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The Medici Conspiracy
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The Medici Conspiracy is a real-life thriller that travels the murky depths of the undercover network of art criminals, in tandem with the some of the world's most high-profile art institutions to reveal the illegal trade in looted artifacts. The story begins on 20 January 1994 with an armed robbery at Melfi Museum in the province of Potenza, deep in the south of Italy. In broad daylight one of the main attractions of the museum - the so-called Melfi vases - were stolen. Shortly after that, and quite by chance, two of the Italian Carabinieri's art squad were invited to Germany to take part in a raid on the Munich home of a certain Nino Savoca, and there standing next to the pool were the eight vases from Melfi. But even more valuable than the recovery of the vases was the discovery of an elaborate card index, revealing the existence of a network of tombaroli - tomb raiders - who stole classical artifacts, and a network of dealers and smugglers who spirited them out of Italy and into the hands of wealthy collectors or museums, happy to turn a blind eye to their illicit origins. The top man in the network was art dealer Robert Hecht who has supplied museums and collectors in France and the United States, and who is currently on trial in Italy, accused of handling and receiving stolen objects and taking part in a smuggling ring, along side former J. Paul Getty Museum curator Marion True. In addition the focus is on Giacomo Medici, convicted Roman antiquities trafficker, who the Carabinieri regard as the most important part of the clandestine network they have ever captured. With unprecedented access to confidential Carabinieri and court documents in Italy, Peter Watson details startling evidence from dealers and museums on three continents, from the auction houses of Sotheby's and Christie's in London and New York to art dealers and collectors in Japan, Germany and Paris. The result is a revealing page-turner, exposing those high-profile art institutions working with the world's most well-heeled but devious art criminals.
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