Rio de Janeiro police have arrested a 48-year-old Brazilian woman, Sabine Coll Boghici, for allegedly defrauding her 82-year-old mother for $142.42 million worth of jewelry, money and art.
The Boghici family owned work by some of Brazil’s most famous artists, including Cicero Dias, Rubens Gerchman, and Alberto Guignard. Sabine is accused of stealing 16 paintings, including three by Tarsila do Amaral, worth an estimated 700 million reais ($137.7 million).
Investigators have revealed what appears to be a bizarre plan that began in 2020, when Sabine allegedly hired a psychic to stop her mother, Genevieve, on the street and warn her that Sabine’s death was imminent.
Sabine gave several psychics personal details about her mother that convinced Genevieve to make large payments for “spiritual treatment,” according to a police statement. When Genevieve became suspicious and tried to stop paying, Sabine locked her in her home for months, according to police, and physically threatened her.
Sabine and a paranormal accomplice “also began the artwork of the [mother’s] home and claimed the painting was cursed with something negative, with negative energy to pray for,” Rio de Janeiro officer Gilberto Ribeiro told Reuters.
Police took dramatic action this week, carrying out 16 search and seizure warrants and six arrest warrants. Authorities have recovered 11 works, including that of Amaral Sunsetwhich was featured in the artist’s 2018 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art and is valued at 300 million reia ($59.1 million).
Investigators found the painting hidden under the bed of one of the alleged psychic’s homes in Rio’s Ipanema neighborhood, as seen in a video from the Brazilian newspaper Diary. The other two missing works by the celebrated Brazilian modernist are titled oh sono and Pont Neufu.
Police recovered additional works from an art gallery in São Paolo. Eduardo Costantini, an Argentine businessman and founder of the Museum of Latin American Art in Buenos Aires (MALBA), bought four of the stolen paintings from Ricardo Camargo Gallery in São Paulo in 2021.
“According to the provenance information, two of these works belonged to Boghici’s daughter and were purchased in good faith and duly registered,” Costantini said in a statement to infobaeclaiming that Genevieve “was aware of these acquisitions.”
Two of the works, social elevator (1966) by Gerchman, and Mockup in front of my mirror by Antonio Dias, will be shown on MALBA later this month. The other stolen paintings are said to belong to Di Cavalcanti, Antonio Dias, Kao Chi-Feng, Llya Glazunov, Emeric Marcier and Michel Macreau.
Three other suspects – Gabriel Nicolau Traslaviña Hafliger, his mother Rosa Stanesco Nicolau and Jacqueline Stanescos – were also arrested in the raids. Nicolau appears to have tried to escape from the police by climbing out the back window of her apartment, as shown in footage from Brazilian news outlet Globo.
Authorities are looking for two more suspects, Diana Rosa Aparecida Stanesco Vuletic and Slavko Vuletic. Those involved can face embezzlement, theft, extortion and false prison terms.
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