Van Goghs found in mob­ster’s house

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

AMSTERDAM: Two stolen Vin­cent van Gogh paint­ings worth mil­lions of eu­ros have been found in an Ital­ian coun­try house be­long­ing to an al­leged Mafia drug smug­gler, 14 years after they were stolen.

Ital­ian in­ves­ti­ga­tors dis­played the re­cov­ered art­works, a sea scene and a church where the painter’s fa­ther was min­is­ter, to re­porters in Naples, say­ing each was worth an es­ti­mated 50 mil­lion (R772m).

“It is a great day for us to­day to see the works and to know that they are safe and that they are in safe hands,” said Axel Ruger, di­rec­tor of Amsterdam’s Van Gogh mu­seum.

He was present when the paint­ings were shown to re­porters.

Ital­ian Prime Min­is­ter Mat­teo Renzi in­formed his Dutch coun­ter­part, Mark Rutte, about the po­lice op­er­a­tion be­fore yes­ter­day’s fu­neral in Jerusalem of for­mer Is­raeli leader Shi­mon Peres, a source in Renzi’s of­fice says.

The paint­ings were found wrapped in cloth in­side a safe in a coun­try house south of Naples that pros­e­cu­tors said be­longed to Raf­faele Im­pe­ri­ale, a 41-year-old busi­ness­man ac­cused in Jan­uary of run­ning an in­ter­na­tional co­caine traf­fick­ing ring to­gether with high-rank­ing mob­sters from a clan made fa­mous in the 2008 film Go­mor­rah.

Im­pe­ri­ale is a fugi­tive and Ital­ian in­ves­ti­ga­tors sus­pect he is liv­ing and run­ning a con­struc­tion busi­ness in Dubai. – Reuters

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