Friday, June 24, 2011

What does Whitey Bulger know about the 1990 Gardner Museum art heist?

From the Los Angeles Times:
In 1990, two men dressed as police officers broke into the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and stole a Vermeer, five Degas and three Rembrandts.

The masterpieces and four other paintings stolen that day are estimated to be worth more than $500 million.
Two decades later, the case remains stubbornly unsolved. It has been called “the holy grail of art crime.”
But with the arrest in Santa Monica Wednesday of notorious Boston crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger, many in the art world are now asking: Could it provide a break in the greatest art heist in American history?
Rumors have long swirled that Bulger, the head of the city’s powerful Irish American mob at the time, may have played a role -- or must have known who did.

Some have speculated that he stashed the stolen masterpieces away to use as a “get out of jail free card” if he was ever caught. Others think he sent the paintings to allies in the Irish Republican Army to use as a bargaining chip.

The Gardner Museum had no comment on the arrest on Thursday other than a tweet saying, “Until a recovery is made, our work continues.”

Many who have studied the case are similarly skeptical about Bulger’s direct involvement. Last year, investigators in the Gardner case said that there is no evidence in the mountains of wiretaps and other records to link Bulger to the crime.

“He was quite a powerful figure at the time of the heist,” said Ulrich Boser, author of "The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World’s Largest Unsolved Art Theft." “But his M.O. was to collect criminal taxes, not to organize fresh crimes.”

As Boser writes in his book, after Bulger became an informant for the Boston FBI, he helped them take out his Italian competitors, the Cosa Nostra, leaving him the uncontested king of the underworld in Boston. By 1990, his focus was on collecting protection money from lesser underworld figures like bookies and drug dealers....MORE
Mrs. Gardner definitely had a style all her own. She helped design the building, here's part of the museum's interior courtyard:


Of all the characters in this story I am probably most attracted to the Art Dealer Joseph Duveen.
As for Bulger, he's a pig.