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Italian George Clooney ‘imposter’ arrested in Thailand for fraud

An Italian man who allegedly posed as Hollywood superstar George Clooney to sell clothes online has been arrested with his wife in Thailand after years on the run, police said Sunday.

Italian George Clooney 'imposter' arrested in Thailand for fraud
Italian national Francesco Galdelli (C) after he was arrested on Sunday. Photo: Crime Suppression Division/Royal Thai Police

Francesco Galdelli, 58, and Vanja Goffi, 45, were arrested Saturday at a house on the outskirts of Pattaya after an operation between Thai and Italian authorities, officials said.

“During interrogation, Francesco confessed to claiming to be George Clooney and opening a clothes business to trick people into sending money,” a statement from Thailand's Crime Suppression Division said.

Photo: Crime Suppression Division/Royal Thai Police

The couple is also wanted in Italy for multiple scams including sellin fake Rolex watches online, the statement said.

They sometimes mocked their victims by sending packets of salt instead of the timepieces.

Their crimes led them to be dubbed the Italian 'Bonnie and Clyde' after the notorious American bank robbers of the Great Depression era.

Read also: Kiwigate: Police uncover massive Italian fruit fraud

Footage from a police drone showed the pair – wanted on an Interpol red notice since 2013 – carrying a bag as they were taken into custody.

They were nabbed after police surrounded their luxury compound in a stakeout using electronic surveillance and a drone, Italian police said in a statement.

Actor George Clooney told Italian judges Galdelli had used his name online. Photo: AFP

The case against them stretches back several years after Clooney told a Milan court that they and another accomplice had fraudulently used his name to promote a fashion range.

Pattaya, the Thai town where they were found holed up, is infamous as a hideout for gangsters and criminals from across the world.

“They stayed in Thailand since 2014 and never left,” police said, adding that a Thai court will charge them under local immigration laws before extradition proceedings begin.

READ ALSO: How you can join the Clooneys for lunch on Lake Como

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CRIME

New York returns 214 stolen artworks to Italy in seven months

Authorities in New York announced on Thursday the return to Italy of 14 more antiquities, worth an estimated €2.3 million, as part of an investigation into smuggling of stolen artifacts.

New York returns 214 stolen artworks to Italy in seven months

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office has been conducting an extensive investigation over the past two years into looted antiquities that have ended up in New York museums and galleries — including the prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Art.

During a ceremony on Thursday with the Italian consul general and Italian police representatives, 14 more artifacts – some 2,600 years old – were officially returned to Italy, bringing the total number of repatriated pieces to that country over the past seven months to 214, District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office said.

READ ALSO: Italian ‘art squad’ police recover 800 illegally-excavated archaeological finds

More than 700 pieces worth more than $100 million have been returned in the past year to 17 countries, including Italy as well as Cambodia, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq, and Greece, the statement added.

New York, a hub of stolen antiquities trafficking for decades, set up a task force in 2017 to investigate the illicit trade.

According to the statement by District Attorney Bragg, who took office in January 2022, Thursday’s repatriation included the silver “Sicily Naxos Coin,” minted around 430 BCE and currently valued at half a million dollars.

Other notable items included ancient pottery dating to 510 BCE, and amarble head of Roman Emperor Hadrian, dating to 200 CE.

Among the culprits behind the 14 returned pieces, the statement said, were well-known art traffickers Giacomo Medici and Giovanni Franco Becchina, as well as Robert Hecht, the Paris-based American art dealer who died in 2012.

The traffickers had “relied on gangs of tombaroli (tomb raiders) to loot carefully chosen and insufficiently guarded archaeological sites throughout the Mediterranean,” it added.

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