A treasure hunt for more than 200 art works taken from the Hermitage museum in St Petersburg by a curator is starting to produce results. The curator believed responsible died of a heart attack when the exhibits were missed during an audit. Her husband and son face criminal charges along with an art collector.
Several icons and other pieces have been handed in to the authorities by people who say they now realise they are stolen property. Hermitage director Mikhail Piotrovski explained that security had been problematic at the museum because a lack of space meant that curators were often forced to use storerooms where precious items were kept as their offices which made it difficult to keep track.
One icon was found in a rubbish bin after police received a tip from an anonymous caller. A Moscow antiquities dealer had also returned a 19th century chalice he bought two years ago. The authorities at the Hermitage, which is Russia5;s largest museum, said it appears the thefts took place over at least the last six years. The Hermitage said it will now more closely monitor individual curators and tighten access to store rooms.