Stolen BPP artwork: PJ ups ante

The mansion of Maria de Jesus Rendeiro – wife of “fugitive from Portuguese justice” and former banker João Rendeiro – was one of eight premises targeted in a wave of new raids for works of art who mysteriously went faded away under his supervision.

Ms. Rendeiro is already an official suspect in the operation “D’Arte Asas III”, and she has in the past pleaded ignorance of the location of pieces that had somehow “lost their way”.

Some turned out to have been sold at auction; others rudimentarily forge; one was discovered at a private.

In all cases, PJ police believe Ms Rendeiro knew full well what happened to the coinsexplains the Lusa news agency today.

The last searches – five of houses, two of “non-houses” (warehouses?) and one of a law firm – took place in the neighborhoods of Lisbon, Aveiro and Port.

One of the places was the mansion where the Rendeiro couple lived in splendid luxury near Cascais.

Since Mr. Rendeiro fled (to be subsequently captured and imprisoned in South Africa, pending extradition), Ms. Rendeiro has been placed under house arrest as an official suspect in the missing art investigation .

Says Expresso, this latest probe focuses on money laundering and embezzlement/misconduct offenses (the translation of the word “descaminho” has various interpretations, but it basically means “bypassing the rules” in place, according to which the works of art should have remained where they were. They were confiscated on the grounds that they could have to help compensate the victims of Mr. Rendeiro’s crimes).

Today’s searches were ordered after those carried out last November “in order to collect additional evidence, as well as to recover the proceeds of crime”, writes Expresso.

The PJ carried out a major operation at Ms Rendeiro’s home in February when all valuables, from works of art to furniture and cutlery, were seized, as part of the lien on property relating to the BPP case.

It was during this operation that the PJ found the “missing” image of Our Lady and the Child in the house of the driver of the Rendeiro couple, Florêncio de Almeida. In a warehouse rented by Ms. Rendeiro, the PJ also recovered another “missing piece”, a sculpture of a Venetian Moor.

As all of these developments occur, Mr. Rendeiro remains in Durban’s infamous Westville Prison, determined to challenge the Portuguese case for his extradition.

Here, he already faces several prison sentences.

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Christopher S. Washington