BERLIN (Reuters) - German authorities have recovered a cache of stolen artworks by neo-expressionist painter Georg Baselitz worth 2.5 million euros ($2.97 million) after the thieves tried to sell some of them, police said on Tuesday.
Prosecutors have retrieved 15 of a total 19 paintings and drawings stolen between June 2015 and March 2016 by a gang whose 39-year-old ringleader was a courier specializing in transporting art, the police said.
The two other suspects, a 51-year-old truck driver and his 26-year-old son, have been charged as accomplices.
Police declined to give any details about the works in the haul, Germany’s largest in years, at the owner’s request. They also gave no information about the owner or about how the art came to be stolen over a period of time.
Anne Leiding, spokeswoman for Munich prosecutors who carried out the recovery operation, said the recovered artworks were being kept in a safe place but declined to say where.
The theft only came to light when the father and son attempted to offer some of the works for sale for less than their market value. An insurer got wind of one of these attempts and informed police, leading to the 51-year-old suspect being located in Spain.
The three suspects have yet to make a statement to police.
The four pictures still missing are estimated to be worth around 130,000 euros.
Born in 1938 and still active, Baselitz, a painter and sculptor, trained first in the state-backed socialist realism of Communist East Germany before discovering abstract art in West Berlin.
Baselitz then gained international fame by spearheading a revival of neo-expressionist art, which had been rejected by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi dictatorship.
($1 = 0.8418 euros)
Reporting By Thomas Escritt; Editing by Gareth Jones