Last Monday, four men were charged with the 2019 theft of an 18-carat gold toilet from an art exhibition at the Oxfordshire mansion where Winston Churchill was born, the Associated Press reported.
The toilet was a satirical work on the excesses of wealth by Italian conceptual artist Maurizio Cattelan titled “America.” It was part of an art installation at Blenheim Palace that vanished in September 2019.
Seven individuals were arrested shortly after the theft but no charges were ever brought until last Monday. According to the Crown Prosecution Service, criminal charges have been authorized for four men, all in their 30s, for burglary and conspiracy to transfer stolen property.
According to New York’s Guggenheim Museum, where “America” was installed before it was shown at Blenheim Palace, the toilet is “cast in 18-carat gold.”
“America,” valued at £4.8 million ($5.95 million US), has never been found.
The Thames Valley Police, the constabulary that investigated the theft, said in 2021 that recovering the golden toilet would be a “challenge.”
Thames Valley crime commissioner Matthew Barber said at the time that it is unlikely that the gold is still “in the shape of a toilet.” He said with that amount of gold, it is likely “someone has already managed to dispose of it one way or another.”
A fully-functioning toilet, visitors to the exhibition could schedule a 3-minute appointment to relieve themselves in “America” if they so chose.
Police said at the time of the theft that its removal caused “significant” flooding and damage since the toilet was connected to the 18th-century mansion’s plumbing system.
Blenheim Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage site featuring valuable furniture and artwork that draws thousands of visitors every year.
The four defendants are scheduled to appear at Oxford Magistrates Court on November 28, according to the Crown Prosecution Service.