Monday, May 31, 2010
Charles Vincent Sabba
Dick Ellis, above, aged 12, showing early interest in stolen art
Monkey business by porcelain gangs leaves stately homes counting cost
England’s stately homes are being targeted by thieves with a penchant for antique porcelain — and their victims include the Prime Minister’s father in law.
There have been at least 21 major thefts and 15 attempted robberies in the past three years The Art Newspaper reports this week.
Dick Ellis, former head of Scotland Yard’s art and antiques unit, said that three organised gangs, each with a distinctive style, were believed to be behind the thefts.
One gang relies on an unusually small burglar to squeeze through narrow openings; another operates at night, often using a ladder, and removes sections of glass from windows; the third targets country houses open to visitors, using very rapid, forced entry. Gangs often also take curtains and cushions to use as packing for the fragile porcelain, though some pieces are damaged during thefts.
Mr Ellis assembled the data for the Ecclesiastical Insurance Group, which is handling the most serious case, at Firle Place in Sussex, where £500,000 of porcelain was stolen last summer. Others include Sutton Park, North Yorkshire, the home of Sir Reginald Sheffield, the father of Samantha Cameron, the Prime Minister’s wife.
Firle Place was burgled on July 19, 2009. Thieves entered the 18th-century mansion on the Sussex Downs at night. They climbed a ladder, entered via a window and broke into two display cabinets. Among the losses were a Meissen statue, The Indiscreet Harlequin, around 1743, by Johann Kändler, and a rare Sèvres Hollandois Nouveau vase of 1761. None of the 20 pieces has been recovered. Firle Place is owned by the family of the London old-master dealer Deborah Gage.
The theft at Sutton Park was on May 21, 2009. The Georgian house has been owned by the Sheffield family since 1963. Like Firle Place, it is open to visitors. Objects stolen included a £20,000 Meissen teapot in the form of a monkey, and a 19th-century bronze bust of an Asian woman by Charles Cordier. The thieves spent no longer than a minute inside the house. On April 17 there had been an attempted burglary in the porcelain room.
Mr Ellis believes that the thieves dispose of the porcelain quickly. Some use eBay, as with the theft from Longner Hall in Shrewsbury last August, when losses included a 28-piece Worcester dessert service, Most of the stolen pieces have not been recovered and Mr Ellis suspects that many have gone to Europe, where Meissen and Sèvres are highly collectable. Items may well be sold at large antiques fairs in England, usually within a few days of the theft, and passed to unsuspecting Continental dealers. There have been very few arrests.
“British police forces are run on a county basis,” Mr Ellis said. “No force has an overview of similar crimes occurring elsewhere, so investigations are limited and local.”
Julian Radcliffe, chairman of the Art Loss Register, which enables people to find out whether items are stolen, said thieves had learnt that porcelain dealers were less assiduous than others in making checks. Criminals probably gain their knowledge of the market from dealers on the fringes. “In Ireland they would call them tinkers,” he said.
Burton Agnes Hall (Historic Houses Association) East Yorkshire
Castle Howard (HHA) North Yorkshire
Cusworth Hall South Yorkshire
Firle Place (HHA) East Sussex
Grantham House (National Trust) Lincolnshire
Hastings Museum East Sussex
Lanhydrock (NT) Cornwall
Longner Hall (HHA) Shropshire
Munstead House Surrey
Penshurst Place Kent
Private house Surrey
Private house West Yorkshire
Redbrick Mill West Yorkshire
Shugborough Hall (NT) Staffs
Sion Hill Hall (HHA) North Yorkshire
Sutton Park (HHA) North Yorkshire
The Hoo Hertfordshire
Temple Newsam West Yorkshire
Thorpe Hall East Yorkshire
Uppark (NT) West Sussex
West Green House (NT, tenanted) Hampshire
Art Hostage Comments:
You do have to feel sympathy for Dick Ellis, and here is the truth not told by the Art Newspaper, Times of London and others who are fully aware, but have chosen to wimp out, yet again.
Before we start, a little reminder to Dick Ellis:
"Dick, you forgot the raid at Glynde Place, home of Viscount and Viscountess Hampden, four days after the Firle Place raid"
The Glynde Place raid saw a pair of silver candelabra, (not chandeliers as reported), stolen valued at £20,000.
So, that's 22 major raids in two years not 21 !!!
Sorry, but how much did you get paid for preparing this report Dick ????
In January 2009 Dick Ellis received intelligence that an attempt to raid Firle Place had been called off due to roadworks outside Firle Place that could have hampered the thieves get-away.
Furthermore, the intelligence stated another attempt would be made to raid Firle Place when roadworks were completed.
Dick Ellis duly gave this specific intelligence to Surrey Police Force Source Unit, as Dick was registered as a Police Informant in January 2009 with Surrey Police. The specific instructions made was to contact Viscount Gage and request an urgent security review of Firle Place.
Surrey Police duly passed this vital intelligence to Sussex Police in January/February 2009.
Sadly, Glenn Jones, as Director of Sussex Police Force Intelligence Bureau, and Sussex Police corporately, completely dropped the ball and not only failed to warn Viscount Gage, but also refused to act upon other vital intelligence Dick Ellis provided that could have seen a huge number of stolen antiques and artworks recovered.
Moving swiftly to July 2009, Firle Place is raided and £1 million worth of unique porcelain is stolen. Also, notice how the figure has been reduced to £500,000 in the Times story, thereby devaluing any reward claim or fee required to help recover the Firle Place hoard.
See a Lloyd's valuation in this link that confirms the value of the Firle Place haul:
Incandescent with rage, and not for the first time towards Sussex Police, Dick Ellis kept his cool and became registered as a Police Informant with Sussex Police days after the Firle Place raid July 2009.
Dick Ellis then got a credible lead on the whereabouts of the Firle Place haul and passed that intelligence to Sussex Police Source Unit.
Again, nothing was done and it was at that point Dick Ellis exploded and went directly to Viscount Gage and told His Grace of the failures by Sussex Police to first, warn him of a pending threat, then to add insult to injury, not act upon credible corroborated intelligence that would have recovered at least some of the Firle Place haul.
As you can imagine, "Viscount Gage hit the roof", to quote Dick Ellis and demanded a meeting with the Chief Constable of Sussex Police. Questions were also raised at the Home Office and the Home Secretary was informed.
Now, sadly, the Firle Place hoard is still outstanding as are most of the stolen antiques taken from all the above mentioned raids committed over the last two years.
Moving on to another failed attempt to recover stolen art and antiques by Dick Ellis involving Sussex Police.
Two years ago Dick Ellis received intelligence that a so-called "end user", (a person who collects stolen art and antiques but is not connected to the art world) had been identified and to back up the intelligence specific stolen artworks were listed. The intelligence went further. Certain stolen artworks could be seen through the windows of the large country house where they were being displayed by the handler of these stolen artworks. A covert trip was made to the location by Dick Ellis who confirmed seeing the said stolen artworks displayed openly.
Dick Ellis then went to his Police handlers at Surrey Police, who Dick Ellis was working for at the time 2008, and gave them all the details of the house, actual stolen artworks he had seen, and background into the dealings of the target figure, who was a long term buyer of stolen art and antiques.
This person made their money from illicit business other than art and antiques and therefore would not normally appear on the radar of Police associated with stolen art and antiques, thus why people like these are called "End Users" and are the most sought after buyers of stolen art and antiques by thieves and handler's of stolen art and antiques.
Surrey Police passed this corroborated intelligence to Sussex Police, OH them again I hear you say, and, yes you've guessed it, Sussex Police refused to act, refused to obtain a warrant and search the identified house, knowing full well they were guaranteed a result because Dick Ellis had actually seen stolen artworks openly displayed.
Recently, there was a Pow, Wow in London of Belted Earls, Viscounts, Lords and insurers to work out how to take legal action against Sussex Police for failing to act time and time again on corroborated intelligence given to them by Dick Ellis, who was the Founder and Head of Scotland Yards Art and Antiques Squad before retiring.
Moral of this true story:
"If Dick Ellis, Ex Head of Scotland Yards Art and antiques Squad cannot get Sussex/Surrey Police to act when the Elite and Establishment are under threat, what chance does the ordinary public have "
Dick Ellis received from Sussex Police the gift of being De-registered as an Informant and is now black-balled amongst the British National Police force, Central Source Unit.
Or as Dick Ellis said:
"I am now removed from the Sussex/Surrey Police Christmas Card List"
Once again, if you doubt Art Hostage go ask Dick Ellis.............
Coming soon, Dick Ellis passed valuable intelligence about a possible Terrorist cell and the possession of firearms to Sussex Police, January 2010, What happened next...........Art Hostage is waiting for Dick Ellis to reveal all, over to you Dick............
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Thieves with Cavalier attitude
IT IS the million-dollar theft that has everyone stumped. (Except Art Hostage)
Three years after A Cavalier, a 17th-century Dutch masterpiece insured for $1.4 million, was stolen from the Art Gallery of NSW, hopes of recovering it have gone, even though it is listed on the FBI's top 10 list of art crimes.
''I have to say that I would be surprised if the picture turns up,'' said Edmund Capon, the gallery's director. ''It's a very unfortunate thing."
Detective Senior Constable Jeroen Huisman said NSW police had no leads or did not know if the self-portrait by Frans van Mieris - which measures just 20 x 16 centimetres - was still in Australia.
''It would most definitely be difficult to sell to a legitimate collector/buyer as it is currently still on international wanted lists including Interpol and the FBI,'' Constable Huisman said.
Director of the international Art Loss Register Julian Radcliffe said criminal gangs stole art from galleries to use as collateral in drugs and arms deals. Eventually, perhaps years later, they would try to put it back on the market.
The lone masked intruder who stole five paintings worth $120 million from the Musee d'Art Moderne in Paris two weeks ago may have been working on behalf of overseas criminal gangs from the Balkans or the Russian mafia.
In contrast, the Australian Cultural Terrorists stole Picasso's Weeping Woman from the National Gallery of Victoria in 1986 as a protest. Police recovered it from a locker at Spencer Street railway station a few days later, but the thieves were never caught.
The Australian Institute of Criminology estimated that $20 million worth of art is stolen in Australia each year, while the FBI estimates art worth more than $9 billion is stolen globally. ''Art is stolen because it is valuable, portable, and not well protected compared to a bank vault full of cash,'' Mr Radcliffe said.
The Art Loss Register lists Picasso as the most stolen artist followed by Karel Appel, Joan Miro, Marc Chagall and Salvador Dali.
Like the paintings stolen from the Musee d'Art Moderne in Paris, A Cavalier was vulnerable to thieves because of poor security. It was screwed to the wall by just two keyhole plates that were visible and accessible in a room with no camera surveillance and a guard only occasionally present.
Mr Capon said the NSW government had ignored the gallery's pleas for more money to guard against theft.
''We were very conscious of the fact we were understaffed and had no technology in terms of security and yet we had all these priceless paintings,'' he said. ''That situation has been rectified but it should have been rectified without having to pay that price.''
Criminologist Professor Kenneth Polk said the probability of finding art stolen in Australia was ''very low because we have no loss register to serve as our memory''.
The Art Loss Register points to two works by Cezanne and Manet, stolen in the late 1970s, which were recovered two decades later. Incredibly, Picasso's Woman in White Reading a Book was found in 2005, 65 years after it was stolen.
Earlier this month, the $200,000 Girl in Sunlight by Rupert Bunny, which had been stolen from a house on the Mornington Peninsula in 1991, was found in a Melbourne home.
The Art Loss Register says 45 per cent of art thefts were from private premises last year, compared with 15 per cent from galleries and museums.
Art Hostage Comments:
First of all Art Hostage got a lead in 2008 a year after the Cavalier was stolen.
Contacted by Greg and Nicole,(German Swiss), Art Hostage put out feelers to see what was on offer for the recovery of the Cavalier painting.
Art Hostage enquired with Police Officers Jeroen Huisman and also Police Officer Gavin McKean about a fee for the services of Art Hostage.
Art Hostage was told to contact Michael Maher who works as the investigator for the New South Wales Govt Insurance arm and who is tasked with the recovery of the Cavalier.
Art Hostage was told in no uncertain terms by Mike Maher there were no fee's, no reward, Nada, zero.
With those words ringing in his ears, Art Hostage withdrew.
Art Hostage finds it strange Edmund Capon is commenting about the lost Cavalier as the NSW Gallery was paid out in full, $1.4 million and have gone on to purchase further artworks with the insurance money.
The Cavalier is now owned by the NSW Govt Insurance arm and will not be returned to the NSW Gallery if recovered.
This story leaked in the press is designed to smoke out the Cavalier, but of course that is academic as the truth is already posted on Art Hostage from years passed.
Now it seems the Cavalier is back on the radar and Art Hostage warns those who may be suckered into this not to start whinging when they don't get any reward, don't complain when they are arrested handing back the Cavalier.
Just give a location where the Cavalier can be located, PLEASE do not be in the same Post/Zip code, let alone the same room as the Cavalier when it is recovered, if you do, you WILL be arrested.
PH: 9977 1544 FAX: 9977 1983
Friday, May 28, 2010
Art Hostage has some disturbing, breaking news that should raise a Red Flag on both sides of art related crime arena.
Those who follow Art Hostage will remember the reference to a threat against an American Museum mentioned in the story about the recent Paris Art Theft, see link:
At the time there were only slight references made and it has taken until now for Art Hostage to firm up this "Chit Chat"
Right, today at a meeting in Moscow at the Marco Polo Presnja Hotel , it was discussed what would be the value of the portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer by Klimt on the black market ?
This has raised a Red Flag for Art Hostage and further enquires reveal there are plans to raid the Neue Galerie New York because of a security flaw that would allow a raid to happen.
What the actual security flaw is, Human or electronic, what opening has come up that leaves the Neue Galerie New York vulnerable to attack, Art Hostage cannot be too specific.
The fact the Neue Galerie New York is on a target list and certain Underworld figures are being asked for a price on the Adele Klimt as well as other Klimt works displayed at Neue Galerie New York, should mean an urgent security review is carried out by the worlds richest, and most competent Police Dept, the good old NYPD.
Memo to Stolen Art Underworld, please take Neue Galerie New York off the target list as, hopefully, now, the NYPD will be in attendance to lock down the Gallery for a security review.
Memo to NYPD, please attend the Neue Galerie New York and urgently request a security review that should highlight the security flaw being touted around the Underworld.
разрядка in Russian, Détente to the rest of us, by revealing this threat publicly, thieves don't steal the Adele Klimt, Police don't arrest the Art Thieves, Art Hostage retains credibility and the potential tragedy of losing the Adele Bloch-Baur is thwarted.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Art Hostage says: "Take it easy"
First, guys from the Brigade de Répression du Banditisme, BRB, please back off to allow space for several of the Paris paintings to be handed back, no strings attached.
Guys holding the Paris Art, Hostage, A location where the art can be located is all that is needed, no stings, no set ups, no swooping.
BRB, They know you are watching, undercover BRB have been made, so your presence is hindering the quick return. Stand down and don't make the arrest as this will not guarantee the safe return of the art.
They won't fall for the same sting used to get back the two Picasso's stolen in 2007 from Picasso's granddaughter.
Anyway FBI Icon Robert Wittman, who recovered the two Picasso's stolen in 2007 is now retired and is about to reveal all in his forthcoming book:
If the art crime underworld want to avoid getting stung in the future best buy a copy (use link above) as a reference book.
The rich collector sting is over as the Underworld now know any supposed rich collectors are always undercover police, as is anyone purporting to represent the victims, see the Da Vinci Madonna case on Art Hostage March through May 2010.
Second, Guys, please just hand back the Picasso as this act will give you the space needed for your negotiations.
I know why you did it, and what you want, of course, you have made your point, but we all need to step back and take a deep breath.
Art Hostage is working here without a net so lets take this Internet
"Chit Chat" out for a spin.
Back channels are always used to communicate, remember it was the back channels that set the foundations for a peace settlement in Ireland.
Yes, money was paid by way of allowing cigarette smuggling by the IRA in the early days of the peace process, so too can be the case with the art crime gangs.
The French are not adverse to paying ransoms with regards kidnappings by Islamic terrorists, or the holding of Human Hostages rather than Art Hostages, as with the French deal with Libya’s strongman Muammar Qaddafi to secure the release of six Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian-born doctor who were falsely accused of deliberately infecting some 400 Libyan children with HIV.
Shortly after a high-profile release engineered by First Lady Cecilia Sarkozy, her husband, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, announced a million dollar deal involving arms and civilian nuclear technology, so dealing with conventional criminals art-napping should be a walk in the park.
O'h and while you are at it, Nick Sarkozy is still catching shit from the ex, Cecilia about her missing diamonds, so throw them into the deal as a sweetener.
However, Lone Ranger and Tonto, the eyes of the world are on you, catch my drift !!!
To sum up, BRB back off for three days, Paris art holder, hand back the Picasso within the three day window and the heat will diminish markedly.
There is a saying amongst New Jersey Italian Americans that sums up what Art Hostage wants all sides to adhere to, right here, right now, "Take it Easy" link below:
Art Hostage will show you how to "Take it Easy"
"The police have simply overlooked all the facts here. The getaway van was abandoned two blocks away with a half eaten sandwich inside. It could be that the burglar did not have enough time to Munch the food and enough Monet to buy Degas to make the Van Gogh."
Hi-yo Silver, away !!!!!!
Another Picasso stolen in French fine art robberyThieves stole five pictures, including one by Spanish master Pablo Picasso, from the home in southern France of an art collector who was beaten up during the robbery, a police source said on Saturday.
The most important work in Friday's robbery was a lithograph representing a woman's face painted by Picasso, while the other works were by less renowned artists, the source said, without identifying the other artists.
The robbery comes just two days after thieves stole paintings by Picasso, Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani and two other renowned artists from a Paris museum in a heist worth 100 million euros ($124 million).
The collector was hospitalized after being beaten by the thieves in Marseille. The value of the theft is still being assessed, the source added.
A lithograph is an authorized copy of an original work created by the artist himself or another skilled workman. Depending on print quality or production numbers it can have significant value.
The robbery is the latest to hit the Mediterranean city since December. Thieves stole about 30 paintings, including a work by Picasso, from a private villa in January, while a drawing by French impressionist Edgar Degas was stolen from a museum in December.
According to the Art Loss Register, which lists about 170,000 missing pieces, Picasso is the world's most stolen artist.Art Hostage Comments:
Did something get lost in translation, I said return some of the Stolen Paris paintings, not steal more.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Paintings worth up to $613 million stolen in Paris
PARIS — A lone thief stole five paintings worth up to half a billion euros ($613 million) total, including major works by Picasso and Matisse, in a brazen overnight heist Thursday from a Paris modern art museum, police and prosecutors said.
The paintings were reported missing early Thursday from the Paris Museum of Modern Art, across the Seine River from the Eiffel Tower, according to Paris police. Investigators have cordoned off the museum, in one of the French capital's most tourist-frequented neighborhoods.
A single masked intruder was caught on a video surveillance camera taking the paintings away, according to the Paris prosecutor's office. The intruder entered by cutting a padlock on a gate and breaking a museum window, it said.
Their collective worth is estimated at as much as euro500 million ($613 million), the prosecutor's office said.
The stolen works were "Le pigeon aux petits-pois" (The Pigeon with the Peas) an ochre and brown Cubist oil painting by Pablo Picasso; "La Pastorale" (Pastoral), an oil painting of nudes on hillside by Henri Matisse; "L'olivier pres de l'Estaque" (Olive Tree near Estaque) by Georges Braque; "La femme a l'eventail" (Woman with a Fan) by Amedeo Modigliani; and "Nature-mort aux chandeliers" (Still Life with Chandeliers) by Fernand Leger.
Red-and-white tape surrounded the museum, where investigators were studying surveillance video. Paper signs on the museum doors said it was closed for technical reasons.
On a cordoned-off balcony behind the museum, police in blue gloves and face masks examined the broken window and empty frames. The paintings appeared to have been carefully removed from the dissembled frames, not sliced out.
A security guard at the museum said the paintings were discovered missing by a night watchman just before 7 a.m. (0500 GMT, 1 a.m. Thursday EST). The guard was not authorized to be publicly named because of the museum policy.
Museum officials and police would not immediately comment on reports that the alarm system had malfunctioned or been disabled.
Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe said in a statement that he was "saddened and shocked by this theft, which is an intolerable attack on Paris' universal cultural heritage."Art Hostage Comments:
I warned Monday, big brass balls these guys have.
If you are quick, South Suburbs. Modus Vivendi, Winston crew affiliates.
This raid will be recorded in the Picasso Notebook !!!
Now, please, make sure the raid in America is not carried out as the FBI and Homeland security will be all over you like a rash. If you think you are catching shit from Interpol, wait until you piss off the Americans.
The American Barnes type raid should not be done please. I dare not be specific but I beg you don't awaken the sleeping American giant.
O'h, and the postal services will be monitored so forget sending these paintings back to Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey or the "Place"
Marko, we need to talk !!!!
Art Hostage has learnt within the next week, 48-72 hours to be exact, it will be announced that two of the stolen Paris pictures, by Leger and Braque have been discovered, unless Police want to try and keep it quiet.
Art Hostage pleads it be the Picasso as this is the greatest loss for the public.
The Stolen Art World is like Ice Hockey, both sides, Law Enforcement and the Underworld, hit Hard, Fast, and Often,
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Art Hostage has learnt the Dutch Dali "Adolescence," and Lempicka are in play and will be recovered, if not already.
Magritte, Olympia is also being dangled and from the other side, Magritte Olympia is requested as a taster !!!
Arrests, of course, what else do you think is on the agenda ????
Mystery rich buyer, don't make me laugh, its a sting you morons, how many times do you need telling.
Rob Meeson, you should know better !!!
Unless of course they are handed back by way of a location given to Police to go fetch and collect therefore negating the arrests at the point of recovery.
Lempicka is on the wires, could be the other two stolen ones being touted around dangled out there ????
Monday, May 17, 2010
The story of jewel thieves who count Vegas among their daring jobs
The first man enters the jewelry store just after 8:30 p.m. He is tall, with a receding hairline, accented English, and a sportcoat slung over his shoulder "in an European style," a detective would later write.
Once inside, the man asks a saleslady about jewelry in an exterior display case. As they head outside to look, his arm is around her, guiding her out of the store — a luxury jeweler in the Venetian's Grand Canal Shoppes.
Fifteen seconds later, a second man enters. He is wearing a beret. He demands the attention of another saleswoman, who begins showing him jewelry.
Four seconds later, two more men enter. By now, the sales staff is too occupied to notice the pair positioning themselves very close to a large display case. They do not notice as the pair begins to fuss with the case, or when they open the case, or when they leave immediately afterwards, followed by the man in the beret.
Three minutes, 52 seconds after the man in the sportcoat arrived, he leaves, too. Now the store is empty. Now employees realize the Millennium necklace is missing.
Like all jewelry sold in the Bernard K. Passman Gallery, the Millennium necklace was billed as wearable sculpture. It was made of platinum, black coral and 2,000 diamonds. It retailed for $1 million.
The four men had pulled off a classic "distraction team" heist, Metro Det. Brian Mildebrandt said. Two of them charmed employees while the other two stole the necklace. Then everybody vanished. That was December 5, 2002.
"They worked like a well-oiled machine," Mildebrandt said. "Everybody had their job. Everybody did their job well. We were dealing with a really high-end team."
Burglarizing a casino jewelry store — without a gun, or a threat, or even a ripple of disturbance — is a kind of art. Though police didn't know it at the time, this particular crew had direct ties to a now-notorious gang of international jewel thieves — a group Interpol says has stolen more than $350 million worth of jewelry in the past 15 years, often targeting the world's most exclusive jewelers, pulling off some of history's biggest diamond heists in the process.
It was one of those heists that earned the group its name. In 2003, after the Graff jewelry store in London was taken for more than $30 million in diamonds, detectives tracked down suspects in possession of a stolen ring worth $750,000. Detectives found the ring buried in jar of face cream, a trick also employed by slinky 1960s thieves in the first Pink Panther movie, prompting the press to name the group behind the Graff sting — and dozens of similar robberies since — the Pink Panthers.
The man who strolled into the Passman Gallery with a sportcoat slung over his shoulder has played a part in some of the Pink Panthers' earliest-known thefts and is considered by some to be one of the groups' oldest members. The Panthers are best known for targeting high-end retailers in the enclaves of Europe and Asia's super-rich: Paris, Monaco, Geneva, Tokyo, Saint-Tropez. The gang's American exploits seldom are mentioned or described in much detail, and so it can seem that the Pink Panthers are a distinctly foreign operation.
There are indications that Pink Panther members hit Las Vegas not once, but twice. And there is concern that increasing European pressure could prompt the group to focus more on America, where they aren't expected. The man in the sportcoat is the only person to be arrested in connection with the Millennium theft, and it likely will remain that way. Still, his crimes provide a glimpse into the Pink Panthers' complicated background. His story, in many ways, echoes the group's story. And like the Pink Panthers, he remains somewhat of a mystery.
Four surveillance cameras caught the Millennium theft from four angles; none helped detectives identify or locate the men on the tape. Moreover, nobody was able to lift fingerprints from the display case that held the necklace. Mildebrandt, the lead detective, had nothing to work with. The crime remained unsolved for seven months before a stroke of good policing and great luck advanced the case.
The JCK Show is one of the jewelry industry's largest trade events. In June 2003, it took up two floors of the Sands Expo and Convention Center, with high-end jewelry concentrated on the second floor. This was where Metro Sgt. Priscilla Green was working undercover, strolling the halls half an hour after closing.
The jewelry convention must have been hard for the Millennium crew to resist. Mildebrandt figured as much, and handed out pictures of the Passman Gallery surveillance footage to officers working the convention floor. The man Sgt. Green saw strolling the halls that evening was well-dressed, wearing a convention-guest badge — he was tall and thin, with a dark, receding hairline, and he looked just like a man from the surveillance photo in her pocket. Green trailed him for a few minutes, then arrested him. Before the cuffs were on, he let a Flamingo room key fall to the ground. Green grabbed it, then called Mildebrandt.
A yellow-diamond pendant worth more than $700,000 had been stolen from the jewelry show four days earlier. This, some theorize, was the Pink Panthers' second Las Vegas heist, though the case has never been solved.
By 8 o'clock that evening, Mildebrandt was facing the man with the sportcoat, who admitted to the detective that he had been at the Venetian when the Millennium was stolen. According to his passport, the man's name was Juro Markelic, 47, a married father from Zvornic, Bosnia. He was personable, Mildebrandt says, "a smooth talker. A player." And then he stopped answering questions. The detective charged Markelic with burglary, grand larceny and conspiracy to commit both. At booking, Markelic told jail staff he was a self-employed cook, with a monthly income of $1,500.
He then hired longtime criminal defense attorney John Momot, who perhaps most notably represented Sandy Murphy in the Ted Binion murder trial, and presumably does not come cheap.
The Flamingo room key led back to a suite with two queen beds and two roll-away cots. Perfect, detectives thought, for a four-man distract team. The room was booked for two more days, but when detectives arrived, it was vacated and wiped down. Not one fingerprint could be found in the entire room.
"They were gone in a heartbeat," Mildebrandt said. "We probably missed them by about 10 minutes."
The theft of the millennium necklace was different than most Pink Panther gambits in one respect: It wasn't violent — in the surveillance tapes, the men appear to pick the display-case lock, and leave quietly.
Almost every other publicized Panther theft, however, involved the "smash and grab" method: One or two men go in first, posing as customers then brandishing weapons. They are followed by others who, using hammers or something good and blunt, smash into display cases and grab. It's chaotic, but not random — at least not to some detectives, who suspect Panthers take orders from wealthy clients who pay a percentage of retail value as bounty.
And perhaps because the Millennium theft wasn't violent, it also was slow — just shy of four minutes. In 2004, Pink Panthers armed with pepper spray stole a $31.5 million diamond necklace from a Tokyo boutique in under three minutes. In 2007, Panthers drove two Audis into the lobby of a Dubai mall. While the getaway drivers waited, thieves jumped out, grabbed almost $3.5 million in jewels from a nearby store, then sped away — all in 55 seconds.
Once, Panthers painted a park bench outside a French boutique just before they robbed it. The wet paint was to prevent potential witnesses from sitting down and watching.
Interpol Secretary General Ron Noble has likened the Pink Panthers to a terrorist organization — a network of dozens, if not hundreds, working in small cells for mysterious central authorities. In 2007, Interpol launched a task force to identify and catch the Pinks, as they are sometimes called. Comparing notes, task-force members confirmed a growing suspicion: Most of the Pink Panthers are from a handful of Balkan countries — Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia — places where government corruption and political instability created poverty and rewarded crime. Many Panthers, it appears, were soldiers in the early 1990s, when the former Yugoslavia dissolved into deadly war. And when the war was over, and their countries were still destitute, riddled with land mines and corrupt, it's said that many Panthers snuck into wealthy European Union countries looking for jobs and, given strict immigration sanctions, found no honest work.
It's logical for the Pink Panthers to target posh European cities — diamonds are big where people are rich, and Cannes is closer to Eastern Europe than Las Vegas or New York. But beyond these practicalities, another motivation may churn.
In an April article about the Panthers, New Yorker contributor David Samuels described the rage that young men in Serbia — and neighboring countries, no doubt — must have felt for the European Union, which "failed to stop the carnage in the Balkans" and "tantalized them with its wealth yet forbade them legal entry."
Who better to steal from than the people you hate?
In that same New Yorker article, Samuels wrote one brief line about a Serbian named Vinko Osmakcic, who was arrested in Monaco and suspected of crimes in Basel, Honolulu and Las Vegas. That man, it turns out, is Juro Markelic — the man in the sportcoat — using one of his many known names, none of which Mildebrandt thinks are legitimate.
Markelic and the distract team visited the Passman Gallery twice on the day before the Millennium theft. At trial, store employees testified they thought the men were perhaps Italian, because they said "ciao" when they left.
There is surveillance footage from the day the men visited the store, and footage from the day the necklace was stolen. It's soundless, however, and it's all that remains on tape from the theft. Surveillance recordings are erased after two weeks, a gallery manager testified, unless someone copies them.
Markelic's lawyer, Momot, tried to make something of this fact, noting how convenient it was that no footage could show employees had properly checked locks and inventoried jewels before the theft. Momot also argued there was no way of proving that Markelic was part of the team — there's no audio to indicate that the men spoke to each other, and in a casino crawling with cameras, there was no other shot of the four together.
"Is there something in your police bag of evidence," Momot asked Mildebrandt, that could connect Markelic to the other men?
"No sir," the detective replied, "unless your client wants to tell me who they are."
In the end, Markelic took a deal. In March 2004, he pleaded guilty to grand larceny and conspiracy to commit it. Markelic was promised a shorter sentence in exchange for "providing substantial assistance" — which likely meant giving investigators details about the crime. Markelic got the shorter sentence: one year and $125,000 in restitution.
But in November 2004, a few months into his Nevada prison stay, California authorities extradited Markelic to face charges there — he was wanted for burglarizing Cartier in Cosa Mesa, where more than $50,000 in goods had been stolen just nine days before the Millennium theft.
Markelic was sent to California, where he pleaded guilty. Seven months into his prison sentence there, in June 2005, federal authorities then swept in with orders to extradite Markelic to Hawaii. He was wanted in connection with the 1995 burglary of a Waikiki jewelry store, where three men made off with more than $1 million in diamond Piaget watches.
In Hawaii, Markelic was charged as "Vinko Osmakcic" — and so this is the name he signed on his guilty plea.
More than any other, it's the Hawaii case that reveals the most of Markelic. Through court filings, we learn that one week before the Waikiki burglary, Markelic and two men stole three watches worth more than $50,000 from a Tokyo department store. We learn that directly after the Waikiki burglary, the men flew to New York, where they handed off the stolen Hawaiian watches to a man at the New York Jewelry Exchange.
We learn, from his attorney, that Markelic became a criminal in the early '90s "in order to support his displaced family and help his family and others rebuild their shattered lives."
His attorney, who declined the Weekly's request for comment, described in court filings how Markelic was his family's sole provider. While Markelic fought as a Bosnian soldier in 1991, the attorney claimed, his brothers and mother fled to Croatia. After Markelic was wounded, he unsuccessfully tried to find work in Germany and turned to crime. This was how Markelic paid his family's bills, put his brother through architecture school in Zagreb and rebuilt their Bosnian home, though land mines in the area made it too dangerous to return to for years.
Most revealing, however, is the letter Markelic wrote the judge, excerpted and uncorrected in part here:
"In 1992 my village was attacked and fully destroyed. Everybody from my family was in the street overnight. The only hope I had was to leave my country and do whatever it took to help my family survive … I am not looking for any excuses for what I did. I just wanted to explain my wrongful doings ... I hope you honor may understand my situation."
Markelic's attorney felt the judge should bear these tragedies in mind during sentencing. She also revealed that Markelic willingly met with Homeland Security agents while incarcerated, and told them how he got multiple visas from the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo using a fake Bosnian passport, allowing him to travel into the country three times after 9/11 without detection.
In March 2006, Markelic was sentenced to 21 months in Hawaii federal prison, with credit for time served. He was released, Bureau of Prison records indicate, eight months later, in December.
Now that his brothers had their own jobs, and his home country had stabilized, Markelic's attorney wrote, it was "highly unlikely that he will need to commit other crimes."
He was wearing a pink shirt. It was June 2009 in Monaco, and police had been following him for five days, waiting.
It was Markelic. Two years after Interpol formed the Pink Panther task force, he was a recognized gang-member, spotted prowling around the main square — the wealthy shopping hub of a wealthy principality. A few months earlier, one of the most-wanted Pink Panthers was caught here, doing much the same thing. Now it was Markelic — putting it in their faces, maybe — with that pink dress shirt.
They arrested him sitting in a parked car. Markelic was wearing a wildly expensive watch — a $200,000 timepiece one Monaco detective said was Markelic's "Trojan horse" — his entrée into the expensive shops. His confident arm curled around a saleslady, guiding her outside. His goodbye "ciao." His sportcoat, slung over the shoulder in that European fashion.
In January, Dateline NBC did a story on the Pink Panthers, and Mildebrandt caught it. Towards the end of the show, one quick still photo of a man caught his eye. The man is thin and balding, sitting on a curb in Monaco, hands cuffed behind his back. Dateline's narrator says it's Vinko Osmakcic, just after that June arrest.
Mildebrandt recognized Markelic immediately.
"They zoomed right in on his face," Mildebrandt says. "I wasn't surprised."
After a few months in Monaco jail last year, Markelic was released. He hasn't been seen since, reportedly. Neither has the Millennium necklace.
Art Hostage Comments:
Marko, make the deal re: the Swiss thing !!!!
O'h, and put the next raid on ice for the moment as they are waiting for you and the guys to make the move, then they pounce.
Friday, May 14, 2010
Italian cops nab 'Pink Panther' jewel gang suspect: Interpol
Italian police have seized a suspected member of the "Pink Panther" gang of international jewel thieves, Interpol said Friday, in the latest blow against the Balkan crime network.
Radovan Jelusic, top left, a 39-year-old Montenegrin who is wanted in Cyprus, Japan and several other countries, was arrested in Rome by Italian detectives, the international police agency said in a statement.
"Jelusic, who is suspected of involvement in the 2007 armed robbery of a jewellery store in the Ginza district of Tokyo, was in possession of a forged Croatian passport when located," the statement said.
Interpol did not say when the arrest was carried out, but a report on the online version of the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera said that the police had swooped on Tuesday.
Jelusic's arrest came less than two weeks after that of a suspected accomplice, 24-year-old Bojan Vuckovic, a Serbian wanted in Austria for an armed robbery in Vienna, who was detained in Montenegro this month.
In turn, both arrests came after several high-profile police successes against the Pink Panther gang, a once seemingly untouchable alliance of thieves drawn from paramilitary circles in the former Yugoslavia.
"These successes are due to the willingness of law enforcement to work together, and are a reflection on the hard work and professionalism of all the officers involved," said Interpol executive director Jean-Michel Louboutin.
"It is clear that as the amount of information shared with Interpol and its network of 188 member countries increases, so too is the number of Pink Panther members being located, identified and arrested."
Interpol set up a "Pink Panther" office in 2007 after reports that Balkan smash-and-grab experts had stolen 250 million euros (310 million dollars) worth of gems and jewellery in a decade of brazen international raids.
The gang were given their nickname after British detectives found a diamond ring hidden in a jar of face cream, as had been the fictional "Pink Panther" gem in the 1963 film comedy of the same name starring Peter Sellers.
Art Hostage Comments:
I thought Jelly would be arrested in Paris.
So it seems like they let him go to Rome before swooping.
O'h, and someone has been a rascal, you know who !!!!
Still, a little delicious dishonesty goes along way !!!!
However, this does not recover any booty, not least the Cezanne, Degas, two Picasso's and Picasso notebook.
So, don't jump the gun, don't fall for the benefactor sting.
I know you only want around $100,000, but even that small amount is too much for some people and they won't pay, or allow to be paid, a single cent, yet.
Monday, May 10, 2010
Drugs baron beats rap over stolen Da Vinci painting
May 9 2010 Exclusive by Russell Findlay, Sunday Mail
A COCAINE trafficker once accused of a smuggling scheme with Frank McAvennie was suspected of masterminding the Leonardo Da Vinci extortion plot.
George Allan Short is one of three men whose charges of conspiring to extort £5million for the return of stolen Da Vinci painting The Madonna of the Yarnwinder have been sensationally dropped.
Five other men walked free on not proven verdicts last month.
Short is a former business partner of ex-Celtic star McAvennie, 50.
A judge in Dover seized £200,000 of the pair's cash in 1995 after ruling that it had been destined to fund a drug deal. McAvennie, who said the money was for a sunken treasure hunt, lost a bid to get his half of it back.
Short, of Dullatur, Lanarkshire, was later given a two-year jail term in his absence in Belgium for cocaine smuggling in a separate case. And last year, he was cleared by a London jury of being part of a £2.5million fake money gang.
A source said Short would be "delighted" at the shock collapse of the Da Vinci case, but added: "Has justice been done, given that all eight accused are free men?"
The £20million Madonna of the Yarnwinder was stolen from the Duke of Buccleuch's Drumlanrig Castle near Dumfries seven years ago. The thieves have never been caught.
The painting was on the FBI's most wanted list of art treasures when it was recovered three years ago in a police raid on a Glasgow law firm.
Short, an associate of the Daniel crime clan, had been due in court tomorrow, along with private detective Michael Brown, 48, of Glasgow and James Boyle, 67, of Paisley.
They were accused of conspiring between May 2004 and May 2007 to extort £5million from the Duke, his son and insurers for the painting's return, and of threatening to damage or destroy it if a ransom was not paid.
But the Crown Office revealed on Friday that all charges against the trio would be dropped.
A spokesman said: "Having considered the evidence in light of the jury's decision in the previous related case, Crown counsel have decided it is no longer in the public interest to continue proceedings."
Three lawyers and two private detectives were accused of trying to extort £4.25million for the painting's return, but the charges were found not proven at the High Court.
Friday, May 07, 2010
Mystery of stolen Leonardo remains unsolved as last charges dropped
Mystery of stolen Leonardo remains unsolved as last charges dropped The truth about one of the most dramatic art thefts in postwar Britain may never be known after criminal proceedings in the case of a stolen Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece were dropped yesterday.
Scottish prosecutors announced that they do not intend to proceed with the case against three men accused of conspiring to extort £5 million for the safe return of The Madonna of the Yarnwinder, stolen from the Duke of Buccleuch.
Only weeks earlier five men who had been facing similar charges walked free from court.
The masterpiece, worth about £20 million, was snatched from the wall of Drumlanrig Castle, the Duke of Buccleuch’s family home near Dumfries, in August 2003. No one has been charged with its theft, but two court cases, against two separate groups, had been built by prosecutors.
Last month, after a seven-week trial in the first case, three lawyers and two private detectives walked from the High Court in Edinburgh. The verdicts were seen as an embarrassment for the Crown Office, but prosecutors still had a case to pursue against three other men, which the media could not report because of legal restrictions.
Yesterday, however, the Crown Office said in a statement that it had decided it was “no longer in the public interest” to take action against Michael Brown, George Short and James Boyle. The collapse of the case means that the reporting restrictions have been lifted and the details of the charges can be given.
Mr Brown, 48, of Glasgow, Mr Short, 57, of Cumbernauld, and Mr Boyle, 67, of Paisley, had been accused of conspiring between May 25, 2004, and May 17, 2007, to extort £5 million from the duke, his son and their insurers “by menacing them ... and by putting them in a state of fear and alarm and apprehension that said painting would not be returned to them or would be damaged or destroyed if they did not pay to you a sum of money”.
Mr Brown was also facing two charges related to possession of a stun gun.
A preliminary hearing in the case had been due to call at the High Court in Glasgow on Monday. However, the Crown Office released a statement yesterday that read: “As with all cases, the Crown has a continuing duty to keep evidence and cases under review. Having considered the evidence in light of the jury’s recent decision in the previous related case, Crown Counsel have decided that it is no longer in the public interest to continue proceedings. The case will not call on Monday and so criminal proceedings are at an end.”
A spokeswoman added: “The Buccleuch family have been kept fully informed of this decision.”
The painting was recovered on October 4, 2007, when police raided the premises of the Glasgow law firm Boyds. The ninth Duke of Buccleuch, who was one of Britain’s largest landowners, had died four weeks earlier.
The raid was part of an operation that led to the arrest of five men. However, on April 21 this year, all were cleared of attempting to extort £4.25 million for the safe return of the painting.
Charges against Marshall Ronald, 53, a solicitor from Skelmersdale, Lancashire, and his clients Robert Graham, 57, and John Doyle, 63, both private investigators from Ormskirk, Lancashire, were found not proven at the High Court in Edinburgh. Calum Jones, 45, and David Boyce, 63, both solicitors based in Glasgow, were found not guilty.
A reward had been offered for the return of the 16th-century artwork, which was on the FBI’s most wanted list of missing art treasures. The private detectives claimed outside court that they were still entitled to recompense.
The cost of the trial is not yet known, but is likely to be more than £1 million. Each of the five men had his own defence team.
Police are still looking for those who snatched the painting from the wall of Drumlanrig.
Thursday, May 06, 2010
Solicitor faces probe over missing £638,000 clients’ funds
A SOLICITOR is to face a tribunal over allegations he took almost £640,000 from his clients.
Marshall Ronald will face a disciplinary hearing later this year following claims that he made improper withdrawals of up to £638,000.
The investigation by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has continued its probe after he was last month acquitted of a plot to rob the £40m Leonardo Da Vinci painting, the Madonna of the Yarnwinder from a Scottish castle.
No date for the hearing has been set, but it is likely to take place in autumn.
If wrongdoing is proven, Mr Ronald from Up Holland, near Skelmersdale, could either be reprimanded, fined £5,000 per allegation, suspended from practice or struck off.
The ECHO can also reveal the 53-year-old does not currently hold a practising solicitor registration meaning he is not entitled to work as a solicitor.
A spokesman for the SRA said: “We have lodged proceedings against Mr Ronald and the tribunal continues regardless of his recent criminal acquittal,”
Last month, Mr Ronald, along with private investigators Robert Graham, 55, of Gaw Hill Lane, Aughton, and John Doyle, 58, of Summerswood Lane, Halsall, were cleared of an audacious plot to steal the multi-million pound Da Vinci painting.
It was stolen from Drumlanrig Castle on the Duke of Buccleuch's estate in Dumfriesshire in 2003.
Two men posing as tourists, overpowered a female member of staff before climbing out a window with the artwork.
Art Hostage Comments:
Comments to follow............
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
Suspected “Pink Panther” arrested
LYON -- A man suspected of being a member of the notorious international jewel thieves Pink Panther gang has been arrested on the border of Serbia and Montenegro.
Bojan Vučković (24) was arrested at the border during a routine passport control, according to Interpol, whose headquarters are in Lyon, France.
Austrian police have a warrant out for his arrested. He is suspected of participating in the robbery of a jewelry store in Vienna in November 2008.
Vučković was arrested based on information given by the Austrian government, and he was “officially identified” thanks to cooperation between the Serbian, Montenegrin and Austrian police, reports said.
Interpol's group set up to investigate the Pink Panther group was also involved, according to this.
The groups is made up mostly of citizens of countries of the former Yugoslavia, and according to Interpol, they stole EUR 250mn worth of jewelry from luxury stores all around the world.
British police nicknamed the group after a robbery in London in which they found a diamond hidden in a face cream jar, similar to the popular Blake Edwards movie of the same name.
In September 2009, three Serbs accused of belonging to the group were convicted in France and sentenced to in between seven and 15 years of prison.
A court in Cyprus convicted a Montenegrin to nine months of prison in April 2009 after police trailed him from Spain to Bahrain, Japan and the United Arab Emirates.
Art Hostage Comments:
Routine Passport check, they were waiting, they knew, Bojan was another "Head of John the Baptist", handed on a plate, as yet another required task for the path towards EU Membership !!!
Those Political figures who tolerated and even encouraged the Pink Panthers antics now have to rein the Pink Panthers in.
Memo to Bojan:
Allow authorities in Montenegro, Serbia, Austria and Germany have their curtain call, let them bask in their co-operative glory.
This is all window dressing for EU membership, Montenegro first then Serbia.
Whilst full EU membership may be some time away, loans can be obtained at special rates along the EU membership path.
Then, when the media blitz is over you can then offer the Cezanne, Degas, Picasso notebook and two Picasso's for a lighter sentence, if convicted.
Yuri Harris doing seven !!!!
Morning police raid nabs long-lost Bunny
A RUPERT Bunny painting stolen almost 20 years ago has been recovered from a home in East Malvern where it was on display.
Police said an exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria's Ian Potter Centre - that has been running since March - led to a tipoff about the location of the $200,000 work, which is known as Girl in Sunlight.
It was stolen in 1991 from a private collection in Blairgowrie and had not resurfaced.
Bunny was the best-known Australian painter of his generation and was highly regarded in Europe at the turn of last century for his paintings of women at leisure.
His works have sold for more than $1 million and he remains one of the most revered figures of Australian painting.
A 61-year-old man, who owned the house where the painting was found, was last night helping police, but they would not elaborate on his identity or how he might have obtained the work.
The painting was recovered about 7 o'clock yesterday morning after police knocked on the door of the suburban home and executed a search warrant, catching the home owner by surprise.
Detective Sergeant Lionel Joseph led a four-man investigation team after police received ''public assistance'' about a month ago.
The painting's owners were delighted their painting had finally been found, Detective Sergeant Joseph said.
''[They had] great joy that their painting has finally been recovered after so many years,'' he said.
''It is in pristine condition, like when it was stolen. It's great to see that the public are still vigilant about these things, and certainly without their assistance this matter wouldn't be solved.''
The 1913 painting depicts a woman, believed to be Bunny's French wife, Jeanne Morel, reading in a garden under a white parasol.
The pair married in 1902 while Bunny was living in France. After her death in 1933, he returned to Melbourne.
Bunny lived above some shops in Toorak Road, South Yarra, before his death in 1947.
Elena Taylor, curator of Australian art at the NGV, said the stolen painting was not well known.
But she said it was painted during the Belle Epoque (''the beautiful era'', the years leading up to World War I), and was typical of many of his works.
''He had the greatest European reputation at the time … among all Australians,'' Ms Taylor said.
''He is particularly known for his paintings of beautiful women at leisure. Very beautiful, charming paintings are the paintings he is best known for.''
Art Hostage Comments:
The story behind this recovery is interesting and all will be revealed soon.
A tale of deceit, anger and redemption.