Italian Art Dealer Swindled Out of Paintings by Rembrandt and Renoir Worth $30 Million

Two men posing as buyers made off with the works in a city north of Milan.

An italian carabinieri outside the duomo in Milan. Photo by Olivier Morin/AFP/Getty Images.

The Carabinieri is currently hunting down two men who stole €27 million (nearly $30 million) worth of artwork by Rembrandt and Renoir from an art dealer in northern Italy, by posing as legitimate art buyers.

Italian newspaper Il Giorno first broke the story, before the German news agency DPA picked it up on Thursday.

Reportedly, the poseur clients and the dealer had been in contact on multiple occasions.

The theft took place at a meeting in downtown Monza, a city north of Milan, the purpose of which—so the dealer thought—was to finalize the sale. The date of the meeting/theft has not been disclosed.

The men asked the dealer to meet them in a rented office space on the ground floor of a building shared with the Albanian Consulate. They operated under the pretense that they were associated with the government office, to create an air of institutional importance.

After negotiations for the bogus sale had been made—but before any money had changed hands—the suspects left the dealer alone in the room, telling him they were going to make coffee for everyone. But the criminal clients disappeared with the paintings, and never came back with the coffee.

The works have been uploaded to the Italian database of illegally stolen cultural property.

It is unclear which works have been stolen, but according to the Carabinieri’s publicly-searchable online database, eight works by Rembrandt and nine by Renoir are currently missing in the country.

A spokesperson for the Carabinieri’s Cultural Heritage Squad told DPA that they cannot comment on the incident due to a judicial order.

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