S T O C K H O L M, Sweden, Dec. 22, 2000 -- Gunmen snatched Rembrandt and Renoir paintings worth about $30 million from Stockholm’s National Museum today, police said.
Three raiders entered the museum on Stockholm’s waterfront at about 5:15 p.m. local time, while it was still open, and seized the pictures, a police spokesman said.
The stolen works are a self-portrait by the Dutch master Rembrandt and two works by the French impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir — A Young Parisian Woman and Conversation.
While one of the robbers, armed with a submachine gun, threatened people in the museum lobby, the other two, one or both also armed, ran upstairs to grab the paintings from different rooms.
An unarmed museum guard alerted the police, but the raiders were able to escape in a small boat. The boat was later found near one of Stockholm’s ports, TT news agency said.
Cars Explode in Flames Meanwhile, two cars parked nearby exploded in flames in what appeared to be a diversion to cover their getaway.
The spokesman said it would be virtually impossible to sell such well-known masterpieces, which together are worth about $31.46 million, on the open market.
“Maybe they are going to blackmail the museum, or sell them abroad to a private collector,” he said.
Forensic experts are studying the museum for clues, and police are combing the city, but so far have no idea who the suspects are.
The art theft is the biggest in Sweden since robbers cut through the roof of Stockholm’s Modern Museum in 1993 and stole eight works of art by cubist masters Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque worth about $60 million. Most of the works were later recovered.
The former head of Sweden’s criminal police, Tommy Lindstrom, told TT that he believed the pictures were already on their way out of Sweden, probably to Eastern Europe where many newly rich businessmen were eager to invest in art.
The robbers had known exactly what they were after in their well-planned theft, choosing works that were not too big to carry, said Lindstrom.
“We have a kind of international criminality which didn’t exist before. There’s no wall between us and Eastern Europe,” he said.