Tags: rotterdam | art | theft | suspects

Rotterdam Art Theft Suspects Said to Offer to Return Masterpieces

By Joel Himelfarb   |   Wednesday, 14 Aug 2013 03:12 PM

Suspects in the stunning theft of seven artworks including masterpieces by Gauguin, Picasso, and Monet last year have offered to return them in exchange for getting their trial moved from Romania to the Netherlands, their lawyers say.

The deal was offered by Radu Dogaru and five other suspects as a Bucharest court adjourned their trial in the case until September 10.

Seven people are on trial, one in absentia, in connection with the theft from Rotterdam's Kunsthal museum last October.

Investigators are still attempting to determine what happened to the paintings, and there are fears that some have been destroyed.

One lawyer said the suspects had offered to return five of the paintings, with no mention made of the remaining two, the BBC reported.

Another attorney, Maria Varsii, said it is “more likely” the paintings are intact. She said her client was prepared to turn them over to Dutch authorities if the trial was moved to the Netherlands.

The burglars, who reportedly took less than three minutes to steal the masterpieces, carried the artwork away in burlap sacks.

A major break in the case came months after the burglary when an art expert at Romania’s National Art Museum was asked by a friend to examine some art works that he was planning to buy. The expert contacted authorities when she realized she was looking at the stolen originals.

The remains of paint, canvas and nails consistent with those of the famous works were found in February inside an oven at Dogaru’s mother’s home in Romania.

Olga Dogaru had confessed to burning an unspecified number of paintings, although she later retracted her statement.

Thus far, forensic experts have refused to say definitively whether burnt remains found in her home were from the stolen paintings.

According to prosecutors, the works have been valued at around 15 million euros ($24 million) although some experts have said they were worth more than 10 times that amount.

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