$163 Million Art Heist In Zurich

Visitors look at "A Loving Couple" by Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Friday, Nov. 2, 2007. Other works by van Gogh are said to be among those stolen by armed robbers from a museum in Zurich, Switzerland on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2008. AP Photo/Peter Dejong

Armed robbers have stolen four paintings worth $163.2 million, including works by Monet, van Gogh, Cezanne and Degas from a Zurich museum, police said Monday.

Police in the Swiss financial center said the theft of the four paintings from the E.G. Buehrle Collection, one of Europe's finest private museums for Impressionist and post-Impressionist art, occurred Sunday. Three masked men who entered the building with pistols are still at large, they said.

Police called the heist a "spectacular art robbery".

Cezanne's "Boy in the Red Waistcoat" was among the works stolen from the private Buehrle museum in the eighth district, according to police.

The prosperous and peaceful outer eighth district on the eastern shore of Lake Zurich is home to several notable art collections.

The FBI estimates the market for stolen art at $6 billion annually, and Interpol has about 30,000 pieces of stolen art in its database. While only a fraction of pieces are ever found, the theft of iconic objects is rare because of the intense police work that follows and because the works are so difficult to sell.

The incident recalled other thefts that have hit Switzerland's museums and galleries over the years.

Last week, Swiss police reported that two Pablo Picasso paintings were stolen from a Swiss exhibition near Zurich. The two oil paintings, "Tete de cheval" ("Head of horse") and "Verre et pichet" ("Glass and pitcher"), were on loan from the Sprengel Museum in Hannover, Germany.

In 1994, seven Picasso paintings worth an estimated $44 million were stolen from a gallery in Zurich. They were recovered in 2000, and a Swiss man and two Italians were jailed for the theft.

In the late 1980s, three armed men robbed a Zurich art gallery, making off with 21 Renaissance paintings worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
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