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Greece: Police recover Picasso and Mondrian paintings stolen from Athens museum in 2012

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By AP
Greece's National Art Gallery in Athens, in January 2011. Police say they have recovered Picasso and Mondrian paintings stolen from the gallery in 2012.
Greece's National Art Gallery in Athens, in January 2011. Police say they have recovered Picasso and Mondrian paintings stolen from the gallery in 2012.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis

Greek police say they have recovered two paintings by 20th century masters Pablo Picasso and Piet Mondrian, nearly a decade after their theft from the country's biggest state art gallery in Athens.

A statement late Monday said the two works were in the hands of the police, but provided no detail on their condition and on whether any arrests had been made.

Police also confirmed the arrest of a 49-year-old construction worker.

The paintings were stripped from their frames during a well-organized, overnight heist at the National Art Gallery on Jan. 9 2012. The burglars had also taken a pen and ink drawing of a religious scene by Italian 16th century painter Guglielmo Caccia. They had initially grabbed a fourth work, also by Mondrian, but abandoned it as they fled.

Police said at the time that the heist was completed in about seven minutes.

The stolen Picasso was a cubist female bust which the Spanish painter had donated to Greece in 1949 with a dedication “in homage to the Greek people” for their resistance to Nazi German occupying forces during World War II.

A 1905 representational oil painting of a riverside windmill by Mondrian, the Dutch painter who became famous for his later, abstract linear works, was also stolen.

The suspect is a Greek man who is believed to have acted alone, police said. They were investigating his claim that a third stolen work, a drawing of a religious scene by Italian 16th-century painter Guglielmo Caccia, was damaged and discarded shortly after the 2012 break in.

Police did not give details on how the suspect and paintings were located, but noted that they had been moved to the dry river bed recently, apparently following reports in the Greek news media that authorities were close to making an arrest.