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Serial art thief arrested again (theartnewspaper.com)
73 points by antigizmo 32 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 45 comments



> Most of the loot was hidden in his family home. Subsequently, his mother destroyed and threw away dozens of paintings and drawings, some by Cranach, Bruegel and Watteau, and dumped more than a hundred works into a canal. A pious woman, she chose not to destroy a Medieval sculpture of the Virgin Mary, abandoning it instead in a forest chapel.

I'm curious why she chose to do this. Was she trying to hide the evidence? Did she just consider the art to be junk?


I read some linked articles on this. It seems she did it simply to hide the evidence. Unbelievable, it's estimated she destroyed $1bn worth.


Maybe evidence hiding even though he apparently confessed. Otherwise she would have thrown it in the garbage and kept the Virgin Mary for herself? Assuming she thought it rationally...


Omg she threw away a Breugel that should be prison time.


Destroying that much evidence should be prison time anyway, Breugel or not.


I was amazed that someone could steal so much art and imagined a sophisicated and expert professional thief with a brilliant mind for security and a taste in art. But apparently he just picked it up off the wall and walked out the door with it. You can't get away with that at most grocery stores.


That's because a lot of people rob grocery stores (and banks.) Once stealing becomes common place in museums they'll act as insurance companies will force them to.

Amazing how they have, maybe a security guard, and millions of dollars in art hanging. Granted art can be recovered and stolen one cannot be sold easily


There was a Russian guy recently that did exactly that [1], and then swat showed up at his home not long after.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0V8APbxMqM


Wait WTF how does that even work? The guy picked up the painting while an entire crowd was looking at it, and proceeded to walk away... That's Borat level absurdity.


Many years ago at a car trade show in Amsterdam a high end luxury car was stolen under the noses of 10's of thousands of visitors and attendants. Thief #1 put a scratch in the paint of the car, thieves #2, #3 and #4 calmly drove a flatbed truck backwards through the crowded tradeshow to the stand of the brand whose car was stolen and pushed it on to remove the 'damaged car' from the trade show floor at the instructions of unseen higher ups. Their major high tech tools to get away with all this was blue overalls with the brand logo on their backs and breast pockets.


Got a link about that theft?


It was well before the days of the internet, and it happened at Amsterdam Auto RAI.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AutoRAI

Possibly some newspaper morgue has an article about it, it caused quite a few giggles at the time. The funny thing is that nobody could describe the perps but everybody could describe their overalls.


"Act like you belong". Might want to accesorise with a fake staff badge or high viz jacket.

Now, I wonder what success rate you'd have if you asked a bystander to carry the other end ... probably quite high.


I couldn't understand why people steal famous art because there can't be any buyers who would feel safe about displaying it in their homes. There's no market to fence it. I tried googling for an answer and found only the explanation that there's no good rhyme or reason, the thieves are just that stupid. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/here-s-why-art-thieves-st...


I've looked into this before, following the same question you had. The most logical answer I found was the criminal version of an insurance policy.

Basically they would steal said artwork but instead of selling, the point is to keep it in hidden storage. Then if at some point further down the line the criminal gets arrested in relation to another crime, they use the location of the artwork as leverage during plea bargaining.

This is one of the major theories in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heists in the 90's.


I think this was going on with the mafia because the Italian legal system was conducive to it.


the article said he had $163,000 euros stuffed in a bucket. As legitimate funds (I hope) dont often end up stuffed in a bucket I would surmise that he had some way of selling it. He was also caught by listing a stolen item on ebay, maybe Ebay was the only place he sold this stuff, but maybe not.

Edit: apparently it was multiple buckets not just one.


I'd assume its two-fold:

The deed itself; the kick of doing something which isn't allowed.

Owning the stolen goods; owning something unique akin to a trophy.

However a legit buyer of a piece of art can show it off (like people -mostly male, it seems- seem to have this urge to show off materialistic things such as their cars or smartphones). Someone who stole something, especially if its unique, cannot show it off because it increases the chance of them getting busted. So eventually, they need a normal income while they own these expensive trophies, or they need to launder the goods. Which doesn't work very well with such unique antiquities.


is he a serial prisoner now?


Serial art thief pants himself into a corner... A clear picture emerges...


I think we may only be getting the broad strokes…


He will end up in the rogues gallery.


Maybe he was framed.


> Most of the loot was hidden in his family home. Subsequently, his mother destroyed and threw away dozens of paintings and drawings, some by Cranach, Bruegel and Watteau, and dumped more than a hundred works into a canal. A pious woman, she chose not to destroy a Medieval sculpture of the Virgin Mary, abandoning it instead in a forest chapel.

His mother is a terrible person who should go to prison for life for intentional destruction of irreplaceable cultural items in order to cover up serious crimes.

As far as the thief himself goes his own culpability is much less than hers.


Please don't post unsubstantive rants to Hacker News, even if you feel strongly about art.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


His mother is a terrible person who should go to prison for life for intentional destruction of irreplaceable cultural items in order to cover up serious crimes.

What do we hope to gain from locking up an old woman?


General deterance. It makes it clear to others that destruction of evidence can be far worse than the crime you are attempting to hide.


"If only we lock up this one more person, _then_ it'll finally be clear."

How's prison working out as a deterrent, generally?


It works fine. Just because some people can't stop themselves from committing crimes, that doesn't mean the general public doesn't respect deterrents.

There are so many things I wouldn't do because I know I'd get in trouble.


Netherlands extremely rarely gives anyone an actual life sentence for anything. Plus, it's a property crime, and depends if she had knowledge of their value and intent based on that. Also, you'd need to lock-up half of the European aristocracy and most galleries for taking, and not willingly-returning, works taken from WW2 Holocaust victims and survivors. So in the grand scheme of things, she's, at most, a committer of criminal mischief.


It is more than a property crime. In canada/uk/us it is destruction of evidence. It is conspiracy after the fact. It may be harbouring a fugative. Those would all attach to the original grand theft. She could be looking at serious time should prosecutors go that route.


> you'd need to lock-up half of the European aristocracy...

Is that bad?


Suggest nickname change ;)


Mental illness.


I wonder if the fact that serial anything criminals exist at all indicates that the criminal justice system might be broken? I wonder if the deterrence aspect of law enforcement is actually working in Western countries.


> I wonder if the fact that serial anything criminals exist at all indicates that the criminal justice system might be broken?

I'm a serial jay walker. I'm not sure that's evidence of the crumbling of western civilization.

I don't think the law should aim to eliminate all crime. In my opinion, there are systemic limits to how efficient law enforcement can me: clamp down too hard on type 2 errors, and type 1 errors rear their ugly heads.

Which isn't to say that what we've got is the best that can be.


I've heard the term jaywalking a few times (with a dispiseful tone) and looked it up now. the concept doesnt even make sense to me. here the 'weaker' have precedence over the 'stronger'. plus there's always the 'vertrauensgrundsatz' (principle of reliance) that states that you have to rely on others to behave correct (except children), but as soon as they give you a sign that this might not be the case it's _your_ duty to compensate. man I'm glad not to live in the land of the free.....


Ignoring a red light as a pedestrian carries a 5 € fine in Germany [1]. 10 € if it causes an accident. Jaywalking (crossing the street where you're not supposed to) also carries a 10 € fine.

[1] https://www.bussgeldkatalog.org/fussgaenger/


Note that this says "Kraftstraße", so specially marked, faster streets. "Normal" streets can be crossed everywhere, although if there is a better or explicit crossing spot nearby you have to use it.


That’s a pretty small fine for some pretty serious consequences…


It probably isn't meant to be punitive, just a deterrent. A 5p charge for plastic bags cut the usage massively in the UK.


Not so fast, it's not just the US. Switzerland has a jaywalking law too, but it's never enforced and the fine is almost nothing (10$).


Wow... I had no idea.


Yes and no. I'm sure more people would park illegally or skip paying bills if there were no punishment. But deterrence is supposed to work at a rational level: The risk of getting caught and the punishment deters you from committing the act. It does not work if you don't act rationally in the first place, e.g. compulsive criminals or other forms of mental illness, drug-affected crimes, crimes of passion/anger etc. For very high stakes you might be willing to take the risk, or your assessment of the risk of getting caught might be off. Or you might just be desperate.

I suspect this guy have some mental issues.


Deterrence is just one way to reduce crime, it doesn't have to be the only factor and like you say, it's just a reduction not a complete fix.




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