Home » Two British brothers ‘should be banned from Switzerland’ for museum heist

Two British brothers ‘should be banned from Switzerland’ for museum heist

Prosecutors have called for two British brothers to be banned from Switzerland for five years as punishment for their role in raiding a museum of iconic Chinese Ming Dynasty artefacts.

At a court in Geneva on Monday, Stewart and Louis Ahearne confessed to being part of a gang which burgled the Museum of Far Eastern Art in June 2019.

On top of the ban, prosecutor Marco Rossier said the court should jail the brothers for four years.

They will be sentenced on Tuesday.

Mr Rossier told the court the brothers, who are from south-east London – and a third man named in court by lawyers as Daniel Kelly – were all “equally involved” in the burglary.

He said Louis Ahearne carried out reconnaissance of the museum, while his older brother Stewart hired a Renault Captur car out in his name – which he then drove to and from the scene of the crime.

“Louis Ahearne booked the hotel room, the ski masks and clothing used in the burglary,” Mr Rossier said.

“Everything was prepared and organised. Everything was very quick.”

Two bowls and a vase from the 14th Century were taken in the raid, Mr Rossier explained, adding one bowl was taken to a Hong Kong auction house by the three men. Stewart Ahearne left his passport details as they sold the item, the prosecutor added.

A second item, a vase, was recovered in central London as part of an undercover sting operation with Metropolitan Police officers posing as art buyers a year after the heist.

The third plundered artefact, a wine cup, has never been recovered.

Two British brothers 'should be banned from Switzerland' for museum heist

Around 3.5m Swiss francs (£3.2m) worth of damage was caused to the Museum of Far Eastern Art which is based in a listed townhouse in Geneva’s old town.

On Monday, Louis Ahearne said he carried out the burglary in order to “clear a debt” and Stewart Ahearne said he took “full responsibility” explaining he wanted to “protect” his younger brother.

Mr Rossier said the prosecution doubted the brothers’ version of events as the third person was not in the court and is currently the subject of extradition proceedings to Japan.

The court also heard from Loris Bertoliatti, representing the Museum of Far Eastern Art, who said damage caused by a power saw, sledgehammer and crowbar cost the institution millions.

“They are a professional gang,” he said. “They were determined to sell the items. The victim is the museum. Lots of people were shocked by what happened.”

Stewart Ahearne’s partner Nicola Barry was called as a witness on Monday and described the father-of-five as a “kind, loving and nice person” – adding his employer has committed to giving him a job when he is freed.

The brothers’ mother, Suzanne Ahearne, said Louis Ahearne is a “compassionate and empathetic” person who had an “unhappy childhood”.

She told the court since his extradition from the UK, he has been writing to his nine-year-old son from prison in Switzerland trying to “give the guidance he never got” from his father.

The Ahearnes’ defence barristers will also provide mitigation before the president of the court Patrick Monney delivers his judgement.

The hearing continues.

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