Entries in Thieves (2)


Art Thieves in South Africa Toss Most Valuable Piece

Comstock/Thinkstock(PRETORIA, South Africa) -- Art thieves who apparently weren’t art lovers robbed the Pretoria Art Museum of five paintings worth more than $2 million.  But they tossed a sixth work -- the most valuable piece in their haul -- on the ground and left it behind.

“My first reaction was, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe that somebody just walked in and walked out with a whole lot of artworks,’” said Imre Lamprecht, head of the art department at South African art auction house Stephan Welz & Co.

Museum management told the Beeld newspaper that the robbers pretended to be museum visitors before they pulled out guns and a “shopping list” of paintings, which they forced an employee to help them find.  They left with five paintings by prominent South African artists, including works by Irma Stern and Gerard Sekoto, each worth about $1 million.

“All the artists they took are artists who are doing brilliantly in South Africa and internationally,” said Lamprecht.  “These works are some of the best works they would have produced.”

As the thieves made their escape, they tossed a sixth painting on the ground outside the museum, possibly because it did not fit into their getaway car.  Stern’s “Two Malay Musicians,” worth about $1.4 million, was recovered.

“Obviously these thieves didn’t know anything about art because that is not the painting whoever hired them would want them to leave behind,” said Lamprecht.

She said the late Stern is probably the most famous of the artists whose work is on display at the museum.  Her expressionism masterpiece “Arab Priest” sold for nearly $5 million last year.

Lamprecht said even though the value of South African art has risen since the end of apartheid, security at public museums is severely lacking.  Many museums have outdated security systems and no guards.

“I hope the government learns a lesson and puts in security structures that keep our art and heritage safe,” said Lamprecht.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Cheese Is Most Popular Item, Globally, for Supermarket Thieves

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NOTTINGHAM, England) -- The cheese and meat aisles are popular stops for thieves in grocery stores around the world, according to a recent report by the U.K.-based Center for Retail Research.

Cheese is the most stolen food globally, followed by meat.

The 2011 study traces retail theft in 43 countries across more than 250,000 stores and reports that retailers have absorbed millions of dollars of losses in food products. The profit loss is attributed mainly to theft by employees, organized crime rings and petty criminals.

"Organized crime rings target specialty items and products that are easy to sell in other venues," said Farrokh Abadi, president of shrink management solutions at Checkpoint Systems Inc., a Philadelphia-based retail security firm that funded the study.

Shrinkage is the accounting term for the loss of product.

Organized crime rings that nab cheese often take the stolen goods to smaller markets to sell for a profit. But perishable items such as meat and cheese are more frequently stolen by dishonest employees and small-time crooks than by organized criminals, Abadi said.

Crime rings might be more interested in high-demand, nonperishable items such as baby formula. Infant formula sells for a high price and is sometimes distributed in illegal drug dealings because it can be used to dilute narcotics.

Food theft varies by region. Cheese is a hot commodity in Europe, while candies and infant formula are stolen at higher rates in the United States.

Abadi attributed the disparity to differing cultural tastes. "In areas in Europe, you will see that cheese is higher on the list, because, as you know, Europeans love their cheese," he said.

But struggling economies, coupled with rising food prices across the board, are probably the causes of the increase in retail theft, Abadi said.

"Food prices have gone up in all the regions," he said. "So that combined with economic hardships unfortunately does not make the increase in shrink in these items surprising."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio