The Hague, 13 May 2016
On 11 May, the Ukrainian authorities reported that 17 paintings, stolen from the Museum of Castelvecchio (Verona) in November 2015, were recovered in Odessa. The paintings, with an estimated value of EUR 17 million, included major works by Rubens, Tintoretto, Mantegna and Pisanello.
The Italian authorities, which formed a joint Carabinieri and Police team (Carabinieri Command Centre for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, the Central Operations Service of the State Police, and the Mobile Squad of the State Police of Verona), coordinated by the Prosecution Office of Verona, led by Mr Gennaro Ottaviano, immediately commenced an investigation lasting five months, leading to the identification and arrest of the perpetrators and the discovery of the stolen paintings in Ukraine.
This action would not have been possible without the cooperation of several key foreign authorities, including Moldova, which assisted the Italian investigators during their missions abroad, and Ukraine, especially the General Prosecution Office of Kiev and the prosecution office and judiciary police of Odessa.
Eurojust played a crucial role, especially towards the end of the investigation. Following a request for support received in late March, the Italian National Member immediately commenced a case at College level, due to the involvement of a non-EU country, and requested the support of the judicial contact point for Eurojust in Ukraine to speed up the execution of requests for mutual legal assistance.
A coordination meeting was organised at short notice on 28 April at Eurojust, with the participation of representatives of all the involved Italian authorities, the General Prosecution Office of Kiev and, via videoconference, the other Ukrainian authorities involved in the facilitation of judicial and police cooperation. This meeting provided a valuable opportunity to exchange information on ongoing investigations and enhance mutual trust. The support of qualified interpreters and work provided by the Case Analysis Unit were instrumental in improving communication among the parties. The meeting resulted in the setting up of a joint Ukrainian/Italian team, which worked together in the following days in Ukraine and was instrumental in recovering the stolen paintings.
For questions relating to the involvement of Member States, please contact the relevant national authorities.