Woman held for $100 million Paris art haul

1st October 2011, Comments 0 comments

Three people are being held in connection with the theft of paintings worth at least 100 million dollars from a Paris gallery last year, but the works are still missing, a legal official said Saturday.

The three, a woman suspected of taking part in the theft and two people suspected of handling stolen goods, were arrested and charged over the robbery of the five paintings, by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Ferdinand Leger and Amedeo Modigliani, and placed in custody on September 16, the official said.

A lone burglar sheared off a gate padlock and broke a window to get into the city-run Musee d'Art Moderne in the brazen operation during the night of May 19 last year.

The paintings were found to be missing just as the museum, a major tourist attraction near the Eiffel Tower, was about to open.

Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe later said one of the museum's alarms had been "partly malfunctioning" since the end of March, and that it was still awaiting repair when the thieves struck.

The stolen Picasso alone -- the cubist "Dove with Green Peas," which the Spanish artist created in 1912 -- is worth some 25 million euros, according to the mayor's deputy for culture, Christophe Girard.

The others were French contemporary Matisse's "Pastoral" from 1905, Braque's "Olive Tree near Estaque", Modigliani's "Woman with a Fan" and Leger's "Still Life with Candlestick".

City hall put the total value of the haul at 100 million euros ($140 million), but some experts said they were worth twice that, while admitting they were totally unsaleable openly.

Girard said the thief managed to slip past three nightwatchmen on duty.

"To get into the museum so fast by disassembling a window, choose five specific works and then slip out unnoticed by the guards, that is quite impressive," he said.

© 2011 AFP

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