Precious paintings stolen in daring Paris raid

12:00, May 21, 2010      

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Polices are investigating at the museum.(CNS photo)

Five paintings, including a Matisse and a Picasso, were stolen overnight from a Paris museum, the Paris mayor's office said on May 20 according to CNN.

The paintings were stolen from the Museum of Modern Art and included works by Georges Braque, Ferdinand Leger and Amedeo Modigliani, French police said.

The artworks are worth a total of just less than 100 million euros (123.7 million U.S. dollars), said Christophe Girard, an aide to the mayor of Paris. The city runs the museum.

The mayor's office, the museum and the police all refused to tell public which paintings were stolen.

However, French media has named them as "Le Pigeon aux Petits Pois" (Pigeon with peas) by Picasso, "La Pastorale" (The Pastoral) by Matisse, "L'Olivier pres de l'Estaque" (Olive Tree near the Estaque) by Braque, "La femme a l'eventail" (Woman with Fan) by Modigliani and "Nature morte aux chandeliers" (Still Life with Candlesticks) by Leger.

Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe said he was "particularly saddened and shocked by this theft, which is an intolerable affront to the universal cultural heritage of Paris."

Girard said security systems at the museum had been disabled, and the thief had stayed out of three security guards' sight successfully to steal the paintings.

According to reports, the masked thief snipped the padlock of the gate early Thursday morning and broke a window to enter the museum. Seen on security footage, the thief jumped into the museum from the window, picked the 5 paintings and then escaped.

Girard also said: "We must absolutely leave it to the police to find out how the security system was disabled and how these important paintings were stolen."

While some experts said thieves could not sell these paintings on the open market, some personal collectors may choose to buy the spoils.

"Le Pigeon aux Petits Pois" (Pigeon with peas) by Picasso

Adam Fresco, a crime correspondent, wrote an article on Times and said "After a few months, when the dust has settled, the five stolen paintings could be offered back to the museum by an agent for the thieves. As they are too well-known to be offered on the open market they could have been stolen to order, or, as is more likely, they have been taken by a gang out to make money out of returning them."

"The museum could end up dealing with a person who claims to have bought the paintings in good faith and has realized that they are stolen. Any such claim may be true, but it is more likely that the thieves will use an intermediary to negotiate."

By People's Daily Online
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