FBI makes new push to solve biggest art theft in US history

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Twenty years after two thieves walked into a Boston museum and pulled off the biggest art theft in history, investigators are making a renewed effort to recover a haul valued at up to $500 million (£330 million).

The fate of the 13 paintings by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Degas and Manet has remained a mystery and a topic of feverish speculation in the art world since they were stolen in the early hours of March 18, 1990, from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Exploiting the museum’s light security, the thieves – dressed as police officers – bound and gagged the two inexperienced guards.

Speculation about the thieves’ identity has ranged from opportunistic local crooks to a notorious Boston crime lord and even IRA gun runners. The FBI has now resubmitted DNA samples for updated testing.

Encouraged by prosecutors’ insistence that their priority is to recover the paintings rather than catch the thieves, the museum is publicising a $5  million no-questions-asked reward, while the US attorney’s office is offering “negotiable” immunity from prosecution. The reward is being advertised on giant billboards flanking main routes into Boston.

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