Police declined to give details of the scheme, which resulted in Edvard Munch's 1893 work being found virtually undamaged at a hotel in south Norway on Saturday. Three Norwegians have been arrested in connection with the disappearance of the priceless painting, which was stolen from the National Gallery in Oslo on 12 February.
The daily Dagbladet reported that the men were arrested after a police sting. 'Two secret agents from New Scotland Yard fooled the Norwegians (the thieves),' the newspaper reported. Norwegian police contacted Scotland Yard shortly after the theft, and worked closely with chief inspector John Butler, head of Scotland Yard's Art and Antique section, it said.
'While John Butler worked with (Norwegian police inspector) Leif Lier . . . two of Butler's agents had already been in touch with with people who claimed they could get hold of The Scream.
'A sum was agreed - Dagbladet has reason to believe, of between pounds 250,000 and pounds 300,000.'
Knut Berg, director of the National Gallery, said: 'No ransom has been paid.' He said the painting had a pinprick, but was undamaged. 'The thieves must have handled it with extreme caution.'Reuse content