Radu Dogaru, the suspected Romanian ringleader in the theft of seven paintings from a Dutch museum last year, will never disclose their whereabouts unless his trial is moved to the Netherlands, his lawyer said.
A Bucharest court yesterday began the trial of six Romanians who have been charged with stealing artworks worth tens of millions of euros, a month after hearings were suspended to clear up procedural issues.
Defence lawyer Catalin Dancu told reporters during a trial break that five of the seven paintings – originally believed to be in Romania – were being moved to a different country, possibly neighbouring Moldova.
He said: “All the five paintings that were in Romania are now abroad, in the east, in my opinion in Moldova. A Russian lipovan [a member of an ethnic Russian minority living in Romania] took the paintings abroad,” he said.
Mr Dancu said the other two stolen artworks – the paintings taken included a Picasso and Monet – were in Belgium.
Mr Dancu said: “Radu Dogaru has refused to tell where the five paintings are. Radu said, ‘If the Dutch don’t want to take me, no one sees the paintings’.
“Radu does not want to co-operate any more with Romanian authorities because he does not trust the justice system in Romania.”
Mr Dancu reiterated that no painting had been burned.
A Romanian team of experts earlier assessed that three of the paintings could have been destroyed by fire. Dogaru’s mother said she had burned them to protect her son as police closed in. She later retracted her statement.
The paintings, which also included works by Matisse, Gauguin and Lucien Freud, were snatched from Rotterdam’s Kunsthal museum last October, in one of the art world’s most dramatic heists of the past few years and among the biggest ever in the Netherlands.