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Prosecutors seek maximum sentence for Dutch art thief who admitted breaking into the Kunsthal
Catalin Dancu (C), the lawyer of two arrested suspects in the Dutch art heist trial, adresses the media as he leaves court in Bucharest, on November 19, 2013. Six Romanians, among them Radu Dogaru and his mother Olga Dogaru, are charged with a spectacular theft from the Rotterdam Kunsthal, including masterpieces by Monet, Picasso and Gauguin, now feared to have been burned. AFP PHOTO / DANIEL MIHAILESCU.

BUCHAREST (AFP).- Romanian prosecutors on Tuesday called for a man who admitted stealing seven masterpieces from a Dutch museum to be given the maximum 20-year jail term for "aggravated theft".

Radu Dogaru, 29, admitted breaking into the Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam on October 16, 2012 and stole seven paintings including works by Picasso, Monet and Gauguin.

The maximum sentence for "aggravated theft" is 20 years but Dogaru will see his penalty reduced by a third after entering a guilty plea, according to Romanian legislation.

However, an additional four years could be added given the circumstances and the value of the loot, meaning Dogaru could face up to 18 years in prison, his lawyer Catalin Dancu said.

But Dancu said he hoped for a "balanced sentence" of no more than seven years.

The verdict will be announced on November 26.

Dogaru has argued the museum failed to protect the masterpieces properly and said that the value of the works had not been confirmed by independent experts.

Six Romanians are on trial over the spectacular theft, which took less than three minutes to carry out.

Despite their 18-million-euro ($24-million) estimated value, none of the paintings was equipped with an alarm, Dutch authorities said.

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

The missing canvases are feared destroyed after Dogaru's mother, who is also facing trial, said she had torched them in a bid to destroy evidence against 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.

A separate investigation into the possible destruction of the artwork is under way.

© 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse

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