On Tuesday, the Court President residing over the prosecution of the accused Kunsthal Museum thieves adjourned the trial for one month. The trial, labeled by the pulp press as “The Bonfire of the Masterpieces,” will resume on September 10, 2013. The Court President agreed that more time was needed to clarify the painting’s status and location. The six burglers are accused of stealing seven paintings from the Kunsthal Museum on October 16, 2012.
The defense team for Radu Dogaru, the leader of the heist, admitted his guilt to investigators, hoping to work out a deal to move the trial from Romania to the Netherlands. As a “bargaining chip” Dogaru is offering to retrun five of the stolen works.
This counters the claim that Dogaru’s mother, Olga Dogaru, burned the paintings. She told the police that she was scared for her son and burned the paintings, which were buried in a local cemetery for safekeeping until a the the Dogaru could find a buyer. Olga Dogaru told police:
“From the moment we buried the paintings in the cemetery, my psychological state must have deteriorated… without consulting with anyone and without telling anyone, four days after the raid of 13 February 2013 I decided one night to destroy those paintings by burning them.”
She later retracted her statement, but experts from the Romanian National History Museum found charred remains of three oil paintings and nails used to build canvas stretchers dating from before the 19th century in her coal stove. The defense lawyer for Dogaru has sent the ashes to the Louvre’s laboratory for further testing, arguing that the previous analysis was “unfounded.”
Dogaru, who is also under investigation for murder and human trafficking in Romania, could face twenty years in prison if found guilty of “theft with exceptionally serious consequences.” Olga Dogaru also faces a twenty-year jail sentence if she is found guilty of burning the priceless masterworks. Dogaru’s five associates face lesser charges.
The missing paintings include: Pablo Picasso’s 1971 “Harlequin Head”; Claude Monet’s 1901 “Waterloo Bridge, London” and “Charing Cross Bridge, London”; Henri Matisse’s 1919 “Reading Girl in White and Yellow”; Paul Gauguin’s 1898 “Girl in Front of Open Window”; Meyer de Haan’s “Self-Portrait” of around 1890; and Lucian Freud’s 2002 work “Woman with Eyes Closed.”
The trial is set to continue in Romania on September 10, 2013.
For previous coverage visit: “Update: The Agence France-Presse Report the Paintings from the Kunsthal Museum were Burned,” “Update: More Arrests in the Kunsthal Museum Theft and New Speculation that the Paintings were Burnt,” “Art Theft in the Netherlands Raises Concerns About Museum Security.”
Sources: “Dutch art heist adjourned in Bucharest with face of paintings unclear,” The Guardian, August 13, 2013; “Romanian trial over Dutch art theft adjourned for a month,” Newsasia, August 13, 2013.