Art thief blames Dutch museum for 'negligence'

BUCHAREST (AFP) - A Romanian man who has admitted stealing masterpieces by Gauguin, Monet and Picasso, wants to pin the blame on the Dutch museum for failing to protect the works, his lawyer said on Tuesday.

Mr Radu Dogaru is among six Romanians on trial for the spectacular three-minute heist from the Kunthal museum in Rotterdam in October 2012 which stunned the art world.

Despite their value, none of the paintings was equipped with an alarm, Dutch authorities have said.

"We can clearly speak of negligence with serious consequences", lawyer Catalin Dancu told journalists.

"If we do not receive answers about who is guilty" for the failure of the security system at the museum, "we are considering hiring Dutch lawyers to start a legal case in The Netherlands or in Romania." The move is intended to ease the pressure on Dogaru who faces claims of up to 18 million euros (S$30.6 million) from the insurers of the paintings, which are still missing.

If the Kunsthal museum was found guilty of negligence, "it would have to share the burden of compensation", Mr Dancu said.

Among the paintings stolen in less than three minutes from the Kunsthal in October 2012 were Picasso's "Tete d'Arlequin", Monet's "Waterloo Bridge" and "Femme Devant une Fenetre Ouverte, dite La Fiancee" by Paul Gauguin.

The missing paintings are feared destroyed after Mr Dogaru's mother said she had torched them in her stove in the sleepy Romanian village of Carcaliu in a bid to destroy evidence against her son.

She later retracted her statement but experts from Romania's National History Museum said ashes retrieved from her stove included the remains of three oil paintings and nails from frames used before the end of the 19th century.