Stolen Van Goghs found in home of Italian mafia boss

The two newly recovered Van Gogh paintings were found in the home of a high member in the Italian mafia. This is not very surprising and not the first time lost art was found with a mafia boss, art detective Arthur Brand explained to RTL Nieuws.

"Mafiosi buy this kind of work to use as collateral in the criminal environment", Brand said to the broadcaster. "There it represents about 20 percent of the total value. They buy it on the black market or steal it themselves. Or they use it as trade if they are arrested."

Exactly how the two paintings - Seafront at Scheveningen and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen - came to be in Italy is still unclear. The paintings were found by chance while the Italian authorities were raiding the home of a mafia boss, according to RTL. The mafia boss in question is on the run, possibly in Dubai.

The works were stolen from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam on December 7th, 2002. Despite not being stored under optimum conditions for 14 years,, they are in a very satisfactory condition. There is minor damage to the outer sides. But nothing that can not be restored, according to the broadcaster.

A 2010 estimate of the works' combined value was 4 million euros. Two Dutch men were arrested and convicted for the theft. They've always denied involvement.

Exactly when the two paintings will be returning to the Netherlands is still unclear. The Van Gogh museum wants them back as soon as possible and is fully cooperating with the Italian judiciary.

Alex Ruger, director of the museum, is delighted that the works were found. "After so many years, you do not dare hope for a possible return. We are greatly indebted to all others involved. They've been found! That I'd be able to say that, I did not dare hope for." he said to the broadcaster.