Vermeer's The Concert

Vermeer's The Concert

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Stolen Art Watch, Cezanne Lawyer, Seven Years !!

Former lawyer, 74, sentenced to 7 years in stolen art case

A retired Watertown lawyer was sentenced to seven years in federal prison yesterday for possessing six Impressionist paintings that he knew were stolen in 1978 from a house in the Berkshires in what is believed to be the largest private art theft in Massachusetts history.

US District Court Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf acknowledged that Robert M. Mardirosian, a 74-year-old former criminal defense lawyer, has been diagnosed as suffering from early-stage dementia and said prison will be hard on him. But Wolf said it was crucial to send a message to other lawyers to resist the temptations of crime.

"The only reason I'm sentencing a 74-year-old man in the early stages of dementia is because you were calculating enough to get away with this for 30 years," he said in a firm voice, facing the silver-haired, mustachioed defendant.

"You started as a lawyer," Wolf said. "As far I'm concerned, you became a glorified fence."

The judge did, however, reserve judgment on whether he will release Mardirosian from the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Rhode Island pending an appeal his lawyer plans to file. Wolf said he will rule on that shortly.

The sentence was less than the 10 years in prison recommended by Assistant US Attorney Jonathan F. Mitchell, but much harsher than the recommendation of Mardirosian's lawyer, Jeanne M. Kempthorne, of Salem. She asked Wolf to sentence Mardirosian to two years in home confinement, saying her client would probably not survive a long prison term.

A federal jury convicted Mardirosian on Aug. 18 of taking six Impressionist paintings that had allegedly been stolen by one of his clients from the Stockbridge house of Michael Bakwin and storing them in Europe. Mardirosian's client, David Colvin, of Pittsfield, also stole a seventh painting, a Cezanne piece called "Bouilloire et Fruits," that Mardirosian kept for two decades before it was returned in 1999 to Bakwin, who auctioned it off at Sotheby's for $29.3 million.

Colvin was shot to death in 1979. Mardirosian told the Globe in 2006 that he stumbled upon the paintings in 1980 in his office loft, where Colvin had once spent a night when he visited the lawyer to discuss another case.

Rather than return the paintings, authorities said, Mardirosian stored them in Switzerland. In 1999, using a shell company and lawyers, Mardirosian returned the Cezanne to Bakwin in exchange for title to the six other paintings, which were far less valuable. Bakwin testified at Mardirosian's trial that he considered the agreement extortion, but that he wanted the Cezanne back.

In 2005, Mardirosian, through an intermediary, had four of the other six stolen paintings transferred from Geneva to Sotheby's London auction house in preparation for a sale, authorities said. The estimated market value of the paintings ranged from $70,000 to $500,000 each, according to the indictment.

But in May 2005, Bakwin, with the help of the Art Loss Register, sued Sotheby's in a London court to halt the sale. The suit and the public disclosure of Mardirosian's name in connection with the paintings prompted the federal investigation that culminated with his surrender last year.

Bakwin recovered the four paintings that were scheduled to be auctioned in London. Wolf ordered yesterday that the two paintings that had remained in Switzerland and have been in the hands of US authorities be returned to Bakwin, pending the outcome of Mardirosian's appeal.

Art Hostage comments:

Now, lets not get this former Lawyer confused with a Lawyer trying to negotiate the return of stolen art for a client.

This Lawyer, fearing the mean spirited nature of the owner not paying a substantial figure for his stolen art back, thought he could scam his way to a reward for returning these stolen artworks.

This man should be treated like any criminal trying to ransom back stolen art.

However, if a Lawyer is approached by a middleman who wants to return stolen art via the Lawyer, then this is a different matter.

As long as the middleman can establish he has had nothing to do with the original theft or subsequent handling of the said stolen artwork, and he and his Lawyer negotiate with the Police and Prosecutors who are investigating the original theft, they can reach a lawful agreement which sees the art returned and reward paid in full. This will normally involve a sting wherby someone gets arrested and the middleman will always have to re-locate after it is exposed he has informed.

You notice I do not say negotiate with any Art Loss Adjuster or any former police, why, because they do not have any control over reward payments being paid.

For any lawful reward payment there needs to be permission granted by Police as well as Prosecutors.

Anyone offering to pay a reward without the express permission of investigating Police and Prosecutors is lying through their teeth, unless they are prepared to break the law and pay a reward without any Police and Prosecutors permission.

Upon another note, the final accused, Rob Meeson, above, in the Frans Hals case held in custody has been released from jail today on bail and it is now to March 2009 when the case comes to court.

Funny thing, Rob Meeson applied for bail weeks ago and was successful, but prosecutors appealed and the accused was jailed again, only to be released today on the orders of a judge.

So, March 2009 will prove to be a watershed with two important stolen art recovery cases coming to court and will provide clarity on the rules governing recovering stolen art.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Stolen Art Watch, Harry Hyams stolen Painting Turns up

I think it is alright to say that Harry Hyams stolen painting has turned up, could even be at a picture auction.

Wonder what else has turned up, a Chippendale Table of contents is needed !!!!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Stolen Art Watch, Caravaggio Recovered, Thief Dead, in Underworld Deadly Deal, Update, Update !!

Caravaggio Painting Stolen from Museum in Odessa Recovered

ODESSA.- Police officers have found the painting Taking of Christ, or the Kiss of Judas which had been stolen from the Museum of Western and Eastern Art in the Black Sea port of Odessa last July, reported "ZĂ©rkalo nedeli".

The source also stated that it was informed of the finding of the painting by sources close to the Ministry of the Interior in Ukraine.

Back then, the thieves entered the museum through a window and bypassed the alarm system by removing a window pane instead of breaking it. After taking the work from its frame, the thieves fled through the roof.

The Taking of Christ, or the Kiss of Judas, oil on canvas, measuring 134 X 172.5 centimeters, was painted by the Italian master between 1573 and 1602, even though some sources date it at between 1598 and 1599.

The work of art narrates the arrest of Christ after a night of praying at the foot of the Mount of Olives, representing the figures of Christ and Judas, united by the kiss of betrayal, surrounded by disciples and Roman soldiers.

Caravaggio's application of the chiaroscuro technique shows through on the faces and armour notwithstanding the lack of a visible shaft of light. The figure on the extreme right is a self portrait.

Art Hostage comments:

Ten out of ten for the Art Daily reporting this before anyone else.

Art Hostage heard about a deal in the works and it proves to be correct.

A certain Underworld Godfather facilitated this recovery and the details may emerge later.

No cheap media headline announcing arrests, no undercover stings,at this stage, just the good news the Caravaggio has been recovered.

O'h how I await the news the Gardner art, Vermeer in particular has been recovered in this manner, from a Catholic Church confession box to add drama.

You see high value stolen art can be returned without arrests, reward can be offered, in many ways, each case has to be taken on an individual basis.

I strongly urge anyone contemplating returning the stolen Gardner art to make contact with Anthony Amore, Director of Security, directly at:

Boston 617-278-5114 or .
It appears the thief has been found dead and the circumstances of his death have not been revealed as yet.
However, it seems powerful people declared an interest in the stolen Caravaggio and the thief paid with his life in order for others to fruit from his criminal labour.
They don't mess around out in Ukraine and once the Underworld got in on the act the original thief''s days were numbered.
It was feared the thief could reveal who ordered the theft and who was pulling the strings behind the scenes.
Make no mistake big bucks and political favours have been handed out.
More to follow................
Update 2
Well, old Nikolai Ponomarenko the art collector from Jarkov, thought of as the handler/negotiator of the Caravaggio, gets himself killed by a 28 year old assassin, perhaps the original thief, or an associate, thinking they were being set up, doubts are being raised about the actual recovery of the Caravaggio, all part of the Odessa File, so to speak.
Perhaps authorities are keeping the Caravaggio under wraps until the mess is sorted out, what with old Nikolai getting murdered.
Sting gone wrong ??????????
more to follow............................
Update 3
It now appears that Police stopped one of the suspected Caravaggio art gang and recovered five stolen artworks in his car worth about 3 million, not the Caravaggio.
After putting pressure on the arrested man they mounted an undercover operation to recover the Caravaggio.
Poor old Nikolai Ponomarenko got involved and was exposed by the bad guys and killed. Police have however, recovered a landscape painting with Sheep and they are trying to trace its origin.
As to the Caravaggio, it remains in the Underworld, or under wraps in Police custody ??