Thursday, January 12, 2017

Stolen Art Watch, Kardashian Diamond Heist, The Dam Bursts & Art Crime Round Up

Bling: Kim posted this image of the stolen £3.5m ring on Instagram before the robbery

6 more charged in Kardashian West jewelry heist in Paris

PARIS (AP) — Hailing the "remarkable work" of French police, Paris prosecutors on Friday announced preliminary charges against six more suspects in the armed jewelry heist of Kim Kardashian West.
That brings the total number of people charged so far in the probe to 10. All but one of the suspects are men, including at least one previously known to police for robbery and money forgery.
Robbers are believed to have forced their way into the apartment where Kardashian West was staying during Paris Fashion Week in October. They allegedly tied up the reality TV star and stole more than $10 million worth of jewelry. Authorities are now looking at a possible inside job.
The preliminary charges filed Friday against six suspects ranging in age from 29 to 72 covered an array of alleged crimes. They included: armed robbery in an organized gang; kidnapping; criminal association; illegal possession of firearms — including a Kalashnikov rifle — and ammunition; use of forged papers and a fake identity, and complicity.
Preliminary charges — the first in the case — were also filed against four other people on Thursday.
Paris prosecutors have identified the 10 suspects only by their first names and surname initials and their dates of birth. Those charged Friday were:
—Aomar A., 60; faces preliminary charges of armed robbery in an organized gang, kidnapping, criminal association, illegal possession of ammunition, using a fake identify and false papers.
—Pierre B., 72; preliminary charges of armed robbery in an organized gang, kidnapping and criminal association.
—Didier D., 61; preliminary charges of armed robbery in an organized gang, kidnapping, criminal association and illegally possessing a Kalashnikov rifle.
—Francois D., 54; preliminary charges of armed robbery in an organized gang, kidnapping, criminal association and possession of false papers.
—Harminy A., 29; preliminary charges of armed robbery in an organized gang, kidnapping and criminal association.
—Christiane G., 70. The only woman among the 10 was handed preliminary charges of complicity in armed robbery and kidnapping, criminal association and the illegal possession of ammunition.
On Thursday, Kardashian West's sister, Khloe Kardashian, welcomed the filing of charges as a "kind of closure" and denounced the robbery as "a disgusting act."
Rich or poor, nobody deserves "anything to be taken from them," she told The Associated Press.

BREAKING NEWS: French police charge suspect with robbing Kim Kardashian at gunpoint and leaving her bound and gagged in Paris apartment 

  • Kardashian, 36, was tied up and robbed at gunpoint in apartment in Paris, France
  • Police have arrested 17 people in the Paris region over the October 3 robbery 
  • A source close to the investigation has said suspects are starting to 'come clean' 
  • Information about many of the suspects' criminal pasts have also come to light
One of five men suspected of taking part in the armed robbery of US reality TV star Kim Kardashian in Paris in October has been charged, a prosecutor said Thursday.
Yunice A., 63, has been charged with robbing Ms Kardashian at gunpoint and leaving her bound and gagged in a bathroom in her luxury residence in the early hours of October 3, the prosecutor said.
Nine suspects are still in custody including four other men ranging in age from 54 to 72 who are suspected of direct involvement in the spectacular heist in which they made off with jewellery worth around nine million euros ($9.5 million). 
It comes as the suspects were 'beginning to admit their involvement' in the robbery, a source close to investigation said.   
Those remaining are thought to include the five robbers who actually broke into Ms Kardashian's apartment in the French capital last October. 
One of those arrested is the chauffeur with the limo firm used by the Kardashian family in Paris, raising the possibility that the crime could have been an inside job
One of those arrested is the chauffeur with the limo firm used by the Kardashian family in Paris, raising the possibility that the crime could have been an inside job
Reality star Kim, 36, was woken at 2.35am on October 3 as she slept in her luxury Paris apartment
Reality star Kim, 36, was woken at 2.35am on October 3 as she slept in her luxury Paris apartment
Bling: Kim posted this image of the stolen £3.5m ring on Instagram before the robbery
After holding a security guard and Ms Kadashian at gunpoint, they left the 36-year-old reality TV star bound and gagged in a bath.
Then they fled on bicycles with a £4million diamond engagement ring – which had been presented to Ms Kardashian by husband Kanye West – and around £5million worth of other jewels.
Most were caught on CCTV, and mobile phone triangulation is also thought to have placed some of them in the area.
Crucially, at least three DNA samples were also found, including on plastic ties and masking tape used to incapacitate Ms Kardashian.
The source close to the investigation said: ‘The CCTV is of very poor quality, but body shapes can still be matched up.
‘The telephone evidence is strong, as is the DNA. 
'When faced with this kind of evidence it is very hard for suspects to say they were not present.’
Michael Madar, the 40-year-old limousine driver who drove Ms Kardashian to the central Paris flat on October 3 was among those released without charge.
But his brother, Gary Madar, 27, remains in custody, and is suspected of leaking details of Ms Kardashian’s movements to the gang.
Police have arrested 17 people over the Kim Kardashian robbery, including two brothers in their 50s accused of disposing of a $5m engagement ring, and the chauffeur with the limo firm used by the Kardashian family. A man is pictured being arrested during raids yesterday
Police have arrested 17 people over the Kim Kardashian robbery, including two brothers in their 50s accused of disposing of a $5m engagement ring, and the chauffeur with the limo firm used by the Kardashian family. A man is pictured being arrested during raids yesterday
Arrests: Further details of the gang that held up Kim Kardashian in the terrifying jewel heist in Paris have emerged. The thieves are said to include a man known as Omar le Vieux – Old Omar – as well has his two sons aged 23 and 29, according to Le Parisien newspaper. Police arrested 17 people over the robbery, including two brothers in their 50s accused of disposing of a $4m engagement ring. Two men are pictured being arrested during raids on Monday
Further details of the gang that held up Kim Kardashian in the terrifying jewel heist in Paris have emerged. 
The five principal suspects reported to have been directly involved in the heist are in the age range 54 to 74, and include some of France’s most notorious villains.
Two suspects in the Kardashian jewel heist travelled to Antwerp, the diamond capital of Europe, in the days after the multi-million pound robbery, according to French media.
Telephones owned by Old Omar and Marceau the gypsy have been tracked to the Belgian jewellery centre a couple of days after Kim Kardashian was forced to hand over her gems at gunpoint, LCI news channel has reported.
Jewels worth up to £9 million were taken from the reality TV star who was tied up and left in the bath of an exclusive hotel in the centre of Paris in October last year.
The TV channel claims the two suspects are well known to France’s organised crime brigade (BRB). 
Old Omar was dragged from his bed in Creteil, a rough suburb in south-east Paris, along with his two sons, according to reports.
Marceau the gypsy was detained at a travellers’ site on the outskirts of the French capital. 
He is accused of participating in the sale of the jewellery.
Reliable: Reality star Kim pictured in Paris on October 1 last year had her wrists tied by the gang during her terrible ordeal in which £8.5million worth of jewellry was stolen
Reliable: Reality star Kim pictured in Paris on October 1 last year had her wrists tied by the gang during her terrible ordeal in which £8.5million worth of jewellry was stolen
Another suspect is Didier Dubreucq, a convicted drug runner nicknamed ‘Blue Eyes’.
In 2003, Dubreucq was convicted to eight and a half years in prison for his role in a drug smuggling case involving Prince Nayef Bin Fawaz al-Shaalan, a grandson of Saudi Arabia's founding monarch, Abdulaziz.
Prince Nayef was later sentenced to ten years in prison in absentia for using his diplomatic immunity to smuggle two tons of cocaine from Venezuela to France in his private Boeing 727 in 1999.
The US Drug Enforcement Agency had accused the prince of making contacts with Colombia's Medellin cartel.
Dubreucq, 62, was convicted of receiving the drugs at Le Bourget airport and helping to distribute it around Europe. 
All of those still in custody can be held until early on Friday morning. 
Then they have to be charged, or released. 
Raids: Special French investigators swooped on a restaurant in Rue de Bretagne in connection with the robbery of Kardashian, which happened during Paris fashion week in October
Raids: Special French investigators swooped on a restaurant in Rue de Bretagne in connection with the robbery of Kardashian, which happened during Paris fashion week in October
The thieves are said to include a man known as Omar le Vieux – Old Omar – as well as his two sons aged 23 and 29, according to Le Parisien newspaper.
Old Omar was dragged from his bed in Creteil – a rough suburb in south-east Paris, in the early hours of Monday morning by officers from France’s organised crime brigade (BRB).
The 60-year-old's fingerprints are said to have been found on plastic ties used to bind Ms Kardashian’s hands during the extraordinary robbery at an exclusive hotel in central Paris in October last year.  
The elite BRB detectives brought in two allegedly seasoned criminals – aged 60 and 63 – who have so far used their right to silence and refused to answer any questions, the popular French newspaper reported.
Investigators have also pulled in ‘former associates’ of Old Omar for questioning.
These include a 64-year-old gypsy named only as Marceau.
Another member of the alleged gang is a man known as Nez Râpé, 'Broken Nose', who was responsible for a series of terrifying motorway robberies.

KIM 'WILL NOT GET JEWELS BACK' 

As gang-leader, 'Broken Nose' was sentenced to 30 months in jail after he was captured in December 2008.
For his part, Marceau was taken to court in June last year accused of the sale of forged 20 Euro notes and the sale of stolen jewellery and gold in Antwerp, Belgium. He was however acquitted following a trial.  
BRB officers recovered almost Euro 300,000 in cash from the homes of the various suspects following their dawn raids on Monday morning, Le Parisien reported.
The operation included the search for a 72-year-old man, known as Pierre, at his home in Grasse, in the mountains overlooking the French riveria.
Pierre, who ran a private beach club in Saint Tropez, was jailed in the early 2000’s for drug trafficking.
Date night: Kim and rapper husband Kanye, pictured, appeared to brush off the raid in Paris to go on a date to a sushi restaurant in Beverly Hills on Monday night
Date night: Kim and rapper husband Kanye, pictured, appeared to brush off the raid in Paris to go on a date to a sushi restaurant in Beverly Hills on Monday night
Police swoop: 17 were arrested in a series of raids in Paris connected to the October heist, but the couple shrugged off the drama with a low key night out together
Police swoop: 17 were arrested in a series of raids in Paris connected to the October heist, but the couple shrugged off the drama with a low key night out together
Unity: Kim linked arms with her husband Kanye as they enjoyed a quiet night out together on the same day as a series of arrests were made in Paris
Unity: Kim linked arms with her husband Kanye as they enjoyed a quiet night out together on the same day as a series of arrests were made in Paris
Pierre, 72, and his 70-year-old long term partner Christiane, are currently being held in custody in Paris.
Another suspect is reportedly Didier Dubreucq, who was convicted to eight and a half years in prison in in 2003 for his role in a drug smuggling ring involving Saudi Prince Nayef Bin Fawaz al-Shaalan, the Telegraph reports.  
Dubreucq, nicknamed 'Blue Eyes', is said to be in his sixties.  
The prince was convicted of smuggling 1,980 kilograms (4,400 pounds) of cocaine on his private jet in 1999 and was accused of having links to Colombia's Medellin cartel.
The drugs were flown from Venezuela to France and Dubreucq was convicted of receiving them at Le Bourget airport in Paris.
'In this case, the drug traffickers used powerful people to create a facade of legitimacy to help them conceal their drug trafficking activities,' Marcos Daniel Jiménez, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, said in a statement about the prince's conviction in 2005. 
Two of the other 17 people arrested in dawn raids on Monday - an unnamed man and woman - have also been released without charge, according to Le Figaro newspaper.  
Details of those being held have emerged as the limo company owner arrested by French police investigating the robbery has been released - but his brother remains in police custody.
Michael Madar and his brother Gary were arrested in a series of raids on Monday morning. 
Madar, 40, is the owner of Unic Worldpass, the chauffeur company used by Kim Kardashian and her family in Paris while his brother Gary, 27, worked for the firm on and off.
Michael Madar was released from police custody in Paris without charges shortly after midnight, a source close to the investigation has confirmed. He was 'speechless' to learn that his brother had also been held, the source said.
A DNA match from the necklace, along with tape used to gag Ms Kardashian, enabled detectives to trace key members of the gang and 17 were arrested in a series of raids 
A DNA match from the necklace, along with tape used to gag Ms Kardashian, enabled detectives to trace key members of the gang and 17 were arrested in a series of raids 
French police yesterday arrested 17 people in connection with the £8.5million robbery in October
French police yesterday arrested 17 people in connection with the £8.5million robbery in October
The source told MailOnline: ‘Michael has taken the news really badly. Michael had no idea that Gary had somehow become involved.
‘He was speechless when he learned his brother had been arrested,’ the source told MailOnline. 
Investigators have been given 96 hours – four days - to interview the suspects.   
Friends of Mr Madar had expressed shock at his arrest, while AP said officials in France were 'unsure' which brother chauffeured the reality TV star the night she was robbed in a rented apartment in the French capital. 
Trusted: Michael Madar, pictured above holding an umbrella just days before the raid in October last year, was arrested on his home on Monday morning – one of 17 people detained by police’s organised crime brigade in the Paris area and the south of France
Businessman: Michael Madar was arrested on his home on Monday morning – one of 17 people detained by police's organised crime brigade in the Paris area and the south of France. Pictured: Madar holding an umbrella for Kim and Kourtney days before the robbery in Paris in October last year
Arrested: Gary Madar, pictured with Kim Kardashian, was held alongside his chauffeur firm boss brother Michael, 40
Arrested: Gary Madar, pictured with Kim Kardashian, was held alongside his chauffeur firm boss brother Michael, 40
Close: The brothers, Michael and Gary pictured left with Michael's wife Carole Scigliano, chief executive of his company Unic Worldpass are being held over the £10million raid in October
Close: The brothers, Michael and Gary pictured left with Michael's wife Carole Scigliano, chief executive of his company Unic Worldpass
One friend said: 'This is very strange. Michael is a really sweet guy. I would not be surprised if the police had got this one wrong.' 
It is understood that Mr Madar was taken to a police station for interview yesterday morning where he was then arrested.   
The arrested men are aged mostly in their 50s, 60s and 70s.
Pierre B - the 72-year-old alleged ringleader - was arrested after officers broke down the gate of his villa in Plascassier, a village near Grasse, in the south of France.
The age of the suspects has echoes of the 2015 Hatton Garden safe deposit robbery in London – carried out by a team of veteran British criminals.
A police source said: 'The oldest suspect is 72, while others are in their 50s and 60s and some are well known to the police.'
Multiple firearms, including an automatic pistol, and £121,000 in cash were found during the raids that took place across Paris on Monday morning
Multiple firearms, including an automatic pistol, and £121,000 in cash were found during the raids that took place across Paris on Monday morning
French police are seen carrying bags of evidence after carrying out a dawn raid in Paris
French police are seen carrying bags of evidence after carrying out a dawn raid in Paris

The reality TV star had a gun pointed at her, her hands and feet bound with cable ties and was left in the bath after masked men with police badges on their jackets burst into her room at a hotel in the city's exclusive 8th arrondissement.
Ms Kardashian, the world's highest paid reality television star, was alone because her bodyguard, Pascal Duvier, was out at a nightclub with her sisters.
But three months since the heist, the gang – including 'career villain' Pierre B – are thought to have been rounded up.
All those arrested can be held for up to 96 hours before being charged or released.
Barrister Jean Veil said his 36-year-old client had been left deeply traumatised after being bound, gagged and threatened with death in the French capital last October. 
Coordinated raids at 6am saw a total of 16 men including a 'major thug' arrested in the city, and also in the south of France
Coordinated raids at 6am saw a total of 16 men including a 'major thug' arrested in the city, and also in the south of France
The arrests come three months after the reality TV star was tied up and robbed at gunpoint by intruders at her luxury Paris flat
The arrests come three months after the reality TV star was tied up and robbed at gunpoint by intruders at her luxury Paris flat
'I welcome this with great satisfaction,' said Mr Veil, who said he was due to discuss details of the raids with Ms Kardashian when she woke up in Los Angeles last night.
'These arrests are a nice surprise because on the one hand, it will perhaps make it possible to find the jewellery,' said Mr Veil.
'On the other hand, it puts an end to the outrageous speculation by some, who thought it was intelligent to pretend that this robbery was staged, or a publicity stunt organised by Ms Kardashian.'
Mr Veil indicated that Ms Kardashian would look forward 'putting her nose up' at those who had doubted her word.
During recent conversations, Mr Veil said Ms Kardashian 'still showed some form of anxiety. I think she was recently shocked and had the opportunity to say so on television.  
Bags from the raids were taken away by police yesterday and 17 people were arrested in total 
Bags from the raids were taken away by police yesterday and 17 people were arrested in total 

The suspects' homes are still being searched, with documents and other potential evidence being seized. A suspect (right) is pictured being escorted to a police station
'The money she lost during this robbery is not the only issue. Even though my client was not injured, this assault was very brutal and traumatic. Imagine yourself alone, at night, in front of armed people.'
Earlier this month, Ms Kardashian broke her silence on the robbery in a teaser for the family's reality show, telling two of her sisters her thoughts at the time: 'They're going to shoot me in the back. There's no way out. It makes me so upset to think about it.' 
It has also emerged that French police have failed to call on the key witness in the case – because the authorities will not grant him a temporary visa to enter France.
Abdulrahman, the Algerian concierge who was tied up and forced to give the robbers access to the reality star's apartment, left France in November to recover from the stress of the experience.
A handcuffed man was seen being led in to a police station in Paris following the raids yesterday
A handcuffed man was seen being led in to a police station in Paris following the raids yesterday
Raids are also underway at other key premises, including a jewellery shop in the centre of Paris. Police are pictured bringing a suspect into custody in Paris
Raids are also underway at other key premises, including a jewellery shop in the centre of Paris. Police are pictured bringing a suspect into custody in Paris
Currently in Algeria, Abdulrahman, 39, is thought to be the only person to have clearly seen the intruders' faces, and to have had prolonged conversations with them on the night of the crime.
So far, however, investigators have not contacted him to identify the suspects, and his attempts to enter France to be available to police have been rejected, MailOnline can reveal.
He told MailOnline: 'Before leaving France, the judge in charge of this case told my lawyers that I should renew my residence permit so I can travel quickly for the investigation purposes.
'Last week, I was in Paris to receive a letter from 'le prefet de Police' but he refused my request.'
He added: 'It is so crazy.' 
A suspect in Kim Kardashian West's Paris robbery is brought to BRB building, Brigade de Repression du Banditisme (suppression of banditry brigade), by police
A suspect in Kim Kardashian West's Paris robbery is brought to BRB building, Brigade de Repression du Banditisme (suppression of banditry brigade), by police
The suspects that police have held are accused of breaking into the reality TV star's Paris apartment block last October
The suspects that police have held are accused of breaking into the reality TV star's Paris apartment block last October
The accused men are suspected of stealing millions of pounds worth of jewellery
The accused men are suspected of stealing millions of pounds worth of jewellery
Sources say that 'months of surveillance' has taken place, including phone taps. A suspect is pictured being taken to a police station in Paris
Sources say that 'months of surveillance' has taken place, including phone taps. A suspect is pictured being taken to a police station in Paris
Abdulrahman's lawyer, Henri de Beauregard, told MailOnline: 'He had a visa that expired in November, and when he applied for a new one, he was refused.
'He doesn't want to stay in France for long, he just wants to come and be available for the investigation and help the police. It is important for justice and important for him.
'A victim is a victim. He is no less a victim than Kim – he has a right to face his aggressor.
'I don't know if this is incompetence or just a bad decision. He is the best witness, he saw the criminals much longer than Miss Kardashian. I hope the police have a lot of solid proof and evidence, because if they don't, it will be seen as a crazy decision.' 
French police have arrested 17 people over the robbery of Kim Kardashian in Paris, it has emerged
French police have arrested 17 people over the robbery of Kim Kardashian in Paris, it has emerged
One theory is that many of Ms Kardashian's jewels ended up in Antwerp – the diamond capital of Europe and a police operation was carried out in the Belgian city today (pictured)
One theory is that many of Ms Kardashian's jewels ended up in Antwerp – the diamond capital of Europe and a police operation was carried out in the Belgian city today (pictured)
Belgium police are known to be involved in the investigation, and are carrying out checks in a number of businesses in Antwerp
Belgium police are known to be involved in the investigation, and are carrying out checks in a number of businesses in Antwerp
Kim Kardashian returned to social media this month and was on Snapchat for a make-up tutorial in Dubai
Kim Kardashian returned to social media this month and was on Snapchat for a make-up tutorial in Dubai
The gang escaped on 'velibs' - hire bicycles which can be rented all over Paris - but one of them dropped a diamond pendant worth around £28,000 in the street outside.
It was found by a woman who handed it in to police, as grainy CCTV of the men on bikes also emerged.
Police said the butter-fingered thief who lost the necklace had effectively led them to the entire group of suspects. 
A DNA match from the necklace, along with tape used to gag Ms Kardashian, enabled detectives to trace key members of the gang. 
A surveillance operation then led detectives to the other suspects, including jewel dealers thought to have been involved in fencing the stolen gems. 
Just an hour before the robbery, Kim posted a video on Snapchat that showed her wearing the engagement ring (left) 
Just an hour before the robbery, Kim posted a video on Snapchat that showed her wearing the engagement ring (left) 

The multimillionaire, who was in the French capital for Paris Fashion Week, was locked in a bathroom while robbers stole a $4.5 million ring and a case of jewellery valued at $5.6 million
Forensics material found in a Paris hotel matched that of a well-known convicted armed robber described as a 'major thug'.
A suspected 'Mr Big' has been partially identified as Pierre B, a 72-year-old 'career villain' from the south of France who made millions through counterfeit money.
Others arrested include two diamond dealers and three women – some of whom are suspected of trailing Ms Kardashian around Paris before the robbery. They can be held for up to 96 hours before being charged or released.   
Homes were still being searched on Monday, documents and other potential evidence being seized.
Raids were also underway at other key premises, including a jewellery shop in the centre of Paris.
A source confirmed that 'months of surveillance' had taken place, including phone taps.
Spending patterns have been looked at, and attempts to re-sell the jewellery stolen in October. 
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Art Hostage Backstory: http://arthostage.blogspot.co.uk/2016/10/stolen-art-watch-kardashian-jewel-heist.html

Shock acquittals in Wildenstein art dynasty's tax fraud trial

media Guy Wildenstein's lawyer Herve Temime (L) speaks to reporters after the verdict AFP
A French court has delivered a shock acquittal on tax-dodging charges for the heirs to the Wildenstein art-dealing dynasty, while declaring there had been a "clear attempt" to conceal art treasures and other property worth billions of euros.
Presiding judge Olivier Géron was worried that his decision could be "misunderstood" when he announced on Thursday that he was acquitting 71-year-old Franco-American Guy Wildenstein, his nephew Alec Junior, his estranged Russian sister-in-law Liouba Stoupakova, two lawyers, a notary and two offshore trusts.
They had clearly intended to conceal their massive wealth from tax authorities, he said, but shortcomings in French law and in the conduct of the inquiry made it impossible to convict them.
Assets worth billions offshore
The heirs were accused of concealing assets worth billions in offshore trusts and failing to declare their full worth on the occasion of the deaths of two heads of family.
Their possessions included thorough-bred horses, artworks - including paintings by renaissance master Caravaggio, rococo painter Fragonard and post-impressionist artist Bonnard - and a gigantic ranch in Kenya that was used in the filming of Sydney Pollack's 1985 movie Out of Africa.
After their father's death in 2001, Guy and his brother Alec declared they were worth just 40.9 million euros for inheritance tax purposes, paying the bill in bas-reliefs sculpted for Louis XVI's wife, Marie-Antoinette.
When Alec died in 2008, Guy declared an inheritance of less than 60 million euros.
The prosecution called for a four-year suspended sentence and 250-million-euro fine for Guy Wildenstein, one year suspended for Stoupakova and six months suspended for Alec Junior.
None of them appeared in court.
Prosecutors also wanted a two-year suspended sentence for notary Robert Panhard, two years in jail and one suspended with a million-euro fine for Swiss lawyer Peter Altorfer and two years suspended for French lawyer Olivier Riffaud.
And they called for two trusts - one based in the Bahamas, the other in Guernsey - to be fined the maximum possible for complicity in tax fraud, 187,500 euros each.
Intention not enough for conviction
But the law has to apply equally to "the powerful and the poor", Géron said, and knowing that the family intentionally hid its wealth was not a sufficient legal basis to find them guilty.
He said he was "astonished" that French MPs had not passed laws to clarify the status of trusts until 2011, although they have been under the spotlight for over a century.
That law could not be applied to this case since it referred to events that took place before it had been passed.
Géron also criticised investigators, claiming they had failed to carry out sufficient research in the tax havens to establish that the trusts were "fictional" and that the Wildensteins had secretly maintained access to and control of their fortune.
After the verdict Guy Wildenstein's lawyer, Hervé Témine, said his client was "very relieved" while expressing concern it might give rise to controversy over "justice for the rich".
Widows, ex-wives and lawsuits
The first signs of trouble for the Wildensteins came in 2005 when Daniel's second wife, Sylvia Roth-Wildenstein, sued Guy and Alec, accusing them of hiding the true extent of the family's wealth when her husband died.
In 2011 Stoupakova filed suit for breach of trust, claiming that she had been deprived of her fair share of the inheritance.
There were further legal worries in the US in the same year when prosecutors opened an investigation into suspicions of receiving stolen goods and breach of trust against Guy Wildenstein, seizing several paintings, including one by impressionist Berthe Morisot valued at 800,000 euros.
New tax case pending
The case has been an embarrassment for former president Nicolas Sarkozy, who made Guy Wildenstein, a member of his party's US branch, a commnader of the Legion of Honour in 2009, describing him as a "friend".
Thursday's acquittal will not be the end of the Wildensteins' legal difficulties.The French fiscal authorities are pursuing them for 550 million euros in allegedly unpaid taxes.


For Italy's Art Police, An Ongoing Fight Against Pillage Of Priceless Works

The police force for protection of Italy's cultural heritage is headquartered in Rome's Piazza Sant'Ignazio.
Italy has been described as the world's biggest open-air museum.
And with illegally excavated antiquities, looting of unguarded, centuries-old churches and smuggling of precious artworks, it's also an art theft playground.
But thanks to an elite police squad, Italy is also at the forefront in combating the illicit trade in artworks — believed to be among the world's biggest forms of trafficking and estimated to be worth billions.
Italy's Carabinieri for Protection of Italy's Cultural Heritage recently sponsored an exhibit at Rome's Palazzo Barberini museum, showcasing some of its biggest successes.
A fifth grade class of a Roman elementary school came to see some 200 artworks that were stolen and then recovered.
Lt. Sebastiano Antoci, a 20-year veteran of the elite squad, told the kids how its investigations work.
"We tail suspects or use wiretaps so we can listen to the bad guys' phone calls or we check their bank accounts. And when we're out in the field," he said, "we look like everyone else, we don't wear uniforms."
The fifth-graders listened attentively to the art detective as he pointed to two medieval frescoes.
"We recovered the lamb in Switzerland," he said, "and the Christ in the United States. They're back together again for the first time since they were stolen" — in 1978 from a small church in Guidonia, a town south of Rome.
In 1969, Italy created the world's first specialized police force to combat art crime. It now numbers 280 investigators who also safeguard artworks in regions struck by floods and earthquakes. The unit also combats antiquities trafficking fueled by conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
At the Rome exhibit, Antoci showed the schoolchildren a marble sculpture that depicts a man and his two sons. It originates from the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra — which recently came under ISIS control.
Adding to his knowledge of art history the excitement of a detective tale, Antoci tells the kids the story of the sculpture, which was tracked down as part of an investigation into financial irregularities and dates back some 2,000 years. "It's a funerary sculpture," he tells them. "The terrorists smuggled it out of Syria and put it on the illicit antiques market. We tracked it down to an Italian businessman in Piedmont, who bought it just it a few months ago."
Gen. Fabrizio Parulli, the commander of this unique police force, explains what's needed to become a good art sleuth. "First of all, you need to be a good investigator," he says.
Speaking in his Rome office — located in a Baroque square that looks like an opera stage set — Parulli says his agents start as police officers and then get specialized training in art history, archaeology, restoration and recognizing counterfeit works.
But the heart of the investigative work is done elsewhere, in a large barracks in Rome's Trastevere neighborhood.
Sitting at a computer, Lt. Francesco Ficarella demonstrates the jewel in the crown of the cultural heritage protection squad — a database known as Leonardo, containing names and photos of close to 6 million registered artworks, mostly from Italy. Of those, 1.2 million are listed as stolen, missing, illegally excavated or smuggled.
Leonardo, he says, "is a crucial instrument not only for our national police forces but also for those abroad — it's the biggest artworks database in the world," he says.
The squad's recovery record is high. In 2014, it managed to recover 137,000 works with an estimated value of $500 million.
Until they're returned to the owners, recovered pieces are warehoused on the ground floor of the Trastevere building. Behind an armored door, tens of thousands of artworks are stored — wooden crucifixes, marble busts, bronze statues and hundreds of paintings, all carefully labeled.
These recovered pieces serve as evidence in criminal cases that are still open.
One of them, "Leda and the Swan," by 16th century painter Lelio Orsi, was auctioned for $1.6 million in New York. Smuggled out of Italy, it was tracked down, thanks to cooperation from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
But there's one piece that has eluded this elite art squad for almost three decades: a 6-square-foot canvas of the Nativity by the Baroque master Caravaggio. It was stolen in Sicily in 1969, the same year this special unit was created.
Lt. Calogero Gliozzo says the painting's whereabouts were known until the early 1980s. "We know the names of the robbers and we know the Mafia family that was hiding it," he says, "but then there was a Mafia war and we lost track of the painting."
One Mafia informant told police he had heard that the canvas had been destroyed by rats at a farm where it was hidden.
But here at the police squad, the art sleuths are convinced the masterpiece still exists — and that one day, they will succeed in recovering this No. 1 artwork on their most wanted list.
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
In Italy, art and artifacts are everywhere - in museums, in the excavation sites and often unguarded churches - and that invites art thieves. But thanks to an elite police unit, Italy is at the forefront in combating the trafficking of stolen art. Here's NPR's Sylvia Poggioli.
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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Speaking Italian).
SYLVIA POGGIOLI, BYLINE: The fifth grade class of a Roman elementary school is visiting a special museum exhibit - 200 stolen artworks that were recovered by the police unit for protection of Italy's cultural heritage. Lieutenant Sebastiano Antoci tells the kids how their investigations work.
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SEBASTIANO ANTOCI: (Through interpreter) We tail suspects. We use wire taps so we can listen to bad guys' phone calls. We check their bank accounts. And when we're out in the field, we look like everyone else. We don't wear uniforms.
POGGIOLI: In 1969, Italy created the first police unit to combat art crime. It now numbers 280 agents who also safeguard artworks in regions struck by floods or earthquakes. And they combat antiquities trafficking fueled by conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Lieutenant Antoci shows the schoolchildren a magnificent piece originating from the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, which has been under ISIS control. The marble sculpture dating from the first or second century A.D. depicts a man and his two sons.
ANTOCI: (Through interpreter) The terrorists smuggled it out of Syria and put it on the illicit market. We tracked it down to an Italian businessman who bought it a few months ago.
POGGIOLI: So what's needed to become a good art sleuth?
FABRIZIO PARULLI: First of all, you need to be a good investigator.
POGGIOLI: General Fabrizio Parullo is the commander of this unique police force. His agents start as police officers and then get specialized training.
PARULLI: I have in my unit also people that has background as a archeologist, as a historian of art. So people that knows very well about these art worlds.
POGGIOLI: The investigative work is done in a large barracks in Rome's Trastevere neighborhood. Sitting at a computer screen, Lieutenant Francesco Ficarella demonstrates the jewel in the crown of the cultural heritage protection squad, a database known as Leonardo.
FRANCESCO FICARELLA: (Through interpreter) It's a crucial instrument, not only for our national police forces, but also for those abroad. It's the biggest artworks database in the world.
POGGIOLI: Leonardo contains close to 6 million registered artworks. More than a million are listed as stolen, missing, illegally excavated or smuggled. The squad's recovery record is high. In 2014, it managed to recover close to 140,000 works with an estimated value of $500 million. Until the return to the owners, they're stored on the ground floor - racks of paintings, wooden crucifixes, marble busts and bronze statues, all carefully labeled. These recovered pieces serve as evidence in criminal cases that are still open.
Yet there's one item that has eluded the art squad for almost three decades. The six-foot-square canvas of the Nativity by the baroque master Caravaggio was stolen in Sicily in 1969, the same year this special unit was created. Lieutenant Calogero Gliozzo says its whereabouts were known until the early 1980s.
CALOGERO GLIOZZO: (Through interpreter) We know the names of the robbers, and we know the mafia family that was hiding it. But then there was a mafia war, and we lost track of the painting.
POGGIOLI: One Mafia turncoat told police he'd heard the canvas had been destroyed by rats in a farm where was hidden. But here at the police squad, the art detectives are convinced the masterpiece still exists and that one day they will succeed in recovering this number one artwork on their most wanted list. Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Rome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.