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Romanian court resumes hearings over Dutch art heist; Suspects apply for bail
Eugen Darie (L) and Alexandru Bitu (C), two of the six suspects in the Dutch art heist trial, enter a local court in Bucharest, on September 10, 2013. Six Romanians are charged with a spectacular theft from the Rotterdam Kunsthall , including masterpieces by Monet, Picasso and Gauguin, now feared to have been burned. AFP PHOTO DANIEL MIHAILESCU.
BUCHAREST (AFP).- Four men accused of stealing seven masterpieces from a Dutch museum in a spectacular heist that shocked the art world appeared in a Romanian court on Tuesday to ask for bail.

Main suspect Radu Dogaru and most of his accomplices have admitted stealing the paintings, which included two Monets, a Gauguin and a Picasso, and are still missing, feared destroyed.

The judge adjourned the case until October 22, when he said he would rule on the bail application.

Dogaru's lawyer reiterated that his client was ready to tell Dutch investigators where the paintings were, in return for being tried in The Netherlands, where sentences are lighter.

If convicted in a Romanian court of "theft with exceptionally serious consequences", he faces up to 20 years in prison.

But a Romanian prosecutor told Dutch radio that Dogaru had given no information in interviews with investigators to back up his claim that he knew where the stolen paintings were.

In all, six defendants are being tried. One, Adrian Procop, is still on the run and is being tried in his absence.

The trial opened briefly on August 11, but was adjourned to allow more time for legal issues to be examined.

Prosecutors fear the masterpieces may be lost forever after Dogaru's mother Olga said she had torched them in a bid to destroy evidence and protect her son.

She later retracted her statement, but experts from Romania's National History Museum said ashes retrieved from her stove included the remains of three oil paintings and nails from frames used before the end of the 19th century.

It took less than three minutes for the thieves to take seven works by some of the world's most famous artists from the Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam in the pre-dawn heist last October.

Among the paintings stolen and carried away in burlap sacks were Picasso's "Tete d'Arlequin", Monet's "Waterloo Bridge" and "Femme Devant une Fenetre Ouverte, dite La Fiancee" by Paul Gauguin.

Dogaru and his alleged accomplices all came from the same region in eastern Romania but lived in The Netherlands.

Dogaru is already known to police, and is under investigation in Romania for murder and human trafficking.



© 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse



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