Stolen Art: FBI's Most Wanted

The FBI is banking on the Internet to track down its most wanted list of stolen art.

The FBI's year-old Art Crime Team released its top 10 list of the worst art crime thefts to track down paintings like Edvard Munch's "The Scream," Paul Cezanne's "View of Auvers-sur-Oise" and thousands of Iraqi artifacts.

"Disseminating information about these crimes through the website will bring them to the attention of the broadest possible public," said Criminal Investigative Division Assistant Director Chris Swecker. "We hope this encourages people with information to submit it to the tip line."

It seems the FBI was inspired by TV's "America's Most Wanted," except that instead of missing persons, investigators are looking for lost art work.

The 10 criminal cases represent losses as high as $600 million, in an industry with overall losses of up to $6 billion a year, according to the FBI.

It's a hefty price tag, although art experts around the world agree the stolen goods are priceless. "Theft of cultural property, no matter where in the world, impoverishes us all," said Swecker.

To recover these rare pieces -- and to prosecute thieves -- the FBI set up a dedicated team of eight agents to investigate and track down the precious loot. The agency has always investigated art thefts but the massive looting in Iraq prompted it to set up a special unit. ACT also maintains the National Stolen Art File, a computerized database of reported international stolen art and cultural artifacts.

No one can yet shout that they've found "The Scream," which has been stolen twice but the art crime unit has had some success.

It has recovered more than 100 items of art and cultural property. Recently, ACT helped out in a sting operation to recover two Renoirs and a Rembrandt stolen from Sweden's National Museum five years ago.

FBI agent Robert Wittman posed as a buyer in Copenhagen for the $36 million Rembrandt enabling Danish police to sweep in and arrest four people.

The high-profile thefts include:

7,000-10,000 looted and stolen Iraqi artifacts, 2003

12 paintings from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum theft, 1990

2 Renoirs and 1 Rembrandt stolen from Sweden's National Museum, 2000 (Recovered)

Munch's The Scream and The Madonna from the Munch Museum in Oslo, 2004

Benevenuto Cellini Salt Cellar from Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum, 2003

Caravaggio's Nativity with San Lorenzo and San Francesco from Palermo, 1969

Davidoff-Morini Stradivarius violin from a New York apartment, 1995

Two Van Gogh paintings from Amsterdam's Vincent Van Gogh Museum, 2002

Cezanne's View of Auvers-sur-Oise from Oxford's Ashmolean Museum, 1999

Da Vinci's Madonna of the Yarnwinder from Scotland's Drumlanrig Castle, 2003

For more information on stolen art pieces: Click Here.

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