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Picasso, Mondrian paintings returned 9 years after art heist, construction worker arrested

Greece Stolen Paintings
Posted at 10:34 AM, Jun 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-29 12:34:02-04

ATHENS, Greece -- A painting donated to the country of Greece by artist Pablo Picasso will go on display soon, nine years after it was stolen along with another painting and a pen and ink drawing.

In January 2012, Picasso’s piece “Woman’s Head,” Piet Mondrian’s piece “Stammer Mill with Summer House,” and a drawing from Guglielmo Caccia were stolen from the Athens National Gallery.

The artworks were stripped from their frames during a well-organized early morning heist that investigators said only took seven minutes to carry out.

Suspects eluded investigators for years, although as recently as a few months ago, police said they believed the artworks had not left the country of Greece.

This week, investigators revealed they had located the Picasso and Mondrian pieces wrapped in plastic sheets, hidden in a dry river bed outside Athens.

The suspect, a 49-year-old construction worker, has been arrested and is talking to investigators. They said he told investigators how the heist was planned, and that the Caccia drawing had been damaged, so he had flushed it down the toilet after the heist.

The suspect told police he had been planning the heist for about six months, monitoring the movements of security guards and other staff at the gallery.

On Jan. 9, 2012, police say the suspect admitted to setting off a false alarm in another part of the building and broke into the ground floor of the museum.

Investigators say the man had no intention of selling them.