INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION FORCULTURAL PROPERTY PROTECTION
Reposted from Bloomberg Law
This year, a new piece of art made history at a dizzying price—a $69.3 million piece by Beeple called Everydays: The First 5000 Days. But, the price alone wasn’t what was shocking. The sale made headlines because it is a purely digital work of art that can never be touched, held, or hung on a wall.
The sale not only shook up the art world, launching the beginning of a new era of the art trade, but also made waves in the financial sector, as banking institutions took note of an increasingly popular method to move funds—non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
NFTs are digital assets that act as non-replaceable rights to real-world assets. They operate on the blockchain and are nontransferable, meaning when someone purchases a piece of digital art (or any other asset), the original will belong to them and no one else, even if others have identical copies.
As assets, NFTs can be incredibly valuable. They also present a new set of challenges for identifying and preventing fraud and money laundering. The art trade historically has been susceptible to criminality due to issues of anonymity, high-valued transactions, and limited global regulations.
Now, as NFTs continue to grow, the sale of digital art presents even more challenges than traditional art sales, and is an enticing place for criminals to operate. The value of a piece of art is already highly flexible, rising and falling in value as artists rise and fall in importance and influence. Still, there’s an established set of rules and insights used to value such pieces—era, materials used, condition upon sale, rarity and proper documentation, to name a few.
Digital art, on the other hand, is both newer and even more subjective in its pricing as collectors and financiers struggle with a new set of questions surrounding how much an artwork can be worth if it can never be physically viewed or stored. This creates a perfect landscape for criminality, as dealers and sellers can determine the value of a piece of work with little historical context to compare prices.
It’s an excellent cover to launder money, adding even more secrecy to an already challenging market where locations, identities, and source of funds are often kept private.
As the art world works at speed to enter this new era of NFT transactions, financial institutions are facing a new set of issues. There are arguments over whether NFTs should be seen as a piece of art or security asset, which triggers extra regulations and legal complications.
For some time, government organizations have been increasing regulation of cryptocurrency, virtual asset service providers, and non-banking finance companies, but financial crime risks within the space are moving much more quickly than government regulations can be implemented. As NFTS are gaining traction with consumers, private institutions and government bodies are struggling to identify what NFTs even are and how to handle them. This in turn leaves potential opportunities open for criminals to quickly infiltrate the market.
While institutions may find themselves overwhelmed trying to navigate new methods for fraud and money laundering, the fundamentals remain the same. Institutions undoubtedly need to develop and uplift their on-boarding, monitoring, and surveillance systems to confront these risks, but the principles of the crimes remain the same—laundering money through the art trade.
To truly manage risk, including fraud and money laundering, financial institutions, particularly those offering wealth management and private banking to an international high net-worth client base, will need to gain a deeper understanding of the source of their clients’ wealth and funding, including the role of digital assets within their portfolios.
Similarly, NFT platforms will also likely see increasing focus on their legal know your customer/anti-money laundering obligations to help them understand their client base and report on the risks they present.
It’s therefore vital to use a holistic and contextual approach to understand this emerging risk type, and its inherent risks. Using entity resolution technology, financial institutions can consolidate data from across the institution and enrich it with external data, such as adverse media, watch lists, and corporate registry data, to help obtain a complete customer and counterparty view.
With network analytics, financial institutions can then build an understanding of the customer’s network to visualize behaviors and relationships that may elucidate money flows and suspicious connections.
In an industry that’s designed to be discrete, it’s up to financial institutions and those involved in the art trade to conduct their own internal risk management. Financial institutions must prioritize regulatory compliance and adherence to international law in their clients’ art transactions, whether they’re trading a surrealist painting or a tokenized gif.
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Reposted from Campus Safety Magazine
Complying with the Clery Act is a complicated and high-stakes task. Add an unprecedented global pandemic into the mix and many of those charged with compiling Annual Security Reports (ASRs) are more overwhelmed than ever.
Due to the pandemic and the plethora of challenges that have come with it, last year’s deadline for submitting ASRs was extended from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31. Additionally, on March 8, President Joe Biden ordered the U.S. Department of Education to review the Trump administration’s changes to Title IX that significantly revised how K-12 schools and institutions of higher education handle sexual assault complaints.
Since sexual assault is considered a Clery crime, a review of Title IX and subsequent changes that are likely to come based on previous comments by President Biden will also likely affect how ASRs are compiled, what constitutes a Clery crime and how they are investigated.
Although the process of changing Title IX regulations could take years since Trump’s modifications were instituted through a formal rulemaking process, it can’t hurt to test your Clery knowledge with this scenario quiz.
Each scenario in this quiz was pulled from the 2016 Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting. Take a look around the handbook and you’ll find dozens of other scenarios and how — or even if — they should be counted as Clery crimes in an ASR.
The handbook also includes in-depth definitions of all crimes that fall under the Cley Act. Here’s an abbreviated list of some of those definitions.
The Thomas Jefferson Foundation, operator of Monticello, located in Charlottesville, VA, seeks an accomplished leader for the position of Director, Safety and Security. This position reports to the Vice President of Guest Experiences and serves as the Foundation's expert on security, safety, emergency response, and disaster preparedness. The Director of Safety and Security has executive oversight and leads the Foundation's Safety and Security program that ensures the safety of staff and guests as well as the protection of TJF property and collections. The Director of Safety and Security is the Foundation's primary point of contact with all local, state and federal security, law enforcement and emergency response organizations. Monticello routinely hosts high level dignitaries and special guests. Specific responsibilities include directing and coordinating the administration and operation of a 24/7 safety and security department; establishing policies and procedures; designing and implementing training programs; creating and managing department budget; advising the safety committee; and working with all departments to ensure a safe environment. A working knowledge of OSHA requirements as well as a sophisticated understanding of automated security, video surveillance, and fire systems is essential. Successful applicants will display diplomacy and possess high-level collaboration and negotiation skills. Candidates must have excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to work in a unique nonprofit culture. They must also demonstrate a high level of computer literacy.
Qualifications: Bachelors' degree (or professional development equivalent) in a relevant field and at least 10 years progressive experience, including supervisory experience in a fast-paced safety and security or emergency services environment with external and internal customers. Candidates must possess a National Security Professional Certification (or ability to obtain within 6 months of being hired) such as CIPM, CPP, CFE, PSP or similar. Additional qualifications include excellent report writing and investigation skills; excellent written and verbal communication skills; superior customer service skills; ability to maintain calm demeanor and perform duties under stressful conditions; ability to walk, stand, sit and work outdoors for significant periods of time; ability to work any shift, weekends, and holidays. Candidates must successfully pass an extensive background screening which will include criminal record checks and pre-employment drug screening. DCJS (armed) certification is preferred, direct experience in supervising an armed guard force, and a valid driver's license is required. This is a full-time position that includes our complete benefit package. Applicants for this position should not complete our online application, but instead submit salary requirements along with their other application materials, including a cover letter to: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Position is open until filled.
Reposted from AAM
As we work to increase diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility among museum audiences and in the workplace, we need to attend to the needs of neurodiverse visitors and employees. In this post from 2019, Claire Madge, founder of the UK-based Autism in Museums, gives an overview of what museums can do, should do, and are doing, to support visitors and staff on the autism spectrum.
–Elizabeth Merritt, VP Strategic Foresight and Founding Director, Center for the Future of Museums.
In 2012 I had just quit my job as a librarian to support my 7-year-old daughter after her autistic spectrum disorder diagnosis. We visited an event called Early Birds at the Science Museum. The museum opened up early at 8:00 a.m.; they kept the numbers low and provided visual support for visitors. Staff were trained in autism awareness and they had thought about the museum environment. For example, they turned off loud interactives and the hand dryers in the restrooms.
This was the first time we had visited the museum as a family; I have three children and two are on the autism spectrum. We had a fantastic day out, something many families take for granted. I wrote a blog post about that day which has now been read over 5,000 times. The response to that post made me realize how many families need events like Early Birds and how many museum professionals need support and advice to put on programs that support autistic visitors.
To help meet that need, I founded Autism in Museums, supporting, encouraging and working with museums to welcome autistic visitors to their spaces.
Autism is a spectrum condition and the barriers that visitors face to accessing museums can vary and be difficult to predict. Crowded busy environments can be a challenge, as can overly bright or dark galleries, loud interactives, or audio that is triggered without warning. Wayfinding in museums can be a daunting prospect for autistic visitors, and the unwritten museum rules about what you can and can’t touch can be difficult to interpret for visitors who have a very literal interpretation of language.
Being accessible is about much more than the physical environment. Around 70% of autistic children are in mainstream school and 44-52% of autistic people have learning difficulties. Thinking about displays and interpretation is as important as designing accessible lifts and ramps.
There are huge benefits to museums in welcoming autistic visitors who often prove to be incredibly loyal, regularly returning as routine is often very important to them. Many autistic people have an intense focus on a particular topic or special interest, which means they are a real asset as volunteers and staff members. This focus was recently picked up in an article where a 10-year-old boy spotted an error in signage at the Natural History Museum.
In the UK, several museums are taking a targeted approach to supporting autistic visitors. Some of the larger museums run early opening events which allow them to restrict the numbers of visitors. The Science Museum has been running a successful Early Birds program for many years and the Natural History Museum Dawnosaurs consistently books out its early opening events.
Many museums, including the National Army Museum and Horniman Museum, are trialing this approach for the first time and invested funding in training staff and providing sensory backpacks to support visitors. Some museums have promoted their quieter visiting times. National Museums Liverpool run events in regular hours across a number of their museums during Sunday mornings when visitor numbers are generally lower.
There is much museums can do even without early opening including. For example, providing materials that allow autistic visitors to prepare in advance for a visit, which helps to remove anxiety over visiting new places. The Museum of English Rural Life has worked in collaboration with local autism groups to provide a visual story and sensory map of their galleries. On their website they also have a Google Streetview tour. (You can find out more about how that was put together here.)
Focusing on your website is a great first place to start, as many visitors with additional needs will research thoroughly before a visit. The Euan’s Guide Access Survey 2017 found that 95% of respondents sought disabled access information about a venue prior to visiting for the first time, and 85% stated that they checked the venue’s website to achieve this. The State of Museum Access Report 2018 produced by VocalEyes with contributions from Autism in Museums looked in detail at the access information provided for a number of different groups and gives advice and tips of the types of information to consider.
Although museums are making great advances in serving autistic visitors, there are still gaps in provision, particularly for young adults and adults on the autism spectrum. The Science Museum recently ran a Night Owls sensory late night for visitors aged 16+, but there is very little out there for the older age range. Autism doesn’t just affect children, and often on leaving school there is little support for transition into work and further education for autistic young people and adults.
Museums that undertake autism training find it not only creates an inclusive environment that benefits visitors, but it also improves the working environment for volunteers and staff. Figures from the National Autistic Society on autistic people in the workplace are depressing: only 16% of autistic adults work full-time compared to 47% of disabled people. This is despite the fact that 77% want to work.
National Museums Liverpool, who were recently voted the number one most accessible visitor attraction in the UK by Revitalise, have been working with supported internships providing access to meaningful paid work placements across their departments for young people aged 16-24 with additional needs.
These initiatives benefit everyone in the workplace by improving working practices for all staff. That is the salient point about all these initiatives: they benefit everyone, staff and visitors alike. Improving the information presented on your website and creating visual stories can support those with learning difficulties and dementia. Training and awareness for staff often impact life outside the work environment and benefit society as a whole.
To find out more about Autism in Museums please visit our website where you can find some resources, blogs and events calendar. You can follow our work on Twitter @AutisminMuseums and on Instagram @AutisminMuseums
If you would like to get in touch, need advice or want to share your autism initiatives via the blog you can email me Claire Madge – email@example.com
Reposted from Public Libraries Online
In 2020 the Public Library Association (PLA) and the American Library Association (ALA) conducted two surveys about the impact of COVID-19 on libraries. Following on from that, PLA’s “Survey of the Public Library Field” in February 2021 asked library staff about the impact of the pandemic on them as individuals. The survey received 2,967 responses. This post – and two to follow – presents the results of these survey questions and suggestions for how library leaders can make improvements to better support staff now and in future.
Library staff have faced a range of challenges in their work during the pandemic. As circumstances have changed and library buildings have closed and re-opened, 22 percent of survey respondents reported having reduced work hours, while the same percentage reported increased work hours; the two are not mutually exclusive. However, the numbers mask underlying differences based on roles within the library. Administrators were more likely to report increased work hours, while non-administrators were more likely to report reductions to their hours.
Overall, 9 percent of respondents reported having been furloughed and 4 percent laid off. Eleven percent have taken family or sick leave. Eight percent have changed jobs, such as moving to another municipal department, and 35 percent have had their roles change within the library.
By far the most common experience respondents chose was burnout (57 percent). Exhaustion, depersonalization or negative attitudes to work, and reduced effectiveness at work all characterize burnout, which results from “chronic workplace stress.” According to a report from Gallup, the factors most likely to correlate with burnout are unfair treatment, an unmanageable workload, unclear communication, lack of manager support, and unreasonable time pressures. In North American public libraries specifically, LIS researcher Kaetrena Davis Kendrick has found that common stressors include overwork, budget or financial challenges, problems with coworkers or management, and job precarity, among others. These contribute to burnout and to low morale more broadly.
The pandemic has exacerbated many of the factors that can lead to burnout. Health and safety concerns add stress, while social distancing has taken away some of the fun and the support systems. Increased workloads or cuts in hours and pay have added both mental and financial pressures. Those in leadership positions reported added stress from bearing the responsibility of staff and patron well-being, while dealing with the unknowns and uncertainties of the past year. One respondent wrote, “It’s been an incredibly challenging year and I am weary of making hard decisions.”
Libraries – like other workplaces – can implement policies and practices to mitigate the causes of burnout. A few common suggestions emerge from the research: listen to employees, value their opinions, and make changes based on their input; ensure workloads are reasonable; give staff flexibility and control over their work; recognize good work; and support employees to do meaningful work. While it is important for individuals to engage in self-care for their own well-being, that alone is insufficient. Improving policies can help all staff, including leadership, to thrive.
Another survey question asked how well current library policies support staff in six key areas: health and safety protocols for COVID-19; limited public access to the library for staff and patron safety; remote work; staggered shifts or increased distancing at staff work spaces; staff access to family or sick leave; and caregiver accommodations. Respondents could select inadequate support, acceptable support, or exceptional support.
The majority of respondents (eighty-seven percent) said their library’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols are either adequate or exceptional, while eleven percent said their library’s protocols are inadequate. Worst rated was remote work, with nineteen percent of respondents saying support is inadequate.
Libraries depend on people. For all staff to be the best they can be, they need support. What characterizes “inadequate” or “exceptional” support? And how can library leaders move to ensure that staff are exceptionally well supported?
The remainder of this article focuses on COVID-19-related protocols. Part 2 will focus on remote work, and part 3 will focus on access to family and sick leave and accommodations for parents and caregivers.
When it comes to health and safety, the best policies are the ones put into practice. Libraries need to not only establish policies that follow public health guidance to keep staff and patrons safe (as most have done), but they need to have mechanisms to communicate and enforce of those policies. Sometimes the library has the authority to set and enforce policies; in other instances, they are subject to mandates at the city, county, or state level, which themselves may not align with the best public health guidance.
This principle applies to interactions with the public as well as minimizing contact between staff working in the library. Many survey respondents reported limiting the number of staff in the building at a time, installing plexiglass shields between workstations, and ensuring masking and social distancing. The most creative solution reflected in the survey comments involved putting all staff into two or three small groups or cohorts. Each cohort works in the building for a few days at a time, and they do so in rotations, never coming into contact with other staff from outside their group. In the event of a COVID case, this would minimize the number of staff exposed.
From the survey comments, it is clear that staff feel scared and frustrated when policies and practices (or lack thereof) may needlessly expose them to the virus. The reverse is also true: respondents who said their libraries provide exceptional support felt all staff had a trusted role in decision-making and the resulting practices help both library staff and the community stay safe. While acknowledging the many challenges, respondents used words like “supportive,” “caring,” “flexible,” “accommodating,” and “proactive” to describe exceptional policies and practices in response to the pandemic.
Those terms should also apply to plans to resume regular services. With vaccinations increasing, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully soon libraries once again can welcome everyone, all the time, to browse, gather, and learn. It will take time to adjust. When it comes to supporting library workers – and thereby supporting libraries and each other – let’s ensure that we learn from the experiences of the past year and carry those lessons forward.
Reposted from Vanity Fair
“Impossible,” said David Ward. The London Metropolitan Police constable looked up. Some 50 feet above him, he saw that someone had carved a gaping hole through a skylight. Standing in the Frontier Forwarding warehouse in Feltham, West London, he could hear the howl of jets from neighboring Heathrow Airport as they roared overhead.
At Ward’s feet lay three open trunks, heavy-duty steel cases. They were empty. A few books lay strewn about. Those trunks had previously been full of books. Not just any books. The missing ones, 240 in all, included early versions of some of the most significant printed works of European history.
Gone was Albert Einstein’s own 1621 copy of astronomer Johannes Kepler’s The Cosmic Mystery, in which he lays out his theory of planetary motion. Also missing was an important 1777 edition of Isaac Newton’s Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, his book describing gravity and the laws of physics. Among other rarities stolen: a 1497 update of the first book written about women, Concerning Famous Women; a 1569 version of Dante’s Divine Comedy; and a sheath with 80 celebrated prints by Goya. The most valuable book in the haul was a 1566 Latin edition of On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, by Copernicus, in which he posits his world-changing theory that Earth and the other planets revolve around the sun. That copy alone had a price tag of $293,000. All together, the missing books—stolen on the night of January 29, 2017, into early the next day—were valued at more than $3.4 million. Given their unique historical significance and the fact that many contained handwritten notes by past owners, most were irreplaceable.
Scotland Yard’s Ward was stunned. He couldn’t recall a burglary like this anywhere. The thieves, as if undertaking a special-ops raid, had climbed up the sheer face of the building. From there, they scaled its pitched metal roof on a cold, wet night, cut open a fiberglass skylight, and descended inside—without tripping alarms or getting picked up by cameras. “Dangerous work,” he says. “This is not something ordinary burglars try to accomplish.”
Then there was the loot. In a warehouse laden with valuables coming in and out of Heathrow for customs clearance, the thieves had taken their time in the darkness, more than five hours, to select from among hundreds of books—choosing the most precious ones. They made off with nothing else from the vast freight building except for some nearby tote bags—heavy satchels that they snatched from another shipping container. Ward tells me on a call from London, “You must have a lot of patience, strength, and ingenuity not to trigger the sensors and to get the books back through that hole in the roof.”
The items belonged to three respected rare book dealers, two in Italy and one in Germany. They had shipped their wares through Heathrow, bound for an antiquarian fair in California. Informed of the heist that day, Alessandro Bisello Bado, a dealer in Padua whose shipment had been pilfered, nearly fainted. He boarded the next flight to London. Walking inside the warehouse, he saw that nearly everything in the trunk was gone, more than $1.2 million worth. Michael Kühn, a Berlin-based dealer, couldn’t believe it at first. “I had never heard of so many books being stolen at once,” he says. Why these books? he wonders. “Insurance fraud? Somebody who wanted to harm one of us? A book lover who wanted to have one item and threw away the rest of the books to cover his intentions?” All he knew was that his losses might bankrupt him.
As Ward looked for answers, the thieves weren’t waiting. Over the next few days, they moved their bulky cache around the city. On February 5, a van pulled up at a London house. Soon the vehicle and the trove were on their way out of the country. Some of the burglars also left, by air. But new operatives flew in to replace them. That very night, the reconstituted team embarked on another brazen high-wire raid on a warehouse. Many more would follow—a dozen, in fact, mainly around London.
Scotland Yard raced to follow leads—and wondered where the burglars would strike next. The U.K. press, meanwhile, remained focused on the Frontier Forwarding break-in, dubbing it the “Mission: Impossible theft”—a tip of the hat to its similarities with the movie’s iconic scene in which Tom Cruise, as Ethan Hunt, suspended by a cable, breaks into a CIA vault.
Ward could see these weren’t random warehouse robberies. But why…books? Someone must have tipped them off. “They knew what they wanted,” he says. “There were plenty of other valuables nearby. They targeted the books deliberately.”
The Met Police assigned organized crime specialist Andy Durham to oversee the case while Ward and other detectives did what Durham calls the “grunt work.” But they had little to go on. They even checked to see if a circus had come to town, so acrobatic was the feat.
There are any number of reasons for someone to steal rare books. They are alluring and beautiful, with an aura that connects the present to the past. Connoisseurs will pay unfathomable sums for an iconic book. Last October, rare book collector and dealer Stephan Loewentheil spent just under $10 million for a first printing of Shakespeare’s plays, referred to as the First Folio. That was a bargain. In 2013, David Rubenstein, the billionaire cofounder of the private equity firm The Carlyle Group, paid the highest price ever for a printed volume, $14.2 million, for The Bay Psalm Book, one of 11 extant copies of America’s first known book.
Rare book thefts occur all the time. “We in the business hear nearly weekly that something has gone missing,” Kühn says. Some sticky-fingered collectors covet them simply to add luster to their shelves. Ed Maggs, fifth-generation co-owner of what is reputedly Queen Elizabeth’s favorite bookstore, London’s venerable Maggs Bros., tells me, “The problem of the connoisseur book thief is a real one.”
The most famous large-scale thefts almost always take place over the span of years. In 2012, more than 1,500 volumes—including centuries-old editions of Aristotle, Descartes, Galileo, and Machiavelli, worth many millions—were found to have been looted from the Baroque-era Girolamini Library in Naples by the library’s director. He and a large network of accomplices went to jail for stealing and auctioning off his pilfered books. Similarly, the rare book archivist at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh swiped 300-odd books valued at around $8 million—but it took him 25 years. He was convicted in January 2020.
But Kühn says of the pre-dawn warehouse heist, “Such a large number of books had never been stolen at one time before this. It was really unbelievable.”
For a while, the spectacular theft made global headlines. Then came an unexpected break from 1,500 miles away.
Alina Albu, Romania’s chief prosecutor for organized crime, was working one morning about three weeks after the break-in when the phone rang at her office in Bucharest. On the line was someone unknown to her. The caller, whose identity she won’t reveal, told her about a load of rare books that had been stolen from a London warehouse ending up in Romania.
“I thought he was joking,” she tells me. As they spoke, she did an online search; numerous articles popped up about the theft, which had somehow escaped her attention. She began to take the caller’s tip seriously when he spoke of three men he claimed were behind the raid. He used their nicknames. Two were new to her, “Tizu” and “Blondie.” The other, she says, “turned a flashlight on for me.” She hadn’t heard anything about “Cristi Huidumă”—Cristi the Bruiser—in 15 years but recalled his associations with a notorious organized crime case she’d worked. After investigating further, that afternoon she telephoned Tiberius Manea, head of organized crime investigations for the national police. He’d already gone home for the day. “Tiberius,” she said, “come back. We have a new case, a very big one.”
Manea immediately started to assemble a team that would work with Albu for the next three years. With a passion not unlike a collector in pursuit of a rare find, Albu tells me when we first meet via Zoom, “my goal was to recover the books. I became obsessed.”
Manea reached out to Ward at Scotland Yard. He had already begun to make some fitful progress in pulling the pieces together. Ward watched some 70 hours of video from the roadways around Feltham. He finally saw footage showing a blue Renault hatchback park at 9 p.m. on January 29 on the road outside the warehouse complex. Ward says, “Nobody would think they were up to no good.” Two men exited the car and cut holes in the perimeter fence. A third drove off; the two others entered the grounds, making their way along freight roadways to the Frontier Forwarding building. Ward speculates they climbed a drainpipe, but even now the police can’t be sure how the duo reached the roof. They cut through the skylight and, most likely using ropes or a folding ladder, made their way down.
Once inside, the two men went straight for their quarry. They sorted through the books and picked the ones they wanted. They found a shipment of heavy-duty carrying bags, which were on their way to oil field workers in Africa. They packed 16 full of books. Five hours and 15 minutes later, “they came out the way they came in,” says Ward. The Renault sped away at 2:50 a.m. “An impressive day’s work,” Durham acknowledges.
Using license plate recognition cameras along the nearby roads, Ward was able to identify the vehicle. A few days later, the car turned up, abandoned in South London. Although its papers were falsified, they listed the owner as a Romanian national living in England, but, says Ward, “Our analysts didn’t have him in our databases.” He was happily surprised when Manea called.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, organized and often violent criminal gangs from the former communist bloc, including Romania, have branched out across Europe, developing large, profitable illicit enterprises—operating protection rackets and prostitution, drug, and burglary rings. Vast amounts of illegally gained money flowing back into Romania have also been a destabilizing force at home, thwarting government officials’ attempts to rein in the gangsters. Knowing they had their work cut out for them, detectives from Scotland Yard started to analyze the warehouse case with their Romanian counterparts. Ward and Durham first met with Manea and his associates at Europol’s headquarters in The Hague in late March 2017. They opened a probe that eventually encompassed police forces in four countries. The joint investigative team members would meet five more times in the Netherlands, Italy, the U.K., and Romania. Acting on the source’s tip, Manea’s crew began undercover surveillance of Cristi Huidumă, whose real name is Gavril Popinciuc (pop-in-chee-uk).
When Albu, Manea, and I spoke via Zoom, Albu, aged 47, sat side by side at her desk with Manea, 42. Both wore black COVID masks. The wall behind them was bare except for a whiteboard with multiple notes. Neither looked particularly hardened, but Albu and Manea have clashed many times with dangerous mobsters. Both speak fluent if broken English. Albu first heard of Popinciuc while tangling with his fearsome “godfather,” Ioan Clămparu. The crime boss was for several years Interpol’s most wanted fugitive, with a bounty of $4.6 million on his head. “He was a criminal star in Romania,” says Albu.
Clămparu goes by a variety of nicknames, among them, “Pig Head” (probably derived from his thick neck, broad face, and 250-pound girth) and, without irony, “Godfather.” (He had many other godsons beside Popinciuc, according to Albu.) Both Clămparu and Popinciuc come from northeastern Romania, a remote area dotted with ancient towns and small farms bordering the Republic of Moldova. It is among the poorest parts of Europe, and one of its sources of income derives from criminal activities abroad.
As a drunken teen, Clămparu punched and stomped a man to death for no apparent reason, for which he served 10 years in prison. After his release in 1999, he organized one of the largest human trafficking and prostitution networks ever assembled in Europe. Clămparu and his lieutenants lured poor girls, some as young as 15, from Romania and Moldova with the promise of jobs in Spain. Once in Madrid, they were forced to prostitute themselves in the alleys of the city’s sprawling Casa de Campo park. Albu contends that Clămparu’s pimps took 150 to 200 entrapped women on nightly rounds to the park to sell sexual services. On occasion, she says, Clămparu and his pimps tortured those who resisted. “It was really violent,” she adds. Clămparu personally pocketed tens of millions of euros.
In 2004, Romanian and Spanish police finally cracked “the Clămparu,” as his mob was known, thanks to a few women who escaped their handlers and alerted the police. After the authorities moved in, Clămparu went underground even as Albu indicted him, winning his conviction, in absentia, for human trafficking. The Clămparu sent her numerous death threats, forcing her to retain bodyguards. “I was very young,” she says. “I didn’t scare so easily.” Manea shrugs, “Such scares come with the territory.” In 2011, Spanish authorities tracked down Clămparu. Now 52, he’s serving a 30-year sentence in a Romanian prison. Albu wondered whether Popinciuc hadn’t revived the Clămparu.
In fact, Popinciuc, who is only five years younger than his godfather, had purportedly formed his own mob and, to stay ahead of the police, studied the failings of the Clămparu. Popinciuc comes from the small northeastern city of Suceava, where a handsomely preserved medieval castle draws tourists. Pudgy, with the bemused look of a weary office clerk, he kept his criminal enterprises mobile to avoid capture. By 2009, he was a leader in a multinational counterfeit cigarette ring. The group moved its factories, warehouses, and tobacco stocks frequently, even among countries, but Romanian authorities smashed the operation. In 2015, Popinciuc received a suspended sentence for tax evasion. Wealthy from lucrative cigarette sales, Popinciuc, according to Albu, built several legitimate businesses. They include a large hotel, restaurant, and event hall complex in Suceava, though they reportedly now belong to his ex-wife. Albu says that Popinciuc is the one who put up the money that financed the warehouse raiders’ operations in England and built the crew that pulled off the heists.
In Albu’s view, Popinciuc teamed up with another Romanian, Cristian Ungureanu, 41, who acted as operations chief. The two men and their lieutenants masterminded a gang that sent small skilled teams to hit targets exclusively outside Romania, figuring that foreign detectives would never trace them back. To act as local operatives, Popinciuc brought on his younger brother Marian Albu (no relation to Alina Albu) and other Romanians living in England. Also joining in: Ungureanu’s younger brother, Ilie, living in Germany. “There were leaders and foot soldiers,” Manea explains. “Popinciuc was almost never in the field.” Most of the gang, says Albu, led “double lives,” living with their families, even maintaining accounts on social media, punctuated by quick “business trips” to carry out crimes outside Romania.
Albu and Manea soon understood how Popinciuc and Ungureanu ran the crime syndicate, but they didn’t know who the foot soldiers were. Then they got another lucky break. On March 28, 2017, regional Romanian police stopped a van driving through the northeastern part of the country. The driver, Narcis Popescu, had new laptops and smartphones with him. He claimed to have bought them in England. Asked to show a proof of purchase, Popescu needed to have an invoice sent to his phone from a retailer in the U.K. Popescu produced a receipt. But the police had already traced the items’ serial numbers back to a theft from an English warehouse just two weeks earlier.
This random roadway arrest helped shape the hunt for the gang members. Meanwhile, other evidence bubbled up. Ward and his analysts took DNA from a piece of metal, possibly a ladder rung, left in the Frontier Forwarding warehouse. Manea’s police used it to identify Daniel David. According to Albu, he turned out to be the one that her source called Tizu. Genetic findings from the abandoned Renault matched up with Popescu. The identity of the second of the two Frontier Forwarding raiders—Victor Opăriuc, a.k.a. Blondie—emerged from tracing the others’ movements. According to Albu, Opăriuc, 29, and David, 37, were particularly agile, strong, and adept at climbing in and out of warehouses.
Using cell phone tracking and airline flight data, Scotland Yard retraced the trio’s movements. On January 27, Opăriuc and David had flown from Iasi, Romania, to London’s Luton Airport. They drove in Popescu’s Renault to South London, where they remained until the evening of the 29th, the night of the break-in.
Cell records show that once inside the building, Opăriuc placed several calls to Cristian Ungureanu, who had flown to London the previous day. He, in turn, relayed information to Popinciuc and then called Marian Mamaliga, another gang member who was in Romania. Mamaliga then left in a van for England. On February 1, two days after the books were stolen, Ilie Ungureanu flew in from Germany, then four days after that, with Mamaliga, he drove the book-laden van through the Eurotunnel. A week after the robbery, the books had disappeared somewhere in Romania, but not before a fresh set of thieves had struck yet another warehouse, this time making off with around $37,000 in cash.
According to Albu, within a year she and Manea knew the identities of virtually all the members of the gang. But she says the police were hesitant to arrest them without definitive evidence. “It’s not what you know,” Manea says, “it’s what you can prove.” They were also worried that if they moved in too soon, the books might never turn up. Albu tells me that she feared that if the men expected their imminent arrest, “they might burn the books.”
As the months progressed, revolving teams shuttled through England, committing 12 sophisticated and precariously acrobatic warehouse burglaries. Typically, the raiders came through the roof, but for some thefts, they cut open neighboring buildings, leaving gaping holes in walls and ceilings to avoid alarmed doors, security guards, and camera detection. “They never attacked a building straight on,” Durham says.
Each heist, according to Albu, Manea, Durham, Ward, and court transcripts, went off like clockwork. Cristian Ungureanu was on hand to coordinate ops. Popinciuc monitored from afar. Popescu served as the gang’s travel agent, booking plane tickets and leasing housing for the revolving cast of accomplices. A van arrived, the loot was loaded, and the entire enterprise vanished. “Everybody had his part, each his role,” Durham tells me. For two and a half years, they got away with their disciplined, complex burglaries, like a Bucharest-based Ocean’s Eleven.
They stole books. They stole cash. They stole jewelry, laptops, tablets, smartphones, and clothes. Some got fenced in the U.K., some went to Romania and were sold, and other items were sold online. In total, the thieves raked in nearly $5 million worth of goods. They also left behind a trail of destruction, damaging warehouse structures and leaving businesses in disarray.
Finally, on June 25, 2019, almost two and a half years after the rare books were stolen, came what investigators dubbed Z-Day. Gathering at a high-tech command center inside Europol Headquarters were representatives from the joint investigative team as well as officials from Europol and Europe’s judicial coordinating body, Eurojust. Before dawn, more than 150 police and judicial officials fanned out simultaneously to search 45 houses and other sites in England, Italy, Germany, and Romania. By the end of the next day, Popinciuc, Opăriuc, David, Mamaliga, and Popescu, along with three other gang members, were led off in handcuffs in Romania; Ilie Ungureanu was arrested in Germany; Marian Albu and two other alleged associates were taken in England. Cristian Ungureanu went underground. He was finally arrested in Turin, Italy, in January 2020. The men were brought to England for trial. All pleaded innocent.
But the books still hadn’t been found.
The trial began on February 20, 2020, at the Kingston Crown Court, a short drive from the warehouse that brought the men such notoriety. Albu, Manea, and their team came to London. Ward and Manea were slated to be called to give evidence. None of the defendants was willing—or obligated—to testify.
In her opening presentation to the court, prosecutor Catherine Farrelly accused the defendants of stealing the rare books for profit. In a voice dripping with sarcasm, she asked about the Romanian defendants’ motives: “Were they going to pop back to the U.K., hungry for a spot of learning and have a dip into Sir Isaac Newton’s 17th-century work Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophyor spend some time appreciating the Spanish painter Francisco Goya’s genius by flicking through some of his 19th-century etchings?”
Then suddenly, the proceedings crashed to a halt—due to the pandemic. With space needed for 13 defendants and about 25 attorneys, as well as interpreters, witnesses, prosecutors, judge, jury, guards, court staff, and press, a courtroom the size of an arena would have been necessary for the trial to continue safely. The men were sent to prison to await the time when they could return to court. There they languished. Attiq Malik, a prominent and pricey criminal defense solicitor—well known in the U.K. for his appearances on the hit British series 24 Hours in Police Custody—represents Popinciuc. “Even if we won the case,” he tells me, “they would have been in prison for another year.” All the men except one decided to plead guilty rather than sit in jail indefinitely.
This fall, the men returned to court via remote hookups from prison to receive their sentences. Judge Jonathan Davies said, “Each [of you] joined and played a part in a criminal enterprise carried out with skill and determination…. [You] took risks with [your] eyes open.” He added that this “was a carefully planned operation, often carried out with Mission: Impossible skill.” With a reduction for pandemic conditions, he then meted out the lightest sentences to the “foot soldiers”: three years and seven months for David and Opăriuc, four years for Mamaliga. The stiffest terms went to the “brains” behind the heists. Cristian Ungureanu received five years and one month; Popinciuc, the financial “muscle” and boss, got five years and eight months. All the men face confiscation of assets as well. Throughout the ordeal, the gang has stayed mum about how and why they chose their targets.
The police remain uncertain about whether an insider had helped them on the Frontier Forwarding job. “The books,” Ward says, “were only supposed to be in the warehouse for less than 24 hours. That’s too much of a coincidence that they attacked this warehouse.” Adds Albu, “We think they had intelligence about the value of goods. They expected to find jewelry or something else of great value, but they found the books instead”—simply stumbling upon a cultural treasure chest. She believes “it was a surprise for them.”
One of the defendants held out, determined to go to court and prove his innocence. His trial is set to resume this month and could reveal details about the gang’s operations that have yet to come to light. Albu speculates that someone, perhaps a shipping industry insider, may have hacked freight insurance databases that clued the burglary teams in to the presence of lucrative targets.
Still, the question remains: Why books? Booksellers can be a pessimistic lot, often expressing a view that the last word on their business may soon be written. “As a rare book dealer myself,” laments Rebecca Romney, whom TV viewers know from the History channel program Pawn Stars, “I’m aware of the unfortunate truth that rare books, while of immense cultural value, are much more difficult to sell than laptops.” Ed Maggs, the London bookseller, agrees. “This,” he tells me, “was the smartest and the dumbest robbery ever. Smart because of all the Mission: Impossible business with ropes, and dumb because there are few objects of value that are less fungible than rare books.”
Cops seem to have a rosier outlook on prospects for the illicit rare book trade. “There is,” says Ward, “always a market for items of curiosity.” (Indeed, in recent months there has been a rash of thefts from London rare book dealers.) Durham speculates that the Heathrow-area heist might have been “ordered by the top of this organized crime group,” because he or someone he knew wanted the rare treasures. Or the books might have been intended to serve as collateral or as a sort of criminal insurance policy. Some syndicates, Durham says, “want to have possession of culturally important valuables to offer up to assist in getting a lesser sentence” should they get caught for other crimes.
And what about the stolen books? Just as happens in the best books, our story has a happy ending.
Once the roles of the Ungureanu brothers came to light, Albu and Manea suspected, and Scotland Yard confirmed, that they were the ones who might have stashed the lot. On September 16, 2020, with the defendants’ sentencing just days away, Manea led his team on a search of a large new house the brothers had constructed next to their parents’ home in the northeastern Romanian countryside. The other officers watched while a jackhammer broke apart a six-inch slab laid over the garage floor. Manea shoveled away the debris and lifted a board. “It was very tense,” he recalls. “I was really worried about damaging the books. We had worked so long and hard to arrive at that moment.”
And there they were. He climbed into a bunker dug about six feet underground to lift out the books. Most were packed into recycling bins; others had been left in the bags. The following day the booksellers flew to Bucharest to recover their belongings, which were moved to the National Library. Most of the books remained in sterling condition. Some had suffered moisture damage or had broken spines or stains, though nearly all were reparable. Only four books were still missing, one worth $34,000, though none was among the most valuable.
Bisello Bado, arriving from Padua, walked into the National Library where each of his books was laid out on shelves in a climate-controlled room. “I had given up hope,” he says. “When I saw them, I felt like the youngest book dealer in the world. They were fantastic books.”
That evening, the book dealers, the entire Romanian investigative squad, and the English team members on hand celebrated over dinner at a Bucharest restaurant. “Tonight,” an elated Bisello Bado told the gathering, “we drink like lions!”
Seeing the dealers’ joy at regaining their treasured books “was our reward,” says Manea. Even through her mask, I can see Albu smile when she recalls, “I never stopped believing we would bring them back their books. Never.”
Reposted from Artnet News
A fifth of museum staff and students surveyed by the American Alliance of Museums don’t expect to be working in the sector three years from now. The striking figure is part of a broader report released by the organization this week about the state of the field—and it makes clear that museums and their workers will continue to cope with the effects of the global health crisis for some time to come.
Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed cited burnout and 59 percent cited compensation as reasons for shifting career paths.
Meanwhile, almost a quarter of museum employees surveyed found themselves out of work at some point over the past year, with five percent still unemployed. More than 40 percent reported lost income, averaging 31 percent of their salaries or $21,191.
The report on the impact of the pandemic on the museum community is based on the results of a survey conducted last month. But the figures likely do not paint a complete picture of the number of museum workers whose employment was impacted by the pandemic, as the survey was more likely to reach current employees, rather than those no longer on staff, and middle and upper management, rather than frontline workers, who bore the brunt of most staffing cuts.
Part-time staff were struggling the most, with 21 percent living paycheck to paycheck.
“Since the pandemic began, the Alliance has successfully advocated for billions of dollars of Federal relief funding which has sustained thousands of museum jobs,” Laura Lott, president and CEO of AAM, said in a statement. “As we recover and rebuild, we must focus on equity, empathetic leadership, and actions that support the people who make museums possible. The resiliency and future vitality of our field relies on them.”
The report also examined the experiences of BIPOC workers, who represented just 20 percent of respondents, and were more likely to have been under financial stress at some point over the last year. Women, who made up 78 percent of respondents, were more likely to have experienced an increased workload and a loss of salary or benefits than their male counterparts.
Beyond its financial effects, the pandemic took a toll on workers’ mental health and wellbeing, with respondents rating its impact at nearly a seven out 10 on average.
Looking to the future, student respondents were particularly unsure about their career outlook, with 92 percent believing they were unlikely to be able to find museum jobs and 78 percent doubting their ability to get a museum job with sufficient compensation.
But despite it all, some are keeping a positive outlook, with 57 percent calling themselves cautiously optimistic, and 7.5 percent very optimistic.
Conducted between March 9 and 17, the survey had 2,666 responses, representing only a fraction of the 726,000 jobs in the museum sector pre-pandemic.
Reposted from Allied Universal
The nature of security programs is changing. Higher demands for customer service; increased use of technology; evolving threat scenarios, even language skills remain at the core of day-to-day security functions.
At the same time, the labor market continues to tighten and the challenge of attracting and retaining qualified staff is becoming difficult. Still, many corporations are choosing to outsource non-core service functions, such as security, to focus on their core competencies and rely on their security partner to recruit, develop and retain quality security staff.
Below are key lessons learned on keeping up with the evolving challenges of building and maintaining best-in-class security officer teams.
1. It starts with recruiting. How you attract future team members to your program is crucial. Your job postings should clearly promote the benefits and opportunities of being part of your team. At the same time, you need to get out into your community and talk about the team and the environment you are creating with your security program. Share the skills, culture and values you are integrating into your program.
2. Meet basic needs: There are three specific elements that must be met to attract the right staff. If these three needs are not completely met, the revolving door will ensue:
First, there must be a livable wage to reduce your officers from having to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, which is so common today. Also consider the distance from home and working a schedule that meets family and lifestyle expectations is also just as critical.
3. Develop security staffs’ hard and soft skills: Training is an essential requirement for anyone wishing to work in security, and is also a key component of recruiting, developing and motivating high-quality security teams. Security work has always depended on a range of “hard” skills. Typically, these skills included knowledge of and execution on policies and procedures, such as access control and emergency response. But in today’s information age, where people rely on the Internet for information, this has never been more important. Managers must implement innovative training to help security officers know all procedures.
4. Career pathing to your team member’s best potential. Whenever hiring and retention gets tough, we all rationalize it by claiming “it’s the money.” Without a doubt, wages will always be a key component and basic need of any employee, which is why it ranks as Number 1 on this “Basic needs” list in point 2 above.
But once someone is onboard, is it always money that leads them away? No, not always. Many workers are looking to learn and develop in order to build a security career. If they don’t see opportunity with your program they will go looking for it elsewhere. Companies that can’t promise any kind of advancement opportunities soon fall behind those that do. Entry-level staff need to be able to see how they can become supervisors. So, when more money isn’t an option, make sure a future can be. Pave the way for your team through succession planning and skills development.
5. Communication and recognition goes a long way: The way officers are treated will go a long way towards building ownership in your program. Employees want to be respected, informed and appreciated. Great security teams are engaged, provide feedback and feel part of the overall strategy.
Reposted from American Libraries Magazine
The American Library Association (ALA) announced April 9 it will make available $1.25 million in emergency relief grants to libraries that have experienced substantial economic hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic. ALA invites public, school, academic, and tribal libraries across the US and its territories to apply for grants of $30,000–$50,000 from the ALA COVID Library Relief Fund. Libraries serving low-income and rural communities, or communities that are predominately Black, Latinx, Asian, Indigenous, and people of color, are especially encouraged to apply.
These funds are intended to bolster library operations and services, including technology access, collections, digital instruction, staffing, and outreach. Funds can be used to maintain and amplify existing service strategies or add new ones.
“Libraries have demonstrated extraordinary innovation over the past year in creating new materials, programs, and service delivery models, but they are being asked to do more with less,” ALA Executive Director Tracie D. Hall said in an April 9 statement. “This new grant program recognizes those efforts and seeks to strengthen them, especially in communities where the need is greatest.” Hall added that this fund is the first part of a larger fundraising effort to support libraries, with more announcements planned in the coming months.
The ALA COVID Library Relief Fund is supported by Acton Family Giving, as part of its pandemic grantmaking response. Initial seed funding was provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
The application deadline is May 20. Awards will be announced at the end of June. Additional information and award guidelines are available on the grant application site. ALA’s Chapter Relations Office will administer the ALA COVID Library Emergency Relief Fund.
Our access to around-the-clock news greatly increases our visibility to acts of crime and violence. To avoid becoming a victim of crime ourselves, there are preemptive strategies we can implement in our daily lives to maximize our personal safety and security and minimize our exposure to threats. The following are some best practices to help you reduce your risk, deter criminal activity and increase your safety at home, online and in public places.
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