Sleuth Following 2 Leads in Biggest US Art Heist

The leads have been followed before, but Arthur Brand has a track record
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 27, 2017 1:00 PM CDT
Sleuth Following 2 Leads in Biggest US Art Heist
In this March 21, 1990, file photo, a security guard stands outside the Dutch Room of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.   (AP Photo, File)

A Dutch art sleuth with an impressive track record says he's following two possible leads in the largest art heist in US history. Arthur Brand thinks a decision last month to double the reward to $10 million for information could prompt the return of 13 works stolen from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990. At the end of the year, the reward will likely revert to $5 million, so "it's now or never," Brand tells the AP. The stunning theft at the Gardner was remarkably simple. Two men masqueraded as Boston police and got into the museum by telling a security guard they were responding to a disturbance. Once inside, the thieves handcuffed two guards on duty and put them in the museum's basement before snatching masterpieces that included paintings by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Manet.

The tenacious sleuth has a record of success—Brand helped German police seize a huge stash of art in 2015 that included two bronze horse sculptures crafted for Adolf Hitler, for instance. Neither of the leads Brand is following is new, with one focusing on a Dutch criminal who was reportedly in possession of photos of the stolen art and tried to sell the works in Europe in the early 1990s. "If he can tell us who gave ... him these pictures at the time, we could trace it back," Brand says. But the museum's director of security says the FBI already has pursued Brand's leads, "and we're confident that we closed them without further need for investigation." Asked to rank his chances of success on a scale of one to 10, Brand says, "In a logical world, I would say 10. But the art world is not logical." (The FBI tried digging for the art in 2016.)

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