Vermeer's The Concert

Vermeer's The Concert

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Stolen Art Watch, Pink Panther Gang, (Balkan Bandits) Brass Balls !!

Cyprus postpones extradition of "Pink Panther" suspect

A Cypriot court on Tuesday postponed the extradition of a suspected international jewel thief thought to be part of a Balkan criminal gang known as the "Pink Panthers".
Global police agency Interpol suspects 41-year-old Rifat Hadziahmetovic, from Montenegro, is a member of the Pink Panthers, a loose association of about 200 criminals blamed for a string of heists across the world.

The crooks are thought to have staged some 120 attacks on luxury stores in about 20 countries, since their first robbery in London's exclusive Mayfair district in 2003.

Hadziahmetovic was arrested on March 18 as he attempted to leave the east Mediterranean island of Cyprus on a forged Bulgarian passport.

Spain wants him extradited on suspicion of armed robbery at a jewellery shop in Spain, a court in Cyprus heard on Tuesday.

The gang are thought to have pulled off one of their most spectacular heists last December, when they walked away with up to 85 million euros ($113 million) worth of goods after entering the Harry Winston jewellers in central Paris disguised as women.

Judicial authorities ordered Hadziahmetovic's detention until April 6.

Art Hostage comments:
Just in, at the hearing today Rifat's friend, and partner in crime Radovan Jelusic, photo left, was watching proceedings oblivious to the fact he is also wanted by Interpol.

It is the sheer audacity and brazen nature of the Pink Panthers (Balkan Bandits) that makes investigating them a bit like
"Hitting corks in a barrel of water"

Interpol have until April 6th to try and turn Rifat, photo right, a monumental task as Rifat is described by his fellow Pink Panthers as:
"A fucking Marine"

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Stolen Art Watch, Gardner Heist, Whispers From Boston, Defiance from Japan !!


There is a lot of “chatter” that the paintings have spent some time in a storage unit in Revere.

This would be the same place that ,years ago, a Herald reporter, (Tom Mashberg) was taken , blindfolded, and later viewed The Storm on The sea”…he said that he heard and smelled the ocean, and heard gulls overhead when exiting the car.

This storgae unit , it is said, has a clue written on one of the walls by the thieves, something to the effect that “the cops are too stupid to figure this things out”.

Later, the paintings were shipped , in parcels, via an international global shipping company in E.Boston on McClennd Highway…they also have since been sent back, in parcels, and are thought to be in Revere, along the beach.

The thieves have left the USA.

They have relatives in Revere.

The mastermind of the entire operation was said to be none other than Whitey Bulger, who, it is said, laughs even today, at the incompetence of the law.

The re-opening of the investigation is going to cause some trauma to next-generation relative of the thieves.

Has anyone heard that The Club Caravan in Revere is also a secret hiding place for fenced goods, including artwork.

There are hidden cameras on the sides of the building, next door to The Wonderland T stop. And…a possible Charlestown connection, via a noted clergyman in Charlestown, a compassionate friend of both Billy and Whitey Bulger ???
Comment by carmela - March 19, 2009 @ 6:47 pm Posted on the Boston Herald story below:

Art Hostage Comments:

So, will we see a deal whereby the Gardner art is handed back for the reward, via a proxy ??
Did Whitey Bulger enter the United States earlier this year, via Florida with view to handing himself in as he is in a terminal state ??
Will Whitey Bulger put in an appearance by being handed to the Feds/Justice Dept by his family, hoping they can collect the $2 million reward for the capture of Whitey Bulger.

Why on earth would Whitey Bulger hand himself in I hear you ask ???

Well, if his medical condition has worsened then he may want to give his family the chance to collect the $2 million reward, and added to that, handing in the Gardner art could increase the take by another $5 million, taking the total to $7 million for the Bulger family via a proxy.

Hail Mary, the proxy is the key !!!

Then of course there is the Whitey Bulger diaries written by Whitey over the last decade which I am sure will ruffle a few feathers to say the least.

This could be the deal of the century for the Bulger family if they can get away with it.

Perhaps the Justice dept will chosen over the feds to actually arrest Whitey Bulger.
Jimmy B, make sure you get rid of that bloody beard, it makes you look like Radovan Karadzic.

Remember 2001/2, Brighton, England !!!
A Japanese Art Collector, whilst not admitting he has any of the stolen Gardner art, has said:
"Even if I were in possession of any Gardner art, Rembrandt's Storm, I am protected by Japanese law"
A dilemma indeed !
Current law in Japan allows a good faith purchaser to gain title to an object even if it is stolen, in contrast to Anglo-American law under which title always remains with the original owner.
However, Japan did sign up to a treaty in 2002 but that was only in relation to cultural property.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Stolen Art Watch, Gardner Art Heist, The Irish Connection !!

Collateral damage?

Published Date: 19 March 2009

By Mike Dwane

A new book alleges that a gang of city criminals are using stolen masterworks as security for dirty deals and its author was told he'd pay with his life if he came to Limerick
THE American author of a best-selling account of the biggest art heist in history has described being told a notorious gang of Limerick criminals had a share in the priceless Rembrandts and Degas, which they were using as security in drug and weapons deals.

In "The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World's Largest Unsolved Art Theft", journalist Ulrich Boser investigates the $500 million theft of the artworks from a Boston museum in 1990 and follows the trail to Shannon Airport.

One lead in the mystery is that the paintings were shipped to Ireland by James 'Whitey' Bulger, the Boston-based Irish-American mobster on whom Jack Nicholson's character in Martin Scorcese's Hollywood blockbuster "The Departed" is partly based.

Bulger shipped arms to the IRA in the 1980s and some investigators believe that the artworks were also sent across the pond to help the Republican cause. The Gardner Heist describes how the haul may then have fallen into the hands of a nexus of Irish republicans and criminals who Mr Boser is told are "the type that would go to Baghdad on holiday" and he is warned that if he does go to Limerick in search of the art, he will pay for it with his life.

After years of researching the mystery, Mr Boser said all the evidence points to a Boston criminal as being the mastermind but the author told the Limerick Leader this week that "there are a number of well-respected art detectives who are convinced that the paintings could be held by criminals somewhere in the west of Ireland". Investigators, he said, had been probing the "Irish connection" to the theft since day one.

St Patrick's Day celebrations were in full swing in Boston in the early hours of March 18, 1990, when two men dressed as police officers blagged their way into the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and tied up the security guards. A witness heard one thief address the other as 'mate', pointing to a possible Irish connection. They made off with five Degas, three Rembrandts, including his only seascape, and a Vermeer.

"But as well as these paintings, they also took a number of low value portraits of horses, which were relatively worthless but apparently highly prized by Irish criminals," Mr Boser said.

Travelling to London in search of the art, Mr Boser is told by a reformed art crook that a vicious gang of Limerick criminals have acquired an interest in the artwork, which they are using as a black market bond or security for drug and weapons deals. The book also recounts a dinner interview between Boser and two internationally-respected art detectives, Dick Ellis and Maurice Dalrymple, who make clear their belief that the paintings could be in Ireland.

But Boser is warned he could be killed if he travels to Limerick to look for the paintings.

"Ireland is not a place to go gallivanting about. It is still a big village, and in some places, everyone is on the take. You hire a car to go to Limerick and they'll know that you've hired the car and why you're there before you've even at the foot of the driveway," Dalrymple tells Boser.

"I mean really, why don't you just go up to Ireland and see if you can find the paintings? Go to a bar in Limerick and just ask for them. The best thing that can happen is they just ignore you. Or you might get murdered," the detective says, adding that this might not be a bad idea.

"I don't think they really wanted to see me dead," Boser told the Limerick Leader this week, "it's just they may have run out of patience with the persistent questioning you get from a journalist over a two-hour meeting. But Maurice Dalrymple, who I respect an awful lot, did challenge me that if I wanted to see the paintings, I should just walk into a seedy bar down a back street in Limerick and start asking about stolen paintings in a broad American accent and see how far I got. I could see his point."

In the end, the author does decide to travel to Ireland not to probe the Limerick link but to search for Whitey Bulger, who has allegedly been spotted in Galway Bay posing as a retired doctor.

Arriving in Shannon on a low cost flight with a planeload of drunks singing "The Wild Rover", Boser's account of his 48-hour stay is unlikely to be reproduced in any Tourism Ireland or Shannon Development brochures.

He spends two days wandering around coastal resorts in Clare and Galway on the lookout for Whitey Bulger, hassling poor pensioners in Doolin trying to make out if they are the world's most wanted man after Osama bin Laden.

But looking out into the gloomy Atlantic in the "seaside hamlet" of Lahinch, Boser realises he will never find his Whitey Whale and heads back to Shannon Airport.

The Gardner Heist concludes that a Boston criminal was behind the theft. And huge rewards, such as that offered by the museum founders in this case, mean a multiplicity of theories can be brought forward, some completely off the wall. But despite this, the Gardner heist remains unsolved and the Limerick link is still a distinct possibility, Boser said.

Described by the Guardian as "a thrill", "The Gardner Heist" moves effortlessly from the underworld to the world of high art and comments on the growing black market for art worldwide. It is published by Harper Collins and is available in all good bookshops.

Art Hostage Comments:

Maurice Dalrymple, Maurice Dalrymple, please !!!!

The names Mark Dalrymple, who finds it difficult to lay straight in bed !!!

Once Art Hostage has read the Gardner Heist by Ulrich Boser a review will follow.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Stolen Art Watch, Gardner Heist, Art Hostage Analyzes !!

Art Hostage along with everyone else has been observing the tidal wave of theories and leads into the Gardner Heist that are being aired across the media.

I shall take a look and offer my analysis in due course.
Could the Vermeer be in Ireland caught up in the political turmoil ?
Could Rembrandt's Storm on the Sea of Galilee be in the United Arab Emirates held by a grieving Sheikh for the loss of his beloved eldest son who overdosed on American culture ?
Could the rest of the Gardner art be around Massachusetts scattered amongst associates of the original thieves ?
An antiques dealer who has the bronze vase, the Napoleon finial hidden amongst personal belongings, the drawings held by associates who don't really know what to do ???
Family of those involved holding some residue Gardner art and too frightened to come forward for fear of prosecution, extortion by the underworld if their identity is leaked ???
How could it be possible to reach these conclusions ???
Art Hostage will try.
Upon another note, do you remember early 2008 when paintings were stolen in Zurich, Switzerland ??
Remember how authorities recovered two of the four paintings shortly afterwards ??
Well, it occurred to Art Hostage whether the Cezanne is about to be recovered ???

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Stolen Art Watch, Noortman Art Theft, Truth Emerges as Julian Radcliffe wants Paying, as Usual !!!

Dutch art sting with a twist

A business executive who had been based in Dubai was being held in a Dutch jail last night after being accused of taking part in the theft of works by some of the art world’s biggest names.

The man, 45, who once headed the Dubai office of one of the world’s largest conference management companies, was arrested during a police sting in the Netherlands with his 62-year-old mother, from Plombières in Belgium, and an unidentified 66-year-old man from Walem in the Netherlands.

All three are due to appear before a court in Rotterdam today. The hearing will be in private.

The arrests come as the latest twist in a complex tale that began more than 20 years earlier with the theft of nine paintings dating from the 17th to 19th centuries.

The paintings include works by Pissarro and Renoir, and had apparently been stolen from one of the world’s top art dealers, Robert Noortman.

The Dutchman awoke one February morning in 1987 to find that thieves had broken into his gallery on the outskirts of Maastricht and escaped with paintings including La Clairière, by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Bouquet de Fleurs, by Eva Gonzales, and Bords de la Seine à Bougival, by Camille Pissarro.

Despite a long police hunt, no trace of the paintings or the thieves was found for several years.

Mr Noortman and the insurance firm Lloyds of London hired a Dutch private detective called Ben Zuidema to continue the search for the stolen masterpieces, but the trail appeared to have gone cold and Lloyds wrote a cheque to Mr Noortman for five million guilders.

However, an informant came forward alleging that Mr Noortman had staged the theft in order to claim the insurance money and the paintings had been burnt after they were stolen, said Mr Zuidema.

Police investigated the claims but no charges were ever brought against Mr Noortman and he died of a heart attack in January 2007.

Then, late last year, Mr Zuidema was contacted by a man claiming to be a private investigator who said he had a client who claimed he was hired by Noortman 22 years ago to carry out the break-in. Mr Zuidema met the so-called private detective, who called himself Mr Kahn, and a woman, who said her name was Mrs Becker, in the Dutch town of Roermond on Dec 5 last year, only 20 miles from the gallery where the theft had taken place 22 years earlier.

Mr Kahn told Mr Zuidema that his client said he had been instructed to burn the paintings but in fact destroyed only one of the pieces and lied to Noortman, claiming they had all been destroyed.
“I knew there was something suspicious about this man. He told me he wanted me to help him blackmail the Noortman family,” said Mr Zuidema.

“He promised to give me one million euros if I helped arrange the deal.”

Mr Zuidema told the pair he would play along but, instead, he contacted the Dutch National Police Agency. Officers launched an inquiry and persuaded Mr Zuidema to meet Mr Kahn.

Under instructions from the police, Mr Zuidema told Mr Kahn he agreed to the deal and when Mr Kahn left to collect the paintings, undercover officers followed him before arresting him and his alleged accomplices as they loaded six artworks into a van in Valkenburg.

Police were then directed to a second property in Walem, where they recovered two more paintings.

“The suspects were arrested in the street as they were moving six of the paintings,” said Wim de Bruyn, a spokesman for the Dutch prosecution service.

“The suspects were in possession of the paintings when they were arrested.

“Some of the artworks had been folded and were seriously damaged,” he added.

Friends and colleagues in Dubai reacted with shock when they were told of the allegations against the man.

The married father of two moved to the UAE around a year and a half ago to take up his executive job, after previously working at the firm’s offices in Frankfurt.

He resigned in November, colleagues said, and remained in Dubai, despite his wife and children living in Frankfurt.

Former colleagues in Dubai were stunned to learn that he had been arrested.

One man said: “He used to be our boss until about four months ago. He was married but his wife lived in Frankfurt and she used to come over here just to visit.

“He suddenly resigned but I do not know why. He was a good boss and a nice man. I can’t believe he has been arrested.

“He was very hard working and good at his job. He was popular with the staff but kept his private life to himself.”

Another former colleague said that the man had lived in a luxury villa in the Al Barsha district of Dubai but moved recently to a new property and had not informed colleagues of its location.

“He was a very impressive person and very charming. I don’t know if he had a special interest in art,” she added.
Under Dutch law there is a statute of limitations preventing police prosecuting cases which are more than 20 years old.

However, as the paintings are still listed as stolen, the trio were charged with handling stolen goods and money laundering.

The arrests have reignited debate about the thefts amid hopes that the truth might finally emerge about who stole the paintings and where they have been hidden for the last two decades.

Art Hostage comments:

First of all notice Julian Radcliffe lurking in the photo, hoping to muscle in and collect some of the proceeds.

Questions posed are

Can the Noortman gallery pay back the original insurance payout, plus due interest, and have the stolen returned to them ???

If the insurers keep the stolen art will they sell them via auction and use the proceeds for the benefit of their shareholders ???

What is Julian Radcliffe doing in the photo, how has he wormed his way in ???

How much reward will Benny Boy Zuidema receive ???

Will the German accused be able to justify his actions and therefore the charges will not stick ???

In Dutch law any undercover police, foreign or Dutch, have to give evidence in person using their real names and not remaining anonymous.

This usually leads to cases being dropped before they get to court to protect the undercover police foreign or Dutch.

In allot of stolen art recoveries the initial arrests are to allow police to claim the glory and to stop the person claiming the reward money. When the publicity dies down the case is quietly dropped and and reward payment is refused.

Sometimes a conviction may be sought but that can get overturned on appeal as with the case of the stolen Rembrandt recovered by FBI Agent Robert Wittman, see backstory below:
the final paragraph is telling:
"The Kadhum brothers and Alexander Lindgren were convicted of receiving stolen goods, but their sentences were later overturned by a Swedish appeals court, which ruled they were "provoked" by American and Swedish police. They are still living in Sweden."
The main priority is to recover the stolen art, then deal with the fallout afterwards.

Keep you posted as more comes out..............................
Stolen Art, a Revolving door !!
Renaissance painting stolen from Norwegian church

OSLO - A 450-year-old painting by Renaissance artist Lucas Cranach the Elder has been stolen from a Lutheran church in the southern Norway town of Larvik, police said Sunday.

Art expert Gunnar Krogh-Hansen estimated "Suffer the Little Children to Come Unto Me" could be worth 15-20 million kroner ($2.1-$2.8 million). It was probably painted around 1540.

The theft was discovered when firefighters responded to an alarm at the church around 1:30 am (0030 GMT) Sunday, and found a broken window and a ladder outside.

Petter Aronsen, a Larvik police official, was quoted by the Norwegian news agency NTB as saying the thief or thieves probably had a car waiting nearby.

"We don't have any suspects and are very interested in talking to anyone who might have seen something," he said. He said the national crime police and the national economic crime unit were being called in, and that a worldwide alert would be issued.

The roughly three-foot- (one-meter-) wide work, painted on a wooden panel, had hung in the church about 330 years.

Cranach lived from 1472 until 1553, and is considered one of Germany's important Renaissance painters.

Breaking news, Cranach painting recovered, see link below:

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Stolen Art Watch, Noortman Ghost Approves of Old Masters Sting !!

Stolen paintings found

The Hague - Dutch authorities said on Saturday they had recovered eight 17th and 19th century paintings by such masters as Pissarro and Renoir that had been missing for over 20 years, and arrested three people.

"Some of the art works had been folded and were seriously damaged," said a statement from the prosecuting authority.

The paintings had gone missing from an art gallery in Maastricht near the Belgian border in 1987.

Having received information that the works had been put up for sale, police found six of the paintings in Valkenburg in the south of the country on Thursday.

A subsequent house search in the small, southern town of Walem yielded another two.

Value to be determined

Police arrested a 45-year-old German man, resident in Dubai, his 62-year-old Belgian mother, and a 66-year-old man from Walem.

"The suspects were apparently trying to sell the artworks to the insurance company that had paid out 2.27 million euros (about 2.8 million dollars) after they went missing," the statement said.

The modern-day value of the paintings had yet to be determined.

The works were by 17th century painters David Teniers (Flemish), Willem van de Velde and Jan Brueghel de Jonge (both Dutch), as well as 19th century French artists Eva Gonzales, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro and Paul Desire Trouillebert.

"The investigation has yet to determine where the paintings have been for more than 20 years," said the statement.

The suspects will appear before a court on Monday.

Art Hostage comments:

The German accused represented himself to Zuidema, who was working for the insurance company, as a private detective who could recover the stolen Noortman paintings last year in a phone call from Frankfurt Germany.
He tried to get Zuidema to conspire with him to extort money from the Noortman estate or the insurance company to the tune of five million euros.
Zuidema went straight to Police and the sting operation began.
Zuidema then said he could get 1 million euros and negotiations followed until the German flew in from his home in Dubai and the net result is the recovery of the stolen Noortman paintings from the German's mother's house.
Historically, the original theft from Robert Noortman was an inside job and it will be interesting to see how close this German was to the late Robert Noortman. Being one of the elite Robert Noortman was paid out by the insurance company even though suspitions and evidence pointed to the fact Robert Noortman had organised the theft against himself for the insurance money.
From the moment the German tried to extort money rather than help in the recovery of the stolen art there was no possibility that any reward would, or could be paid lawfully.
Funny enough the subject of Frankfurt came recently !
Opinions, although not specific, were requested, not given.

Anyway, this is yet another case of people trying to profit from handing back stolen art without using the right resources and following the law.

When will people learn that there is only one way to hand back stolen art and get paid, quite lawfully, a reward plus expenses incurred during the recovery process.

Art Hostage will reveal this method later.

I am sure Robert Noortman may allow himself a smile as he observes this successful recovery from on high, having got away with the crime in life.

More to follow...........................
Benny Boy in line for a reward ???
It seems Ben Zuidema ticked all the boxes and fully co-operated with Police, so it will be interesting to see how much reward money Benny Boy Zuidema receives ???