Some experts claim that art theft has turned into a global business behind only drugs and the arms trade.
Another theory is that stolen art is functioning as a commodity – traded for guns and drugs. This theory would claim that almost all art theft is perpetrated by organised crime groups.
Personally, I think most of this is in the region of fantasyland.
While organised crime may be behind some robberies, the truth is probably much more mundane. The recent robbery of the Henry Moore sculpture is suspected by many to be the work of another organised group – Irish gypsies, who probably melted it down.
I know of a case, some years ago, where two very expensive paintings were stolen from a mansion. The papers were full of stories of international art thieves and eccentric millionaire collectors and so on. The truth was much more down to earth. The burglar was a semi-literate bloke from Finchley who had no idea of the value until he saw the news reports. Then he had no idea how to sell them:-)
The paintings were recovered as a result of a comedy of errors when the police raided a go-between who had been trying to arrange a sale. The police raid was about another matter entirely, which was actually a misunderstanding.
Anyway, they all landed up in court and got light sentences.
A far cry from organised international art crime!