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Four men charged with possession of stolen Rembrandt painting

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Stockholm (dpa) - Four Swedish men were charged Friday over trying to sell a Rembrandt painting that was stolen five years ago from the National Museum in Stockholm, and recently recovered.

Valued at 100 million kronor (12 million dollars), the 1630 Rembrandt "self-portrait" was stolen in December 2000 by three masked and armed robbers.

The men entered the museum located on the waterfront in downtown Stockholm, snatched the self-portrait by the Dutch master, as well as two paintings by French impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir before escaping in a boat.

The four men charged Friday were aged 24 to 29. Earlier this year they were in contact with a buyer in the U.S., and in September made arrangements to sell the stolen painting to a buyer at a hotel in Copenhagen, prosecutor Ronnie Jacobson said.

One of the men transported the 12 x 15.5 cm work to Copenhagen where they met the potential buyer at a hotel. One of them received 245,000 dollars in cash and was secretly videotaped counting the money that was a deposit for the painting, the charge sheet said.

The September 2005 recovery of the Rembrandt painting involved cooperation between Swedish police, the FBI in the U.S. and police in Denmark, Stockholm police spokesman Ulf Goranzon said.

The self-portrait, which was undamaged, was returned to the National Museum on September 21 on the eve of the opening of an exhibition on Dutch masters.

All three paitings stolen in December 2000 from the National Museum have been recovered but one Renoir, "Jeune Parisienne" (Young Parisian) still remains in the United States.

"The FBI have had the painting since this spring but did not want to publish that information fearing it might harm the efforts to recover the Rembrandt," museum spokeswoman Lena Munter said.

The other Renoir painting, "Conversation with the Gardener", was recovered in April 2001 in connection with a narcotics raid.

Ten of 13 men charged with involvement in the December 2000 raid were sentenced in 2001. Two were sentenced to eight respective seven years for aggravated robbery, others received sentences of between two and four years.

Two of the four men charged Friday were acquitted in 2001.

The National Museuum theft was the largest in Sweden since 1993 when robbers cut through the roof of Stockholm's old Modern Museum in 1993 and stole eight works by cubist masters Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque.

Copyright 2005 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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