Oceans 12, I have to say is my favorite movie of all time. The follow up to the box office hit Oceans 11, boasts an intriguing plot that sets a competition between master thieves in amazing picturesque areas of Europe. I watched it again the other night and got to thinking if something like this we’re really possible.
After digging a bit deeper, I was fascinated to find out that this wasn’t just something dreamt up in Hollywood. Through the miracle that is Wikipedia I gathered the following information on Master Art Thief Stephane Breitwieser.
Stéphane Breitwieser (born 1971) is a French art thief who admitted to stealing 239 artworks and other exhibits, worth an estimated US$1.4 billion (£960m), from 172 museums while travelling around Europe and working as a waiter, an average of one theft every 15 days. The Guardian called him "arguably the world's most consistent art thief."
That is pretty crazy, 1.4 Billion dollars of art and never attempted to sell any of it. Oh and…
In November 2001, he was finally caught after stealing a bugle dating from 1584, one of only three like it in the world and with an estimated value of £45,000, from the Richard Wagner Museum in Lucerne, Switzerland. A security guard spotted Breitwieser before he escaped. However, he returned to the museum two days later. That day, a journalist, Erich Eisner, was walking his dog on the museum grounds when he noticed a man who seemed out of place in a nice overcoat, surveying the museum. Aware of the recent theft, Eisner alerted the main guard, who happened to be the same guard who had seen Breitwieser at the heist and alerted the authorities, who arrested Breitwieser. Lucerne police awarded Eisner's dog a lifetime supply of food in appreciation. Breitwieser spent two years in prison in Switzerland before being extradited to France. However, it took Swiss authorities 19 days to acquire the international search warrant necessary to search Breitwieser's mother's house. They found nothing, and Breitwiser did not confess until a few months later, giving authorities a detailed account of the works he had stolen.
Oh ok well he finally got caught, I guess it wasn’t worth it right?
On January 7, 2005 he was sentenced to three years by a court in Strasbourg but only served 26 months.
Wait, so 239 thefts of high worth items, the equivalent of stealing $1.4 billion and 26 months in prison. I’m thinking the risk reward might be worth it for a thief.
Lets think about this…
What if he had just successfully stolen one painting for instance,
The most valuable work of art he stole was Sybille, Princess of Cleves by Lucas Cranach the Elder from a castle in Baden-Baden in 1995. Its estimated value at auction would be £5-£5.6 million. He cut it from its frame at a Sotheby's auction where it was to be sold.
If he had just stolen this one and sold it, we’ll assume a conservative black market value of 25%, he’d still be sitting pretty with $1.25 million Euro.
So just looking at the risk reward model and throwing morals aside, 1.25 million Euro or 26 months in jail doesn’t seem like too bad of a trade off. Especially considering that I hear they get dental care in jail and free rent, two things I currently pay for.
I’m not saying I should stop what I’m doing to go steal things believe me, but I was very surprised to see that these types of things really do happen and aren’t just the result of creative thinkers in Hollywood.
1.4 Billion dollars (said it like Dr. Evil) hmmm, it might be worth the risk of finding new male companionship in prison. J
The again maybe not...