The Greek police returned the stolen paintings of Picasso and Mondrian Automatic translate
ATHENS. Works by masters of the twentieth century, found almost a decade after a daring robbery in an Athenian gallery.
A Picasso painting gifted to the Greek people by an artist in honor of resistance to Nazi rule was found in a gorge after a builder confessed to stealing the masterpiece and two other works of art in a daring robbery of the National Gallery in Athens nearly a decade ago.
For nine years, "Woman’s Head" hid in the home of a self-proclaimed art lover next to Stammer’s windmill and a work by Dutch artist Piet Mondrian, also stolen during a January 9, 2012 night raid.
Fearing that the authorities were about to track him down, the thief moved the priceless items to the warehouse, and then in the spring hid them in protective packaging in a gorge southeast of the Greek capital. How the investigation came to the kidnapper is not specified, but it is reported that he confessed to the theft and led the police into a forest in Porto Rafti, Attica, where he previously hid the paintings.
A video released by the Greek Ministry of Culture shows police finding the paintings in a shallow hole in the rocky grass in the gorge. The paintings were in a crypt at Kerat, a city in East Attica on mainland Greece.
The return of the stolen art objects was greeted with enthusiasm in Athens. The National Gallery, Greece’s largest public collection, only recently opened after being closed for many years for renovations.
Culture Minister Lina Mendoni described the presentation of the found works as "a special day full of great joy and emotions." According to her, Pablo Picasso personally presented the people with a Cubist painting in 1949, five years after the withdrawal of Nazi troops from the country, writing the words “a tribute to the Greek people. Picasso "on the back of the canvas.
“This painting has special meaning and sentimental value… as it was personally dedicated by the great artist to the Greek people for their struggle against fascist and Nazi forces,” she said at a press conference. "In any case, this painting would have been impossible to sell."
Praising the Greek police for solving the crime, the Minister for the Protection of Citizens of the country Michalis Chrysochoidis said that "it took a Greek to deprive the nation of a masterpiece and the Greeks to return it."
The robbery was called the robbery of the century that shocked the nation and left the police surprised by their audacity. The robbery lasted no more than seven minutes. At the time, the frames were removed from the paintings before they were taken out of the gallery through a shattered balcony door after the alarm system was reconfigured to send the only guard on duty in a different direction.
The fourth piece of art, a sketch by the 16th century Italian artist Guglielmo Caccia, better known as Moncalvo, was also kidnapped, but the arrested construction worker told police that after the sketch was damaged in a robbery, he decided to throw it down the toilet.
During the robbery, the thieves tried to take out another work of Mondrian, but fell while he was hiding from the scene.
The 2012 hack occurred at the height of the country’s economic crisis. The gallery’s poor security and lack of security were linked to the austerity measures Athens was forced to implement in exchange for international loans to prevent bankruptcy. The investigation revealed that the National Gallery’s burglar alarm system had not been updated for over a decade. Some areas of the museum, which contain more than 20,000 works of art, were outside the coverage of CCTV cameras.
The robbery looked so well organized that for many years the authorities assumed that an experienced gang was behind the crime. The discovery that it was the work of an "art lover" who, according to Skai TV, simply wanted to "own works of art," took many by surprise.
The construction worker, described by Greek media as a 49-year-old divorced man, allegedly denied having an accomplice, telling police that he planned the robbery for six months and even traveled to and from the gallery on public transport the night of the raid.
During this period, he said, he visited the gallery almost daily to study and observe the movements of the guards, “right up to the moment when they took cigarette breaks,” according to excerpts from his testimony published in news outlets.
“I have a passion for art,” he told investigators when he was summoned for questioning, rejecting speculation about plans to sell the stolen goods. Skai TV reported that the builder also told police that he regularly traveled to the UK for the sole purpose of visiting exhibitions and “seeing art”.
Sakis Kehayoglu, an experienced lawyer who defended the accused, said the perpetrator showed "real remorse" for his actions. “My client was critical in locating and restoring the works,” he said, adding that the defendant collaborated with the authorities and ultimately helped them find and unearth the paintings.
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