Thursday, 10 May 2007

The smiling temptress

Enter our competition at the end of this blog entry!

One of the things I learned early on in my career as Art Detective with the FBI is that there are good reasons why art theft and forgery is such a bullish growth industry. The soaring value of classic paintings has combined with a comparatively minuscule legal risk to create a landscape that has become every criminal’s dream job. With the auction price of a single Picasso topping $100 million in 2004, the sky is now the limit in this crazy, highly specialised industry. Yet the legal statutes haven’t remotely kept up with the unprecedented temptation to cross over to the dark side. Someone could snatch the Mona Lisa off the wall of the Louvre in Paris, sell it in New York’s Central Park for a cool $350 million, get caught a week later, and expect to be given no more than 18 months or so for the ‘sale and transportation of stolen property.’ Lady Justice, herself a popular model for so many painters, blindly doesn’t consider the value of the goods when doling out her democratic, non-prejudicial punishments.
Why not steal the Mona Lisa as a first time offender, and you may only walk away with probation? Or drive away in your goldplated Hummer limousine. How many people would trade a year and a half stint in jail for $350 million? A better question is: who wouldn’t?
- Thomas McShane, author of Loot: Inside the World of Stolen Art

Maverick House will be giving away 5 books from our backlist to one lucky reader. The answers to the following question can be found on A winner will be drawn from all correct entries.

Question: Which law school is Thomas McShane a graduate of?

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