Police make a search of the museum grounds, 16 October 2012

New arrest in Rotterdam Kunsthal Picasso heist

German arrested in Cologne on suspicion of trying to sell back paintings taken in October robbery

Following on from last week's news concerning the recovery of a suitcase allegedly used to store Picassos and Monets taken in last October's heist at the Rotterdam Kunsthal museum, German prosecutors announced yesterday (Thursday) that they have arrested a man after he allegedly tried to sell seven paintings taken in the robbery back to their Dutch owners.

The 46-year-old German is suspected of blackmail for allegedly offering to broker the return of the paintings to the Triton Foundation. Cologne’s head prosecutor Ulrich Bremer, told The Associated Press that the man was arrested near the city of Freiburg in southwestern Germany. He did not release the man’s name.

Three Romanian men suspected of carrying out the heist were arrested in January in Bucharest and remain in custody. A 19-year-old Romanian woman was arrested in Rotterdam last week on suspicion of assisting the thieves.


Detail from Harlequin Head (1971) by Pablo Picasso
Detail from Harlequin Head (1971) by Pablo Picasso

Bremer said there were still a lot of questions surrounding the German suspect - including whether he might actually be a scam artist with no connection to the paintings.

"He said he had access to the paintings but whether he was really part of the theft ring or had contact to them and to the paintings, or whether he was some sort of a free-rider, is part of our investigation,” the prosecutor said.

Bremer did reveal however that the suspect had contact with two lawyers in the Cologne area - by phone and in person. Both were “involved in offering the return of the paintings” but neither have been arrested. “What role the two attorneys played is part of the investigation,” he said.