Suspect denies involvement in theft of Van Gogh, Hals paintings
Nils M., suspected of breaking into two museums and the theft of paintings by Frans Hals and Vincent van Gogh, said he has "nothing at all" to do with either art theft. The 59-year-old man from Baarn stated this on Friday at the start of the criminal case against him before the court in Lelystad. The Public Prosecutor demanded eight years in prison against M, the highest possible sentence for this type of crime.
According to the judiciary, M. broke into the Singer Laren Museum in Naarden at the end of March 2020 and stole the painting 'Spring garden, the rectory garden in Nuenen in the spring' by Vincent van Gogh. At the end of August, he also allegedly removed the canvas 'Two laughing boys' by Frans Hals from the Hofje van Mevrouw van Aerden in Leerdam. Both works are worth millions of euros. The Van Gogh was insured for 2.5 million euros, the Hals for over 8.7 million euros.
The prosecutor spoke of "the worst type of business burglary there is". According to her, the theft affects "the entire art world and the public". And the "invaluable" cultural heritage is still missing. The prosecutor said there was a good chance that the paintings ended up in the underworld. According to her, it is "realistic" to assume they will never be found.
"I don't know anything about it. I've never been to those museums," said M., who is also on trial for firearms and hard drugs possession, and who consistently invoked his right to remain silent with the police. "I haven't been there, not at all. I've been accused of something I had nothing to do with. I don't know who could have done it. I'm not an art lover at all. I like old things."
M.'s DNA was found at the museums after the art theft. At Van Gogh's work it was on a list which was found smashed to pieces outside the museum. In the second burglary, it was found on a strap that had been thrown over a wall from a flagpole outside the museum. The break-ins were allegedly committed by two people.
M.'s lawyer asked for acquittal. According to her, it cannot be established unequivocally that the DNA material originated from her client. She also emphasized that no further trace evidence pointed to her client. M. himself called the sentence demand "ridiculous".
The court will rule on September 24.