Suspected ringleader in painting heist demands Dutch trial

Tue Sep 10, 2013 12:28pm EDT
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By Ioana Patran

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - The suspected Romanian ringleader in the theft of seven paintings, including a Picasso and a Monet, from a Dutch museum will only disclose their whereabouts if his trial is moved to the Netherlands, his lawyer said on Tuesday.

Radu Dogaru and four other Romanians appeared in a Bucharest court charged with stealing artworks worth tens of millions of euros from Rotterdam's Kunsthal museum in October.

Lawyers for some of the men said in August they were ready to surrender the paintings in return for an unspecified deal. It was the first time one has given details of the possible terms.

Defence lawyer Catalin Dancu told reporters during a break in the proceedings five of the seven paintings, originally believed to be in Romania, had been moved.

"All the five paintings that were in Romania are now abroad, in the east, in my opinion in Moldova. A Russian lipovan took the paintings abroad," he said without elaborating, referring to a member of an ethnic Russian minority living in Romania. Dancu said the other two stolen artworks were in Belgium.

"Radu Dogaru has refused to tell where the five paintings are. Radu said: 'If the Dutch don't want to take me, no one sees the paintings'," Dancu said.

"Radu does not want to cooperate anymore with Romanian authorities because he does not trust the justice system in Romania," the lawyer added.

He again denied reports paintings had been burned.   Continued...

Eugen Darie (C) and Alexandru Bitu (R), suspects charged in the theft of seven paintings from a Dutch museum, arrive handcuffed and escorted by police for their trial at a court building in Bucharest September 10, 2013. REUTERS/Bogdan Cristel