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Italian arrested in Venezuela murder probe

Italian police have arrested a fugitive wanted in the 2012 killing of a Frenchman in Venezuela, whose dismembered body was thrown out to sea in a suitcase, media reports said on Sunday.

Italian arrested in Venezuela murder probe
Police car photo: Shutterstock

The Italian man, sought by Interpol for the grisly murder, was discovered at a campsite on the outskirts of Rome, and taken to prison to await extradition to France.

At the time of the murder Venezuelan police said the suspect was the butler of the victim, Paul Maurice Wolnerman, 71, who was shot dead on April 2012 in the port city of Lecheria.

Another suspect, Wolnerman's driver, was arrested in Venezuela in 2012 and admitted participating in the murder. Police described him as the "direct author" of the crime.

Wolnerman, who had lived in Venezuela since 2005, had decided to sell his penthouse, car and motorboat and move to the Dominican Republic with his butler, according to the investigation.

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CRIME

New York returns 214 stolen artworks to Italy in seven months

Authorities in New York announced on Thursday the return to Italy of 14 more antiquities, worth an estimated €2.3 million, as part of an investigation into smuggling of stolen artifacts.

New York returns 214 stolen artworks to Italy in seven months

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office has been conducting an extensive investigation over the past two years into looted antiquities that have ended up in New York museums and galleries — including the prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Art.

During a ceremony on Thursday with the Italian consul general and Italian police representatives, 14 more artifacts – some 2,600 years old – were officially returned to Italy, bringing the total number of repatriated pieces to that country over the past seven months to 214, District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office said.

READ ALSO: Italian ‘art squad’ police recover 800 illegally-excavated archaeological finds

More than 700 pieces worth more than $100 million have been returned in the past year to 17 countries, including Italy as well as Cambodia, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq, and Greece, the statement added.

New York, a hub of stolen antiquities trafficking for decades, set up a task force in 2017 to investigate the illicit trade.

According to the statement by District Attorney Bragg, who took office in January 2022, Thursday’s repatriation included the silver “Sicily Naxos Coin,” minted around 430 BCE and currently valued at half a million dollars.

Other notable items included ancient pottery dating to 510 BCE, and amarble head of Roman Emperor Hadrian, dating to 200 CE.

Among the culprits behind the 14 returned pieces, the statement said, were well-known art traffickers Giacomo Medici and Giovanni Franco Becchina, as well as Robert Hecht, the Paris-based American art dealer who died in 2012.

The traffickers had “relied on gangs of tombaroli (tomb raiders) to loot carefully chosen and insufficiently guarded archaeological sites throughout the Mediterranean,” it added.

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