Van Gogh and the Camorra

June 5, 2017

Octave “Okkie” Durham, the thief behind one of the biggest art heists in history went on various Dutch talk shows to discuss how he stole two Van Gogh paintings worth millions from the Van Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in 2002. He claims he sold them to a Camorra drug boss. He also claims to have stayed at the home of then-FC Barcelona striker Patrick Kluivert while on the run from police.

Durham is the subject of a documentary titled The Man Who Stole Two Van Goghs by Dutch news show Brandpunt.

The 2002 Van Gogh heist in Amsterdam was a simple, grab a ladder, break into a second floor window and go out the back door to a waiting car while the police knocked on the front door. Durham and a friend, had been casing the famous Van Gogh museum for some time before they finally decided to go ahead and execute their plan. Using a stolen ladder, some rope, and a hammer the two men entered the museum filled with hundreds of millions worth’ of exclusive art. They grabbed Vincent van Gogh’s View of the Sea at Scheveningen and Congregation Leaving the

Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church at Nuenen

Reformed Church at Nuenen.

As professional as “Okkie” may claim to be, he left behind a baseball cap with his DNA in it, putting authorities on his tail almost immediately. A lack of evidence and urgency, however, kept police from searching the burglar’s residence or other locations, giving him enough time to move the paintings to a safe location.

He was unable to sell these priceless paintings to his regular contacts. One man, a Dutch drug boss Cor van Hout was eager to buy the paintings to use them as a bargaining chip for a court case, but he was shot to death before he and Durham could reach a deal.

Durham then received a call from a man known as “Pinocchio,” who quickly closed the deal and purchased the two Van Gogh paintings. “Pinocchio” was an important player in the Amsterdam underworld. He lived there for twelve years and owned Coffeeshop Rockland, where tourists enjoyed smoking some weed. Pinocchio is Raffaele Imperiale, an Italian drug boss with close links to the Neapolitan Camorra.

Durham has never told how much Imperiale paid for the paintings. In September of 2016 when Imperiale offers the paintings to Italian authorities in exchange for lowering his prison sentence. He has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for drug trafficking. He has yet to serve a day of his sentence as he remains a fugitive, living a life of luxury in Dubai.

Life wasn’t so sweet for Durham, though. When police are on his tail he manages to flee to Spain where he eventually runs into Patrick Kluivert, star player of FC Barcelona. The two men knew each other from the old neighborhood back in Amsterdam.

Durham tells Kluivert he is staying at a hotel and Kluivert asks him to stay with him at his mansion. The fugitive art thief is hesitant and tells Kluivert he is on the run from police and his presence might cause Kluivert some unwanted media attention. The Barcelona striker is dismissive however, telling “Okkie” he is in the media every day anyway.

Thanks to David Amoruso the True Crime Blog, Gangstersinc.com 

In 2013, Italian police recovered the paintings during a raid.

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