Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

New questions regarding Gardner Museum robbery

Tonight, while all of us were competing for worst cough of 2007, we were all splayed out on the sofa watching PBS for lack of anything else that took more effort, and there was a show called Stolen on Independent Lens about the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum robbery that took place on St. Patrick's Day in 1990. Although 12 works of art were stolen, the most important paintings were three Rembrants, including his only seascape, and one Vermeer. The art works have never been recovered, and the robbery remains unsolved. This was the largest art heist in the history of the United States, according to the FBI, who have valued the art works as up to $300 million.

I've read a few theories about the theft, including those that pointed to the Genovese crime family in NY and Harvard University in Cambridge, but according to Stolen, Boston's own James "Whitey" Bulger was a probable suspect in the art theft. Whitey, who is number 4 on the FBIs most wanted list (right under Osama bin Laden), and is responsible for up to 18 murders as his head of the Winter Hill Gang crime family in Boston, is certainly an interesting suspect. Linking Bulger with the IRA isn't a big stretch, as art detective Harold Smith discovers by following leads from Boston to the UK to France in order to try and solve this crime. Together with Scotland Yard art theft expert Dick Ellis, Smith trys to unravel the false leads, con artists, police informants and underworld crime figure's stories to determine where the stolen works could be located. Unfortunately, Smith died after 50 years of skin cancer before he could solve this crime.

According to CNN:

"The early investigation led authorities down several paths, from the Boston mafia to the IRA.

Some theories suggest that a robbery of this magnitude couldn't have been pulled off without the "blessing" of local organized crime figures, suggesting James "Whitey" Bulger, head of Boston's Irish mob, has some knowledge of the robbery or the paintings' whereabouts.

Bulger, who has been on the run since 1995 after a disgraced FBI agent tipped him off that he was about to be indicted for racketeering and extortion, had acted as a government informant for two decades. At the same time, he rose through the ranks of Boston's Winter Hill Gang. He was added to the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list in 2000 and there is a $1 million reward for information leading to his capture.

The IRA was also a focus of the initial investigation.

The organization itself (which is dedicated to ending British rule in Northern Ireland and was considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department until two years ago), has a history of involvement with "art theft on a big scale," according to art investigator Harold Smith, who in retirement has made the Gardner heist his personal crusade.

In 1974 an IRA gang robbed, Russborough House, a private estate near Dublin that houses major works of art, of 19 paintings, including a Vermeer, a Goya and two Gainsboroughs. The works, which were pried from their frames with screwdrivers, were later used in an attempt to barter for the transfer of four of the group's imprisoned members.

The art, however, was recovered less than two days later. Since that heist, the estate has been targeted for art theft on three other occasions."

Bulger, who has been on the lam since December of 1994, has alluded worldwide capture despite a $1,000,000 reward offered by the FBI for his capture. It is reputed that those in the crime family that do know of his whereabouts are too afraid of him to ever reveal any information helping the feds in capturing Bulger. I wouldn't doubt it.

Some conspiracy thinkers believe that there is a Harvard connection, which involves both of the Bulger brothers (Billy was a former Boston politician and disgraced head of University of Massachusetts), Bump Hadley (a Harvard Graduate and former director of the museum), many Harvard big shots and art dealers in the US and Paris. There is supposedly a stipulation in Isabella Gardner's will that if any of the paintings fail to hang in their original places in the museum, the rest of the collection should be sold at auction in Paris and the proceeds given to Harvard U. Many people would make fortunes if this were to come true. There is another known stipulation in her will that says that nothing new may be incorporated into the collection, and that it is to remain 'as is' so that all the stolen works are represented by their empty frames (the paintings were unfortunately cut out of the frames during the robbery, which presents serious problems in restoring the paintings to their former glory) hanging in the exact places where the works of art always hung. This theory is pretty far fetched to me. Harvard has enough money to not need any more...ever.

The most credible theory, and the one believed by most investigators, is the IRA/ Irish Mob/ Whitey Bulger connection. Many believe that Bulger took the works to Ireland, where he offered them to the IRA. The last Bulger sighting was in London in 2000. He supposedly was turned away by the IRA and fled to South America taking his valuable "art collection" with him.

I feel like I missed out on this whole Bulger/Gardner Museum relationship. But it makes so much sense. No other credible theories exist, and after all this time, with such a large reward, one would think some information would surface, but none has.

Sad, because although I've seen the missing art, my children have not. I wish they could see the Vermeer and Rembrants returned to their former home for us all to see again.

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Blogger scott davidson said...

Our strange neighbor adores cats and had them everywhere in her house. As if the dozen live cats were not enough, in every room in her house, she has framed prints, large and small, of the blessed animals.0
She says that she orders her canvas prints, like this one
http://en.wahooart.com/A55A04/w.nsf/OPRA/BRUE-8BWPVF by Franz Marc, from wahooart.com who delivers them. Perhaps they can take away a cat or two as well.

30/11/12 11:31 AM  

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