West News Wire: Six suspects were wanted by Rio de Janeiro police on suspicion of taking part in the theft of 16 works of art totaling more than 700 million reals ($139 million), some of which were later found.
According to a statement from the police, the group allegedly stole the artwork from an 82-year-old widow who had previously been married to an art dealer and collector.
Museum-caliber works by Brazilian artists Tarsila do Amaral and Emiliano Di Cavalcanti were among the haul. According to a police video, they discovered more than 10 pieces of art underneath a bed, and “Sol Poente,” a do Amaral painting depicting a magnificent sunset, was at the bottom of the pile.
“Wow! One of the officers yelled as she took the bubble wrap off the project, “Look who’s here! “Oh, little beauty. Glory!”
The theft was orchestrated by the widow’s daughter, according to the statement, which didn’t provide either of their names. The daughter was among those arrested Wednesday, according to local media, which also showed images of a woman attempting to escape through a window as police arrived.
The paintings weren’t stolen in a heist, but rather through a bizarre con. In January 2020, a self-proclaimed soothsayer approached the widow in the Copacabana neighborhood and informed her that her daughter was sick and soon to die, according to the police statement.
The widow, who holds mystical beliefs, was compelled to make bank transfers totaling 5 million reais over the course of two weeks for supposed spiritual treatment. Her daughter, who encouraged the payments, proceeded to fire domestic employees so her accomplices could enter the residence unimpeded and remove the artworks. Upon receiving threats from her daughter and the accomplices, the widow made additional bank transfers.
Three of the artworks, collectively worth more than 300 million reais, were recovered in an art gallery in Sao Paulo. The gallery’s owner told police he had purchased them directly from the widow’s daughter, and sold two others to the Museum of Latin American Art in Buenos Aires, according to the statement.
A press officer for the world-renowned museum told The Associated Press that its founder, Eduardo Costantini, purchased the works for his personal collection, and possible display at the museum in the future. The museum identified the widow as Genevieve Boghici and said Costantini has maintained direct contact with her throughout the acquisition of the paintings and since.