FBI calls top 10 art crimes worldwide

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has identified what it has called the top 10 art crimes worldwide. The FBI's list of stolen artworks includes paintings by Edvard Munch and Benevenuto Cellini, as well as thousands of items missing in Iraq.

The decision to set up an FBI Art Crimes Team in November 2004 was in part an acknowledgement of the obvious - that art crime is now big business. By one estimation, transactions of $1bn to $2bn take place annually.

Compiled to mark the eight-strong team's first year in existence, the list shows what it is most interested in tracking down. The FBI is not saying the items are necessarily in the US - although it is likely some of them are. They range from a Stradivarius violin stolen from an apartment in New York a decade ago to Cezanne's View of Auvers-sur-Oise, taken from the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford in 1999. The list also includes the world-famous Edvard Munch painting The Scream, stolen in Oslo last year. Although this list is dominated by paintings, the politics behind setting up the Art Crime Team had more to do with the theft of and international traffic in historical artefacts.

Thousands of items were looted in Iraq following the US-led invasion, and Washington has been under pressure to track down at least some of them.

Tightening the system of checking what the art world calls the "provenance" of items for sale in Europe and the US has helped a bit - but there are still many items missing. I.L.

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