Police burst into apartments in Rome and Turin before dawn Monday and recovered two paintings by van Gogh and one by Cezanne, resolving an art theft that had become a major embarrassment for Italy.
They arrested eight Italians, including a security guard at Rome's National Gallery of Modern Art, where armed thieves walked away with the masterpieces on May 19.Government and museum officials exulted in cracking the case, for art thefts and vandalism are all too common in Italy, a country with a vast artistic patrimony. The crime prompted strong criticism over museum security.
"This was a bleeding wound that Italy didn't deserve," Deputy Premier Walter Veltroni told reporters. "Today, the wound is closed."
A well-organized group of thieves carried out the robbery, authorities said.
The suspects included several people involved in holdups in Belgium, said Gen. Roberto Conforti, commander of the Carabinieri art theft squad. Police seized rifles, revolvers, a machine-pistol, masks, ammunition and wigs during the arrests.