Dutch police have arrested a 58-year-old man on suspicion of stealing paintings by Vincent van Gogh and Frans Hals with an estimated value of £18m during night-time raids on museums in the Netherlands last year.
The unnamed man was arrested on Tuesday morning at his home in the central town of Baarn over the thefts of Van Gogh's The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring and Hals's Two Laughing Boys, The Guardian reported.
Police said that despite a search of the man's home they had not recovered either of the paintings. The Van Gogh is valued at up to £5m while the Hals masterpiece would be expected to fetch £13.4m at auction.
"Intensive investigations into the robbery of both paintings were conducted under the leadership of the public prosecution service", the police said in a statement.
The Van Gogh masterpiece was stolen from the Singer Laren Museum near Amsterdam in the early hours of 30 March 2020 during a period in which it had been closed due to coronavirus restrictions.
The theft happened on what would have been the 167th anniversary of the 19th-century painter's birth, prompting the museum's director, Jan Rudolph de Lorm, on the day of the crime to tell reporters during a press conference that he had been left "incredibly pissed off".
The thief had arrived on motorbike before using a sledgehammer to smash through the reinforced glass front door of the museum and fleeing with the 25cm by 57cm oil-on-paper painting tucked under his right arm.
The Dutch art detective Arthur Brand said at the time that the photographs had been circulating in mafia circles and had been handed to him by a source he declined to identify. The photographs obtained by Brand had revealed a new scratch on the bottom of the painting, thought to have been picked up during the raid.
Parsonage Garden was painted relatively early in Van Gogh's career, before the prolific artist embarked on his trademark post-impressionist works such as Sunflowers and vivid self-portraits.