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Van Goghs stolen in daring heist go on show in Naples

Two Van Gogh masterpieces stolen in Amsterdam in 2002 and recovered last year in Italy will be on show in Naples from Tuesday until February 26th.

Van Goghs stolen in daring heist go on show in Naples
The museum's art director poses with the recovered masterpieces. Photo: Mario Laporta/AFP

The brief exhibition at the Capodimonte museum has been organized as a thank you to the southern city for the local police's role in tracking down the two small but hugely valuable and historically significant oil paintings.

The works had gone unheard of from the time they were stolen in a daring raid on the Van Gogh Museum until they turned up last year at the house of a notorious mafia boss.

The 1882 “Seascape at Scheveningen” and the 1884/5 “Congregation leaving the Reformed Church at Nuenen” were among the Dutch master's first oil paintings and, as such, are of enormous interest to art historians.

How exactly the paintings ended up in Italy remains a mystery.

They were found in September during a raid on a property belonging to fugitive mobster Raffaele Imperiale, at Castellammare di Stabia, southeast of Naples.

The area is a notorious hotspot for the nefarious activities of the Neapolitan mafia, the Camorra.

The paintings were stolen in December 2002 with the thieves using a rope to get in and out of the heavily fortified building after getting on to the roof by ladder.

Giorgio Toschi, a general with Italy's financial and customs police, said the theft had ranked on the FBI's top ten of art crimes.

“More than ever we are seeing art works being used by criminals either as safe haven investments or as a way of making payments or guaranteeing deals between organized criminal groups,” he said at the unveiling of the two paintings on Monday.

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CRIME

‘Blind’ Italian scammer arrested after driving

An Italian man who received government support for years due to blindness was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of fraud after being seen driving, window shopping and riding a bike, news reports said.

A Sicilian man has been arrested for faking blindness after he was filmed driving and window shopping
A Sicilian man has been arrested for faking blindness after he was filmed driving and window shopping. MARCELLO PATERNOSTRO / AFP

The man in Palermo, Sicily, received at least 170,000 euros ($191,000) in welfare since 2008 after attesting that he was “totally blind” as a result of a congenital problem, local media reported.

Italy’s financial police were alerted after the man renewed his driver’s license in 2018 despite his earlier declaration, media said.

READ ALSO: ‘Blind’ man filmed giving directions and shopping

During stake-outs, authorities witnessed the man driving – while dialling on his phone at the same time – looking at shop windows while walking through a busy mall and teaching his daughter to ride a bike.

The 40-year-old was also seen riding a scooter without insurance, Palermo Today reported, adding that the man was nicknamed “Berlusconi,” after Italy’s former prime minister with a history of legal problems.

The man was already known to authorities, having received a jail sentence of nearly 15 years in the first instance last year for being part of a group that staged fake traffic accidents to receive insurance payouts.

READ ALSO: Italian police bust bone-breaking insurance fraud gangs

The investigating judge in this latest case ordered the man’s arrest on charges of aggravated fraud to obtain public funds.

The military seized three motor vehicles, three motorbikes, a garage, and the latest generation electric bicycle which the accused had been filmed riding, reports the news daily Il Corriere della Sera.

The case is under appeal.

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