The undersecretary defends Sgarbi and the alleged theft of the painting

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AGI – Self-washing of cultural goods: This is the accusation against Vittorio Sgarbi contained in the file opened by the Macerata prosecutor’s office, to whom the documents were sent by the Imperia prosecutor’s office because undersecretary of culture and art critic lives in San Severino Marche. The case concerns the theft of a 17th-century Caravaggio painting attributed to Siena’s Rutilio Manetti, “The Capture of Saint Peter.”

The work, stolen in 2013 from Buriasco Castle in the Turin area, reappeared at the 2021 Lucca exhibition as ‘unpublished’ owned by Sgarbi, who always claimed that it was a different work than the stolen one. Accusation is what art anticipates. 518-septies of the Criminal Code on the laundering of cultural goods: “Whoever has committed or contributed to the commission of a crime not due to negligence, uses, replaces, transfers in economic, financial, entrepreneurial or speculative activities cultural goods originating from the commission of such a crime in such a way that it is specifically impossible to ascertain their criminal origin, is punishable by imprisonment for three to ten years and a fine from 6,000 to 30,000 euros”.

It is not certain that the investigation file, again due to the issue of local jurisdiction, will stop in Macerata. In late December, the Carabinieri of the Department for the Protection of Cultural Heritage sent the results of their investigation to the Imperia prosecutor’s office, which was already in charge of investigating Sgarbi for trying to sell abroad a painting by the painter Valentino de Boulogne despite not having a certificate of free movement or an export license.

Two investigations also dealt with the case of Manetti’s painting conducted by Fatto Quotidiano and the TV program Report, which featured a detail of the torch in the background of the work, claiming that it would have been added to distinguish St. Peter exhibited at the “Painters of Light” exhibition in Lucca from the stolen one. For his part, Sgarbi has always maintained that he found the painting in Villa La Maidalchina, a country villa he bought in Viterbo, and specified that he had received no notice of the investigation.

“I wouldn’t even know how to be investigated for a theft I didn’t commit,” he added. “Any evaluation of work referred to must be done the stolen one is clearly a copylike all those that were preserved in that castle and that no one took care of.” The opposition intervened in the case, urging the opinion of Prime Minister Giorgio Meloni and Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano.

“Enough hesitation, Meloni and Sangiuliano stop protecting Sgarbi,” said Irene Manzi, head of the Dem group on the House Culture Committee, speaking of the “political case.” “These are very serious allegations that, if confirmed, add to an already compromising situation for the person responsible for the institutions,” he added. 5 Star has announced that they will be requesting immediate scheduling of a motion to dismiss for the deputy that was filed back in October and is now being integrated.

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