Swedish police arrest two for pounds 50m art theft

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The Independent Online
TWO MEN have been arrested by Swedish police in connection with the theft of works by Picasso and Braque worth pounds 50m from the Modern Art Museum in Stockholm. In a daring and highly professional raid, which was likened to the French film Rififi, - a gang cut a one-metre- wide hole in a roof, climbed down a rope and unscrewed works of their choice from walls.

The arrested men are said to be in their early twenties. One is Swedish, the other a Pole who has been living in Stockholm for several years. Whether they have any connection with the art world is unclear.

Police recovered three of the Picasso paintings yesterday in an apartment in Stockholm: they include La Demoiselle, 1929, The Painter, 1930, and Woman with the Blue Collar, 1941. Although the other five works are so well known it would be virtually impossible to sell them on the open market, it is believed they have been sold outside Sweden. Reports in the Swedish press even quote the amount they were sold for: pounds 1.8m.

The police, however, have not issued a statement, and museum staff have yet to see the paintings to assess their condition.

Stefan Wahlberg of the Swedish daily Expressen said: 'I think they will catch more people tomorrow, because the police are keeping so quiet.'

Trace, the monthly magazine for retrieving stolen art, said intelligence experts in Sweden have been linking the theft to the disappearance of a major painting by Matisse from the same museum five years ago. The museum has, it reports, been approached on several occasions by people seeking to sell the Matisse back. It reports, too, that since a reward of pounds 30,000 was offered for information leading to the safe recovery of the works police have received more than 200 calls.