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Police are searching for a particular thief for the robbery in the National Gallery

17 January 2012 / 16:01:17  GRReporter
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The Greek police are investigating three major robberies at the Goulandris Foundation, Teloglion Foundation of Art in Thessaloniki and the collection of Alexandros Iolas that took place in the mid 1990s to find the perpetrators of the big hit at the National Gallery last week. Works of Pablo Picasso, Piet Mondrian and Guglielmo Caccia – il Moncalvo were stolen during the robbery.

Officers believe that the robberies are related and that the same people may have conceived them. A 43-year-old man was arrested in connection with the past robberies, therefore, the police want to find out whether people who cooperated with him during that period were involved in the robbery at the National Gallery. Authorities have found significant similarities between the robberies of the galleries and now they are looking for clues that will lead them to the perpetrators.

The first robbery took place in the early hours of 17 March 1994, when nine paintings were stolen from the Teloglion Foundation of Art at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. The next big hit was only a few hours later - in the early hours of 18 March 1994 at the Goulandris-Horn Foundation, which is located in the Plaka neighbourhood at the foot of the Acropolis, where paintings from the collection of Eleftheriadis – Teriand were exhibited. Thieves stole 40 paintings. The third robbery took place in May 1997 in the country house of the collector Alexandros Iolas in the suburb of Agia Paraskevi, from where three paintings and his personal belongings were stolen. The spoils of these robberies included works of Picasso, Miro, Chagall, Matisse and Giacometti.

The police revealed the three robberies in the region of Attica only partly on 23 May 1997. A 43-year-old man with the initials GS was then caught, who was considered the most active robber - "art lover". According to the police releases at that time, he began his "career" by robbing jewellery shops and apartments. He was captured in 1993 but on 31 January 1994, he escaped from the prison in Korydallos. About a month and a half later, he made the big hit in the galleries of the Teloglion Foundation and Goulandris - Horn Museum. Most of the stolen works were hidden in the apartment on Aristotelous Street in downtown Athens. A few days later, he left for Italy using the false Kalikas family name. There, however, the Italian police captured him. Several months later, he was extradited to Greece and sent to prison in Trikala. The thief was released in the spring of 1997 and robbed the house of collector Alexandros Iolas several weeks later. Then, the police caught him in a hotel on Veranzerou Street.

In the apartment on Aristotelous Street the officers found many of the works and press publications about other museums and galleries, which had clearly attracted the interest of the "art loving" thief. The police found five of the works stolen from Teloglion Foundation in the forest area around the campus in Athens in November 1997. The paintings were hidden in a suitcase, wrapped in waterproof nylon and placed among the bushes. The monetary value of the specific works was then calculated at one billion drachmas, i.e. about three million euro.

GS met the police on 26 June 2006 for the last time, when he was arrested for robbing houses in the luxury northern suburbs of Athens, from where he had stolen mostly artwork and other expensive items. Three more people aged between 51 and 55 years are mentioned in the court case against him.

Greek police are seeking information on any former collaborators of the now 58-year-old thief. Authorities believe they may have had a key role in the robbery at the National Gallery last week, because similarity with the operation of the criminals has been found. At the same time, the investigation of other cases of theft of paintings in the past is ongoing. One of them is the robbery of the ship-owner's house in the suburb of Kifissia on 29 April 2001, during which unknown perpetrators stole 117 works of Greek artists, including Gizis, Iakovidis, Parthenis and Litras. In order to increase the efficiency of the investigation Greek police have activated the phone call tracking system of the national intelligence service.

According to sources, the police are offering large sums of money for any information related to the theft of the paintings from the National Gallery. Authorities believe the works are in a hiding place and have not yet been submitted to the person who ordered the robbery.

The police are investigating recent cases of theft of paintings from private homes whose attackers have not yet been discovered. One of them is the theft of a large number of paintings by the artist Angelos Yalinas from his home on the island of Corfu in September 2010. According to senior police sources, "none of the stolen paintings has been found for almost a year and a half after the robbery. There is no evidence of the perpetrator either." At the same time, there have been about ten cases of theft of paintings  in recent years in the region of Attica carried out by thieves who have acted purposefully.

The authorities have at their disposal a list of names of many persons involved in illegal trafficking of works of art and with contacts with similar networks abroad. The Greek police are attempting to penetrate this closed "club" and to gather important information about the organization of the robbery at the National Gallery in Athens.

Tags: Crime newsRobberyNational galleryPicassoMondrianPoliceInvestigationPast robberies
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