Raffaele Imperiale, a wanted fugitive from an Italian crime syndicate has been arrested in Dubai on the suspicions of buying stolen van Gogh works.
Raffaele Imperiale is considered by the police to be a major crime figure. He has been wanted since 2016 on charges of money laundering and drug trafficking. Imperiale is thought to be a member of the Camorra organized crime syndicate based out of Naples, Italy. He was arrested by the Dubai police on August 4. Currently, he is held in UAE and awaiting extradition to Italy.
Raffaele Imperiale first came under the radar of art crime when two van Gogh paintings were discovered by Italian authorities in 2016. These paintings – Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen (1884–85) and View of the Sea at Scheveningen (1882) – were stolen in 2002 from a museum in Amsterdam. The works were discovered on a farmhouse that belonged to Imperiale and was located in his hometown.
According to Luciana Lamorgese (Interior Minister, Italy), Raffaele Imperiale was a major player in drug trafficking and money laundering in Italy. His fortunes primarily came from the cocaine trade. His close connection to the Camorra crime family allowed him to rise in the ranks. The investigative authorities said that the illegally earned wealth allowed him to purchase artworks from the black market.
In an interview given to an Italian newspaper earlier this year, Imperiale had denied all allegations of using art purchases to launder his money. However, he did admit that he bought artworks from the black market due to his “love” for art.