Expert Main Witness in Stolen Art Investigation

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On Monday, a Romanian art specialist said she assisted authorities to find the suspects of the stolen art pieces (thought to be burned) from a Dutch museum following her assessment of two paintings last year.

Dragu carefully examined "Femme Devant une Fenetre Ouverte, dite La Fiancee" by Paul Gauguin only to discover it was stolen.
Paul Gauguin (1848–1903)
Photo by Itu/Wikimedia Commons

Mariana Dragu of Romania's National Art Museum told Romanian daily Adevarul and Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad that “felt she had to do something” after discovering the paintings she saw in Kunsthal Museum in Rotterdam were missing.

Seven paintings including works of Picasso, Gauguin and Monets were stolen from the museum in October 2012. The incidence brought embarrassment to Romania.

Dragu evaluated the authenticity of the two paintings in November after her friend showed interest in the art pieces.  She met the art enthusiast and the sellers- two men. Both men were later confirmed suspects to the crime.

"I had heard about the theft but I had not seen any images so I did not realise at once that it could have been the stolen paintings," she said.

This photo was released by the police in Rotterdam, Netherlands on Oct. 16, 2012, shows the 1919 painting “La Liseuse en Blanc et Jaune" by Henri Matisse after being stolen from the Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam. Art expert Mariana Dragu assessed the art piece.
AP Photo/Police Rotterdam (Photo by Playing Futures: Applied Nomadology/flickr)

She checked the artworks and was surprised that they were original. She then suspected they were stolen. "I was told they came from England," she said. She encouraged them to return the paintings to the police. She took a picture of the back of one of the paintings, which signifies it had been displayed many times worldwide. She searched the internet and found out the two artworks were lost.

She contacted the prosecutor’s office on the following day. She said police officials could not believe the masterpieces were in Romania and her photo was proof of the crime.

"My only regret is that I was not clever and strong enough to say I know a potential buyer. I might have saved the paintings," she said.

Three suspects, including one of the two men she met, were arrested in Romania after a couple of months.  One of the suspects said he will give back five of the several paintings if the trial will be held in a Dutch court and not in Romania.

Source: AFP