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FBI sting helps capture art thieves

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Sep 19, 2005 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- A sting operation by U.S. federal agents led to the arrest in Copenhagen, Denmark, of four men allegedly involved in a $55 million art heist five years ago.

Two Rembrandt and Renoir masterpieces were recovered. A third painting, a Renoir, was recovered earlier in Los Angeles.

The three paintings were taken from Sweden's National Museum in Stockholm in 2000, Britain's Independent newspaper reported.

Those arrested include two Iraqis, a Swede and a Gambian. They were arrested in a raid on a Copenhagen hotel as they offered to sell a Rembrandt self-portrait worth $42 million for $100,000 to an FBI agent posing as an art buyer, the report said.

During the robbery, an armed and masked gang entered the museum. As one man brandished a sub-machine gun in the lobby, two others seized the paintings from the second floor. They scattered spikes to delay pursuers as they escaped.

An investigation of an international crime ring operating in southern California led authorities to the two paintings. The FBI did not reveal how the Renoir was recovered earlier.

Copyright 2005 by United Press International.

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