Van Gogh masterpieces found in Mafia swoop 14 years after art heist

Two Van Gogh masterpieces stolen 14 years ago have been recovered by police in a crackdown on a Mafia clan. The paintings - Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuene and View of the Sea at Scheveningen - had been removed from their frames but were largely undamaged. A patch of paint in the lower left corner Scheveningen painting had been chipped off, while the other work appeared to be unscathed. They were returned to the museum after being found in the safe of a suspected mobster who was arrested in the small town of Castellammare di Stabia, near Naples.

They’re safe. I no longer dared to hope that I could ever say that, after so many years.

Axel Rueger, director of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam

The paintings were stolen from the Van Gogh Museum on 7 December, 2002. Thieves used a ladder to climb on to the museum’s roof and break into the building, before they escaped by sliding down a rope. Two men were jailed for the theft but the pictures were never found. They finally came to light thanks to a turncoat in the Camorra organised crime syndicate. Italian police also seized “assets worth tens of millions of euros” after also finding evidence the clan was involved in international cocaine trafficking.