Officials arrest three in 2012 art heist

Charing Cross Bridge monet

Authorities in Romania have arrested three men suspected of stealing paintings worth tens of millions of dollars late last year from Rotterdam’s Kunsthal museum.

Thieves made off with seven paintings, including works by Monet, Matisse, Picasso and Gauguin, in a brazen and meticulously planned operation last October.

A Bucharest district court made a ruling last month that allows authorities to hold the three men for 29 days, Reuters reported, citing the Romanian news agency Mediafax.

The seven masterpieces were stolen in a pre-dawn heist from Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam, the biggest such theft in the Netherlands in more than two decades.

The stolen paintings were: Pablo Picasso’s 1971 “Harlequin Head”; Claude Monet’s 1901 “Waterloo Bridge, London” and “Charing Cross Bridge, London”; Henri Matisse’s 1919 “Reading Girl in White and Yellow”; Paul Gauguin’s 1898 “Girl in Front of Open Window”; Meyer de Haan’s “Self-Portrait,” around 1890, and Lucian Freud’s 2002 work “Woman with Eyes Closed.”

It is the biggest art theft in The Netherlands since 20 paintings were stolen from Amsterdam’s Van Gogh museum in 1991.

As yet, the works have not been found.

The paintings are so famous that it will be difficult to get anything like their real value on the black market, according to Discovery.com.

Two thieves forced their way into the gallery through a rear emergency door and grabbed the paintings. Security cameras showed the thieves entering 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, according to The Associated Press.

The museum is in Rotterdam’s museum park where few people go at night.

The works were among the 150-strong Triton Foundation’s collection, which was being shown in its entirety to the public for the first time to mark the museum’s 20th anniversary, the Kunsthal’s website said.

The collection “has developed into one with an international reputation and which comprises representative works by the most important and influential artists of the late 19th century to the present day,” it said.

The exhibition “comprises works from almost every significant art movement,” it added.

The Kunsthal, which means “art hall,” has no permanent collection of its own.

(Above: Monet’s “Charing Cross Bridge, London, “1901, stolen from the Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam late last year.)

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