14 Aug 2013

Return of stolen paintings offered by suspects

6:17 am on 14 August 2013

Suspects in the theft of seven artworks have offered to return them in exchange for moving their trial from Romania to the Netherlands.

The deal was offered by lawyers for Radu Dogaru and five others as they went on trial, one in absentia, in Bucharest.

They are accused of stealing masterpieces, by Picasso, Gauguin and Monet among others, from the Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam last October.

The BBC reports the trial opened on Tuesday and was adjourned until 10 September.

One of the lawyers said their clients had offered to return five of the paintings. No mention was made of the remaining two. There are fears they have been destroyed.

The remains of paint, canvas and nails consistent with those of the works were found in an oven at the home of Olga Dogaru, the mother of Mr Dogaru, in February.

She confessed to burning an unspecified number of paintings, but later retracted her statement.

The works have been valued at around 18 million euros (£15 million). They include Waterloo Bridge by Monet, Harlequin Head by Picasso, Reading Girl in White and Yellow by Matisse and Woman with Eyes Closed by Lucien Freud.

The BBC reports the paintings came to light some months later when Mariana Dragu, an art expert at Romania's National Art Museum, was asked by a friend to examine some artworks he was planning to buy.

She said she called the prosecutor's office when she realised she was looking at the stolen originals.