Interpol issues global alert for stolen paintings

Last Updated: Sunday, May 23, 2010 - 16:34

London: Interpol has issued a global alert for a Picasso painting and four other major works stolen from a Paris art museum, indicating that thieves may have taken the masterpieces outside France.

"These extraordinary paintings by these great masters are so recognisable that they will be difficult to sell in any market," Jean-Michel Louboutin, Interpol`s executive director of police services, said in a statement yesterday.

In addition to Picasso`s cubist `Pigeon with Green Peas`, authorities said works by Henri Matisse, Georges Braque, Amedeo Modigliani and Fernand Leger were also stolen from the Modern Art Museum in Paris on Thursday.

Interpol said it had sent images of the paintings to police in 188 countries and also added them to the agency`s online database of stolen artwork.

"Their inclusion in Interpol`s publicly accessible works of art database will allow any legitimate buyer of paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Braque, Leger and Modigliani to determine whether their purchase would be legal and for the public to remain alert as to what has been reported stolen," Louboutin said.

He said Interpol encourages any person with information about this theft or attempted sales of any of these pieces to contact the agency immediately.

Christopher Girard, an aide to the mayor of Paris who oversees cultural affairs, said whoever stole the paintings entered through a window and was able to thwart guards and video surveillance.

The heist showed signs of organised crime, he said.

"We are dealing with an extreme level of sophistication," he said in a statement.

Girard estimated the artwork was worth about EUR 100 million (USD 123.7 million).

Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe said that part of the museum`s security system -- the part that detects movement and body heat -- had been broken at least since March 30.

The museum notified the service provider that day and asked for replacement equipment, but it still has not been provided, the mayor was quoted as saying by CNN.

Video surveillance of the museum was working normally, and three guards were on duty, he said.

Interpol lists the five stolen paintings as Picasso`s `Pigeon with Green Peas` (1911), Matisse`s `Pastoral` (1906), Braque`s `Olive Tree near l`Estaque` (1906), Modigliani`s `Woman with Fan` (1919) and Leger`s `Still LIfe with Candlestick` (1922).

PTI



First Published: Sunday, May 23, 2010 - 16:34

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