Italian cemetery worker ‘stole gold teeth from corpse’

A cemetery worker has been charged for allegedly stealing gold teeth from a body dug up at a graveyard in a town near Siena.

Italian cemetery worker 'stole gold teeth from corpse'
The man allegedly stole the gold teeth at a cemetery near Siena. Photo: Martin KalfatovicFlickr

The 50-year-old man, who works for a graveyard contractor, allegedly stole the teeth from the body during exhumation works on Friday at Uopini cemetery, in the Tuscan town of Monteriggioni, Corriere di Siena reported.

But on the day of the alleged theft, police were out on force, carrying out random checks across the town. As the man drove home from work, accompanied by colleague, traffic police stopped the car and asked to see both passengers’ documents.

The driver, originally from Turin, was known to police, having been previously convicted of crimes related to property and drugs, the newspaper said.

After further checks were carried out, the teeth were found wrapped in a handkerchief in man's trousers pocket. He tried to justify himself by saying he found them on the ground.

Trade in gold teeth can be a lucrative business – in 2010, a gravedigger in Spain made over €2,000 by selling 17 teeth he took from a bone depository in Barcelona.

Two years later in France, three grave-diggers were arrested after dozens of bodies were dug up and gold teeth and jewellery stolen from them.

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Spanish banker gets jail term for trying to smuggle Picasso masterpiece out of Spain on yacht

A Spanish court has sentenced a former top banker to 18 months in jail for trying to smuggle a Picasso painting deemed a national treasure out of the country on a sailing yacht.

Spanish banker gets jail term for trying to smuggle Picasso masterpiece out of Spain on yacht
Head of a Young Woman by Pablo Picasso Photo: AFP

The court also fined ex-Bankinter head Jaime Botín €52.4 million ($58.4 million), according to the Madrid court ruling issued on January 14th which was made public on Thursday.   

It awarded ownership of the work, “Head of a Young Girl”, to the Spanish state.

Botin, 83, is unlikely to go to prison as in Spain first offenders for non-violent crimes are usually spared jail time for sentences of less than two years.   

French customs seized the work, which is estimated to be worth €26 million, in July 2015 on the Mediterranean island of Corsica, halting what they said was an attempt by Botin to export it to Switzerland to sell it.

His lawyers argued at the time that he was sending it for storage in a vault in Geneva but the court found him guilty of “smuggling cultural goods” for removing the painting “from national territory without a permit”.

Botin, whose family are one of the founders of the Santander banking group, had been trying since 2012 to obtain authorisation to export the painting.   

However Spain's culture ministry refused the request because there was “no similar work on Spanish territory” from the same period in Picasso's life.    

In 2015, a top Spanish court sided with the authorities and declared the work of art “unexportable” on the grounds that it was of “cultural interest”.    

Picasso painted it during his pre-Cubist phase in Gosol, Catalonia, in 1906. It was bought by Botin in London in 1977.

Botin's lawyers had argued that the work should not be subjected to an export ban since it was acquired in Britain and was on board a British-flagged vessel when it was seized.

When customs officials boarded the yacht, its captain only presented two documents — one of which was the court ruling ordering that the painting be kept in Spain.

The painting is currently stored at the Reina Sofia modern art museum in Madrid, which houses Picasso's large anti-war masterpiece “Guernica”.

READ MORE: Banking family's Picasso seized on Corsica boat