A total of 302 pieces were stolen from the State Museum of Painting and Sculpture in Ankara. A number of paintings are still missing while some have been replaced by replicas.
Three out of 18 suspects have been arrested in the investigation into last year's theft of 302 pieces from the State Museum of Painting and Sculpture in Ankara.
According to information provided by an anonymous witness called “daylight,” Ukrainian experts were brought in by the criminal masterminds to make the fake replicas of the original artifacts in the museum.
Among those arrested are the alleged leader of the gang Ahmet Sarı, the security official of the museum Veli Topal, and antique dealer Mete Aktuna.
Speaking to daily Hürriyet, the anonymous witness Daylight said he had been dealing with antiques for 20 years and met with Sarı in Istanbul.
“Sarı told me about some people who organize forgery and robbery from the State Museum of Painting and Sculpture. He said these people had stolen works of Ottoman and Turkish painters from the museum, and replaced them with their fake replicas. Then they sold them to famous businessmen through known mediators and antique dealers known in their fields," he said.
“The female deputy director of the museum proposed Sarı to sell the original works in the museum’s depot. One included Hikmet Onat’s oil painting. Sarı sold it to an antique dealer in Nişantaşı for $210,000 and the antique dealer sold it to a famous businessman for $350,000. The painting is still in his collection. Another painting by Vecihi Bereketoğlu was also sold to an auctioneer and the auctioneer sold it to the son of a famous businessman,” he added.
The witness said he warned the General Director of Fine Arts of this robbery and warned the former Turkish Culture Minister Ertuğrul Günay.
“With the help of the minister, I explained what I knew during meetings at a police station in Istanbul between Nov. 1 and 5, 2012 ... But I receive threats from a person named Murat Sincar. I was told that I would die if I continue to talk about this issue,” said the witness.
The witness said the experts from Ukrainian Aivazovsky Painting Academy made the paintings’ fake replicas, which had earned the criminals $250 million so far.
Forgery revealed in 2010
A total of 302 pieces were stolen from the State Museum of Painting and Sculpture in Ankara, according to an inventory of approximately 5,000 works of art carried out by the Culture Ministry in 2010.
The report claimed 256 of the paintings were completely missing, while 46 had been replaced with replicas.
According to the police report, some of the paintings were found in secret warehouses of auction firms. Dozens of important pieces of art remain missing from the museum.