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View of the Sea at Scheveningen, described by experts as priceless. Van Gogh Museum

Italian police have found two priceless Van Gogh paintings stolen from a Dutch museum

The thieves broke into the museum through the roof and used sledgehammers to break a first-floor window.

POLICE IN ITALY have recovered two Van Gogh paintings stolen in 2002 in Amsterdam.

The works - Seascape at Scheveningen (1882) and Congregation leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen (1884/85) – have been recovered from the Naples mafia, the museum said today in a statement.

The Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam said the works were found during a “massive, continuing investigation” by Italian prosecutors and organised crime officials.

Museum director Axel Rüger said:  ”After all those years you no longer dare to count on a possible return.

“We owe a great debt of gratitude to the Italian [authorities].

The paintings have been found! That I would be able to ever pronounce these words is something I had no longer dared to hope for.

The paintings were taken when thieves used a ladder and sledgehammers to break into the museum.

They were among assets worth millions of euros seized from the Camorra group by Italian authorities. The thieves broke into the museum through the roof during the night of 6-7 December 2002 and used sledgehammers to break a first-floor window.

The theft of the two works, described as priceless by art experts, led to criticism of security at the world’s major art museums.

The uninsured paintings, on loan from the Dutch government, were taken off the walls of the main exhibition hall, despite the presence of guards on patrol and infrared security systems.

The museum said it was so far unclear when the works would be returned to Amsterdam but said they appeared to be in “relatively good condition”.

Read: You can rent ‘Van Gogh’s bedroom’ on Airbnb for $10

Read: Long-lost Van Gogh painting unveiled in Amsterdam

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