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Dutch police detain suspect over thefts of Van Gogh & Frans Hals paintings from museums shuttered by coronavirus

Dutch police detain suspect over thefts of Van Gogh & Frans Hals paintings from museums shuttered by coronavirus
Police in the Netherlands have arrested a suspect linked to two separate heists of paintings by Vincent Van Gogh and Frans Hals. The artworks, snatched from museums closed due to the Covid-19 crisis, are still missing.

The suspect, identified only as a 58-year-old man, was arrested in the northern Dutch town of Baarn early on Tuesday, Utrecht police said in a video statement posted on Twitter.

“We suspect him of stealing two paintings by Frans Hals and Van Gogh,” police spokeswoman Maren Wonder said.

No further details about the suspect have been released. The two paintings by the Dutch masters have not been recovered, the spokeswoman said, appealing to the public to share any information on their whereabouts with law enforcement.

Van Gogh’s “Lentetuin,” or “Spring Garden,” was stolen from Singer Laren Museum back in March 2020. The work by Frans Hals, known as the “Two Laughing Boys with a Mug of Beer,” which dates back to the early seventeenth century, was snatched from a small museum outside Utrecht in late August. Both museums have been closed to the public due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

The modus operandi employed in each heist appeared to be quite similar, with the thieves simply forcing their way in around 3:00 a.m., snatching the painting and escaping before the arrival of police. During both incidents, the thieves triggered the museums’ alarms, relying on speed to snatch and flee rather than taking a more surreptitious approach.

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The “Two Laughing Boys” painting appears to be a particularly hot target for art thieves as it’s the third time it has been stolen from Dutch museums. Prior to the August heist, the painting was lifted from the same museum back in 2011.

The work was recovered later that year when police arrested four men who were caught trying to sell it. The piece is estimated to be worth around €15 million euro ($18 million).

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