That is the estimate given by French police Colonel Stephane Gauffeny. 2,000 is a staggering number, but apparently is a dramatic reduction from a decade ago. He tells Roland Lloyd Parry of AFP: “We concentrate our energy on the biggest thefts or the biggest criminal rings”. One example is the Drouot investigation, which is taking precedence and resources away from some other thefts. Italy is often a victim of art theft, but France is as well, with the recent holiday thefts and last year’s Picasso Museum theft just some recent high profile examples. Pictured here is the Cantini Museum in Marseille where a Degas was “unscrewed” from a wall over the hiliday season, yet there were no signs of forced entry.
What happens to these stolen works? The mundane objects are stored until they can be sold later. The rare and valuable works are exported abroad illegally. Yet the rate of recovery for many of these works is very low. Yet the work of Colonel Gauffeny and others is key, and one of the important steps law enforcement agencies can take is to start keeping track and compiling statistics on art theft.
- Lloyd Parry Roland, AFP: France battles theft of cultural treasures, AFP, January 10, 2010.