Art theft

Stolen Baselitz works recovered by police

German investigators find 15 paintings and drawings in Leverkusen, north of Cologne

Georg Baselitz BORIS ROESSLER/dpa

Bavarian police have recovered 15 paintings and drawings by the German artist Georg Baselitz, together worth about €2.5m, that were stolen from storage in Munich between June 2015 and March 2016.

The 39-year-old suspected thief, who worked as a driver for the logistics company storing the art, passed the works on to a 51-year-old man from Leverkusen, north of Cologne. The man and his son tried to sell them below value, but succeeded in selling only one, the Bavarian state prosecutor said.

Their attempts to sell another work raised red flags at an insurance company, which alerted the police. After the work was identified as stolen, the other thefts came to light. Police inquiries among art dealers in Germany and abroad led to the 15 stolen works in Leverkusen. Four further pieces, together worth about €130,000, are still missing.

German police co-operated with authorities in Spain and France to trace the 51-year-old from Leverkusen, who had fled the country. He was arrested on returning to Germany in August and remains in custody, the prosecutor said. The three suspects have so far not given police full information and the investigation is ongoing.

The prosecutor said that Baselitz had asked that the works in question not be identified to the media.