In April 2019, the Parma State Police made access to the home of a 48-year-old native of Reggio in search of a drug. The man, in fact, already arrested in 2018 by the same agents as he was found in possession of 7 ounces of hashish, was under investigation at the local prosecutor's office for drug trafficking.
During the search (after which no drugs were found), the agents' attention was, however, attracted by an “old” violin present in the house, precisely inside a case, under the bed; in addition to the instrument (without a bow), old spare strings were found with labels in Japanese and the business card of a dealer of Cremonese violin bows.
The subject, in a vain attempt to divert the attention of the agents, reported that the instrument had been brought to his home by his sister-in-law (South American living in Bogotà) to whom it would have been "donated" by his grandmother who, in turn, would have bought at a pawn shop in Colombia. The explanations provided by the man and his sister-in-law seemed decidedly unlikely and also due to the criminal past of the suspect, the violin was subjected to seizure, considering it possible illicit proceeds from the dealing activity, together with the suspect's phones. At the offices of the Flying Squad, checks were immediately started on the databases used by the police forces in search of a stolen violin that matched the characteristics of the one seized, but these did not give any results, therefore, the policemen tried a search through sources opened and here, on a website dedicated to the art of violin making, they traced the report of a violin stolen in 2005 in Japan: it was a “Nicolò Amati of 1675”. The information on the stolen instrument and the descriptions of the same in this article corresponded to what is reported on an old plate affixed to the inside of the case of the seized violin "Nicolaus Amatus Cremonen Hieronymi Fil., B. Antonij Nepos Fecit, 1675" .
On the basis of these first investigative emergencies, the Public Prosecutor's Office of Parma appointed a technical consultant to a well-known luthier from Cremona, to appraise the instrument and ascertain the actual correspondence with the one stolen in Japan and, in the meantime, through the Central Service of International Cooperation, the Flying Squad initiated the first contacts with the Japanese counterparts to obtain feedback on the reported theft in 2005 and to acquire information on the victim and all the necessary documentation, including the report and the certificates of authenticity of the instrument.
From the complaint formalized by the victim in 2005, it was learned that, on the occasion of the theft, a violin bow and a cello bow had also been removed and, therefore, further research was initiated aimed at recovering these two pieces as well. to hypothesize that they too had entered the availability of man. At the outcome of the subsequent investigations, the investigators of the Flying Squad found and recovered the two bows in the laboratory of a Cremonese craftsman (i.e. the one whose business card was found together with the violin), ascertaining that the man, of 2018 and early 2019, he had brought them for an economic estimate. This circumstance, combined with the fact that it was ascertained that already from November 2019 the subject was looking for a buyer for the violin, definitively denied his spontaneous declarations regarding the fact that the instrument had been brought to Italy by his sister-in-law only in February 2019.
In the meantime, the technical consultant, as a result of his advice, reported that the seized violin was undoubtedly a work of the luthier Nicolò Amati dating from between 1655 and 1680 and that it was certainly the violin stolen in 2005 in Japan. The CT also confirmed that at least the cello bow was the one stolen together with the violin and had a value of about € 100.000,00; the violin bow, less precious, has a value of about 4.000 euros, but it was not possible to indicate it with certainty as the stolen one, due to the absence of photographic reproductions.
The man, under investigation for receiving stolen goods, is currently untraceable on the national territory.
The precious instrument is still in seizure pending restitution to the legitimate owner.