Romania arrests three men over Dutch art heist: report

BUCHAREST Wed Jan 23, 2013 12:12am IST

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BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romanian authorities have arrested three men suspected of stealing paintings by Picasso, Matisse and Monet from Rotterdam's Kunsthal museum in October, local news agency Mediafax said on Tuesday.

Thieves made off with seven paintings, which also included a Gauguin, a Lucian Freud and a Meyer de Haan, thought to be worth tens of millions of dollars in a brazen and meticulously planned operation.

A Bucharest district court made a ruling late on Monday allowing authorities to hold three men for 29 days, Mediafax reported quoting judicial sources.

"The three men are suspected of being the authors of the large scale theft in Kunsthal museum," it added.

The court made the ruling in response to a request from Romania's DIICOT government prosecuting office, which investigates organized crime and terrorism, said Mediafax.

DIICOT declined to comment but Romania's police force confirmed it was looking into the Dutch theft.

"Under DIICOT supervision, Romanian police have pursued several activities in connection with the theft of paintings in a Dutch museum. But because investigations are underway, additional details cannot be offered," said police spokeswoman Raluca Seucan.

The theft was one of the art world's most dramatic in recent years and one of the biggest ever in the Netherlands.

The works stolen were Picasso's "Tête d'Arlequin", Matisse's "La Liseuse en Blanc et Jaune", Monet's "Waterloo Bridge, London" and "Charing Cross Bridge, London", Gauguin's "Femme devant une fenêtre ouverte", De Haan's "Autoportrait" and Freud's "Woman with Eyes Closed".

(Reporting by Radu Marinas; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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