17 Old Master Paintings Stolen in Daring Heist Recovered in Ukraine

The works will be returned to the Castelvecchio Museum.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko examines the now-recovered paintings stolen by armed robbers from the Castelvecchio museum in Verona. Courtesy Mikhail Palinchak/Ukrainian Presidential Press Service.

A group 17 Old Master paintings from Verona’s Castelvecchio Museum stolen in November 2015 have been recovered in Ukraine, reports Reuters. The artworks are estimated to be worth €16 million ($18.3 million).

The paintings, by such artists as Peter Paul Rubens, Andrea Mantegna, Giovanni Francesco Caroto, Hans de Jode, Jacopo Bellini, and Jacopo and Domenico Tintoretto, will be authenticated by Italian authorities and returned to the museum.

The robbery in November was carried out by three masked men, who entered the museum as it was closing but before the alarm system had been activated. The security guard is suspected of assisting the robbers, providing his car as a getaway vehicle.

Pisanello, Madonna of the Quail. Photo: courtesy Museo di Castelvecchio, Comune di Verona.

Pisanello, Madonna of the Quail. Courtesy of Museo di Castelvecchio, Comune di Verona.

In March, authorities made 12 arrests in connection to the heist. Most of the suspects were from Moldova, and the paintings were recovered just one mile from the shared border, hidden in plastic bags.

This isn’t the first time in recent months that stolen artwork has turned up in Ukraine. In December, members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists recovered four of the 24 paintings stolen from the Netherlands’ Westfries Museum in 2005, and demanded a €50 million (about $55 million) ransom for their return. Over a decade later, the paintings were successfully recovered.

Poroshenko cites the return of both sets of paintings as a sign of stability in a country that has been plagued by conflict since April 2014, following the ousting of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. “Today, this brilliant operation reminds the world about the efficient struggle of Ukraine against smuggling and corruption” he told the press.

Castelvecchio Museum, Verona.Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Castelvecchio Museum, Verona. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In Italy, the initial theft prompted widespread outrage from the country’s politicians, some of whom blamed public spending cuts for the inadequate security that made the heist possible.

Upon learning that the paintings had been found, Castelvecchio Museum director Margerita Bolla expressed thanks for the “magnificent news,” telling news agency ANSA that she looks forward to showing them in the museum, “so they can be admired again.”

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