3 mins, pliers are all art thieves needed

2013-07-25 20:15
An empty space left by a painting from Henri Matisse that was stolen at the Kunsthal museum.

An empty space left by a painting from Henri Matisse that was stolen at the Kunsthal museum. (AFP)

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Bucharest - Two Romanian suspects needed a pair of pliers and less than three minutes to break into a Dutch museum and steal seven masterpieces, said prosecutors probing a spectacular 2012 art heist.

"The investigation has proved that the theft was planned down to the last detail," prosecutors said in their indictment.

A total of six Romanians will stand trial in the capital Bucharest in August for what has been called the "theft of the century".

A Picasso and two Monnets were part of the booty that prosecutors say was worth €18m. Art experts put their value at €100m.

In October 2012, Radu Dogaru, 29, and two accomplices, Eugen Darie and Adrian Procop, who had all been living in the Netherlands for a few months, decided to make some "big money" by stealing art works, the indictment said.

They allegedly used their GPS to locate museums in Rotterdam, which led them to the Natural History Museum - hardly what they were looking for.

But when leaving the building they saw a poster announcing that 150 exceptional art works would be put on show in the nearby Kunsthal museum.

Despite their value, "none of the paintings was equipped with an alarm", the indictment reads, citing Dutch authorities.

The three suspects allegedly paid several visits to the museum to check the security system.

They found that one of the back doors could be easily opened from the outside, while the paintings, which could be touched by visitors, were hanging from simple hooks.

In choosing their booty, they checked the internet to find the best-selling painters but also took into account the size of the canvases, which had to fit in the bags they had bought.

Pliers

On the rainy night of 16 October 2012, Dogaru and Procop allegedly broke into the building using a pair of pliers, grabbed seven paintings and left, just as an alarm went off.

"All in all they spent two minutes and 48 seconds inside," prosecutors said.

After trying to sell the pictures in Belgium, the suspects allegedly returned to Romania hoping to find a buyer.

Dogaru, Darie and a third suspect were arrested in Romania in January. Procop is still on the run.

Initial searches in their native village of Carcaliu in eastern Romania failed to turn up the paintings.

But in March investigators arrested Dogaru's mother, Olga, who said she had torched the masterpieces in a bid to destroy the evidence.

On Monday, Olga Dogaru changed her statement, but tests conducted by experts of the Romanian history museum identified "fragments typical of burnt oil paintings" in ashes collected from her stove.

The works stolen include Picasso's Tete d'Arlequin, Monet's Waterloo Bridge and Lucian Freud's Woman with Eyes Closed.

Read more on:    the netherlands

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