CHF1.5 million violin stolen in Geneva

Police have begun an international hunt for a 269-year-old violin worth well more than a million francs that has been stolen in Geneva.

The pilfered fiddle is the handiwork of the celebrated 18th-century Italian craftsman Giovanni Battista Guadagnini, widely considered to be one of the best violin makers who ever lived, according to Swiss news agencies.

Estimated to be worth more than CHF1.5 million francs ($1.47 million), the violin was taken from Pavel Vernikov, a virtuoso violinist from Ukraine. Vernikov, who has been artistic director of Switzerland’s Sion music festival since 2013, also lost his wallet and passport as he boarded a train at Cornavin station in Geneva.

Travellers are often reminded in Swiss transit points to keep an eye on their belongings. Thieves, working alone in or in gangs, have afflicted some of Switzerland’s biggest cities. Geneva’s wealth in particular has been a target of gangs that can easily cross back over the open border to France.

Bows taken too

Vernikov had flown to Geneva from Vienna, where he teaches, and then boarded a train from the airport to Sion, reported Swiss newspaper Le Matin Dimanche. The violin case he lost also contained four bows collectively worth about CHF250,000.

The violin he was carrying in a carbon-fibre case was on permanent loan to Vernikov from the Fondazione Pro Canale in Milan. The foundation manages and maintains one of the most important collections of Italian-owned string instruments in the world.

Musicians in renowned orchestras regularly use its instruments.

“It’s as though someone’s stolen my baby,” Vernikov was quoted as saying in Le Matin, adding that he does not think the thieves knew the value of what they were taking. “Without it I can never make music again.”