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Italian Police Recover Stolen Van Gogh Paintings

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

A worldwide search for two Vincent Van Gogh paintings has come to an end. Thieves made off with the art in a daring heist 14 years ago. Now the works have turned up in Naples, Italy, at the home of an alleged Mafioso. Christopher Livesay reports.

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CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY, BYLINE: Applause as Naples police unveil the two recovered Van Goghs. They've been missing since 2002 when thieves in Amsterdam used sledgehammers to break in through the roof of the Van Gogh Museum and infamously evaded detection. Two suspects were eventually convicted for stealing the Dutch Masters' early landscape's titled "Congregation Leaving The Reformed Church At "Nuenen" and "Seascape At Scheveningen," both dating to the early 1880s. But they remained at large for over a decade until Italian police recently raided the house of an alleged international cocaine trafficker from the Camorra Mafia.

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GIANLUIGI D’ALFONSO: (Speaking Italian).

LIVESAY: General Gianluigi D’Alfonso from the Italian finance police told a press conference that the Naples mob is diversifying its investments in international art on the black market. But it's a bad investment if you can't sell it, art critic Philippe Daverio told Italian broadcaster RAI.

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PHILIPPE DAVERIO: (Through interpreter) They have an intrinsic value, but no resale value when they're stolen. These aren't gold bars you can melt down. My appeal to all the delinquents in the world is this - it's not worth it. Stealing art is totally useless.

LIVESAY: The recovered paintings are missing their frames and show some signs of damage, but the Van Gogh Museum says they appear to be in good condition. For NPR News, I'm Christopher Livesay in Rome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.