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  • The theft of the Saliera
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    Benvenuto Cellini‘s Saliera

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    The theft of the Saliera

    Stolen, retrieved and no one to blame

    On May 11, 2003 there is a commotion in Vienna. It is the city’s ‘Lange Nacht der Musik’.

    The robber only needs 46 seconds to climb the scaffolding, pass through a window, reach and purloin the salt cellar which has generally gone unnoticed in the public sphere until this point. The first attempt fails because of the blinds, but the thief climbs back down, gets a knife from his car and overcomes the obstacle. At 3:55 am the alarm goes off, which the security staff confirm but are instructed not to investigate because of the frequency of false alarms. The robbery is therefore not discovered until 8:20 am by the supervisor.

    There is a media frenzy and strong denials from the museum and the ministry; they say the standard of security is on an international level, everything is in order and the culprit has to be a professional master thief. The Saliera is the 5th most valuable, stolen work of art on the FBI’s search list, estimated to be worth 50 million euros.

    2 years later, in 2005, the police receive the trident from the Saliera along with an SMS threatening to melt it down unless 5 million euros are handed over.

    This SMS can be traced back to the shop in which the culprit had bought a prepaid mobile phone under camera surveillance. This provides an image of the thief, who hands himself in and leads the police to where the Saliera is hidden – in a case buried in the woods of the Waldviertel.

    Curiously the culprit gave an interview to the radio station ‘Orange’ in which he vents about the bad safeguarding of the Saliera, saying the windows are not secure and there is no armoured glass in the display cabinet.

    Since 2006 at the latest, after being returned to the museum, Benvenuto Cellini’s Saliera has received unbelievable recognition.

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