August 11, 2013
The trial of six Romanians accused of being behind one of the most spectacular art thefts ever begins in Bucharest on Tuesday amid fears that masterpieces by Monet, Picasso and Gauguin may have been burned and lost forever.
The mother of the main suspect told police she had destroyed the paintings by torching them in a stove, a statement she later retracted. The fate of the paintings remains unclear.
It took less than three minutes for the thieves to take seven masterpieces by some of the world’s most famous artists from the Kunsthal museum in the Dutch port of Rotterdam in the pre-dawn heist on October 16, 2012.
Among the paintings stolen and carried away in burlap sacks were Picasso’s “Tete d’Arlequin,” Monet’s “Waterloo Bridge” and “Femme Devant une Fenetre Ouverte, dite La Fiancee” by Paul Gauguin.
The total value of the haul, dubbed the “theft of the century,” was 18 million euros ($24 million) according to prosecutors, while art experts at the time of the heist had claimed the paintings were worth up to 100 million euros.
“The theft was carried out according to a meticulous plan,” prosecutors say in the indictment.
Identified by surveillance cameras, “the two responsible for the raid were Radu Dogaru, who was also the leader and the organiser of the criminal gang, and Adrian Procop,” the indictment says.
Procop, 21, is on the run and will be tried in absentia.
Dogaru, 29, was arrested in January in Romania along with two accomplices, Eugen Darie and Mihai Alexandru Bitu.