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Fiona Werge reports
"Museum officials said it would be virtually impossible to sell the paintings on the open market"
 real 28k

Thursday, 4 January, 2001, 21:46 GMT
Five held over masterpieces theft
Swedish National Museum, Stockholm
Thieves escaped from the museum by motor boat
Police in Sweden have arrested five men in connection with the theft last month of three masterpieces from the National Museum in Stockholm.

The Swedish nationals were arrested in the Stockholm area just days after police received several photos of the paintings, along with a demand for hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Detail of Jeune Parisienne by Renoir
Stolen: Detail of Jeune Parisienne by Renoir
The paintings - one by the Dutch master, Rembrandt, and the two others by the French impressionist, Renoir - are still missing and estimated to be worth up to $30m in total.

Police said no ransom would be paid.

"We don't intend to hand over even one crown," said police superintendent Leif Jennekvist, who is leading the investigation.

He said house searches were under way and he would not rule out further arrests.

Rembrandt self portrait from 1630
Stolen: Rembrandt self portrait from 1630
He also said he believed the paintings were still in the country, despite speculation by art experts that they had probably been taken abroad.

"We think that we are going to get them back, but we cannot say when," said the superintendent.

Boat escape

On 22 December three masked raiders walked into the museum in central Stockholm as it was preparing to close for the day.

Detail of Conversation with the Gardener by Renoir
Stolen: Detail of Conversation with the Gardener by Renoir
One, armed with a machine gun, held up security staff while the other two ran to different rooms upstairs.

After ordering guards there at gunpoint onto the ground, the two thieves went straight for their target paintings. Within moments all three had left the building and sped off into the darkness on a small motor boat waiting for them near the museum.

The works stolen were: Self Portrait (1630) by Rembrandt, and two paintings by Renoir - Conversation with the Gardener and Jeune Parisienne. They were each valued at between $7.5m and $10m (75 million and 100 million Swedish kronor).

None of the paintings were insured.

Other people are thought to have been involved in the crime, as two phone calls reported car fires in the area at the same time that the gallery alarm went off at police headquarters.

The subsequent confusion apparently gave the robbers the time they needed to escape.

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See also:

02 Jan 01 | Europe
Art thieves demand ransom
23 Dec 00 | Europe
Hunt for Stockholm art thieves
07 Nov 00 | UK
Great heists of our time
19 Dec 00 | Entertainment
UK hails art theft clampdown
01 Jan 00 | UK
The art of art theft
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