Romanians accused of stealing paintings from Rotterdam museum want investigation moved to the Netherlands

The Romanians accused of stealing valuable paintings from a Dutch gallery want their case moved to the Netherlands and say they’ll hand back the works when the “legal framework” is in place to do so.

With the second hearing into the heist set to get underway today, September 10, lawyers for some of the accused have asked the investigation be moved to the Netherlands, where the crime is also being investigated.

The six Romanians involved in the heist will appear today in Bucharest’s sector 3 court charged with the October 2012 heist at the Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam.

A total of seven paintings were stolen from the museum in Rotterdam in October last year, namely Picasso’s Tete d’Arlequin, Monet’s Waterloo Bridge and Charing Cross Bridge, Freud’s Woman with Eyes Closed, Matisse’s La Liseuse en Blanc et Jaune, Gauguin’s Femme Devant une Fenetre Ouverte (in picture) and Meyer de Haan’s Autoportrait.

The six defendants include Radu Dogaru, Eugen Darie, Alexandru Bitu, Olga Dogaru, Petre Condrat and Adrian Procop.

The group were originally believed to have destroyed the artworks, covered by an insurance payout of EUR 18 million. Having smuggled them into Romania inside pillows, the group deposited the paintings at Dogaru’s mother’s house in the village of Carcaliu, Tulcea county.

After the crime was exposed, Dogaru’s mother claimed to have burnt the paintings in a bid to keep her son out of jail. However, she later retracted her remarks.

After having experts examine the ash of Dogaru’s mother’s stove, director of Romania’s National History Museum Ernest Oberlander-Tarnoveanu said that three of the paintings could have been burned.

Maria Vasii, lawyer for Eugen Darie, one of the defendants, said the accused had not burned the paintings and would return them to the Dutch authorities.

“Our clients are waiting for the correct procedural framework in order to take all steps needed to hand over these paintings to the Dutch authorities. Our clients informed us that these paintings have not been burned,” she said

Radu Dogarus’ lawyer, Catalin Dancu, also mentioned that the stolen paintings were brought to Romania but not damaged.

Meanwhile, the theft, labelled “the heist of century” has become the subject of an upcoming film.

Romanian director Tudor Giurgiu and photographer Cristian Movila are currently working on the feature-length action movie, which will attempt to show how the robbery took place and how the paintings were possibly burned.

The film could be in English and work with an international cast, given the worldwide interest for this story.

Irina Popescu, [email protected]