Showing posts with label Verona. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Verona. Show all posts

December 21, 2016

Repatriation: Museo Civico di Castelvecchio - 17 paintings stolen on November 19, 2015


Following the convictions of many of the accomplices arrested in connection with the theft of 17 paintings stolen on November 19, 2015 from the Museo Civico di Castelvecchio, the paintings are finally cleared to return to Italy today.

In a ceremony held earlier this morning, broadcast live from the Khanenko museum in Kiev at 11:45 GMT+1, the stolen works of art were formally released in the presence of the President of the Ukraine, Petro PoroŇ°enko to the Italian Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism, Dario Franceschini and an Italian delegation made up of:

Flavio Tosi, the mayor of Verona
Gen. Fabrizio Parrulli, Commander of the Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale
Dr. Gennaro Ottaviano, the Deputy Prosecutor of Verona
Dr. Vincenzo Nicolì, Director of the Central Operational Service (SCO)
Roberto Benedetto, the head of the mobile police squad of Verona,
Antonio Coppola, Commander of the Operational department of the Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale
Dr. Ettore Napione, Curator of the Museo Civico di Castelvecchio


This afternoon, at 17.30 GMT+1 the 17 works of art will be presented back to the Verona public at the Museo Civico di Castelvecchio where a ceremony will be held welcoming the paintings back home.

All 17 artworks were recovered May 6, 2016 in the Ukrainian region of Odessa during a raid carried out by the special Ukrainian police forces.  The museum pieces were found wrapped in plastic bags and hidden in a willow forest, located on Turunciuk island, a parcel of land that sits on the left branch of the Dniester River that flows along the border between Moldova and the Ukraine.

Ricciardi Pasquale Silvestri, the point of connection between the Italians and the Moldavians criminals involved in the theft, was sentenced December 5, 2015 to 10 years and eight months for his role in the armed robbery and kidnapping.  His brother, Francesco Silvestri, the contracted security guard at the Castelvecchio museum on the night of the robbery, also involved in the plot, was sentenced to 10 years for his key role in illustrating the vulnerabilities of the museum. 

Pasquale's Moldovan girlfriend, Svetlana Tkachuk received a six-year prison sentence, for her role and translator between the members of the transnational organized crime group.  Another co-conspirator, also from Moldova, Victor Potinga, was sentenced to five years. Potinga transported the stolen artworks in his van from Verona to Brescia the evening of the theft. 

Two other defendants, Anatolie Burlac Jr. and Denis Damaschin each entered guilty pleas earlier in the year for their own roles in the crime.  Damaschin was sentenced to 3 years and 4 months incarceration for receiving stolen goods, having stored the paintings in his home in Brescia, in Northern Italy before they were disguised in television boxes and transported to the Ukraine. 

Arrested in Romania and extradited to Italy after some initial confusion over his identity, his father is Anatolie Burlac Sr., who is also wanted for questioning in the crime, Burlac Jr. received the lightest of the sentences handed down in connection with the crime, only one year eight months.   This was most likely due to the critical statements he made while being interrogated by the Italian authorities, which contributed to the convictions handed down in the case. Other accomplices, arrested last March, are still to be tried in Moldova.


Testimony presented in the case against the six in Italy indicated that the theft was originally planned for the 18th of November. It was then postponed to the next evening as the accomplices arrived at the museum on the 18th only to find additional cars in the parking lot indicating their was too much activity in the area to proceed.

According to defence attorneys, the original plan was to rob the museum of one painting only, a theft to order, with only the guard-accomplice present who was to pretend to authorities that he had been subdued during the robbery. Unfortunately, the accomplices arrived prematurely while the museum's cashier was still in the building. By tying her up and gagging her along with their accomplice-cohort, the thieves transformed the museum theft from a simple robbery to armed robbery and kidnapping. 

Ukrainian law enforcement believes that the works were shipped out of Moldova and into the Ukraine after arrests were made in the case in mid-March.  If the shift was made to hide the evidence or to send the works onwards to buyers in either somewhere in the Ukraine or Russia has never been established with certainty, however Italian police and Ukrainian media reports have suggested that the final buyer was rumored to be a wealthy collector in Chechnya.  According to the Russian news agency TASS, the paintings were sent from Moldova to the Ukraine via the postal service and at the time of their discovery, were awaiting transfer back to Moldova.

December 7, 2016

Sentencing: Museum Theft at the Museo Civico di Castelvecchio


On December 5, 2016 Judge Luciano Gorra, of Italy's Verona tribunal sentenced four of twelve accomplices arrested in connection with the theft of 17 paintings stolen on November 19, 2015 from the Museo Civico di Castelvecchio. 

Ricciardi Pasquale Silvestri, the point of connection between the Italians and the Moldavians criminals involved in the theft, was given the heaviest prison sentence: 10 years and eight months for his role in the armed robbery and kidnapping.  His brother, Francesco Silvestri, the contracted security guard at the Castelvecchio museum on the night of the robbery, also involved in the plot, was sentenced to 10 years for his key role in illustrating the vulnerabilities of the museum. 

Pasquale's Moldovan girlfriend, Svetlana Tkachuk received a six-year prison sentence, for her role and translator between the members of the transnational organized crime group.  Another co-conspirator, also from Moldova, Victor Potinga, was sentenced to five years. Potinga transported the stolen artworks in his van from Verona to Brescia the evening of the theft. 

Two other defendants, Anatolie Burlac Jr. and Denis Damaschin had each entered pleas earlier for their roles in the crime.  Damaschin was sentenced to 3 years and 4 months incarceration for receiving stolen goods, having stored the paintings in his home in Brescia, in Northern Italy before they were disguised in television boxes and transported to the Ukraine. 

Arrested in Romania and extradited to Italy after some initial confusion over his identity, his father is Anatolie Burlac Sr., who is also wanted for questioning in the crime, Burlac Jr. received the lightest of the sentences handed down to date: one year eight months.   This was most likely due to the critical statements he made while being interrogated by the Italian authorities, which contributed to the convictions handed down in the case. Other accomplices, arrested last March, have asked to be tried in Moldova.


Testimony presented in the case against the six in Italy indicate that the theft was originally planned for the 18th of November. It was then postponed to the next evening as the accomplices arrived at the museum on the 18th only to find additional cars in the parking lot indicating their was too much activity in the area to proceed.

According to defence attorneys, the original plan was to rob the museum of one painting only, a theft to order, with only the guard-accomplice present who was to pretend to authorities that he had been subdued during the robbery. Unfortunately, the accomplices arrived prematurely while the museum's cashier was still in the building. By tying her up and gagging her along with their accomplice-cohort, the thieves transformed the museum theft from a simple robbery to armed robbery and kidnapping. 

Photo Credit Sputnik News
Ukrainian law enforcement believes that the works were shipped out of Moldova and into the Ukraine after arrests were made in the case in mid-March.  If the shift was made to hide the evidence or to send the works onwards to buyers in either somewhere in the Ukraine or Russia has not been established with certainty, however Italian police and Ukrainian media reports have suggested that the final buyer was rumored to be a wealthy collector in Chechnya.  According to the Russian news agency TASS, the paintings were sent from Moldova to the Ukraine via the postal service and at the time of their discovery, were awaiting transfer back to Moldova.

All 17 artworks were recovered May 6, 2016 in the Ukrainian region of Odessa during a raid carried out by the special Ukrainian police forces.  The museum pieces were found wrapped in plastic bags and hidden in a willow forest a few kilometers from the border between Moldova and Ukraine on Turunciuk island, a body of land that sits on the left branch of the Dniester River.  Despite their hide spot, the paintings were recovered in better condition that would be expected given their multi-country transport. 

Ironically the wheels of Italian justice have proved surprisingly fast.  Faster even than international negotiations with the representatives of the Kiev government, who currently still holds 14 of the artworks, one year onward after the theft.  The 17 artworks worth an estimated €10m-€15m, are no longer held ransom by an opportunistic group of thieves.  They are being held hostage by diplomatic bureaucracy.

March 16, 2016

12 arrests/13 warrents in the Verona Museum Theft

Twelve accomplices, have been arrested in connection with the theft of 17 paintings worth an estimated €10m-€15m stolen on Thursday, November 19, 2015 from the Verona Civic Museum of Castelvecchio shortly before its 8 pm closing time.  At the time of the theft, thieves had made off with seventeen Italian and foreign artworks including rare pieces by Peter Paul Rubens, Bellini, Pisanello, Mategna, the Venetian artist Tintoretto and his son.   

During the art heist, one accomplice stayed with the cashier holding her at gunpoint while two others escorted the watchmen through the museum's exhibition rooms and for more than an hour, removed artworks from their fastenings. The thieves were then reported to have taken the guard's keys, using his automobile for a fast getaway.  

Yesterday, law enforcement announced a sensational breakthrough in the case.  In a joint investigation involving Verona's Police and the Comando Carabinieri per la Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale coordinated by Italian Deputy Public Prosecutor, Gennaro Ottaviano, 12 accomplices have been arrested.

The names of the arrested are:
Anatolie Burlac senior
Vasile Cheptene,
Vasile Mihailov Igor Creciun,
Adrian Damaschin
Denis Damaschin
Victor Potinga
Francesco Silvestri
Ricciardi Pasquale Silvestri
Svetlana Tkachuk
Natalia Tesmann.
Pavel Vasilachi,
Roman Tiganciuc Cornel Vasilita,
Vitalii Voznyi, 

Nine of those arrested were detained by authorities in neighbouring Moldova. Three accomplices were arrested in Verona. In what is developing to look like a classic insider job, one of the detainees, Francesco Silvestri, is the night security guard who had just started his shift at the Castelvecchio museum on the night of the robbery.

Silvesteri's testimony at the time of the incident was not convincing. According to Italy's open public records, he told authorities that armed bandits had entered the side door of the museum just before closing time, a few minutes prior to the time evening alarms are activated. He then elaborated that the thieves quickly captured and disarmed him.  For the next 80 minutes the thieves silently moved through the entire museum, cherry-picking select works.  Caught on the museum's CCTV, the footage recorded the thieves only speaking three words before taking Silvestri's car keys and making a clean getaway with his vehicle.

Silvestri was an employee of Securitalia, a firm that had been awarded the service contract to provide security and surveillance services to the museum.   The guard is believed to have intentionally left the keys of his car available for the thieves to use during the museum heist. Also implicated in the theft is Silvestri’s brother and his Moldovan girlfriend who appears to have been the point of connection between the Italians and the Moldavians criminals who orchestrated the theft.

Announcing the arrest, Italy's Comando Carabinieri per la Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale released footage from the CCTV camera's taken inside the museum on the day of the theft.


While the arrests are significant, authorities have issued no statements as to if any of the missing artwork has been recovered.  When queried by Italian journalists Verona's mayor Flavio Tosi stated "We hope to recover all the paintings and that they are in good condition."

It should be noted that previous dramatic statements suggesting the involvement of Islamic militants  in the theft seem to have been nothing more than unfounded conjecture. 



November 20, 2015

17 Artworks Stolen from Italian Museum

Shortly before its 8 pm closing time, on Thursday November 19, 2015 three darkly-dressed masked thieves entered the Verona Civic Museum of Castelvecchio near Verona in northern Italy.  Using a methodology reminiscent of that used during the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist, the culprits tied up and gagged a museum cashier and the sole private security guard on duty using adhesive tape shortly after the museum's employees had left for the evening.

One accomplice stayed with the cashier, holding her at gunpoint while the other two, one of whom was also armed, escorted the watchmen through the museum's exhibition rooms.  In total, the thieves made off with seventeen Italian and foreign artworks including rare pieces by Peter Paul Rubens, Bellini, Pisanello, Mategna, the Venetian artist Tintoretto and his son.  
“La Madonna della Quaglia” by Antonio Pisano also known as Pisanello
tempera su tavola, cm 54×32
Mayor Flavio Tosi has referred to the museum's robbery as a “theft to order” crime, a label that, absent further elaboration, has fallen out of favor among art crime investigators as it feeds the public's imagination and more often than not, results in over-generalised misperceptions about who commits art crime and for what underlying motive.

Conjuring up images of cat burglars that look and act like sexy Hollywood starlets, cinematic “theft to order” protagonists are typically technologically savvy art thieves who burgle museums by easily outsmarting complex alarm systems.  If the protagonist is female, she is usually sexily clad but the common denominator among all film art thieves is that they are usually never caught and go on to live happily ever after, having made bundles off the sale of the paintings.

The truth is, demystifying offender characteristics and the motives of art thieves from media hype is difficult.  There is no single set of common physical or mental characteristics or motives which would make profiling the art criminal easier.

In Thursday’s theft the Castelvecchio museum's alarm system was not even activated as the thieves timed their arrival to coincide with the museum’s closing hour, entering just before the nightly alarms were to to be turned on.  Timed to perfection, the culprits successfully made off with artwork Italian authorities are estimating as worth between 10 and 15 million euros. The city’s mayor also stated that authorities hadn’t ruled out the possibility that the paintings could have been stolen to fund “jihadisti”.

Some of the paintings, mostly those painted on wooden panels, were taken off the walls and carried away as is.  Others artworks were removed from their frames, with the canvases then being rolled-up for ease of carrying. Thirteen of the stolen paintings are considered to be masterpieces while the other four are reportedly of lessor value.

Authorities have described the stolen artworks as:

“Ritratto di Girolamo Pompei” by Giovanni Benini
olio su tela, cm 85×63, inv. 45793-1B4017 – Estimated Value: €5.000
“Ritratto di Giovane Monaco Benedettino” by Giovanni Francesco Caroto
olio su tela, cm 43×33, inv. 1407-1B0142 – Estimated Value: €200,000
“Ritratto di Giovane con Disegno Infantile” by Giovanni Francesco Caroto,
olio su tavola, cm 37×29, inv. 5519-1B0130 – Estimated Value: €2,000,000
“San Girolamo Penitente” by Jacopo Bellini
tempera su tavola, cm 95×65, inv. 876-1B0306 – Estimated Value: €2,000,000
“Paesaggio” by Hans de Jode
olio su tela, cm 70×99, inv. 6275-1B0685 – Estimated Value: €200.000
“Porto di mare” by Hans de Jode
olio su tela, cm 70×99, inv. 6273-1B0680– Estimated Value: €200.00
“Sacra Famiglia Con Una Santa” by Andrea Mantegna,
tempera su tela, cm 76×55,5 inv. 855-1B0087 – Estimated Value €4,000,000
“La Madonna della Quaglia” by Antonio Pisano also known as Pisanello,
tempera su tavola, cm 54×32, inv. 164-1B0090 – Estimated Value €4,000,000
“Dama delle licnidi” by Peter Paul Rubens
olio su tela, cm 76×60, inv. 1779-1B0166 – Estimated Value €1,500,000
“Ritratto di Marco Pasqualigo” by Domenico Tintoretto
olio su tela, cm 48×40, inv.6707-1B0158 – Estimated Value €500,000
“Ritratto di Ammiraglio Veneziano” by the school of Domenico Tintoretto
olio su tela, cm 110×89, inv. 1602-1B0710 – Estimated Value €100,000
“Banchetto di Baltassar” by Jacopo Tintoretto
 olio su tavola, cm 26,5×79, inv. 264-1B0229 – Estimated Value €100,000
“Giudizio di Salomone” by Jacopo Tintoretto,
olio su tavola, cm 26,5×79,5, inv. 266-1B0230 – Estimated Value €100,000
“Madonna Allattante” by Jacopo Tintoretto
olio su tela, cm 89×76, inv. 1285-1B1623– Estimated Value € 500,000
“Sansone” by Jacopo Tintoretto,
olio su tavola, cm 26,5×79, inv. 265-1B0228 – Estimated Value €100,000
“Trasporto dell’Arca dell’Alleanza” by Jacopo Tintoretto,
olio su tavola, cm 28×80, inv. 263-1B0227 – Estimated Value €100,000
“Ritratto Maschile” possibly by Jacopo Tintoretto
olio su tela, cm 54×44, inv. 44381-1B4013 – Estimated Value €150,000
4 other artworks by artists such as Hans de Jode and Giovanni Benini

In addition to the artwork stolen, the bandits also damaged a table by Giulio Licinio.

The culprits left the scene of the crime using the museum custodian's own car, likely switching vehicles at some distance from the museum.  Authorities are reviewing footage from the 48 museum CCTV cameras installed in and around the museum for possible clues as to their identities.

Photos of the 17 artworks taken are posted to this blog post.

Andrea Mantegna, Sacra Famiglia Con Una Santa
tempera su tela, cm 76×55,5
“Ritratto Maschile” possibly by Jacopo Tintoretto
olio su tela, cm 54×44 
“Ritratto di Marco Pasqualigo” by Domenico Tintoretto
olio su tela, cm 48×40
“Ritratto di Girolamo Pompei” by Giovanni Benini
olio su tela, cm 85×63
“Paesaggio” by Hans de Jode
olio su tela, cm 70×99
“Porto di mare” by Hans de Jode
olio su tela, cm 70×99
“Ritratto di Girolamo Pompei” by Giovanni Benini
olio su tela, cm 85×63
“Banchetto di Baltassar” by Jacopo Tintoretto
olio su tavola, cm 26,5×79
“Giudizio di Salomone” by Jacopo Tintoretto
olio su tavola, cm 26,5×79,5
“Trasporto dell’Arca dell’Alleanza” by Jacopo Tintoretto
olio su tavola, cm 28×80
“Sansone” by Jacopo Tintoretto
olio su tavola, cm 26,5×79
“Madonna Allattante” by Jacopo Tintoretto
olio su tela, cm 89×76
“Ritratto di Ammiraglio Veneziano” by the school of Domenico Tintoretto
olio su tela, cm 110×89
“Ritratto di Giovane con Disegno Infantile” by Giovanni Francesco Caroto
olio su tavola, cm 37×29
“Ritratto di Giovane Monaco Benedettino” by Giovanni Francesco Caroto
olio su tela, cm 43×33
“Dama delle Licnidi” by Peter Paul Rubens
olio su tela, cm 76×60