In a statement released by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, Italian prosecutors and organized crime units have recovered two stolen works of Vincent Van Gogh from the Camorra, a mafia family in Naples. Their recovery marks a considerable resolution to the baffling heist in which the paintings were stolen 14 years ago.
The two paintings were reportedly apprehended in Castellammare di Stabia, a coastal town near Pompeii, Italy. Museum officials were unsure of when the paintings would be returned to Amsterdam, but did state that the paintings were in “relatively good condition.”
The stolen Van Gogh’s were among a much larger cache of assets seized from the Camorra as part of a “massive, continuing investigation.” The loot’s total estimated value is believed to be in the millions of Euros. The greater investigation, in which the paintings were found, has been largely focused on drug trafficking activities and subsequent money laundering by Italian organized crime.
The 2002 Heist
The two paintings – displayed on loan – were taken on the night of the 6 December 2002 from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands. After allegedly using a ladder to enter through the museum roof, the perpetrators removed the pieces hanging on display. After using sledgehammers to break a first-floor window, the suspects successfully fled the scene with the paintings in hand.
The robbery created an outrage due to the lack of perceived security for the museum, and additional confusion as to its apparent lapse. The museum employed an infrared security system and security guards were also on duty. The entire operation proved baffling to security experts that evaluated the crime, who believed the security measures should have proved adequate to prevent the robbery.
The two suspects are officially identified as Octave Durham and Henk B. Durham. Both men were sentenced in 2004, and received a four-and-a-half year prison sentence, and a four year jail sentence, respectively. Both men still maintain their innocence in the case.
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The Stolen Van Gogh Paintings
The two works recovered by the Dutch master, “Seascape at Scheveninger,” (1882) and “Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church at Nuenen” (1884) were collectively valued at €68M ($100M/£77M). “Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church at Nuenen” is considered particularly significant, as experts believe Van Gogh painted it for his mother and his pastor father.
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