Romanian woman arrested over Dutch art thefts

Photo released by the police in Rotterdam, Netherlands, on 16 October 2012, shows the painting "Waterloo Bridge, London" by Claude Monet Seven masterpieces were stolen from Rotterdam's Kunsthal art gallery last October including Monet's Waterloo Bridge

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Dutch police have arrested a Romanian woman over her alleged role in a major art theft, in which masterpieces disappeared from a Dutch art gallery.

Police say Natasa Timofei was the girlfriend of one of three Romanian men arrested in Bucharest in January in connection with the theft.

Seven masterpieces by artists including Picasso, Monet and Matisse were stolen from the Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam in October.

The paintings have not been recovered.

Experts put the paintings' value at between 100m and 200m euros ($130m- $260m, £86m-£172m).

Police say it appears that the paintings were taken to a house in Rotterdam immediately after being stolen.

"There the paintings were apparently removed from the frames and later taken to Romania," police said.

Suspects charged

At the time of the theft, the works were on show as part of the gallery's 20th anniversary exhibition.

The missing paintings include Monet's Waterloo Bridge, Picasso's Tete d'Arlequin, Matisse's La Liseuse en Blanc et Jaune and Freud's Woman with Eyes Closed.

It was the biggest art theft in the Netherlands since 20 works disappeared from Amsterdam's Van Gogh museum in 1991.

The three suspects held in Romania have been charged over the theft, although they deny any involvement.

Security camera footage released at the time showed thieves entering through a back door of the museum and disappearing from the camera's field of view. Seconds later they reappeared carrying bulky objects and left the building by the same entrance.

"Given the speed with which it was carried out it was clear it must have been well-prepared," the police said in a statement.

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