Stolen paintings found in abandoned car

19th February 2008, Comments 0 comments

The Monet, Degas and van Gogh works were unharmed.

Zurich -- Two of the four paintings stolen in Switzerland's biggest ever art robbery have been recovered from an abandoned car, police in Zurich confirmed Tuesday.

They were found just a few hundred meters from the private Buehrle museum from where they had been stolen nine days earlier. But two of the paintings taken in the haul, which had a total worth of an estimated 180 million Swiss francs (163 million dollars), were still missing.

Claude Monet's Champ de Coquelicots Pres de Vetheuil (1879) and Branches de Marronier en fleurs" (1890) by Vincent van Gogh worth an estimated 70 million Swiss francs were put on display by police at a press conference.

They had been discovered undamaged inside the car left unlocked in a public car park outside a psychiatric clinic a few hundred meters from the museum where they had been stolen in an armed raid on Sunday Feb. 10.

The two other pictures taken in the heist, Ludovic Lepic et ses Filles (1871) by Edgar Degas and Le Garcon au Gilet Rouge (1888/90) by Paul Cezanne have still not been found.

Museum curator Lukas Gloor said he was relieved the pictures had been found: "Both paintings are still in perfect condition." He could not say whether a ransom had been paid.

He said the thieves had abandoned the two largest paintings.

Police towed away the white car Monday after a parking warden noticed the paintings inside and became suspicious.

The paintings were taken by three armed men in just three minutes during broad daylight while visitors were still present. One man forced staff and visitors to the ground while his two accomplices removed the paintings from the wall.

They were seen escaping in a white car.

It is not the first time paintings have been stolen and abandoned close to where they were taken. In 1991, in one of the briefest of robberies, 20 paintings by van Gogh, worth millions of dollars each, were taken from the Vincent van Gogh museum in Amsterdam in Holland. The works were recovered within three hours inside the thieves' getaway vehicle abandoned at a station. Many were damaged.

The theft from the Buehrle collection, amassed by German industrialist Emil Buehrle who died in 1956, was one in a series of recent art robberies.

It came just four days after two Picassos worth an estimated 4 million dollars were stolen from an exhibition at Pfaeffikon not far from Zurich.

Zurich police had also revealed Monday that 11 works of art worth 300,000 francs had been stolen Friday from an apartment in Kilchberg near Zurich. Another 20 paintings had already been stolen from the same apartment at the end of January.

DPA with Expatica

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