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Romanians admit £15m art theft

Three Romanians have pleaded guilty to stealing seven paintings, including works by Picasso, Monet and Matisse, from a Dutch museum in a raid that shocked the art world.

Radu Dogaru, Alexandru Bitu and Eugen Darie, told a Bucharest court that they took the paintings, valued at around £15 million, from the Kunsthal Museum in October 2012. They have not been recovered.

The thieves, who were arrested in January, said they smuggled the paintings into Romania, tried to sell them on the black market, then left them with Dogaru's mother, Olga Dogaru.

Radu Dogaru told the court that when he stole the paintings he thought they were fakes. "I could not believe you could enter as easily as that," he said.

He said they were handed over to a Russian Ukrainian man whom he identified and wrote the man's address on a piece of paper for the court. The name was not publicly confirmed.

His mother initally claimed she had burned the paintings at her home but Dogaru denied that. He said that remains of paint, canvas and nails identified in ash found there could have been from 19th century icons they owned.

The thieves broke in through a rear emergency exit of the Kunsthal, grabbed the paintings off the wall, put them in sacks and fled - all within minutes - in the biggest art robbery in the Netherlands for more than a decade.

The stolen works were "Tete d'Arlequin" by Pablo Picasso, "La Liseuse en Blanc et Jaune" by Henri Matisse, "Waterloo Bridge" and "Charing Cross Bridge" by Claude Monet, "Femme devant une fenetre ouverte, dite la fiancee" by Paul Gauguin, "Autoportrait" by Meyer de Haan, and "Woman with Eyes Closed" by Lucian Freud.



From Belfast Telegraph