Raffaele Imperiale, a fugitive wanted by an Italian crime syndicate has been arrested in Dubai on suspicion of buying stolen works by van Gogh.
Raffaele Imperiale is considered by the police to be a major figure in crime. He has been wanted since 2016 for money laundering and drug trafficking. Imperiale is said to be a member of the organized crime syndicate Camorra based in Naples, Italy. He was arrested by Dubai police on August 4. Currently, he is detained in the United Arab Emirates and awaits his extradition to Italy.
Raffaele Imperiale first came under the artistic crime radar when two van Gogh paintings were discovered by Italian authorities in 2016. These paintings – Congregation leaving the Reformed Church of Nuenen (1884-1885) and Sea view in Scheveningen (1882) – were stolen in 2002 from a museum in Amsterdam. The works were discovered on a farm that belonged to Imperiale and located in his hometown.
According to Luciana Lamorgese (Minister of the Interior, Italy), Raffaele Imperiale was a major player in drug trafficking and money laundering in Italy. His fortune came mainly from the cocaine trade. His close ties to the Camorra crime family have helped him rise through the ranks. Investigating authorities said illegally acquired wealth enabled him to purchase works of art on the black market.
In an interview with an Italian newspaper earlier this year, Imperiale denied all allegations of using art purchases to launder money. However, he admitted that he bought works of art on the black market because of his “love” for art.