. No charges have been laid.

Police attention has also been focused on the activities of two scions of a long-established English crime family who are suspected of exchanging stolen art between Australia and Britain.

One brother lives on the North Coast, a former drug dealer who was on the run with Ian Hall Saxon, one of Australia's most-wanted fugitives until he was captured in the United States in 1995. Saxon is now serving 24 years jail for importing 10 tonnes of cannabis and laundering more than $70 million in drug money.

Art stolen in Australia is taken to England and sold, and vice versa. "It is only a small part of their business," a police informant says. "They exchange the art during family reunions. It pays for the trips." But there is no evidence to connect them to A Cavalier.

Richard Ellis, who founded Scotland Yard's art squad and led investigations that recovered several masterpieces, says: "Australia has been a transit country for stolen art. I am aware of stolen works from Canada and the UK moving to Australia."

A difficulty confronting police is that public-gallery thefts are rare here. The Australian Institute of Criminology estimates that each year art worth about $20 million is stolen in Australia. Most of it is from domestic burglaries; most of it is valued below $10,000 and sold cheaply to art dealers and fencers. With such art, provenance is not required or the lack of it is easily explained.

"There are no professional art thieves; there are thieves who sometimes steal art," says Bryan Hanley, a former detective and manager of internal security at the National Library of Australia, 2004-06. Australia's foremost expert on art theft, Hanley has worked with the FBI and Scotland Yard and lectured internationally.

Yet the FBI says art theft totals $8 billion a year internationally, the fourth biggest crime behind drug dealing, arms dealing and money laundering. "There's more than $90 billion out there - somewhere," Hanley says.

While the most common motive for art theft is profit, one of the contradictions is that the more famous and valuable an artwork, the harder it is to sell illegally. "I suspect A Cavalier has gone overseas," Capon says. "But I also rather doubt there is a market for it anywhere in the world.

It is too well known, too easily identifiable."

It never can be put on public display.

However, there are two profit avenues for stealing art. If a painting is famous or valuable, a thief may hope a reward will be offered.

There is, for instance, a reward of $US10 million ($11 million) for 11 paintings valued at $US500 million stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in 1990. So far, there have been no takers.

Police recommended a reward be offered for A Cavalier in the hope it would either establish a line of contact with the thief or induce a betrayal.

Rewards are offered by Scotland Yard and the FBI, who both believe they are useful investigative tools.

A £3 million ($6.7 million) reward was the lure that led to the recovery two weeks ago of Leonardo da Vinci's Madonna with the Yarnwinder, worth up to $US65 million, and the arrest of four men in Scotland four years after it was stolen. It is believed the thieves despaired of selling the painting and sought recompense for their efforts.

Capon, however, decided against a reward, a decision, he says, which has been accepted by the NSW government insurers of A Cavalier. "I discussed it with colleagues around the world and their conclusion was that there is absolutely no benefit whatsoever," he says.

The insurer, Treasury Managed Funds, has agreed to liability, Capon says. Although no time limit has been set for settlement, "I don't think anything is to be gained by waiting forever," he says.

A second avenue for profit is demanding ransom. These are controversial, against the law in the US but have been exploited successfully in Britain and other European countries.

Capon has no doubts about his response. "If I was put in a position where someone says we could regain A Cavalier for payment of, say $100,000, it seems to me that is a situation in which they could be interpreted as profiting from the crime," he says. "I don't know what the legal position is regarding payment of ransom in Australia, but I would have a moral objection. I think it would be wrong."

Capon's most hopeful scenario is that the thief acted out of "sheer opportunism, perhaps mischievously". If this is so, he believes that after a time, A Cavalier will be returned, perhaps left in a safe place and the police or gallery told where to find it.

There are precedents. A Dobell stolen from the Art Gallery of NSW in 1984 was collected from a locker in the Mitchell Library. Two years later, thieves who identified themselves as Australian Cultural Terrorists stole Picasso's Weeping Woman and left it in a locker at Spencer Street railway station in Melbourne.

Another possibility is that A Cavalier was stolen by an obsessive art admirer, someone suffering what has been identified as the Stendhal syndrome diagnosed in 1982 as a "psychosomatic illness that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, confusion and even hallucination when an individual is exposed to art".

A French waiter, Stephane Breitwieser, stole 200 paintings and antiques from dealers and museums in seven European countries, keeping them in his mother's house until 2002 when he was arrested.
In April an "obsessed collector", Hendrikus van Leeuwen, an employee of the Australian Museum, was jailed for seven years for stealing more than 2000 exhibits in seven years.
Police, however, say there is no evidence or suspicion that the theft of A Cavalier was an inside job.

But these are rare exceptions. Most stolen art is sold and masterpieces go deep underground. The most famous illustration is Caravaggio's Nativity with San Lorenzo and San Francesco, valued at $US20 million and stolen in 1969 from the Oratory on San Lorenzo in Palermo, Italy.
It is so famous it can't be sold. So who has it?

The Sicilian Mafia, says Art Hostage ( "It's used at the investiture of the godfather, the don of dons. They are quite emotional about it. They took it to Switzerland in the '80s to a restorer who restored and disguised many stolen artworks for me. Expensive but good."

But Hanley suggests an alternative reason. "It's also a message to the Italian police and government - don't muck with us."

A former Scotland Yard art detective, Charles Hill, best known for the sting that recovered Edvard Munch's The Scream in 1994, believes the Gardner collection is held by the IRA, most likely in the futile hope it could be used to bargain for the release of political prisoners.

The paintings - three Rembrandts, five by Degas, a Manet, Vermeer, Flinck - were passed to them by Boston Irish crime boss Whitey Bulger, a former FBI informant now on the run for murder. "Find Whitey and you'll find the Gardner collection," says Hill, who runs an art security consultancy.

He suspects A Cavalier is a "trophy" crime. "Stealing a picture from a major gallery - it's simply about trophy hunting," he says. It might have been stolen on the orders of a collector, who has no intention of selling.

However, Hill, Ellis, Hanley and the FBI's top stolen art investigator, Robert Wittman, all believe there are no "Dr No's", obsessive billionaires who gloat over private collections of masterpieces illicitly obtained. There are unscrupulous collectors and dealers, but not on the scale imagined in fiction.

"The real art in stealing art is selling it," says Wittman, who has recovered stolen art valued at $US215 million.

Enter organised crime, which has become a major player, using stolen art as collateral in drug, arms and other criminal deals.

"Art is an international currency that does not require any kind of currency exchange ... which could attract unwanted attention," Ellis says.

But it seems an unlikely fate for A Cavalier. Compared with the value of other stolen masterpieces, it is worth "shirt buttons," Art Hostage says.

Will it ever resurface?

"Maybe," he says.

There's no such thing as a certainty with stolen art. Just that it's stolen.

Art Hostage comments:

Quality article, gives those who may not be familiar with art related crime a clear insight.

Mr Cornford manages to squeeze into under 2,000 words, bullet points that would take Art Hostage 20,000 words.

Perhaps that is why Mr Philip Cornford is an experienced, quality journalist, working for a quality publication.

To those who may have vital information about the whereabouts of the stolen Cavalier, reward no, gracious thanks from the people of New South Wales, a big yes !!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Stolen Art Watch, 1 Day in Jail for Each Stolen Antique !!

Man jailed for possession of stolen Royal antiques

A man has been jailed for handling stolen goods that once belonged to a relative of the Queen.

Tracey William Woods, 51 from Chislett Close in Sellindge near Ashford, was sentenced to six months behind bars after he was found in possession of more than 200 stolen antiques.

Some of the items were found to have once belonged to Lady Brabourne, daughter of the late Louis Mountbatten and cousin to the Queen.

It was discovered that many of the items were stolen during burglaries in 1998 and 2000 from her home in Mersham, near Ashford.

The antiques were seized after a search of Woods’ home was carried out in 2004.

Police then tried to find their owners, including placing them on a lost and stolen website organised by Greater Manchester Police and liaising with over 50 victims of crime who had reported similar items stolen both in Kent and Sussex.

Art Hostage comments:

Hang on a minute, stop right there !!

Are we to believe a man captured with 200, yes that's right, 200 stolen antiques, some taken from titled establishment figures, including relatives of the Queen, and all he receives is six months jail time ???????????????

That works out at less than One day for each stolen antique.

Also, this man was caught with these stolen Royal antiques in 2004, why has it taken so long to come to court

Either the criminal system has broken down, or.............. well you know the rest !!

The message from this sentence is one day in jail for each stolen antique, no wonder art theft is becoming the crime of choice !!

The incestuous nature of art crime means this is another case of joining the dots.

More to follow !!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Stolen Art Watch, Bentley Boys Bonjour, Buggers Harry Winston !!

French Say Thieves Took $28.4 Million in Jewelry From Paris Store


Published: October 12, 2007
PARIS, Oct. 11 — The cheapest piece they stole was a platinum ring worth $2,800. The most expensive item: a $5 million diamond-studded bracelet.

A brazen and meticulously planned robbery of the Harry Winston store in central Paris last weekend netted the unknown thieves about $28.4 million in gems, one of the largest jewelry thefts ever, French investigators said Thursday, after an inventory of the raided safe.

An elite Interior Ministry unit, the Serious Crime Squad, has been put on the case, but so far investigators lack leads to either the robbers or their haul.

The police said that four or five masked men entered the Harry Winston boutique at 10 a.m. on Saturday — a shop just around the corner from a police station and mere footsteps from the tourist hordes of Paris’s best-known avenue, the Champs-Élysées.

The robbers, who were armed, overwhelmed the six employees arriving for work, one by one, then calmly ordered them to open the safe. The robbers vanished with a bag full of heavy necklaces and gems, including a large diamond worth $2.8 million. None of the employees were hurt.

“It was a standard holdup, like you see in any store in any neighborhood when a bunch of kids steal money from the cashier,” said one official close to the investigation, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“These guys are professionals. Beginners don’t dare go near top-end jewelers,” the official said, adding that the real test of the gang’s acumen would be whether they could resell the stolen gems on the black market.

Because of the risk of detection, stolen jewels tend to fetch only a fraction of their retail price, sometimes as little as 20 percent, analysts say. French investigators have been circulating information about the stolen merchandise to the police in other countries in the hope of catching the thieves when they approach a prospective buyer.

The Harry Winston robbery dwarfs other recent robberies in France and beyond.

In Paris, the theft of two diamonds worth an estimated $18.5 million at an antiques fair in Paris in September 2004 came closest. The police never found the perpetrators. In 1994, armed robbers stole about $21 million in gems from the jeweler Alexandre Reza in central Paris.

Diamonds are a thief’s close friend, to judge by recent years. There were 253 recorded robberies of French jewelers last year, 20 percent more than in 2005, according to an internal report of the French jewelers’ federation. Some police officers speak with concern of a “new era” of criminality in the luxury sphere.

Luxury outlets also are attracting criminal attention beyond France.

Last month, a gang of moped riders in London robbed the boutique of Luella Bartley, a prominent British designer, and escaped with more than $20,000 worth of handbags. Asprey, a British jeweler, has been robbed several times, losing $800,000 worth of gems on one occasion.

In March, necklaces and rings from Avakian were stolen by a gang on mopeds, while in June tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of shoes were stolen from Roger Vivier.

Art Hostage comments:

Bentley Boys at it again !!

Back story, below:

When an underworld contact told Art Hostage last week about future recoveries of stolen art, they also said "Diamonds are forever"

Art Hostage assumed they meant Diamonds were about to be recovered, after checking, it now transpires they meant this diamond robbery committed by our old friends the Bentley Boys.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Stolen Art Watch, Willie Gallagher is Innocent, Art Hostage is Guilty of a Blatant Lie !!

Art Hostage would like to offer sincere apologies to Mr Willie Gallagher for the bloody blatant lies I posted on previous stories about INLA infiltration by Brig Gordon "Wayne" Kerr and his murderous gang.

I want to state here and now, after checking with independent Irish Republicans, that Mr Willie Gallagher may be many things, but a Tout, never, never, never.

Whether you are an Irish Republican or not, all must agree Mr Willie Gallagher has worn his Irish Republicanism, like his heart, on his sleeve.

The confusion came about as a result of Art Hostage being told John Hogan and Willie Gallagher had been exposed as Touts, rather then the real truth.

The truth is John Hogan was exposed as a Tout and was being questioned by Mr Willie Gallagher about his role as a Brit Informant.

It must be said that the INLA/IRSP have shown a maturity by allowing John Hogan to leave Ireland and Mr Willie Gallagher must take some credit for this, see story below:

Once again, for the record, Mr Willie Gallagher, has not, will not and will never be a tout, it is cast in stone.

Art Hostage got this completely wrong and would like to extend a complete and full apology for any confusion caused.

I do hope that my retraction and admission of making false allegations against a true Irish Republican, Mr Willie Gallagher, are accepted.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Stolen Art Watch, Exclusive, Stolen Lowry Paintings Recovered, Oop's, jumped the Gun Again !!

Expect to hear the announcement of other high value stolen art being recovered !!

Diamonds are forever, especially when they are recovered !!

To be continued.........Watch this space...............

Message for the thoroughly decent, honourable, noble, staff at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston:

The video is incidental, it's the lyrics that are important.

"Things can only get better"

Click the link below, and pump up the volume !!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Stolen Art Watch, Reviewing the $5 million Reward Offered By the Gardner Museum

Stolen Artwork & Reward for Information

In the early morning hours of March 18, 1990, thieves dressed as Boston police officers entered the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and stole 13 works of art.

Anne Hawley, director of the Gardner Museum says, “These rare and important treasures of art need to be returned to the Gardner Museum so that they can be enjoyed again by the public. While people often talk about the monetary value of art, the value of these objects goes far beyond dollars and cents. These masterpieces have the power to inspire thinking and creativity, two processes essential to a civil society. Isabella Stewart Gardner, this museum’s founder, understood that when she left them ‘for the education and enjoyment of the public forever.’”

A reward of $5 million is offered for information leading to the return of the works of art in good condition. Please contact the museum’s Director of Security Anthony Amore, at 617 278 5114,, or the Federal Bureau of Investigation at 617 742 5533.

17th Anniversary of the Theft – Press Statement
17th Anniversary of the Theft – Press Statement

Art Hostage comments:

It is with a heavy heart I have reviewed the Gardner Case and this heartfelt plea and sincere offer by the Gardner Museum above.

However, there has been no progress in the investigation, so with that in mind Art Hostage has come up with a plan that will move the investigation forward and break the impasse.

Time to renew and reinvigorate the Honourable offer made by the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Boston.

(1) Double reward to $10 million, for the return of the artworks in good condition, biggest reward in history.

(2) $100,000 reward offered to anyone giving confirmed "proof of Life"

By, not only doubling the reward to $10 million, the biggest reward in history, but also offering $100,000 reward for anyone giving "Proof of Life" the Gardner Museum can reiterate its genuine sincerity in achieving the safe return of its stolen, violated, iconic art.

Publicized like the lottery, if you get all the numbers/Stolen Gardner paintings returned, you get $10 million, if you only get some numbers/Proof of Life, you get $100,000.

I am certain, from the soundings I have taken, that a public offer of this nature will be viewed positively by those who control the Stolen Gardner art, Vermeer and Rembrandt's Storm on the Sea of Galilee in particular.

The complicated process of finally recovering the stolen Gardner Art must start with an act of true sincerity and good faith.

The only player in the whole Gardner Art Heist targedy, who come out totally clean and above any criticism is the Gardner Museum itself.

They have acted in all sincerity since the theft and find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place.

They will be condemned from one side if they go out in a "Belle Gardner" fashion and bulldoze their way to recovering their stolen art, disregarding law enforcement and acting independently.

On the other hand, if the Gardner Museum sticks to the Law Enforcement line they run the risk of detaching themselves from the vital lead that will prove crucial in recovering the stolen art.

Walking this tightrope has proved difficult so this new initiative should keep everyone happy.

Setting the achievable goal of obtaining "Proof of life" and paying a reward of $100,00 for this, must be something to consider if a new invigorated approach is to be taken with regards trying to achieve, what sometimes seems like "Mission Impossible" that is the return of the stolen art from Boston.

If anyone has ideas on how to move the Gardner Art Heist investigation forward I would be glad to hear them.