MILAN – Wiretapped phone calls and video surveillance were key to the arrest of 13 suspects in Italy and Moldova for the brazen armed robbery of 17 paintings, including works by Tintoretto, Rubens and Mantegna, from Verona's main art museum in November, authorities said Wednesday.
One of the suspects was identified as the guard on duty when three armed robbers entered the Castelvecchio Museum at closing time, just before the alarm system was activated. Eight of the suspects, including the guard's twin brother and Moldovan wife, were arrested in Italy, while the rest were arrested in Moldova.
Authorities are still working on recovering the paintings, valued at 15 million euros ($16.5 million). Investigators believe they are hidden in Moldova and hope to find them still together.
"The offense to the city of Verona has been partially repaired. It will be totally repaired when we can bring home our treasures," investigator Renato Cortese told a news conference.
Investigators analyzed 4,000 hours of video and hundreds of phone calls to identify the suspects, he said.
Newly released video shows the masked and armed thieves working their way through the museum, patiently removing the paintings from the walls and easels where they were mounted before escaping in two vehicles. Video cameras captured the vehicles' movements through city intersections.
Afterward, authorities intercepted calls where the thieves congratulated themselves, calling the heist "a big hit," and then saying they would have to wait a few months before trying to offload the paintings until the situation calmed down. "Let's wait, stay quiet, be still. It's the right way," one said.