Italian Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale official standing amongst recovered stolen artworks. Photo: Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale

Swedish Professor Helps Bust Italian Art Theft Ring

A Swedish academic was instrumental in helping Italy’s art fraud unit bring down a criminal ring responsible for stealing artworks and antique books from across the country, Andrea Vogt of The Telegraph reports.

The Lund University professor tipped off the police after buying a rare sixteenth-century manuscript online. Upon receiving the prayer book, titled Modus Orandi Deum Aliaque Pia et Christiana Exercitia Nec Non Deiparae Virginis Maria Litaniae, the professor discovered a small ink stamp that read “Royal Library of Turin” on one of its pages and became concerned about the object’s provenance. The academic then contacted the Swedish embassy, which notified the Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale.

Investigators discovered that the manuscript was taken from a glass display case in the Royal Library of Turin in 2012. They then traced the item to the Bologna-based university student who sold it to the professor, and then to a Turin-based book dealer whose warehouse contained a trove of other stolen works.

“The professor showed great sensitivity as an academic, getting in contact immediately with authorities,” Giovanni Saccani, director of the Royal Library, said in an interview with La Stampa. “And he didn’t even want any compensation for returning it, despite having cost 20,000–30,000 Euro [$22,300–$33,500].”

In recent years, thieves have been targeting churches and other historic sites in Turin. The book dealer is one of seventy-seven other suspects who have been connected to art-related crimes in the region since 2016. There has also been a 28 percent increase in the amount of works confiscated by the authorities.

On Saturday, a complaint by a collector who contacted the authorities after receiving nearly $9 million in counterfeit bills during an art transaction led the police to uncover a number of stolen artworks, including pieces by Luca Carlevaris, Luigi Crespi, Giacomo Guardi, Guido Reni, Tommaso Salini, Jacopo del Sallaio, and Anthony van Dyck, which are estimated to be worth millions of dollars.