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Dealer Presumably Responsible for Stealing and Destroying Paintings Worth Millions
Image taken on March 8, 2009 of a work of art made by Flemish painter Jan Brueghel in Driebergen, Holland. The Dutch police have recuperated eight paintings made by Pissarro and Renoir, among others, that had been missing since 1987. The works of art, from the XVII and XIX, disappeared from a gallery in Maastricht and were found in the southern part of the country after they had been put on sale, the police said. Some of the paintings have been seriously damaged. Photo: EFE/Ruben Schipper.

By: Boudewijn Meijer

DRIEBERGEN.- On Thursday evening the 5th March 2009 national police investigators confiscated eight of the nine valuable paintings which were seemingly stolen from the art gallery of the renowned dealer in Old Masters Robert Noortman in 1987.

The German extortionist stated that Noortman had handed over the paintings to the three suspects with the explicit instruction to destroy the paintings, which they obviously did not do. Noortman, according to the statement of the blackmailer, burned and destroyed an oil panel by Meindert Hobbema.

The eight paintings were found in the possession of a 66 year old resident of the Dutch town of Walem, the 45 year old Eckhardt P., top manager of Frankfurter Messe in Germany residing in Dubai, and his 62 year old mother. The three suspects have been detained and will be prosecuted for money laundering.

Julian Radcliffe, chairman of the London based Art Loss Register, estimates that the present value of the eight paintings is € 2.4 million, would they have been in undamaged condition. Two of the eight pieces, the Trouillebert and Terniers, are however seriously damaged and require major restoration.

The eight confiscated paintings are :

• La Clairière [Renoir]
• Bouquet de Fleurs [Eva Gonzales]
• Bords de la Seine à Bougival [Camille Pissarro]
• Two marien views [W. van der Velde]
• Celebrating farmers outside a tavern [David Teniers, the younger]
• Moneys [Jan Brueghel, the younger]
• Pêcheur près du moulin à eau [Paul Désireré Trouillebert]

The Dutch police was tipped by the well know private detective Ben Zuidema. In 1987 Robert Noortman hired the private investigator to track down the stolen paintings. Not long after he received this assignment Noortman instructed him to end his investigations, much to Zuidema’s surprise.

In December of last year Zuidema received a phone call from a so called German colleague. The German ‘private investigator’ stated that he knew of the whereabouts of the eight paintings and requested Zuidema’s assistance in blackmailing Robert Noortman’s family. A notarized act would be compiled in which the three suspects would state several declarations about the past of Robert Noortman, who died two years ago, and the fact that he himself was responsible for the theft of the nine paintings. The German ‘private detective’ would offer the Noortman family the paintings for € 5million and Zuidema would receive a commission of € 1million.

The German extortionist stated that Noortman had handed over the paintings to the three suspects with the explicit instruction to destroy the paintings, which they obviously did not do. Noortman, according to the statement of the blackmailer, burned and destroyed an oil panel by Meindert Hobbema.

With a witness to confirm the story of the German blackmailing ‘private detective’, Zuidema declined the offer and went straight to the police.

Of the nine paintings only the Hobbema panel is with out a trace. Noortman purchased the painting for € 80’000 and had it insured for € 1’000’000.

The Dutch police would not confirm Zuidema’s story and no investigation will be pursued on how the paintings disappeared in order to determine Noortman’s possible involvement in insurance fraud. If at the time the paintings were stolen, no persecutions can be made due to the age of the case.

The police, who has been working very closely with the German and Belgium police in the case, stated that they will only be investigating where the panels have remained all these years and how the suspects obtained them.

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March 10, 2009

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