Showing posts with label art crime. Show all posts
Showing posts with label art crime. Show all posts

November 20, 2017

Is art crime understudied? We think so, but you can help us change that.


Who studies art crime?

ARCA's Postgraduate program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection is now accepting applications.

In 2009, ARCA started the first of its kind, interdisciplinary, approach to the scholarly study of art crime. Representing a unique opportunity for individuals interested in training in a structured and academically diverse format, the summer-long postgraduate program is designed around the study of the dynamics, strategies, objectives and modus operandi of criminals and criminal organizations who commit a variety of art crimes.  

Turn on the news (or follow this blog) and you will see over and over again examples of museum thefts, forgeries, antiquities looting and illicit trafficking of cultural goods.  Intentional heritage destruction during armed conflict, once a modern-day rarity, now affects multiple countries and adds to regional instability in many areas of the globe.  Looted art, both ancient and Holocaust-related, finds its way into the galleries of respected institutions, while auction houses and dealers continue to be less than adept at distinguishing smuggled and stolen art, from art with a clean provenance. Thus making dealing with art crime an unrelenting problem and one without any easy solution.

Taken incident by incident, it is difficult to see the impact and implications of art crime as a global concern, but when studied across disciplines, looking at the gaps of legal instruments, country to country, one begins to have a clearer picture of the significance of the problem and its impact on the world's collective patrimony.

The world's cultural heritage is an invaluable legacy and its protection is integral to our future. 


Here are 11 reasons why you should consider joining us for a summer in Amelia, Italy for ARCA's 10th edition of its postgraduate program. 

At its foundation, ARCA's summer-long program in Italy draws upon the overlapping and complementary expertise of international thought-leaders on the topic of art crime – all practitioners and leading scholars who actively work in the sector. 

In 2018, participants of the program will receive 220+ hours of instruction from a range of experts actively committed to combatting art crime from a variety of different angles.

One summer, eleven courses.

Taught by:

Archaeologist, Christos Tsirogiannis from the University of Cambridge, whose forensic trafficking research continues to unravel the hidden market of illicit antiquities.  His tireless work is often highlighted on this blog and reminds those interested in purchasing ancient art, be it from well-known dealers or auction houses, that crimes committed 40 years ago still taint many of the artifacts that find their way into the illicit art market today.

London art editor and lecturer Ivan Macquisten who eloquently paints a picture of the burgeoning business which is art, whilst examining the interplay between our cultural obsession with risk and collecting.  Macquisten disentangles the paradoxical alliances between the financially lucrative art market and the collector relationships that feed upon the art market's unregulated trade, sometimes profiteering from the lack of transparency in its transactions.

Duncan Chappell, the Chair of the International Advisory Board of the Australian Research Council’s Center of Excellence in Policing and Security. Chappel is a national award winner for his lifetime achievements in criminology and will be lecturing on the growing number of bilateral, regional and global legal agreements that reflect a growing realization that transnational art crime has to be addressed through international cooperation, and that just as criminal groups operate across borders, judicial systems must consequently do the same.  

Marc Masurovsky, co-founder of HARP, the Holocaust Art Restitution Project who will lecture on the variations among countries’ historical experiences and legal systems, as well as the complexities of provenance research and the establishment of claims processes. Focusing not only on the implementation of the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-confiscated art but also on modern-day examples that underscore the difficulties facing any heir in recovering their property, Masurovsky underscores the need for fully trained provenance experts within museums and auction houses. 

Richard Ellis, private detective and the founder of the Metropolitan Police-New Scotland Yard Art and Antiques Squad.  His law enforcement background reminds us that trafficking in art and antiquities provides criminals with an opportunity to deal in high value commodities that are often poorly protected, difficult to identify and easy to transport across national boundaries. Ellis' lectures paint a little-talked-about portrait of the motley cast of characters who operate in the high-stakes world of the art crime.  His course introduces students to sophisticated criminal organizations, individual thieves, small-time dealers and unscrupulous collectors who don't just dabble in hot art, but who also may be involved in other crimes, such as the smuggling and sale of other illicit commodities, corruption or money-laundering.

Criminal defense attorney and criminologist Marc Balcells, whose animated lectures on the anatomy and etiology of art crimes will illustrate that even if every art crime is unique unto itself, often the underlying causes of criminal behaviors fit into certain established patterns.  With Edgar Tijhuis, students will explore various theories of crime causation each of which are key to understanding the crime and the criminal as well as evaluating its danger to our cultural patrimony.

Museum security and risk management expert Dick Drent, whose role in the recovery of two Van Gogh paintings from a Camorra reminds us that finding stolen works of art is much harder than protecting them in the first place, especially when organized crime is involved. In Drent's course students will learn about safeguarding culture before it goes missing, analyzing practical approaches to securing a collection, using risk and decision analysis as a form of analytics to support risk-based decision in museums, galleries and reference institutions around the globe.

New Zealand District Court Judge and founding trustee of the New Zealand Art Crime Research Trust, Arthur Tompkins who gives us a fast-galloping 2000-year romp through the history of art crimes committed during war and armed conflict. Tompkins reminds us that armed conflict, whether interstate or intrastate, poses various threats to cultural monuments and cultural property and that while laws have been enacted in an attempt to prevent or reduce these dangers; better laws are also needed to sort matters out after the fact.

Independent art & insurance advisory expert Dorit Straus, who serves as a member of AXA ART Americas Board of Directors and Presidential appointee to the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) explores the worlds of specialist fine art insurers and brokers, who underwrite the risks associated with the fine art market.  As the former Vice President and Worldwide Specialty Fine Art Manager for Chubb & Son, she knows firsthand the active, financially-motivated role insurance firms play in analyzing the risks involved in owning, dealing, buying, transporting or displaying art to the public.  While art insurance expertise is sometimes overlooked as a less-than-sexy side of the art world, insurers have served to make galleries, museums and private collector's collections safer, as their oversight and contract stipulations have produced a dramatic reduction in attritional losses.

ARCA's founding director, Noah Charney who draws upon his knowledge of art history and contemporary criminal activity to explore several of the most notorious cases of art forgery. Emphasizing that art forgery not only cheats rich buyers and their agents, ruining reputations, his course illustrates how crime distorts the art market, one which once relied heavily on connoisseurship, by messing with its objective truth.

Valerie Higgins, archaeologist and Program Director for the master's in art management program at the American University in Rome examines material culture as the physical evidence of a culture's existence, illustrating that through objects; be they artworks, religious icons, manuscripts, statues, or coins, and through architecture; monumental or commonplace, we can and should preserve the powerfully potent remains which truly define us as human.

For more information on the summer 2018 postgraduate professional development program, please see ARCA's website here.

To request further information or to receive a 2018 prospectus and application materials, please email:
education (at) artcrimeresearch.org

Interested in knowing more about the program from a student's perspective?

Here are some blog posts from and by students who have attended in 20162015, 2014, and in 2013.



October 4, 2017

Art Theft Exhibited - A unique exhibit of thirty years of art thefts in Holland

Westfries Museum director Ad Geerdink in Kiev, standing next to
the recovered painting "Lady World".  Image Credit: Westfries Museum

It was a Sunday night in October 1999 when a group of masked men entered the villa of the 84 year old lady in Bilthoven.  The fragile woman was smashed against a radiator and guarded, while other robbers emptied the walls and took seven masterpieces within fifteen minutes.  The brutal robbery had an enormous impact on her, one of which she would never recover.  It was only in 2012 when one of the paintings was offered at Christie’s and recognized by the auction house staff.  The fences were arrested and four more paintings were recovered, together with several types of drugs. For the owner, the recovery came too late.  She had died several months before.

This tragic history is one of thirty stories of art thefts in the Netherlands that together make up the unique exhibition Plunder, Art Theft in the Netherlands, opening October 15th in the Westfries Museum in Hoorn.  For the first time, art crime is the subject of an exhibition in the Netherlands, instead of the art works themselves. 

And for anyone interested in art crime, the Westfries Museum probably rings a bell.  It is the museum that was robbed in 2005, the night before it was scheduled to celebrate its 125th birthday.  Twenty four paintings were stolen, together with 70 pieces of antique silver from the museum's collection. 

In April 2016, four paintings were recovered in the Ukraine and a fifth was later voluntarily returned by its new owner.  In September that year, they were returned to the museum, some in very bad condition requiring extensive restoration.  The fifteen other paintings and silverware still remain missing. 

Through this exhibit the museum aims to highlight the phenomenon of art theft in all its facets.  From the motives of perpetrators to the suffering of victims.  Thirty objects are used to demonstrate this.  The singular thing each object has in common is the fact that they each were stolen in the Netherlands during the last few decades.  Every item tells its own story and together they provide a fascinating look into the world of art and antiquities crime. 

Even for someone familiar with art crime, the enormous diversity of the objects stolen is striking.  Examples of works of art stolen from museums are supplemented with art stolen from private residences, art dealers and even a whole truck of art and antiquities destined for an art fair.  One artist was robbed many times with a total loss of 27 bronze statues, another lost 37 of his paintings in one single theft.  The motives of the thieves are less diverse, and show the ugly reality of art theft.  In the end it usually comes down to money, even when the modus operandi may differ. 

Theft for ransom, stolen art as collateral for criminals, theft in order to sell the works at auction or to dealers, and even theft to order from a dealer are all present in one remarkable exhibition.  The latter case is especially interesting as this type of theft is often suspected but rarely proven.  

In preparing this article, I spoke with the museum about the purpose of this exhibition, in their museum that was, and still is, a victim of art crime itself.  Ad Geerdink, the director or the Westfries Museum, explains: 

We want to achieve more awareness and public outrage about this topic.  But also to ensure that owners of art and antiquities are more conscious of what they themselves can do themselves to prevent thefts. Or, in the unfortunate case a theft nevertheless happens, to ensure they have adequate documentation for police agencies and registers of stolen art.  For that reason, we decided to organise a workshop around the exhibition, in collaboration with Donatus Insurance and Kerkmagazine (Church Magazine), for administrators of religious heritage. 

Documentation, or the lack of it, is a recurring theme around art thefts. When asked about the lessons one can learn from this exhibit and art theft in general, Martin Finkelnberg also stresses the importance of documentation.  Finkelnberg is head of the Art and Antique Crime Unit, National Criminal Intelligence Division of the National Police of the Netherlands.

The takeaway to learn here is that everything of value is vulnerable and thus a potential target for criminals.  To guard against that it's very important to document every valuable object as without documentation recovery after a theft is almost impossible.  Everybody already understands that to recover from an automobile theft, the owner cannot merely state “it was a green car of a German brand”.  Why then do individuals assume that one can do this with an artwork.  How effective can police officers be if the only thing they have to go on is “it was old, multicolored and painted on wood”?

Dick Drent, associate director with Sosecure and owner of Omnirisk, a risk management firm, also points to the need for improved and more comprehensive protection of cultural heritage.  As an international protective intelligence expert on the security of cultural heritage, I spoke with him in Amsterdam about this upcoming exhibition and he had this to add:

It is a very special exhibition about a topic shrouded by sensation and even romance. But wouldn’t it be great if there would never be a sequel.  Instead we should have an exhibit about the successful protection of cultural heritage, by preventing these awful raids through pro-active security.  I already have a title: “The Netherlands - 30 years without art theft. Utopia or challenge?”. But above all, let’s not wait for another 30 years for this exhibit…

The exhibition ‘Plunder, Art Theft in the Netherlands’ will open on October 15, 2017 and run through February 12, 2018 at the Westfries Museum, Roode Steen 1, Hoorn (The Netherlands).  ARCA’s CEO Lynda Albertson will be speaking at the official opening of the exhibition, together with the Secretary of Culture of the Netherlands. 

By Edgar Tijhuis

--------------------------
Check out this video of the restoration work process on the Westfries Museum paintings recovered in the Ukraine. 

Restauratie gestolen kunst Westfries Museum, deel 1 from Westfries Museum on Vimeo.



September 21, 2017

March 15, 2017

Fighting Art Trafficking and Art Crime in Bosnia: the work of CPKU


By: Helen Walasek

The importance of South East Europe as a major route for the illicit trafficking of looted and stolen art and antiquities, as well as a source region itself is recognised by international art crime researchers and professionals. However, the activities of the Tuzla-based Center Against Trafficking in Works of Art (Centar Protiv Krijumčarenja Umjetninama – CPKU), the only organisation in Bosnia-Herzegovina dedicated to documenting and fighting art crime, is not as well-known as it should be. 

CPKU is also playing a role in focusing attention on one of the great unanswered questions of the 1992–1995 Bosnian War: that of the enormous amount of cultural property looted during the conflict. This has never been adequately addressed, either with regard to the detailed documentation of missing objects, or investigation of the movement, destination and whereabouts of looted cultural property. Nor (so far as the author is aware) have any formal claims for restitution of looted cultural property been made by governmental or institutional authorities. 

Since the centre was established in December 2014, CPKU has worked to establish a national system of coordination and cooperation on art crime between national and international agencies and owners of cultural property (both public and private). Yet despite being the only state-wide organisation working in the field, the centre is often told by international bodies that as an NGO it does not have the authority to deal with these issues. However, as CPKU’s founder-director Dženan Jusufović has pointed out, official bodies which should be dealing with such issues, simply aren’t. Nevertheless, CPKU is having a significant impact in creating a greater awareness of the issue in official bodies and continues to forge a growing number of links with law enforcement and judicial agencies in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

In October 2015 CPKU convened its first major event, a roundtable conference on the illicit traffic in art in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which brought together over 40 representatives from key stakeholders engaged in the fight against organised crime and war crimes, including international, national and entity agencies and law enforcement bodies, as well as from cultural institutions such as museums and galleries, alongside private collectors and NGOs.

Growing out of the conference were calls for the creation of a national database of missing works of art and other cultural property, for training in art crime for law enforcement officers, prosecutors and the judiciary, and for the formation of specialised art crimes units. Parallel with this, the holders of cultural goods (whether public or private) were urged to assist in the fight against the illicit traffic in cultural property by regularly updating their documentation of objects (including making good quality photographic documentation). 

Since then CPKU has produced guidelines for documenting works of art and reporting thefts, as well as providing detailed instructions on the best ways of photographing objects for documentation purposes (both downloadable from the CPKU website). Last year it published the first manual (also downloadable ) on the illicit art trade in Bosnia-Herzegovina which incorporates information on the legal international and national legal framework, how art is trafficked across the country and the region, and suggested preventive measures, as well as reproducing the sample documentation instructions.

A public awareness-raising event/performance, Giants of Art (Velikani Likovne Umjetnosti), was held in partnership with the National Gallery of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Association of Artists of Bosnia-Herzegovina at the Sarajevo-based gallery in April 2016 to alert the wider public to the issue of missing works of art – some of which had no photographic documentation.

All these initiatives have been supported by CPKU’s principal partner, the French Embassy in Sarajevo. The embassy was also instrumental in bringing Corinne Chartrelle, Deputy Head of France’s L'Office Central de Lutte Contre le Trafic de Biens Culturels (OCBC), to speak at a recent CPKU seminar on the illicit art market at the headquarters of the Centre for Judicial and Prosecutorial Training of the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina (CEST).

By May 2017 CPKU hopes to release a database of artworks missing or stolen from Bosnia-Herzegovina. Dženan Jusufović has noted that only thirteen cases of stolen artwork from Bosnia are registered on Interpol’s database of stolen art, despite that thousands of items of cultural property disappeared during or in the aftermath of the 1992–1995 war.

In addition to ongoing support from the French Embassy, CPKU also has partnerships or cooperation with national and international bodies and institutions, including ICOM Observatory, Interpol, UNESCO, ICOM Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Centre for Judicial and Prosecutorial Training of the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina (CEST), the British Council, the National Gallery of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Historical Museum of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Association of Artists of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Faculty of Law at University of Tuzla, the NGO Akcija, and other museums, galleries, heritage institutions and legal-judicial bodies. 

For further information contact:
Centar Protiv Krijumčarenja Umjetninama (CPKU)
Atelje Ismet Mujezinović
Klosterska 19
75000 Tuzla 
Bosnia-Herzegovina

Email: cpkubih [at] gmail [dot] com
Phone: +387 61 185 733
Website: www.cpku.org
Facebook: Centar-protiv-krijumčarenja-umjetninama

November 21, 2016

Book Review: Portraits of Pretence by Susan Grossey

Book 4 in the Sam Plank Mystery Series
Author:  Susan Grossey

Review by:  Arthur Tompkins

Constable Sam Plank is a magistrate’s constable in seventeenth century Regency London. In Portraits of Pretence (available in paperback and Kindle formats at Amazon) the fourth Sam Plank novel, Susan Grossey weaves an elegant and polished tale of art crime, forgery, falsified provenance, smuggling, clandestine collecting, dubious art dealers and untimely death, all against a backdrop of the evocative sights, sounds, smells and ambience of crowded and bustling Regency London.

Susan Grossey is, by day, a specialist in combating money laundering, and also the author of the (now) four Sam Plank mysteries (her Amazon author’s page can be found here). In Constable Sam Plank she has created a gentle, thoughtful, careful, indomitable and very likeable investigator of crime in the heart of England’s great capital.  In the first three Sam Plank novels, Sam tackled financial forgery and bank fraud (Fatal Forgery, set in 1824), investment fraud (The Man in the Canary Waistcoat, set in 1825) and blackmail and corruption (Worm in the Blossom, set in 1826). This time around, it is the spring of 1827 and Sam is plunged into the art market and the criminal dishonesty that swirls in and around it in post-Napoleonic England and Europe. An elderly French artist is found dead, clutching an exquisite miniature painted on ivory in his hand.  The trail leads through the vaults under the then newly-built Customs House in riverside London, visits to the blockade-men stationed in Kent, and in and out of various salubrious and not-so salubrious rooms of artists and dealers in London.

Constable Plank is ably assisted in his investigation, as he was in his earlier outings, by his indomitable and perceptive wife, Martha, his able and swift-to-learn (although not always, in matters of the heart) junior constable William, and a widening circle of memorable supporting characters – some based on historical figures, others plausible and fascinating characters circulating in the milieu of a London bursting at the seams and flexing its commercial, financial and international muscle as it enters the period when Great Britain would dominate the known world.

Ms Grossey is meticulous in her research. Her characters’ language, the streets and the buildings they inhabit, and the street-level topography of central London they walk by day and by night, are a delight. To read the story is to live in the streets of a London on the brink of global greatness, thronged by a deeply rich tapestry of life’s all-too-human variety.  The tone of the novel and the writing throughout is eminently readable and light-handed (a not inconsiderable authorial achievement), and briskly-paced.

The historical background is accurate, but not overpowering – personally I liked the passing and accurate references to the historical development of the protection and repatriation of cultural property plundered in war, and various facets of art crime itself. The many manifestations of art crime that Sam encounters are illuminating, especially for students of contemporary art crime, who will quickly realise that nothing that lies beneath the glittering surface of today’s art world is new, and that the same dark currents twisted and ran riot two centuries ago just as they do now.

Three more Sam Plank mysteries are scheduled, the next one due out (a reliable source tells me) in October 2018...

∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

Arthur Tompkins is a sitting District Court Judge based in Wellington and one of the founders of the New Zealand Art Crime Research Trust.  For 8 years now he has taught the Art in War course module for the annual Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Heritage Protection presented by the Association for Research into Crimes against Art in Amelia, Umbria, Italy. He has lectured around New Zealand and abroad on art crime, and is a regular art-crime guest on Kim Hill’s Saturday Morning show on National Radio.

October 15, 2016

Saturday, October 15, 2016 - ,, No comments

Collector's indictment shows just how easy it was for art to be transported to places it shouldn't be

In April of this year luxury real-estate developer and fine arts collector Michael Shvo, based in New York City with offices in New York, London, and Dubai blessed the pages of the Wall Street Journal as one of New York's savvy young developers with more than $4bn (£2.84bn) worth of luxury projects in development. But in September Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr. indicted the business mogul for allegedly evading more than $1.4 million in taxes related to the purchase of fine art, furniture, jewelry and a Ferrari 458 Spider. 

With hefty charges that include criminal tax fraud in the second, third and fourth degrees, repeated failure to file taxes and offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree, The New York indictment alleges that between 2010 and 2016, Shvo told auction houses his art purchases were to be shipped to the Cayman Islands and thus would not be subject to sales tax.

Prior to his indictment, Blouin Art & Auction had listed Shvo on their Power 100 list of movers and shakers with significant influence in the art world.  The charges he now faces, come at a time when dealers and collectors in the New York art market have started to come under increased scrutiny for offenses from fraud to tax evasion. 

The article printed below, republished with permission from the October 2016 issue of the Maine Antique Digest, shows how disconcerting simple it is to move art around like chess pieces outside the established rules of the game. 

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Real estate developer and collector Michael Shvo, 43, his companies, Shvo Art Ltd. and Seren LLC, and two shipping companies and their principals were indicted on September 8 in New York City for participating in a scheme to evade the payment of more than $1 million in state and local sales and use taxes associated with the purchase of fine art, furniture, jewelry, and a luxury sports vehicle.

The defendants are charged with criminal tax fraud in the second, third, and fourth degrees, falsifying business records in the first degree, and offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree, among other charges.

“As alleged in the indictment, Michael Shvo went to great lengths to defraud New Yorkers out of more than a million dollars in tax revenue,” said New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. in a press release. “This indictment puts other purchasers of fine art on notice: the purposeful evasion of New York State and City taxes is a tax crime, and those who scheme to avoid their obligations will be held criminally and civilly accountable.”

According to court documents, between 2010 and 2016, Shvo engaged in a long-term scheme to evade payment of state and local sales and use taxes on purchases of fine art, furniture, and jewelry. In communications with auction houses and art galleries, Shvo allegedly falsely represented that purchases he made would be shipped to an out-of-state address in the Cayman Islands or other overseas destinations, and therefore no sales tax was collected. Shvo’s purchases were allegedly shipped instead to his office or homes in New York, including an apartment on Columbus Circle and a house in the Hamptons.

Sheridan C.T.S. Hedley (a.k.a. “Tully Hedley”), 33, Guy Drori, 49, and their respective shipping companies, Hedley’s Inc. and Bestguy Moving LLC, are charged with participating in the scheme by providing auction houses and galleries with shipping documentation that deliberately misrepresented the destination of Shvo’s purchases.

It is also alleged that Shvo fraudulently used New York resale certificates, which allow dealers to purchase items solely for the purpose of resale without paying sales tax, in connection with a number of personal purchases, including jewelry valued at more than $65,000 for his wife and furniture for his office in New York.

Shvo evaded payment of New York state and local use taxes on a new Ferrari 458 Spider that he purchased from an out-of-state dealer by establishing a limited liability company in Montana called Seren LLC—named after his wife—and registering the luxury vehicle to the company. According to court documents, no business was ever conducted in Montana and the vehicle was used in New York.

Shvo is accused of evading payments totaling more than $1,000,000 in New York state and local sales and use taxes.

Shvo is alleged to have engaged in a scheme to hide the assets of his company, Shvo Art Ltd., from taxation and evade paying both New York state and New York City corporate taxes on the profits made from the company’s sales of fine art and furniture. Between 2010 and 2016, Shvo Art Ltd. allegedly made efforts to falsely portray the company and its assets as being located offshore, when in fact Shvo operated the company out of his office and homes in Manhattan and the Hamptons. Shvo and his company are charged with failing to file appropriate tax returns and evading the payment of more than $275,000 in corporate tax.

The New York County District Attorney’s Office’s asset forfeiture unit has filed civil papers against Shvo and two of his companies seeking the forfeiture of funds gained through the alleged crimes. In connection with its civil action, the district attorney’s office has secured a temporary restraining order restraining approximately $1.5 million of Shvo’s assets.

To subscribe to the Main Antiquities Digest please see the journal's web link here.

September 20, 2016

New Art Crime Book: Art Thieves, Fakers & Fraudsters: The New Zealand Story

Do you happen to know the whereabouts of Psyche? Its the painting that graces this cover of the new Awa Press book:  Art Thieves, Fakers & Fraudsters: The New Zealand Story? 

The publisher asks, because it went missing 74 years ago from Robert McDougall Art Gallery in Christchurch, and has never been seen again.

Psyche was a massive turn-of-the-century work painted by British artist Solomon J. Solomon. It had been torn from its gilt frame. An inspection of the building found wax matches on the floor. Some window catches had been tampered with and a glass pane broken.

Yet there seemed no possible way thieves could have got the painting out of the gallery and through the locked gates of the surrounding Botanic Gardens.

Was it an inside job? A wartime prank by visiting US servicemen? A phantom operating through a locked skylight?

The Psyche mystery is just one of the intriguing stories in Art Thieves, Fakers and Fraudsters: The New Zealand Story

Author Penelope Jackson is an art historian, former director of Tauranga Art Gallery, and founding member of the New Zealand Art Crime Research Trust, set up in 2015.

Lest we think that art theft, faking and forgery are things that happen only in other countries, Jackson's book unveils a catalogue of Kiwi home-grown skulduggery. 

Urewera mural, 1975
Some crimes, such as the heist of the $2 million Colin McCahon Urewera Mural from the visitor centre at Waikaremoana, have made headlines, but others have not been widely publicised by galleries perhaps anxious to not to deter potential donors.

With many valuable art collections hanging in private homes, Jackson also includes timely suggestions on how to ensure artworks don’t disappear out the door, like five much–loved paintings that took flight from an Auckland home twenty-five years ago. They, too, have never been found. 

And if you’re advertising your house for sale on New Zealand's Trade Me, you may want to read this book first.

Take a look at what the academics in the field are saying: 

Release date: October 14, 2016; RRP: $40.00

For a review copy, cover image, extracts, and/or interview with the author, contact Sarah Thornton, sarah.thornton (at) prcomms.com; (09) 479-8763/021 753 744

December 16, 2014

Essay: Bringing Art to the Masses, With Limited Success in Rome

Image Credit: Roma Capitale
By Lynda Albertson

It was an initiative to bring the museums to the streets and the streets to the museum.  The city of Rome, in cooperation with three city municipalities, three Rome museums and Italy’s Cultural Ministry, set about to beautify the periphery of Italy’s capital with interesting artworks.  Commuters on their way to work, would be given a unique opportunity to explore the potential of Rome’s artworks within the comfort of their daily routine and hopefully learn a little bit about artists that they might not otherwise have known while they were at it.

The pilot installation, designed to entice passers-by to visit the collections housed at the MACRO - Museo d'arte Contemporanea Roma, the GNAM - Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, and Palazzo Braschi, a large Neoclassical palace in Rome near Campo de' Fiori, have been scheduled to run for six months. 

Image Credit: Roma Capitale
Fifteen masterpieces were photographed at high resolution on a 1:1 scale then printed on canvas and hung along common transit areas.  Like art exhibitions held in New York City’s "Subway Art"  and London Transit Authority’s extensive “Art on the Underground” Rome’s goal was to allow art lovers to appreciate the city's ever-growing collection of Contemporary and Modern art by making more accessible works of art by painters like Carla Accardi, Paolo Anesi, Giacomo Balla, Benedetta Cappa Marinetti, Pablo Echaurren, Filippo Gagliardi, Gavin Hamilton, and Titina.

They even sweetened the pot by publicizing to residents that if they took selfies in front of the artworks they would gain admission to the museum where the artwork was housed for free. 
Image Credit: Roma Capitale

In addition to the free ticket photo shoots, the city scheduled a series of cultural and educational events which include guided tours and workshops for school children designed to  incorporate the masterpieces and the artists that created them. For those too busy to attend, the exhibition also includes a QR code on the captions located beside each of the artworks.  Used in conjunction with a specially-developed smart phone app called "Musei in Strada”  (Museums in the street) rushing pedestrians could also get information on the art works and the museum’s that host the originals.

Giovanna Marinelli, councillor for culture, was quoted in Arte Magazine as saying "We want to reduce the distance that separates, physically and metaphorically, museums in the city center from the suburbs, with the objective being to discover or rediscover the artistic heritage of Rome’s cultural identity and to strengthen the bond of its citizens to the history of their city.”   
Image Credit: Twitter user @anderboz
Unfortunately for Rome’s art loving citizens, some folks got a little too physically close.  In the past week someone has defaced one reproduction with graffiti and destroyed another, setting fire to the reproduction of Benedetta Cappa Marinetti’s "Velocità di motoscafo" on Sunday, December 14th. 

It makes one glad that these were simply reproductions, and not original works of art. 

Not to be discouraged, the city has vowed to replace the damaged artworks and to carefully review CTV footage to identify the art-hating culprit. 

December 12, 2013

Bojan Dobovšek and Boštjan Slak on "Criminal Inspectors and Art Crime Investigation in Slovenia" in the Fall 2013 issue of ARCA's Journal of Art Crime


Bojan Dobovšek and Boštjan Slak write on "Criminal Inspectors and Art Crime Investigation in Slovenia" in the Fall 2013 issue of The Journal of Art Crime. This is the academic article's abstract:
The aim of the paper is to present some presumptions about the criminal investigation of art and historical heritage-related crimes. Because credible literature on art crime investigation is rare, especially with clear empirical data, we have decided to survey Slovenian investigators about their opinions and experience relating to art crimes. Slovenian investigators rarely come across art crime cases, even in connection with other types of crime. Our survey showed that Slovenian criminal investigators are indifferent regarding keenness for art-related criminal cases investigation-: cases are not very “desirable” but also they are not “non-desirable.” In addition, investigators do not agree that they have enough knowledge about art-related crime. The most positively evaluated was cooperation with other instructions (like INTERPOL). The study results also showed that more dedication should be devoted to education about investigating art crimes; especially prosecutors and judges lack such knowledge. Some problems and experiences about academic research methods are also debated in the paper, therefore providing some help to future researchers. Our pilot study has shown that (at least in Slovenia) qualitative research methods would be more suitable. However the findings of our research are still useful to those who develop strategies for investigating art-related crimes, and for further academic research.
From the introduction:
Art crimes are most often defined as “criminally punishable acts that involve works of art” (Conklin, 1994, p. 3). Passas & Proulx (2011, p. 52), are more detailed: “... subsumed under the rubric of art crime are such activities as diverse as art thefts and confiscations, vandalism, faked and forged art, illicit excavation and export of antiquities and other archaeological material.” We list these definitions of art crime simply because most countries also penalize criminal acts against art and cultural heritage in such a broad sense. Without a doubt, such broadness limits the research of art crime, as individual acts are lost in the statistics of property crime, under which art crime falls. One can only examine the rough numbers of the frequency with which art crime occurs per year. Only in notorious cases do we have more data, but the majority of data remains uncollectable1 or, as is the case in Slovenia, it isn’t consistent, as determined by Vučko (2012) in her study. She noticed that there are severe discrepancies between annual data about art crime that the General Police Directorate gives to the public, to researchers, and that which was published elsewhere (ibid). Dobovšek, Charney, & Vučko (2009) see one of the reasons why criminologists and criminalists aren’t keen on empirical studies of art crime, in the fact that even though there are extensive art crime databases kept by INTERPOL, the FBI, and private organizations, these are sometimes hard to access. Moreover, because of social and, mainly legal, specifications of different countries, the available data only enables country-by-country analysis (Durney & Proulx, 2011).
Bojan Dobovšek is Associate Professor and Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Criminal Justice and Security, University of Maribor, Slovenia. Boštjan Slak is a postgraduate student at the Faculty of Criminal Justice and Security, University of Maribor, Slovenia. 

Design for this issue and all issues of The Journal of Art Crime is the work of Urška Charney. Here's a link to ARCA's website on The Journal of Art Crime (includes Table of Contents for previous issues).

November 14, 2013

Thursday, November 14, 2013 - ,,,, No comments

Art critic Alastair Sooke features V&A Art Symposium in his BBC article on the 'seedy reality' behind the myth of art crime

In the BBC's "Art Crime: The seedy reality behind the myth" (November 13), "Alastair Sooke, art critic for The Daily Telegraph, covers "Daring heists have a glamorous image. But in truth, the billion-dollar black market is a far dirtier business". As part of his research, he attended ARCA's symposium last week at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
“The myth of the sophisticated, art-loving Hollywood gentleman art thief is nothing like the real thing,” says Dick Ellis, a career detective with London’s Metropolitan Police. He set up the Art and Antiques Squad at New Scotland Yard in 1989, and was involved in the recovery of a version of Edvard Munch’s The Scream, after it had been stolen from the first floor of the National Gallery in Oslo in 1994 by two thieves who gained access by using a ladder and breaking a glass window, before leaving a postcard in Norwegian: “Thanks for the poor security”. “In reality, art thieves are professional criminals who view art and antiques as a soft touch, offering potentially high rewards and/or the ability to utilise the asset as a form of collateral to fund other areas of criminal activity.”
In part, this explains one of the puzzles surrounding this form of art crime: why thieves would want to purloin world-famous works of art that are essentially unsellable because they would be recognised at once if they were ever offered for sale in the future.
While some criminals hope to ransom lost artworks back to the institutions from which they were stolen, this strategy rarely works, according to Dick Ellis, because paying out ransoms, as well as being illegal, only encourages further thefts. Institutions are more likely to offer rewards for information leading to the recovery of stolen artworks. A $5m reward, for instance, is on the table for anyone who can crack the Isabella Stewart Gardner case – though, 23 years on, this has yet to yield results. 
“Recovery rates internationally are very small, but best for well-known works of art,” explains Noah Charney, the founder of ARCA, and a professor of art history specialising in art crime. “So smarter criminals would steal B- or C-level works of art rather than more famous ones.”
With ransom rarely an option, criminals find other uses for high-profile stolen paintings, which often accrue a new value on the black market – typically, according to Ellis, around three to 10% of a painting’s total estimated value as reported in the media. Once this value has been determined, a stolen painting can then be offered as collateral to help secure a loan to finance illicit endeavours. “In this way stolen art actually funds activities such as drugs or tobacco trafficking,” Ellis explains.
Moreover, he continues, “Art now provides an alternative mechanism to transporting cash” – offering a solution for criminals keen to circumvent money-laundering regulations. “Stolen art can easily be carried across international borders and is used as a kind of banker’s draft to pay for things like drugs consignments. It has an international value without the hassle of currency conversion and may even be accepted as a trophy payment by senior cartel members.”

October 29, 2013

"The Missing Piece: Mona Lisa, Her Thief, The True Story" showing twice a day this week at the Arclight Pasadena

The documentary, The Missing Piece: Mona Lisa, Her Thief, The True Story, is playing now at the Arclight Theatre in the Paseo Colorado shopping center in Pasadena.

This award-winning documentary, directed and written and produced by the husband and wife team of Joe and Justine Medeiros, is a story of an audacious art theft - Vincenzo Peruggia, an immigrant house painter, walked into the Louvre on a Monday morning and then out with the Mona Lisa under his arm and onto the streets of Paris in late August (a notoriously quiet month in Paris when residents traditionally flee the humidity to the sea and the countryside). For two years Leonardo da Vinci's portrait allegedly of Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo escalated in fame as the public wondered if the masterpiece would ever be recovered. The Medeiros team traveled to Peruggia's hometown in northern Italy to meet his daughter, then in her 80s, to find out from her about the man who had stolen La Joconde -- only to find out that her father had died before she turned two years old and she herself had not heard about the theft until she was about to marry. The Medeiros' promised Peruggia's daughter to find out why her father had become an art thief. They studied primary materials, including archival material related to the police investigation, and re-traced Peruggia's actions with his grandson and granddaughter.

The film will screen at noon and 2 p.m. Tuesday (October 29) through Sunday (November 3).

August 17, 2013

In Bangor with Howie Carr: ARCA Trustee Anthony Amore Speaks About Art Crime

ARCA Trustee Anthony Amore, Director of Security at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, joined syndicated talk show host and Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr in "An Evening of Crime" Friday night at Spectacular Event Center in Bangor (Dawn Gagnon, "Howie Carr sold-out Bangor show talks 'Whitey' Bulger, art thieves'", Bangor Daily News, August 17):
For the past seven years, Amore has also served as the museum’s chief investigator into the 1990 theft of 13 priceless works of art from the museum. 
Author of “Stealing Rembrandts: The Untold Stories of Notorious Art Heists” with investigative reporter Tom Mashberg, Amore discussed some of the most infamous art heists of the 20th century, involving works valued $1 billion in total. 
Chief among the heists involved one at the at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, which alone resulted in the loss of $500 million worth in paintings, etching and other works that have yet to be recovered. 
In that case, two men posing as Boston police officers were buzzed into the museum on March 18, 1990, after saying they were responding to a disturbance. They handcuffed the two night guards who were on duty and took them into the basement, where they were secured to pipes and their hands, feet and heads were duct taped. 
Amore described how the thieves made off with priceless works like Rembrandt’s Storm on the Sea of Galilee, A Lady and Gentleman in Black and a Self Portrait, Vermeer’s The Concert and Edouard Manet’s Chez Tortoni, according to the museum’s website. 
Not all art thieves, however, were so clever. Amore also regaled the audience with stories of robbers with more bravado than brains — among them Myles Connor, a notorious Boston art thief who unwittingly tried to sell works by Andrew Wyeth and NC Wyeth to an undercover FBI agent. He and several accomplices stole the paintings — along with several other famous paintings — from the Woolworth Estate in Monmouth, Maine, in the early 1970s. 
“When you steal these highly recognizable paintings, there’s no market for them. There’s no one out there who’s going to buy a painting that everyone knows is stolen. Especially when, even if you’re paying pennies on the dollar, you’re paying millions of dollars. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that people don’t spend lots of money on things they can never show anyone. 
“Myles found that out, he couldn’t find a buyer for these Wyeth paintings,” Amore said. “He looked and looked and looked and couldn’t find one. Then all of a sudden, he gets lucky and he comes across a guy named Bernie Murphy who wants to buy these paintings from him.” 
Murphy arranged to meet Connor in the parking lot of a Cape Cod IGA store to discuss a deal. 
“Myles is elated,” Amore said. “They go, they park next to each other, Myles opens his trunk and shows him the Wyeth paintings.” Unfortunately for Connor, the supposed buyer reaches into his pocket and pulls out his FBI badge.

August 5, 2013

Edgar Tijhuis on "Legal and Illegal Actors around Art Crime: a Typology of Interfaces" (The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2013)


Edgar Tijhuis
The Journal of Art Crime is pleased to serialize Edgar Tijhuis' now out-of-print book, Transnational Organized Crime and the Interface between Legal and Illegal Actors, originally published by Enfield in 2006, the author publishing under his formal name, A. J. G. Tijhuis, and based on the author's doctoral dissertation. The Journal of Art Crime is pleased to present its content, which deals largely with transnational organized crime and art, adapted into a series of articles, which will appear in consecutive issues, beginning with this one.
This article discusses a number of criminological typological interfaces, and shows how they might apply to art crime. A number of interfaces from these typology could be used to understand particular activities within the illicit trade. Several interfaces commonly discussed by criminologists will turn out to be superfluous to the understanding the illicit art trade. The discussion of this typology in this article will show that seven of ten commonly-discussed interfaces could be used to understand the relationships between actors in the illicit art trade. These seven consisted of two antithetical interfaces and five symbiotic interfaces. The antithetical interfaces are the injurious and antagonistic interfaces; the symbiotic interfaces included the outsourcing, reciprocity, collaboration, co-option and synergy interface. Three interfaces seem superfluous, as far as the illicit art trade is concerned: the predatory, parasitical and funding interface.
Edgar Tijhuis works at VU University as an associate professor and as researcher at the NSCR (Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement), both in Amsterdam (The Netherlands). Furthermore he practices law at Pontius Lawyers and is an ARCA trustee.

Mr. Tijhuis introduces his article here:
Art crimes, like other crimes, in most cases ultimately depend on legal actors and the legitimate market. Without a legal market in art, or other goods, there would be no point in stealing them, at least in most cases. Exceptions to the rule are of course figures like Breitweiser or the infamous, but rarely found, rich collectors buying secretly from thieves or fences. 
Despite the above, criminologists and others often describe and analyze crimes by focusing primarily on the criminals, and not the environment around them, including legal businesses, government agencies, etc. When this environment is mentioned, legal actors are often assumed to be either victims or actors with a minor stake in the crime. To shed more light on the role of legal actors and the interaction between legal and illegal, my PhD study specifically focused on the interfaces between legal and illegal actors, around transnational crime (Tijhuis: 2006). A typology of interfaces was refined, and a model was developed to understand the transformation from transnational crimes to legitimate activities. The study was based, in the first place, on a study of transnational crime in general, including all kinds of crimes ranging from, for example, arms trafficking, human trafficking, terrorism, to drug trafficking. Secondly, it was based on a thorough study of the illegal art and antiquities trade, and this typology and model was applied to this field of crime. 
In this article, the interface typology will first be described. After that, the typology will first be described. After that, the typology will be applied to art crimes. The article is, in part, a reproduction of a portion of chapter 8 of the aforementioned PhD study, dealing with the illicit art trade (Tijhuis, 2006: 143-167).
Mr. Tijhuis's article is continued in the ninth issue of The Journal of Art Crime, edited by Noah Charney and published by ARCA, available electronically (pdf) and in print via subscription and Amazon.com. The Associate Editor is Marc Balcells (ARCA '11), Graduate Teaching Fellow, Department of Political Science, John Jay College of Criminal Justice -- The City University of New York.

August 27, 2012

"Q&A on Art Crime in Canada" in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime

Editor-in-Chief Noah Charney features "Q&A on Art Crime in Canada" in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime. You may read the rest of this interview in The Journal of Art Crime by subscribing through ARCA's website.
In 2008 the Sureté du Quebec, in collaboration with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, established the first national art crime investigation team in Canada’s history. The four-man team is now led by Jean-Francois Talbot, who has worked since 2003 with Alain Lacoursiere, an art historian and retired member of the Montreal police. Lacoursiere, who has been nominated for an ARCA Award, helped in the development of an art crime team in Canada and a system called Art Alert, which is an email bulletin sent out to 25,000 subscribers in 75 countries, largely members of the art community and police departments. Between 2004 and 2008, a combined force of agents from the Sureté du Quebec and the Montreal police department investigated around 450 art crimes, made 20 arrests, and seized over 150 stolen or forged artworks, with a total estimated value of around $2 million. The newly-established art crime team handles an average of 90 art crime cases per year. ARCA interviewed the art crime team, including Alain Dumouchel, to learn a bit more about art crime and investigation in Canada.

July 18, 2012

Noah Charney on "Art Crime in North America" in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime

A shorter version of this lecture was delivered via Skype to the conference entitled “Contemporary Perspectives on the Detection, Investigation, and Prosecution of Art Crime,” organized by the ARC Centre of Excellence in Policingand Security (CEPS) at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia on May 1-2, 2012. An extended version, including citations and new edits, will be published in two upcoming academic publications, both organized by CEPS.
Today I’m pleased to speak about art crime in North America. It is refreshing for me not to have to introduce art crime in general—if anyone knows about it, it will be my fellow speakers. So many of us are obliged to begin talks with an introduction to art crime, because the extent of it, and the facts obscured by fiction, film, and media misinterpretation, create a screen that can be difficult to see beyond. Even the facts, presented by reputable sources like the US Department of Justice, are not always clear and coherent. They rank art crime as the third highest-grossing criminal trade worldwide, behind only the drug and arms trades. This is based on a study that my friend and colleague, Vernon Rapley, could tell you more about—it was a combined Interpol and Scotland Yard study that was also integrated into the UK Threat Assessment in 2006/2007. Another number that we hear is that art crime is worth $6 billion per year. Of course no one has any real idea, and that number is little more than an arbitrary guess. It could only reflect the estimated black market value of art registered as stolen (meaning 7-10% of its estimated auction value, which is itself an unscientific measurement). If that number is correct, then art crime cannot be the third highest- grossing criminal trade. The number is far too low, and human trafficking, even illegal traffic of plants and animals, might be considered higher. We simply don’t know, which can be frustrating—it is also one of the reasons why art crime has gone relatively understudied until recent years. Criminologists shy away from a field such as this, which lacks extensive and accurate empirical data, and relies on macro-analysis from anecdotal material and the experience of those in the field, often related orally or even through the unreliable filter of the media.

March 29, 2012

Catching up with Judge Tompkins About his "Art Crime during Armed Conflict" course at the University of Waikato's Law School


University of Waikato's Law School
Judge Arthur Tompkins, an instructor at ARCA's Postgraduate Certificate Program in International Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies, also taught a course in February in his home country.  ARCA Blog caught up with him to see how it went in New Zealand.

Tell us about the Art Crime course you presented earlier this year at the University of Waikato?

The University of Waikato's Law School hosted the course and offered it as a credit course to their own students.  It was also offered as a non-credit coruse through the Continuing Education arm of the University. The course was entitled "Art Crime during Armed Conflict", and, similarly to the course I teach in Amelia as part of the ARCA Postgraduate, it was a five-day intensive course, comprising 5 hours of teaching each day for a week during the height of our Southern Hemisphere summer. We cover two thousand years of the history of art crime during war, and the international and private law responses to it. And all in five fun-filled and fascinating days! 

We ended up with 16 students in the group, from three countries and two hemispheres, with the largest sub-group being law students (I was teaching the course within a Law School, after all!). But the class also included a working artist, two art historians, a police officer, a doctor, an art gallery director, a cultural heritage worker, and others.  It all made for a vibrant and energetic group, and we had some spirited discussions!  And on the last day, ARCA's Noah Charney was able to join us, via Skype, from Slovenia, which was a real highlight.

University of Waikato's campus
At least two of the group will be in Amelia for this year's Art Crime Conference on 23/24 June, and in addition, in the last few days, I have learnt that one of the group has been accepted into the full ARCA Postgraduate Program, so will get to spend the entire Italian summer living and studying in Amelia.

It is likely that the course will be offered every second year at Waikato University, so the next occasion will be in February 2014. I am presently investigating offering a similar course elsewhere in New Zealand in the intervening year.

What time period do students seem most interested in? Nazi theft?

The students were from a wide range of backgrounds and interests, as I said, and I think that as a result no one area or era stood out.  They have written (or are writing - the assignments from the for-credit students are due soon!) assignments on an equally wide range or topics - which is, I think, a testament to the breadth of scholarship that falls under the art crime umbrella.  And because the course covers not only the historical background to art crimes during wars over the centuries, but also the international and national legal responses, there is something of real interest there for everyone.

What do you think are the most contentious legal issues involved in conflict art?

Two difficult issues continue stand out for me - first, the return of objects taken during past armed conflict, that are held currently by a state or national institution, and where there is a call for return.  In that context no issue of private ownership arises, but rather the issue revolves around often contentious questions of the principles underlying the legal structures around the state's continued retention of the object, and the ability or willingness of a state, or its politicians, to relinquish possession. Secondly, the spectrum of responses by legal systems around the world to the bona fide purchaser rule - where someone has paid a reasonable price without knowledge of the fact that the item had in the past been stolen, do they or should they prevail over the original, dispossessed owner's rights? Different legal systems around the world adopt often mutually exclusive positions on this issue, and despite decades of work, the gulf remains unbridged.  We need to find some way of reconciling the irreconcilable!

In 2009 you spoke at the International Art Crime Conference in Amelia about a proposed International Art Crime Tribunal.  As you have now taught this course three times, how have your ideas about an IACT evolved? What would it take to make it happen and what do you think would be some of the first cases that you would like to see be dealt with?

I would still love to see such a Tribunal established, and nothing that I have seen or read or heard over the last three years has changed that view - to the contrary, there is still much to recommend it.  The United Kingdom's Spoliation Panel has shown that a tribunal can effectively apply both legal and moral criteria when resolving claims to disputed art, and, whilst effective in some cases, the litigation experience in the United States shows that the resolution of such disputes by "traditional" adversarial litigation brings with it inevitable constraints, in terms of access to justice, the restrictions inherent in the rules of evidence a court applies, and a likely win/lose result paradigm.  

What would it need to make this happen? As I said to the ARCA Conference in 2010, it needs a champion on the world stage, and a real commitment by a group of states with a single voice in the forums of international law - particularly the United Nations and within that, UNESCO - to make it happen.  Where either of those might be found, I do not know.  Until then, it will remain a lonely idea wandering at large in the world, although I was very heartened to hear Pablo Ferri support the idea at last year's ARCA Conference!  

By the way, I still think, for a whole lot of reasons, that Florence would be a very suitable seat for such a Tribunal!