a picture of Zurich Art Pieces

a picture of Zurich Art Pieces

After priceless works of art were stolen from a museum in Zurich, investigators spent a lot of time trying to track down and recover the paintings.

On February 10th, 2008 in Zurich, Switzerland, three men wearing ski masks entered the Foundation E.G. Buhrle Collection in the upmarket Seefield area. They ordered all the staff and all the guests inside to lie face-down on the floor. Because they had guns, everyone complied. One man stayed downstairs while the other two went upstairs and tore four paintings off the walls. Then, they escaped from the museum with nineteenth-century masterpieces from artists Monet, Van Gogh, and more. Combined, the art was worth about a hundred and sixty three million dollars.

Serial Art Thieves?

Not even a week earlier, in a nearby town of Pfaffikon, two Picasso had been stolen. They were in total worth four point four million dollars. Police thought both robberies were connected, but there was no solid evidence other than a few witnesses’ testimonies. One of which said that one of the robbers spoke German in a heavy Slavic accent.

The museum itself didn’t have heavy security; no metal detectors, and any visitors who came inside the museum did not even have to have their bags checked. But the problem with the robbers plan was that it’s extremely difficult to sell stolen paintings. Immediately, the paintings were listed on the Art Loss Register. That made it impossible for the robbers to sell them to any common dealer or auction house. The police thought that they had been stolen to order and that the robbers already had a buyer in mind. However, because the paintings were all hanging next to each other inside the museum, other investigators suspected that the paintings hadn’t been stolen on purpose. But had just been out of convenience than anything else.

Where Did They Go?

The police offered up a reward for any information leading to the recovery of the art, a reward of well over one hundred thousand francs. A week later, a parking attendant saw the robbers’ getaway car—a white Opel Omega—parked in the lot of the Zurich University clinic for psychiatric care. Lying in the back seat of the vehicle were two of the four paintings. This led investigators to think that the robbers hadn’t planned the job; that they had just stolen the paintings because the museum didn’t have good security, so it was an easy, convenient one to do.

After that, it took four years before the other two works of art were found by police. Three Serbian men were arrested along with a Montenegrin. The investigators learned that a buyer was willing to pay three million euros for the paintings and the men also had firearms worth over a million dollars in cash.

It’s thought that the Pink Panthers—a network of ex-Yugoslavs who fought as Serbian Special Forces in the Bosnian War—were behind this heist. Many other stolen paintings are smuggled through Serbia and into Montenegro, where they are sold to Russian oligarchs. However, nothing solid has ever been confirmed, which is why this particular crime is still an overall mystery.