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Months Later, Arrest in Brazen Pandemic Art Heists

Man accused of stealing two paintings from two different museums in the Netherlands
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 7, 2021 12:01 AM CDT

(Newser) – More than a year after a Van Gogh was stolen from a shuttered Dutch museum early in the COVID-19 pandemic, an arrest has been made in that case—as well as another art heist that also took place in the Netherlands, at a different museum, months later. A 58-year-old Dutch man is suspected of stealing Van Gogh's Spring Garden (or Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring) from the Singer museum in Laren last March, followed by Frans Hals's Two Laughing Boys with a Mug of Beer, which was lifted from a museum in Leerdam in August. Neither painting has yet been recovered, the BBC reports.

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Dutch media have previously reported that a suspect in a cocaine trafficking ring purchased the Van Gogh (criminals sometimes buy stolen art in an effort to make a deal to exchange the artwork for a lighter sentence) but that negotiations to have it returned broke down; a Dutch art expert says stolen art is typically moved around quickly, and the suspect in the heist likely has no idea where the paintings are now. As the Wall Street Journal explains, while stolen art can't be resold publicly, it can be on the black market. The paintings are estimated to be worth nearly $25 million in total, the Guardian reports. The first time around, a glass front door to the museum was busted open with a sledgehammer; in the second theft, a back door was forced open. (The Hals masterpiece has been stolen twice before.)

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