Jul 10, 2007

In the News

I saw a couple of noteworthy items in the papers this morning.

First, there was an interesting note of a legal event held in London last week. Edward Fennell of the Times Online in his "In the City" feature talked about this event:

Last week Withers hosted one of the most curious legal events I have ever attended. In a gripping account to a smart multinational audience of art professionals, insurers and well-heeled collectors the firm’s art recovery expert, partner Pierre Valentin told how he helped to recover paintings from the Bakwin collection that had been stolen in America in the 1970s.

Working with the Art Loss Register (which operates in that seductive area where culture and money meet glamour and crime) Mr Valentin described a Hitchcock-like thriller featuring painstaking research, dodgy Russians and even murder – but all ending in happy success for the resolute legal sleuth. As the tale unfolded we could see on display the very “McGuffin” that had driven the drama – the collection of paintings themselves by Cézanne, Matisse, Soutine, Vlaminck By the end of an astonishing evening Withers had proved itself a true ornament to the City’s legal scene.


I take it Whithers must be a firm of Solicitors. Sounds like some fascinating stories. I do not know about this particular case, but I am familiar with Pierre Valentin. It sounds fascinating. Here is hoping he makes it up to Scotland.

Second, I noticed an AP story by Ariel David which has been picked up by a number of papers in recent weeks. I haven't noted it before but it is an interesting story of the notorious tombaroli Pietro Casasanta who has testified at the True/Hecht trial and Rome. Here is an excerpt:

It used to be so easy for the “tombaroli,” Italy’s tomb raiders.

Pietro Casasanta had no Indiana Jones-type escapes from angry natives or booby-trapped temples. He worked undisturbed in daylight with a bulldozer, posing as a construction worker to become one of Italy’s most successful plunderers of archaeological treasures.

When he wasn’t in prison, the convicted looter operated for decades in this countryside area outside Rome, benefiting from what he says was lax surveillance that allowed him to dig into ancient Roman villas and unearth statues, pottery and other artifacts, which he then sold for millions of dollars on the illegal antiquities market.

“Nobody cared, and there was so much money going around,” he recalled. “I always worked during the day, with the same hours as construction crews, because at night it was easier to get noticed and to make mistakes.”

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