Invisible friends of art

December 14th, 2008

BBC’s Simon Worrall reports that the faceless, special Agent Robert “Bob” Wittman retires. Why should this regard anyone who reads an art blog?

“For nearly two decades, usually masquerading as a crooked art dealer with links to the Mafia or the Colombian drug cartels, Wittman has run undercover sting operations, luring criminals into selling him stolen works of art. Protecting his identity means the difference between life and death.

In one operation he found himself in a hotel bathroom in Copenhagen hugging a Rembrandt to his chest as a Danish Swat (Special Weapons and Tactics) team burst into the room to arrest an Iraqi-born hoodlum named Baha Kadhoum, who was trying to sell him Rembrandt’s self-portrait from 1630.

Art crime is big business. Estimated to be worth between $1.5 – $6bn (£1- £4bn) annually, it is now the fourth largest international crime, after drug dealing, gun running and money laundering.”

Vermeer’s Concert, stole on March 18, 1990 has yet to be recovered.

Read the Worrall’s article here.

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