Police track down artifact stolen from Museum of Fine Arts
Twice during fall 2011, someone walked into Montreal’s Museum of Fine Arts and walked out with two ancient artifacts worth close to $1.3 million.
The Sûreté du Québec, with the help of the RCMP, recently found one of the rare pieces of art in an Edmonton home and arrested a man. The other, from the first century BC, is still missing.
Yet the museum said its security system — cameras and agents — is fine and they have no intention of putting the treasures under protective glass.
“This is very unusual,” Danielle Champagne, director of the museum’s foundation, said about the thefts. “Montrealers are very respectful.”
The last theft from the museum was in 1972, she said.
But art theft is big enough business that in 2003, the SQ set up a special squad to deal with the approximately 100 cases they get a year. Most, said SQ Cpt. Richard Gauthier, head of economic crime investigations, are committed by people filling a special order for someone.
The squad’s most recent coup, with the help of tips from the public, was finding the Montreal museum’s artifact two weeks ago in a home in Edmonton. A 33-year-old man, who was arrested, had bought the stolen 5th-century BC artifact for “a few hundred dollars” — much less than its $1.2-million value, Gauthier said at a news conference.
It had been stolen from the museum soon after opening hours on Sept. 3, 2011. The second artifact, stolen at the same time a month later, is still missing. Police believe the same person committed both thefts.
The arrested Albertan is to appear in an Edmonton court next month on a charge of being in possession of stolen property, knowing that it was stolen.
Archeologist John Fossey said he was with police to bring the artifact “home.”
“It’s a day I’ll never forget, flying back with it in a box at my feet, ”Fossey said, donning white gloves at the news conference to place the artifact back in its protective metal suitcase. “It was a thrill to say ‘Yes, that’s our baby, and to bring the baby back home.’ ”