Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by Assistant Director in Charge George Venizelos for a Peruvian Paintings Repatriation Ceremony
The following remarks were prepared for delivery by FBI New York’s Assistant Director in Charge George Venizelos of the repatriation of stolen Peruvian paintings.
Throughout time, most art has been created for a specific reason or purpose. Art can be used to express ideas and beliefs, document periods of historical significance, or commemorate persons of prominence. The importance and value of art is oftentimes relative to individual perspective.
During his lifetime, Miguel Cabrera was recognized as the greatest painter in all of New Spain. His works include religious paintings and portraits. He was a favorite painter of the Archbishop and of the Jesuit order, which earned him many commissions.
In 2008, nine religious paintings by Cabrera were recorded with the Art Loss Register by Interpol in Lima, Peru. In January 2009, eight of the stolen Cabrera paintings were recovered by the FBI. These works of art included paintings entitled, Christ in Martha’s House, and Jesus with Samaritan Woman. In or about October 2009, the remaining ninth stolen painting, entitled, The Resurrection of Lazarus, was identified.
The theft and trafficking across state and international lines of artwork and other priceless artifacts is a brewing criminal enterprise with estimated losses in the billions of dollars annually. The FBI continues to commit investigative resources and works with law enforcement agencies around the world to recover these works of art and bring to justice the criminals who pilfer these precious pieces.
As we work together to restore all arts and antiquities to their proper owners, may we remember the purpose they serve in preserving the history of the world for generations to come.
For their assistance on this case, I want to thank United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara; the Chief of the Asset and Forfeiture Unit, Sharon Levin; and AUSA Christine Magdo. I would also like to acknowledge the Ambassador of Peru to the United States, Mr. Harold Forsyth; Ambassador Gustavo Meza Cuadra, Permanent Representative of Peru to the United Nations; and Ambassador Maria Teresa Merino de Hart, the Consul General of Peru in New York.
Last but certainly not least, I want to thank Supervisory Special Agent Tracy Stumpf, Special Agent Meridith Savona, retired Special Agent James Wynne, and the Omaha Field Office for their work on this investigation.