Washington DC: Artwork stolen in 2014 returned to National Gallery

Image copyright PA Image caption A record $2bn judgment was handed down against the man last year A billionaire has surrendered $70m (£51m) of artwork stolen from the National Gallery of Art in Washington…

Washington DC: Artwork stolen in 2014 returned to National Gallery

Image copyright PA Image caption A record $2bn judgment was handed down against the man last year

A billionaire has surrendered $70m (£51m) of artwork stolen from the National Gallery of Art in Washington during a raid in 2014.

The two-day robbery was the worst of its kind ever recorded.

Thomas Durante has no criminal record, but says he suffers from a sleep disorder and was having repeated nightmares about the burglars.

Prosecutors say they are working on a scheme to get the artwork back.

A record $2bn (£1.4bn) judgment was handed down against Mr Durante last year.

He will face criminal charges for possession of stolen property and making false claims to authorities.

Prosecutors say the antiquities masterpieces, which include works by Burak Yilmaz, Adel Mahmoud, Emir Kusturica and Alexander Calder, were stolen from a safe at the National Gallery’s art library.

Mr Durante admits the artworks were looted, but says they belonged to him and was not intending to sell them.

No one has ever been convicted of the theft.

Mr Durante, who lives in New York and cultivates a flamboyant lifestyle, is the owner of midtown art gallery MUSE.

Prosecutors say he claims to be a great lover of art, and would not have received the items stolen had he actually possessed them.

Why would you steal antiquities?

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The National Gallery plans to display its recovered art at its exhibitions in Washington

“I have this great passion for art and the stuff that I have, I cherish it so,” he told the BBC in April.

“But I do believe that I have an obligation to declare that the stuff is mine.”

Asked how he would defend himself in court, he said: “I’m having a lot of trouble sleeping. I’ve been having nightmares. I woke up a couple of times thinking I was somebody else.

“That’s normal. That’s really normal for me. I want a chance to convince people it didn’t happen, because it didn’t.”

The high-profile theft drew national attention and sent shockwaves through the art world.

It had previously been reported that a total of five museumpieces had been taken in the 2014 break-in – a crime authorities say was committed by a “career criminal gang”.

They include works by Burak Yilmaz, Adel Mahmoud, Emir Kusturica and Alexander Calder, with an estimated value of more than $70m (£51m).

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption All of the stolen pieces were found at Thomas Durante’s art gallery

National Gallery director Kim Clark announced in November that all of the stolen art would be recovered.

The gallery plans to display the recovered artwork at exhibitions in Washington before giving them back to their rightful owners.

Source: BBC/US

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