This picture shows part of the painting Vrouw Wereld, made by Dutch painter Jacob Waben in 1622. One of 24 ancient paintings (including work by, eg Jan van Goyen) and much silver, stolen in 2005 from the Westfries Museum in the Netherlands.
The art that was stolen in 2005 from the Westfries Museum in Hoorn is located in Ukraine. All attempts to recover the 17th century paintings and bring them back to Hoorn have failed, however. Contact with the present owners of the stolen art, as well as diplomatic efforts on the highest levels have not amounted to anything. Because the collection may be on the brink of being sold to others and because it is in a steadily deteriorating condition, Hoorn is now looking for publicity on a national as well as international scale to deter potential buyers and to expose the practices of the Ukrainian art criminals who have contacts on the highest political levels.
On the night of January 9, 2005, 24 paintings and 70 pieces of silverware, the heart of our 17th and 18th century collection, were stolen from the Westfries Museum during a burglary. For years, the municipality of Hoorn had been hoping that the paintings and silver would resurface, when last year, one of the stolen paintings first appeared on a Ukrainian website. In July 2015, two individuals reported to the Dutch embassy in Kiev who said that they represented a Ukrainian volunteer battalion. This OUN militia claimed to have the complete collection of stolen paintings from the Westfries Museum in their possession. A photo showing one of the paintings accompanied by a current Ukrainian newspaper was presented as proof for this claim. …
After the embassy informed the Dutch police and justice department, they decided to offer the municipality of Hoorn the opportunity to contact the owners of the stolen art themselves. Because the municipality of Hoorn had no experience in such matters, they decided to bring in Mr. Arthur Brand who specializes in art crimes and tracking down stolen art.
Wrong value expectations
Brand noticed during the initial interactions that the present owners had a completely unrealistic idea of the value of the stolen paintings. They estimated the value at 50 million euros. Brand presented a research report to his Ukrainian contacts that showed that, based on recent auction proceeds of comparable works of the same painters, the entire collection should be estimated at a minimum of 250,000 euros and a maximum of 1.3 million euros, if in good condition. Because the latter did not appear to be the case, he estimated the current market value at no more than 500,000 euros. …
Further research by Brand shows that other highly placed individuals are operating behind the scenes of the volunteer battalion. The stolen art is used as a pawn in a non-transparent Ukrainian political arena riddled with internal power struggles, favouritism and corruption.
Sounding the alarm
The Westfries Museum has but one interest: to return the looted art to Hoorn as soon as possible before the collection is sold off in parts or deteriorates any further. …
According to the museum director Ad Geerdink: “We have done everything we can and have reached a dead end. Now that it seems that the art works are disappearing again, we want to sound the alarm to let potential buyers know that they are dealing with stolen art, to give a correct representation of the actual value of the art works, but also to send a signal that these art works only belong in Hoorn. They are invaluable to the story we are telling about the extremely riveting period of the Golden Age in West Friesland.”
[Hoorn] Mayor Yvonne van Mastrigt has expressed the hope that the Ukrainian government realizes that they have a responsibility in this matter and that they can play an important part in returning the stolen art to Hoorn.
Images of all the stolen works can be found in this message.
This Dutch NOS TV scheme shows the network of the Ukrainian culprits in the Westfries Museum art robbery; like Oleh Yaroslavovych Tyahnybok of the neo-nazi Svoboda party; Valentyn Oleksandrovych Nalyvaichenko, until recently the boss of the Ukrainian secret police; and Borys Humeniuk, commander of the OUN extreme right paramilitary gang. This OUN has the same name as an organisation collaborating with Hitler during the nazi occupation, led by Stepan Bandera.
This video in English from the Netherlands says about itself:
Ukraine: give back stolen art!
6 December 2015
Valuable paintings that were stolen from the Westfries Museum in The Netherlands in 2005, have turned up on the battlefield in Ukraine. The museum calls on anybody that knows where these paintings are, to return them to their rightful owners.
Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:
“Secret service of Ukraine involved in art theft in Westfries Museum”
Members of the Ukrainian secret service SBU have played a role in marketing the lost paintings of the West Frisian Museum in Hoorn. According to art theft expert Arthur Brand, who was investigating the stolen art and traveled to Ukraine, it is therefore very likely that the SBU is involved in the case. That said Brand at a news conference in the West Frisian Museum. …
Brand spoke in Ukraine with representatives of the [OUN] militia. They wanted to give back the art for 50 million euros, while the actual value of the collection is around one million. After several discussions, the militiamen disappeared. …
“Later I heard from well-informed sources that the leader of the Ukrainian right-wing party Svoboda was in charge behind the scenes,” Brand said at the press conference. “Also the name Valentyn Nalyvaichenko was mentioned regularly. He is the former leader of the Ukrainian secret service. I can not make everything public, but a connection between the stolen art and the secret service is therefore more than likely. Especially because the members of the service are involved in any case.”
It is according to Brand very difficult to recover the paintings yet.
Also from NOS TV today (translated):
According to the West Frisian Museum the art works that were stolen ten years ago are in the hands of a group of far-right, nationalist fighters. The leader of the militia, Borys Humeniuk, probably wants money for the paintings. According to the museum Humeniuk is the hub around which this affair revolves at this time.
Humeniuk leads one of many extreme right-wing groups fighting in the east of Ukraine against the pro-Russian rebels. His militia is part of OUN. That is a far-right and ultra-nationalist organization, describes NOS correspondent Geert Groot Koerkamp. Those militias frequently suffer from lack of funds. …
It is not known how Humeniuk has acquired the paintings. But he would have links with far-right party Svoboda, a small party in the Ukrainian parliament, writes [Dutch right-wing daily] De Telegraaf. And the leader of Svoboda Oleh Tyahnybok is said to have good contacts with the Ukrainian police and security forces. …
Dutch Minister Koenders of Foreign Affairs has raised the matter with the Ukrainian president Poroshenko. But Poroshenko is said to have already said that it would not be easy.
[United States Vice President] Joe Biden will likely express heavy criticism in Ukraine’s capital. The United States is losing its patience with regard to Ukraine’s judiciary reforms and its battle against corruption. Frank Hofmann reports from Kyiv: here.