Picasso Painting Stolen Nearly a Decade Ago Found in Greece, Man Arrested and Confesses to Cops


Sakis Kehayioglou, a lawyer acting for the accused, said he had shown “real remorse” for his actions, The Guardian reported.

A painting by Pablo Picasso, which was stolen nine years ago during a heist inside a Greek art gallery, has been recovered, according to BBC. Cops say that a 49-year-old builder was arrested this week and confessed to stealing the painting as well as other works of art.

The heist inside Athens National Gallery in 2012 saw the Picasso painting “Head of a Woman'' and a work by Dutch artist Piet Mondrian known as “Mill,” taken, and both were recovered this week. A third work by Italian artist Guglielmo Caccia, from the 16th Century, was also seized but police said the suspect told them it had been damaged and he had flushed it down the toilet, BBC reported.

"In our new gallery, they will find the place they deserve," Citizens' Protection Minister Michalis Chrisochoidis said Tuesday at a press conference.

In recent months, authorities had gotten word that the Picasso painting never left Greece.

Cops said that the thief had activated the gallery's alarm system several times before breaking into the building during early morning hours of January 9, 2012, Reuters reported. The guard turned off the alarm only to spot one of the thieves through the motion detector.  The paintings were removed from their frames and the thief escaped by smashing through a door as the alarms were manipulated.The heist took no more than seven minutes, The Guardian reported.

Cops thought for years that it was a collective of experienced thieves who stole the work, but now say it turned out to be just an art lover, according to The Guardian. 

On Monday, authorities arrested a Greek man who confessed that he had stolen the paintings and then took police to a forest outside Athens where he had hidden them, the Citizens' Protection Ministry said on Tuesday. The police released footage of the location and authorities recovering the paintings under bushes.

The thief said that the paintings had been stored in various places including warehouses and moved in and around the city in hiding.

The paintings have been hidden for so long because they would have been nearly impossible to fence, according to Culture Minister Lina Mendoni.

Mendoni told reporters they would be "impossible to sell or go on display" because of a personalized inscription from Picasso as a gift to the Greeks, "For the Greek people, a tribute by Picasso." The painting had been on display inside Athens National Gallery since 1939 when it was given as a gift to the country by the painter.

The Picasso painting was given to Greece following the country's continued resistance to Nazi Germany during World War II.

"Picasso dedicated the painting to the Greek people," Michalis Chrisochoidis said. "There was a Greek man who took it away. There were Greeks who brought it back."

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