A Greek national has pleaded not guilty to stealing a watercolour by the Surrealist painter Salvador Dali from an art gallery in New York City. 29 year old, Phivos Istavrioglou from Athens, is accused of taking “Cartel des Don Juan Tenorio” from the Venus Over Manhattan gallery in June 2012.
Footage taken from security cameras caught the man taking the artwork off the wall and putting it in an oversized shopping bag. The painting is worth £96,000 on the open market. It was mysteriously posted back to New York an anonymous European address. It is thought that Mr Istavrioglou was traced to the crime when fingerprints were found on the artwork. He was detained at New York’s John F Kennedy airport when he tried to return to the United States last Saturday. Mr Istavrioglou told detectives that “he knew the theft would catch up with him and wanted to make the situation right”.
“It was almost surreal how this theft was committed,” said District Attorney Cyrus R Vance Jr. “A thief is accused of putting a valuable Salvador Dali drawing into a shopping bag in the middle of the afternoon, in full view of surveillance cameras.” A detective posing as an art gallery owner tricked the Greek into returning to New York by offering him a position as an art consultant. Police stated that they tracked Istavrioglou down after finding a fingerprint match taken from a juice bottle they say he shoplifted from a supermarket last year. A New York judge set bail at $100,000 (£65,000) during a brief court appearance on Tuesday.