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Huge Art Heist Case Solved by a Special Art Police Squad in Verona

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March 17, 2016
Web journalist, coffee junkie and art fanatic. Cares about the environment, writes for Widewalls. Alias of Milica Jovic

Back in November 2015, a group of several art thieves walked into the museum in Verona, disabled the security guard and went on to steal dozens of pieces made by acclaimed painters such as Pisanello, Caroto, Peter Paul Rubens and Hans de Jode. Police in Verona assigned the case to the special Art Squad that went trough an extensive international search operation and after almost four months managed to solve the heist. The special art squad arrest 13 individuals who are believed to be responsible for the crime. Although the robbers are in custody there’s still no sign of the paintings that are yet to be retrieved.

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Tintoretto – The Judgement of Solomon

Castelvecchio Museum Heist

The robbery took place on November 19th, 2015 when three individuals, entered Castelvecchio Museum in Verona and stole 17 paintings valued at more than $16 million. Thieves took advantage of the small time frame when the entrance was left unprotected and entered the building eatery at 6:35 p.m., slightly after the museum’s staff left and shortly before the security alarm was activated. One security guard and the cashier that remained inside the museum were quickly immobilized and the criminals were free to continue their heist. Once inside, thieves walked around the building for about an hour and took down a total of 17 art pieces many of which were made by the Italian renaissance masters. Finally, they used the tied down guard’s car and one other vehicle to drive away from the scene of the crime.

Castelvecchio Museum’s Security Footage

Art Theft in Verona: An Inside Job

Right after the theft, the case was assigned to special Carabinieri Art Squad, a police department specialized in art thefts and recovering antiques. They focused their investigation on over 4000 hours of video surveillance footage that was their major lead considering that the thieves were caught on tape both inside and outside of the museum building. It was this perfect timing of the robbers that made the police suspect that the heist was an inside job but also the inconsistencies in the statement of the security guard, who was on duty during the heist. The police began to record the guard’s phone calls and discovered that he was involved in the heist. According to the Associated Press, the robbers were quite proud of their exceptional work and their loot. They called the heist “a big hit” and agreed to stay quiet for several months before trying to sell the paintings.

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Left : Pisanello – Madonna della Quaglia / Right : Peter Paul Rubens – The Lady of licnidi via pinterest

The Paintings are Yet to be Recovered

The entire group of 13 thieves was arrested today (March 17th, 2016) in the large international operation executed in Italy and Moldova. The thieves were related to the security guard’s Moldovan wife who was also arrested alongside her husband and his twin brother. These three individuals were the only gang members arrested in Italy while the rest of the group were apprehended in Moldova. According to The New York Times the head of the special art theft squad Mariano Mossa, believes that the paintings are also hidden “somewhere in Moldova” and stated that the group probably hadn’t had the opportunity to sell them considering that finding the buyer for this highly recognizable works isn’t easy. He also added that the police will continue the investigation until the works are discovered. We truly believe that the Italian police will recover the paintings since they already proved their worth by seizing two artworks stolen in 2015 whose value is estimated at over 50000 euros.

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Featured image : Castelvecchio Museum via flickr