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Ten charged over Sweden art theft

STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- Ten men have been charged over the theft of three Renoir and Rembrandt paintings from Stockholm's National Museum.

The trial begins in the Swedish capital on Monday, but the Associated Press said only one of the suspects would be accused of direct involvement in the daring robbery.

Only one of the paintings has been recovered, leaving much of the mystery unsolved.

Three hooded men walked into the waterfront museum building shortly before closing time on December 22. One of them pointed a gun at unarmed guards, while two others snatched the art -- collectively worth 370 million kronor ($36 million) -- off the walls.

The suspects fled on foot to a waiting boat moored across the street, police said.

The 32-year-old man charged with theft faces four years in prison if convicted. The others were charged with aggravated robbery and attempted extortion. Police believe they helped organise the robbery or tried to profit from it.

"We consider all of them as perpetrators of the crime," district public prosecutor Ylva Johansson said at a news conference.

'Professionally planned'

One of the suspects, a lawyer, is accused of delivering a demand for a 30 million kronor ($2.9 million) ransom for the safe return of the paintings, she said.

All 10 suspects have pleaded innocent.

Renoir's "Conversation" -- a close-up of a man and a woman with her back turned to the viewer valued at 50 million kronor ($4.8 million) -- was found last month in a bag when police arrested three people suspected of drug-related crimes unrelated to the art theft.

Detective Magnus Oswald said police have no clue to the whereabouts of the two other paintings.

Johansson said "Conversation" was worth 50 million kronor ($4.8 million), Renoir's "Young Parisian" worth 30 million kronor ($2.9 million) and a self-portrait by Rembrandt worth 290 million kronor ($28 million). The robbery was "very professionally planned and carried out", she said.







RELATED STORIES:
• Swedes hunt art thieves
December 27, 2000
• More charged over Sweden art heist
January 8, 2001

RELATED SITE:
• National Museum of Sweden

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