World

Court sentences art thieves to 6 years 8 months

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — A Romanian court on Tuesday handed down sentences of six years and eight months to the ringleaders of a gang who stole paintings by Matisse, Monet and Picasso from a Dutch museum in a daring nighttime raid.

A Bucharest district court sentenced Radu Dogaru and Eugen Darie for the theft of seven paintings from Rotterdam's Kunsthal in Oct. 2012. The pair, who were not in court to hear the verdict, were ordered to pay 6,000 lei ($1,830) in court costs. The sentences can be appealed.

Dogaru and Darie told the court that they believed they were stealing fakes. They also said that security at the museum was very lax. The works have never been found. Dogaru's mother added a twist to the case by telling prosecutors that she burned the paintings — then retracted her statement.

The trial will continue for Dogaru's mother, Olga, who is charged with destroying the works. Three others are also on trial, and their court case will resume on Dec. 3. One of them has already pleaded guilty, but his trial continues.

The Triton Foundation, which owned the seven paintings that hung in Rotterdam's Kunsthal, has been paid 18 million euros ($23.8 million). Insurers Lloyds of London are listed as a civil party in the trial.

The stolen paintings included Pablo Picasso's 1971 "Harlequin Head," Claude Monet's 1901 "Waterloo Bridge, London," Henri Matisse's 1919 "Reading Girl in White and Yellow" and Paul Gauguin's 1898 "Girl in Front of Open Window."

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