Dutch museum art theft an inside job?

(CBS News) Police in the Netherlands are looking for suspects in one of the largest art heists in recent history.

Chris Marinello, director of The Art Loss Register, an organization that tracks stolen artwork, says the high level of sophistication with which the crime was pulled off suggests the thieves had inside information.

"The police will be looking at friends and relatives of various museum personnel, looking into their backgrounds to see if they can find some kind of a connection," he said. "It just went too smoothly, this theft."

Thieves got away with paintings by some of the world's most revered artists.

With a level of precision only Hollywood could duplicate, thieves broke into Rotterdam's Kruntshal Museum at around 3 a.m. Tuesday morning and walked off with seven pieces of artwork. The list of stolen work reads like a textbook in art history. They include a Picasso, a Matisse, a Gauguin, and two Monets that are part of the impressionist painter's famous London series.

No guards were on duty at the time of the robbery, but police arrived at the museum just five minutes after the alarm system was triggered.

Major heist of modern art at Dutch museum
Pictures: Modern art heist at Dutch museum

Roland Ekkers, spokesman for the Rotterdam Police Department, said, "The alarm system in the Kunsthal was supposed to be state-of-the-art, so we have got no reason to believe that it's not. But somehow the people responsible for this found a way in and a way out and they found time to take seven paintings."

Together, the paintings have an estimated value in the tens of millions of dollars, which would make this one of the biggest art heists in recent history. But Marinello says despite the high value carried by the art, the people who took it will have a hard time selling it.

"You take these to Vancouver, or Doha, you are not going to be able to sell them," Marinello said. "No respectable dealer or auction house is going to touch them."

Officials remain optimistic that the stolen artwork will soon be recovered.

But who could have stolen this art? CBS News senior correspondent John Miller, a former FBI deputy director, said on "CBS This Morning," the art thieves aren't necessarily who you think they are. He said, "I know who we want the art thieves to be. We want them to be like Pierce Brosnan in 'The Thomas Crown Affair.' We want them to be this sophisticated thief who is handsome, cultured, has appreciation for art. The real art thief is usually a knucklehead. That's the short version. The long version is they are great burglars and thieves. They are lousy businessmen. That's because they spend a lot of time planning their way in to get the thing, but not a lot of time planning what they are is going to do with it after. We'll steal it, find the black market and then find the black market doesn't exist."

One of three things happens to the art in cases like these, Miller said. "Number one, they actually find a buyer and the buyer brings in a curator and that person is so far 100 percent of the time an undercover FBI agent. The second thing that happens is because they can't find a buyer, they find the insurance carrier and say, 'We can sell this back for the reward' and some countries are on to this. In 2001, Great Britain passed a law that said you can't give the award unless it comes with an arrest. The third thing ... a lot of the time we see these things end up in somebody's garage and crawl space, and for that particular thief, it just sits there for the get-out-of-jail card for the next time they get arrested for something else."

For Charlie D'Agata's report and John Miller's analysis, watch the video above.

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