Italian authorities said Wednesday they have pinned last year's theft of Rubens and Tintoretto masterpieces in Verona on a Moldovan gang they believe was helped by a museum security guard.
But despite ordering 12 arrests in Moldova and Italy they have yet to recover any of the 17 artworks that disappeared in November from the northern city's Castelvecchio museum, which values the missing canvases at 15 million euros ($16 million).
"We are on the right track but we have not yet been able to put our hands on the missing paintings," Verona prosecutor Mario Giulio Schinaia was quoted as saying by local media.
At the time of the robbery, police said it appeared the works had been stolen 'to order' for a private collector, given the difficulty anyone would have in selling on works by such well-known artists.
Three masked men entered the 14th century building at the evening change of guard, slipping in after the museum had been emptied but before its state-of-the-art security system had been put into overnight mode.
A security guard and another member of staff were tied up before the pictures were taken.
The guard is one of the suspects arrested, along with his brother and the brother's Moldovan girlfriend, who is suspected of having alerted the robbers to the potential to pull off the audacious heist.
The thieves' haul included ‘Portrait of a Lady’ by Flemish Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens and ‘Male Portrait’ by Venetian artist Tintoretto, as well as works by Pisanello, Jacopo Bellini, Giovanni Francesco Caroto and Hans de Jode.
Another acclaimed work, ‘The Conversion of Saul,’ by Italian Renaissance painter Guilio Licinio, was damaged during the robbery but has since been successfully restored.