July 21 (UPI) — Police in northern Italy recovered two paintings by masters Pierre-August Renoir and Peter Paul Rubens on Friday, more than a year after they were stolen from art dealers.
Officials in Monza, about 10 miles northeast of Milan, said two suspects posed as bogus buyers and signed a fake contract to pay about $30 million for the artworks in April 2017.
Police said at least eight people were involved in the scam; officials arrested four Italians and a Croatian, and have identified three others involved. One of the suspects, Nenad Jovanovic, 44, of Croatia, allegedly pretended to be a rabbi.
Police said they received a tip about the whereabouts of the artworks, leading to their recovery and the arrests.
The stolen paintings included Girls on the Lawn by 18th century French Impressionist Renoir and and Holy Family by 16th century Belgian painter Rubens. Police were having experts verify the paintings’ authenticity before they are returned to the gallery owners.