Dutch heist update: Stolen Matisse painting offered to a Romanian businessman

Some  of the seven paintings stolen last year in the Dutch museum heist appear to have been in Romania, at least for a brief time. After three Romanians were recently arrested as suspects in the audacious art theft from Rotterdam’s Kunsthal Museum, information surfaced in the Romanian media about two of the paintings, one by Matisse, having been offered to a Romanian buyer. Interpol, which is currently investigating the case together with Romanian authorities, also recently said they were hoping to recover some of the paintings, including works by Picasso, Monet and Matisse.

Information released from the Bucharest District 5 court on the arrest of the three Romanians mentions the assistant of Romanian designer Catalin Botezatu offering the two paintings to a Romanian businessman Dinescu Constantin. The businessman, who suspected the paintings were not original, called on an expect who confirmed the Matisse original and said they were worth some EUR 60 million. The businessman initially wanted to buy them, but changed his mind after an attack of conscience.

The three Romanians who were arrested, all of them from Macin, in Dobrogea region, have asked to be freed during the investigation. They are suspected of having stolen an estimated EUR 300 million worth of paintings in October last year.

Police were tipped off by a woman, a former girlfriend of one of the three, who showed pictures of their visit to the Rotterdam museum. She said the paintings allegedly arrived in Romania, at an address on Tudor Vladimirescu boulevard in Bucharest. According to Romanian media, the three, Mihai-Alexandru Bitu, Eugen Darie and Radu Dogaru were known as small time crooks in their home town of Macin.

The seven stolen art works were Picasso’s Tete d’Arlequin, Monet’s Waterloo Bridge, London, and Charing Cross Bridge, London, Freud’s Woman with Eyes Closed, Matisse’s La Liseuse en Blanc et Jaune, Gauguin’s Femme Devant une Fenetre Ouverte, dite la Fiancee, and Meyer de Haan’s Autoportrait.

German news service Deutsche Welle describes the robbery on October 16 last year as a “lightning speed, audacious theft,” in which the thieves broke into the museum, stole the paintings and made their escape within 90 seconds. At the time, the heist baffled Dutch Police, who couldn’t understand how the thieves had got round the museum’s alarm systems.

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