Belfast Telegraph

Monday 1 September 2014

Three held over Swiss art robbery

Paul Cezanne's painting The Boy In The Red Vest was stolen from a private Swiss museum in 2008 (AP Photo/Keystone/Foundation E.G. Buehrle Collection/ Police Zurich)

A painting seized in Serbia has been confirmed as a stolen masterpiece by French impressionist Paul Cezanne.

Swiss prosecutors said the EG Buehrle Foundation certified that the painting is Cezanne's The Boy In The Red Vest.

It was stolen from a private Swiss museum in 2008 in one of the biggest art thefts in Europe at the time, along with three other masterpieces by Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh and Edgar Degas.

Monet's Poppy Field at Vetheuil and van Gogh's Blooming Chestnut Branches were discovered undamaged in a car parked at a mental hospital in Zurich soon after the robbery. The heist was conducted by three armed and masked men who witnesses said spoke German with a Slavic accent.

Serbian police arrested three people overnight on Wednesday in connection with the robbery.

They said police raids and the arrests in the capital of Belgrade and in the central city of Cacak were conducted in co-ordination with police from several European countries.

One police official said an art expert was being flown in to confirm the authenticity of the painting.

Art experts have suggested the robbers took advantage of a low-security museum without knowing about the paintings or how difficult it can be to sell such well-known stolen art works.

Cezanne's painting alone was worth £68 million when it was stolen. The other painting still missing is Degas' Ludovic Lepic and his Daughter, worth about £6.8 million.

The robbers took the first four paintings they reached when they raided the museum shortly before closing time on a Sunday. Although the most valuable painting was among the ones they took, they left behind the second most precious picture in the room, Cezanne's Self Portrait with Palette, insured for £6 million.

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