On January 23, it was reported that Europol made several arrests and recovered thousands of antiquities in November. The investigation, led by the Spanish police forces, was part of an large operation involving 18 countries to break up an international antiquities smuggling ring. Read more about this story on artnet News or NPR.
In another story, on January 30, Verjan Tomic testified in a Paris court in his trial related to a spring 2010 heist from the Musee d’Art Moderne in which he stole five paintings estimated to be worth at least $112 million were stolen. The five paintings are Braque’s “Olive Tree Near l’Estaque,” Leger’s “Still Life With Candlestick,” Matisse’s “Pastorale,” Modigliani’s “Woman With a Fan,” and Picasso’s “Dove With Green Peas.” News outlets including the New York Times, the Telegraph, artnet News, and others have reported on the court case.
There are two points of particular interest in Tomic’s story for those concerned with security in cultural heritage institutions. First, Tomic said getting in was as simple as breaking a pane of glass he weakened with acid before the heist and then quickly cutting through a padlock to access the museum. Second, security staff turned off the security system two months before the heist because of several repeated false alarms due to the over-sensitivity of the system. As the Telegraph remarks, the judge in the case “lamented the ‘disconcerting ease’ in which the athletic thief evaded ‘defective’ security to steal the ‘priceless’ masterpieces whose value ‘far surpasses their market value.'”