Multinational art theft and black marketeering

Thursday 26th August, 2021 - Bruce Sterling

*It’s quite a true-crime tale, involving a deep fondness for the work of Vincent Van Gogh.

ROME (AP) — One of Italy’s most wanted men, an alleged major cocaine trafficker who investigators say bought two stolen Van Gogh paintings on the black market with drug money, has been arrested in Dubai, Naples-based police said Thursday.

Raffaele Imperiale, an alleged kingpin in the Naples-based Camorra organized crime syndicate, was arrested on Aug. 4, Italy’s state police and financial crimes police corps said in a joint statement.

Imperiale, 46, was being held in the United Arab Emirates while Italy’s justice ministry completes extradition procedures….

Police noted that Imperiale gave an interview this year to Naples daily newspaper Il Mattino in which he denied any link to the museum theft and claimed he bought the paintings because he is a passionate lover of art.

“I bought them directly from the thief, because the price was attractive,. But most of all because I love art,″ Imperiale was quoted as telling the newspaper. He made no secret of having lived in Dubai for several years….