UK & World News
Art Heist Gang Offers To Return Masterpieces
A man whose gang allegedly stole seven paintings worth tens of millions from a gallery in Holland offered to give five back if his trial was moved to the country they were stolen from.
Romanian Radu Dogaru made the offer before going on trial in his native country for stealing the pictures, which include works by Picasso, Matisse and Monet.
It emerged last month that Dogaru's mother had admitted burning the paintings in her stove.
But, after a pretrial hearing, Dogaru's lawyer said that the paintings had not been burned and that the offer had been made to return some of those taken.
Catalin Dancu, Dogaru's lawyer, said: "I tell you now that you will be surprised that they are not burned," adding that he did not know where they were.
He said Dogaru's mother Olga claimed to have burned the pictures so that the investigation would stop, but she had subsequently told him they had not been burned.
Last month it was widely reported that experts were analysing ash found in Olga Dogaru's oven after said she had burned the seven paintings when police came to search for them.
But Mr Dancu said that Dogaru was now saying that the art had not been burned and that he could return five of the pictures if his trial was moved to Holland.
He said: "Radu Dogaru proposed that he be taken to Holland to be convicted and to execute his punishment according to Dutch law, and in return he would hand over five of the paintings out of seven, because he only had these five in his possession.
"The Dutch authorities categorically refused and said any deal would be made only if all the paintings were handed over. If not, Dogaru would not go to Holland," added Mr Dancu.
Dogaru is due to face trial in Bucharest along with five others who were said to have been his accomplices.
The Bucharest Tribunal adjourned the trial for a month on Tuesday shortly after it began.
The seven paintings were stolen last October in the biggest art heist to hit the Netherlands for more than a decade.
Thieves broke in through a rear emergency exit of the Kunsthal gallery, grabbed the paintings off the wall, put them in sacks and fled - all within two minutes.
The stolen works were Picasso's 1971 Harlequin Head; Monet's 1901 Waterloo Bridge, London and Charing Cross Bridge, London; 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 of around 1890 and Lucian Freud's 2002 work Woman with Eyes Closed.
Forensic experts at Romania's National History Museum who examined ash from the stove of Olga Dogaru, believed they had found evidence of burned paintings.
Speaking after Tuesday's hearing at the Bucharest Tribunal, Radu Dogaru's lawyer, Catalin Dancu, said a new "expert report" would clarify the situation.
Olga Dogaru was present at Tuesday's hearing.