Friday 20 September 2019

'US mob boss Bulger handed $500m art heist to the IRA,' says investigator

Muscled in: Mob boss ‘Whitey’ Bulger was an IRA sympathiser. Photo: REUTERS/U.S. Marshals Service/U.S. Department of Justice
Muscled in: Mob boss ‘Whitey’ Bulger was an IRA sympathiser. Photo: REUTERS/U.S. Marshals Service/U.S. Department of Justice
Conor McCrave

Conor McCrave

Famous artwork stolen during the biggest art heist in history was given to the IRA by notorious mob boss James 'Whitey' Bulger, a private investigator has claimed.

The theft at the Gardner Museum in Boston in March 1990 saw masterpieces including 'The Concert' by Johannes Vermeer and Rembrandt's 'Christ in the Storm' disappear, along with other works of art worth a combined half-a-billion dollars.

It has gone down as the biggest art theft of all time, with Vermeer's painting alone valued at $200m (€176m).

However, the man behind some of the biggest stolen art recovery operations has said he believes the works could be hidden somewhere on this island.

Former Scotland Yard detective turned private investigator Charles Hill has developed a theory the valuable paintings reached Ireland after being given to the IRA by Bulger.

"On the new morning of 18 March 1990 even the dogs in the streets of South Boston must have known that Whitey was involved in some way, before, during or after the robbery," Mr Hill said in an interview with 'The Observer'.

"Whitey was an IRA sympathiser, he loved to associate himself with 'the cause', and was involved in arms deals and drug shipments to the Republic. After a shipment of weapons and ammunition was intercepted by the Irish Navy off the coast of Co Kerry in 1984, Whitey felt he owed one to his friends in the Republic. I believe he offered them the paintings.

"Even if Bulger did not order the robbery originally, he would have muscled in and taken control of the haul."

The private investigator was involved in the recovery of other famous works of art, including Edvard Munch's 'The Scream'. Closer to home, he led the recovery of artwork from Russborough House, Co Wicklow, in 1993, which had been stolen by Dublin criminal Martin 'The General' Cahill.

Bulger (89) was found dead last week in the cell where he was serving a life sentence for the murder of 11 people.

Irish Independent

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