Airport Employees Caught Red-Handed in Art Theft Scheme

Unwitting victims believed their artwork was being legitimately transported.

Italian police with the recovered paintings. Photo: Polizia di Stato.
Italian police with the recovered paintings stolen by workers at Rome’s Fiumicino airport. Photo: Polizia di Stato.

Airport employees in Rome have been caught red-handed stealing valuable art from travelers passing through the Fiumicino terminal, reports ANSA.

The scheme involved several customer service workers who would offer to help passengers deliver their oversize baggage to collection points, instead spiriting the works away to be hidden by cleaning and grounds crew and subsequently sold on the black market.

“Using the uniforms they normally wore to work in the airport, they easily convinced people that they were providing a genuine service and managed to swindle them,” said the state police in a statement, as translated by Reuters. Italian regulations require all oversize items be sent to collection points, so the thieves’ victims did not discover the thefts until much later, upon reaching their final destinations.

One the recovered paintings stolen by workers at Rome’s Fiumicino airport. Photo: Polizia di Stato.

One the recovered paintings stolen by workers at Rome’s Fiumicino airport.
Photo: Polizia di Stato.

The unmasking of the sophisticated crime ring comes on the heels of the biggest art heist in Italian history, in which 17 paintings reportedly worth €15 million ($16 million) were stolen from the Castelvecchio Museum in Verona this past November. The nation’s politicians were outraged by the sheer scale and audacity of the theft.

The airport crime outfit was reportedly discovered when a police investigation recovered two paintings by Italian contemporary artists, one by Ugo Attardi and the other by Renato Guttoso. Both are said to be worth over €50,000 (about $55,000) and are the property of a major Roman art gallery. Images released by the Italian police show several additional canvases.

One the recovered paintings stolen by workers at Rome’s Fiumicino airport. Photo: Polizia di Stato.

One the recovered paintings stolen by workers at Rome’s Fiumicino airport.
Photo: Polizia di Stato.

Two airport workers are currently facing charges connected to the theft. According to the Telegraph, Italian media have offered speculation that the thieves were working on commission.


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