Monday 24 November 2014

Three held over paintings theft

Published 22/01/2013 | 19:45

Harlequin Head by Pablo Picasso was one of the paintings stolen (AP)

Three people have been arrested over a multimillion-pound heist from a Netherlands art gallery, Dutch police have said.

The paintings, by artists including Picasso, Matisse, Monet, have not been recovered.

The announcement marked the first breakthrough for police since thieves broke open an emergency exit and stole the seven pieces on October 16 last year in a late night raid at the Kunsthal gallery in Rotterdam.

It was the biggest art theft in more than a decade in the Netherlands. The stolen works have an estimated value of tens of millions of pounds if they were sold at auction, but art experts said that would be impossible following the theft.

"Three people have been arrested, but unfortunately we have not got back the paintings," Rotterdam police spokeswoman Yvette van den Heerik said.

Police later said in a statement that the suspects were arrested as part of an ongoing Romanian investigation and not at the request of Dutch authorities.

Kunsthal spokeswoman Mariette Maaskant said gallery staff members are not yet breathing a sigh of relief.

"There is no painting found yet," she said. "For us, that is the most important thing."

Romanian police spokeswoman Raluca Seucan said the investigation, which was co-ordinated with the anti-crime branch of the police, was still ongoing and declined to provide further details.

Two thieves forced their way into the gallery through a rear emergency door and snatched the paintings. Security cameras showed the thieves breaking in and fleeing within two minutes. They were gone by the time police, alerted by an alarm, arrived less than five minutes after the break-in.

Press Association

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