$500M in Art Vanished. Now, 'the Viper' Has Too

A vital contact in the the Gardner Museum heist has disappeared
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 11, 2020 1:00 PM CDT
Gangland Hood Vanishes in Hunt for Missing Art
This frame at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston once held a painting that was stolen during an audacious heist in 1990.   (Wikimedia Commons)

A detective trying to solve the world's biggest art heist has a problem: his key contact is gone—which puts an estimated $500 million in stolen art by the likes of Vermeer, Rembrandt, Degas, and Manet even further out of reach, the Guardian reports. The sleuth, Charles Hill, is one of many detectives trying to recover the art stolen from a Boston museum back in 1990. The infamous theft has spawned books, documentaries, podcasts, a $10 million reward offer, and even got spoofed on the Simpsons. Hill, who believes the art was relocated to Ireland, says he managed to connect with Martin "the Viper" Foley, an ex-con with connections in Irish political gang violence that go back 50 years.

Hill says Foley helped ease negotiations with members of the heist gang in 2019. But as their talks went public, Foley—who was wanted by police for unpaid taxes—fell off the grid, and a report emerged that the 66-year-old had been threatened by other gang members. "I have no hard evidence whatsoever," Hill admitted to Bloomberg in June as he refused to let a reporter talk to Foley: "The people involved in recovering this are not people you'd want to introduce to your mother. I don't want anybody murdered." Meanwhile, there's a new documentary about the investigation called The Billion Dollar Art Hunt. "If anyone can find these paintings, Charley Hill can," says presenter John Wilson, a BBC journalist. "He is still convinced they are in Ireland and that a deal to return them is possible." (The FBI's probe led them to an aging mobster.)

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