Police accuse “disloyal employees” of stealing $ 30 million worth of art from Italian broadcaster Rai

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The Italian press has called it the “Sack of Rai”.

Investigators believe disgruntled former employees stole an estimated $ 30 million worth of art from the Italian public broadcaster Rai over a period of decades. The thefts date back to the 1970s but weren’t discovered until that year, according to the Guardian.

The loot includes around 120 works of art, including original paintings by the Italian painter Renato Guttuso and etchings by Claude Monet and Amedeo Modigliani. (Who will choose this story? It’s art heist film gold!)

The plan came to light in March when a painting hung in Rai’s offices –architecture by Italian artist Ottone Rosai – fallen off the wall. During the inspection, the authorities found that the work was actually not the original, but an almost perfect copy. (A similar painting fetched 28.75 million lira, or $ 18,551, at auction in 1994, according to Artnet’s price database.)

The discovery prompted the company to check its catalog for missing works, most of which were acquired in the 1960s and 1970s. It turned out that 120 pieces were missing.

Rai immediately reported the theft to the Italian Carabinieri Art Squad. A cadre representative did not immediately respond to Artnet News’ request for comment.

The Italian conductor Pippo Baudo in the Rai office in Viale Mazzini with the sculpture “Dying Horse” in the background. (Photo by Massimo Insabato / Archivio Massimo Insabato / Mondadori via Getty Images)

The Rome-based daily newspaper Il Messaggero reports that the works hung in the hallways of Rais buildings with no alarm or security systems – and it appears that a large number of former employees benefited from it.

Authorities have targeted a former employee for theft architecture; the person admitted selling the hot painting for around 25 million liras in the 1970s. He is not charged as the theft is outside the 10 year Italian statute of limitations for such claims.

Other works seem to have disappeared in the late 1990s after the station held an exhibition of its 1,500-piece art collection in Puglia in 1996. When made aware of the value of the objects, “disloyal” employees stole the works back into the company’s offices, police claim.

The works in the collection include Giorgio de Chiricos Vita nei Campi; Giovanni Stradones Il Colosseo, Francesco Menzios Porto di Genoa; an etching by Paysage de Verneuil from Monet; and an etching of Hampton Court by Alfred Sisley.

In 1966, Rai commissioned Francesco Messina to create a sculpture for the entrance to his office building in Rome entitled Cavallo Morenta (Dying Horse)which later became the station’s logo. Miniature replicas made of gold and bronze of the work are also missing.

The Italian broadcaster, which receives around $ 140 in annual royalties from every Italian household, was embroiled in another scandal last month when it was publicly criticized for broadcasting old shows with actors who wear blackface when they each other as celebrities like Beyoncé and the Tunisian Italian rapper Ghali.

The activist group CambieRAI (“cambie” means “change” in German) protested against the broadcasting of such racist representations by the station and called on the company to set up an advisory board for diversity and inclusion. Instead, Rai’s social director stated that the company would make a formal commitment to “inform all of our editors and ask them to stop using blackface.”

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