Brazil's National Library still hasn't recovered 14 rare newspapers and magazines stolen by Oliveira.
At one of Rio de Janeiro’s most infamous prisons, amidst 700 other prisoners constantly under surveillance and behind walls, the country’s king of art crime is still hard at work.
Laéssio Rodrigues de Oliveira, 39, has been arrested for the theft and falsification of rare works of art from more than 14 institutions including libraries and museums in the states of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais, Bahia and Pernambuco.
At first, de Oliveira acted alone. But, according to the federal police, since 2005, when he was still free, Oliveira has created a ring, which he still commands. Once the thief was arrested, he still managed to coordinate crimes by mobile phone, but has now moved on to letters and orders carried by visitors.
Most stolen artworks are sold to collectors in Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. According to files analysed by the Brazilian Federal Justice Department, de Oliveira made a profit of $250,000 per artwork.
"We think of him as the biggest thief of rare works in this country. Arrested, he managed to convince a lot of prisoners that is best to steal artworks than to sell cocaine," federal police officer Fábio Scliar told Folha de São Paulo
His first theft occurred in 1998, Oliveira stole $750,000 worth of rare magazines and newspapers from Brazil’s National Library. To this day, the 14 publications, which were stolen over the course of one year, are yet to be found.
By 2004, Oliveira was doing an internship at Biblioteca Mário de Andrade, São Paulo’s largest public library. He was arrested for theft then, after a suspicious bookshop worker called the police.
15 books and 76 pictures relating to Dom Pedro II, the second last ruler of the Brazilian Empire, were found at his house. Despite being arrested on the spot, Oliveira was behind bars for only six months.
It is believed his last personal stint took place in 2006, when he stole personal photos of legendary Brazilian photographer Augusto Malta, dated from the 19th century, from Rio de Janeiro’s General Archives.
Oliveira has just had his 12-year sentence reduced to 5 years, for good behaviour and excellent work ethic within the prison.