Fitzwilliam Art Thieves Sentenced
Four art thieves involved in the professionally-planned robbery of 18 invaluable Chinese jade artefacts at the Fitzwilliam Museum pleaded guilty and were sentenced earlier this week.
by Katherine Biddle
Monday 1st October 2012, 11:11 BST
Three of the four men connected with the theft have been sentenced to six years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to burglary. The fourth burglar, Marvin Simos, 16, has been subjected to four months detention and training order, as he was judged to have been ‘thoroughly exploited’ and ‘selected for his naivety.’ The legal representation of the convicted argued that the four men did not possess the skills or history to have plotted the raid on their own. The evidence exhibited included addictions to both alcohol and drugs, lack of proper education and absence of prior thefts.
The dearth of burglar history suggests that the theft was planned and paid for by ‘others higher up the chain,’ according to the defence counsel. The unidentified ‘others’ are at present blamed for recruiting the gang, targeting jade exhibits and ensuring the execution of the robbery. It has been speculated that the precious artefacts, which have yet to be found, were immediately absorbed into private collections and there is little hope of recovery. It is even possible that the jade art pieces have been smuggled into China, meaning the chance of return is even more remote.
The judge residing, Justice Fulford, called the theft ‘an act of cultural vandalism’ and emphasised ‘the great loss across the world’ due to the disappearance of the artefacts. The damage inflicted on other displays along with the gallery at large further enhanced the irreparable destruction caused by the robbery, with a total loss estimated at £5m to £15m.
The police have acquired the help of several consultants, including officers from the Metropolitan Police’s Art and Antiques Unit and other specialist art dealers. A reward for information on the art pieces is set to appear in Antiques Trade Gazette. The spokesman to the Fitzwilliam Museum stated ‘we very much look forward to the next stage of the investigation, entailing the return of all 18 stolen jades.’ Whether or not the jades are ever recovered remains to be seen.