Qatari-owned jewels stolen in Venice

Jewelled objects from al-Thani collection on display (AFP)

ROME, Jan 4, (Agencies): Thieves made off with several items of Indian maharajahs’ treasures owned by a member of the Qatari royal family after an audacious heist Wednesday at the Doge’s Palace in Venice, police said. Italian authorities investigating the theft put at around a million euros ($1.2 million) the overall value of the collection of Treasures of the Mughals and the Maharajahs on display.

Two thieves got away with earrings and a brooch on the final day of a fourmonth exhibition covering some 270 items showcasing five centuries of Indian craftsmanship. Investigators said the pair had managed to take the items from a reinforced display case after deactivating the alarm system before melting into the crowd and making good their escape.

The alarm was raised only several hours later at the palace, known as the Palazzo Ducale in Italy, in central Venice at one end of Saint Mark’s Square. “We are clearly dealing here with two skilled professionals who managed to pull off their feat despite all the display rooms being fitted with technologically highly sophisticated (alarm) systems,” chief police commissioner Vito Gagliardi said.

The Al Thani Collection is a renowned collection of 270 pieces of Indian and Indian-inspired jewelry and precious stones, spanning 400 years from the Mughal period to the present and assembled by Qatar’s Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al Thani. Forbes magazine has said “there is no comparable collection on the planet.”

The Venice exhibit, “Treasures of the Mughals and the Maharajas,” was due to close Wednesday, the latest stop in a travelling exhibit that has brought the collection to Paris’ Grand Palais, London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, New York’s Metropolitan and the Miho Museum near Kyoto, Japan. A spokesman for the collection, John Maxse, said it was in contact with Italian authorities and Venice’s Foundation of Civic Museums, which runs the Doge’s Palace.

In a statement, the foundation said the brooch and earrings stolen were “contemporary pieces and consequently are of less historical value than other items in the collection.” But Venice police noted that since the items are so unique they will be nearly impossible to sell on the market.

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