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Suspects arrested in connection with Verona theft

Plus: Russian deputy culture minister detained on embezzlement charges | Europe’s seven most endangered heritage sites named | Ruins of 16th-century castle discovered in Lille | Export controversy over Joan of Arc’s ring | New guidelines issued to UK museums for VAT refunds

16 March 2016

Our daily round-up of news from the art world

Twelve suspects arrested over Verona heist | Italian police say they have arrested 12 men in connection with the theft of more than €15 million worth of paintings from Verona’s Castelvecchio museum. According to Reuters, nine of the suspects are Moldovans, three Italians. The Times (£) reports a different figure, adding that a museum security guard and his brother are also believed to be among those arrested. The Reuters report claims that the paintings were located in Moldova, and are in the process of being recovered. Among the works stolen were portraits by Rubens and Tintoretto, as well as works by Bellini, Pisanello and Caroto.

Russian deputy culture minister detained on embezzlement charges | Grigory Pirumov, Russia’s deputy culture minister and two other heritage officials have been arrested over allegations of embezzling state funds. Russia’s FSB security service has issued a statement alleging that the funds in question were allocated ‘for carrying out restoration works at cultural heritage facilities’. According to TASS news agency, these heritage sites include State Hermitage in St. Petersburg, the Novodevichy Convent in Moscow and a fortress in Pskov, close to the Estonian border. The arrests may point to a concentrated government crackdown in the state heritage sector: in February, it was reported that President Putin was ‘furious’ over the management of Russia’s heritage attractions. According to local media outlets, the President’s intervention prompted the immediate resignation of the country’s top heritage official, Mikhail Bryzgalov.

Europe’s seven most endangered heritage sites named | Europe’s leading heritage organisation has published a list of the continent’s seven most endangered sites of cultural significance. Topping Europa Nostra’s list are Venice and its lagoon, which face multiple dangers: rising sea levels, dredging, shipping traffic, pollution and the lack of a comprehensive management plan have put the city and its lagoon in peril. Other sites at threat include structures in Turkey, France, Greece, Armenia and Spain.

Ruins of 16th-century castle discovered in Lille | Excavations uncovered by France’s Institut national de recherches archéologiques préventives have uncovered the ruins of a 16th-century fortress in the heart of the northern city of Lille. According to Le Figaro, the structure’s existence had never been conclusively proved until now, and according to archaeologists, it seems that it was built primarily for defensive purposes. (French language article.) The team behind the discovery believe that the fortress was gradually dismantled over the course of the 17th and 18th centuries and redeveloped into a large ornamental garden.

Export controversy over Joan of Arc’s ring | An unexpected point of contention between Britain and France is a ring thought to have belonged to Joan of Arc, which was sold at a British auction house last month to a foundation acting on behalf of the Puy du Fou theme park. The ring, according to a spokesman at the theme park, is now in France. But as The Art Newspaper reports, ‘questions have arisen over the legality of its export’ since the sale – and if it transpires that no export license was granted for the object (which has been in the British Isles for some 600 years) British authorities are likely to demand its return.

New guidelines issued to UK museums for VAT refunds | From today, the eligibility criteria for the UK’s VAT refund scheme for museums and galleries is to be broadened, with new guidelines introduced in order to make it available to more institutions. The scheme, which has been in operation since 2001, is intended to help institutions provide free access to visitors. Until now, it has allowed only national and university museums and galleries to claim back VAT on a number of goods and services, but as of today, any museum that meets the new guidelines will be eligible to apply for the scheme.

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