May 2, 2006

Court orders millions in damages for “Scream” theft

By John Acher

OSLO (Reuters) - A Norwegian court ordered two men to pay
$122 million in damages on Tuesday after convicting them for
the 2004 theft of Edvard Munch's masterpieces "The Scream" and
"Madonna" and then jailing them for seven and eight years.

The Oslo court also convicted a third man for providing a
car for the day-light armed robbery, but did not order him to
pay damages. It acquitted three other men.

The two 1893 paintings have not been recovered despite a 2
million Norwegian crowns ($325,900) reward.

Five of the men had been charged with planning or taking
part in the daylight robbery, and the sixth had been accused of
handling stolen goods.

The six had pleaded not guilty in February.

Two gunmen walked into Oslo's Munch Museum on August 22,
2004, and pulled the two paintings off the walls in front of
dozens of stunned tourists who were forced to lie on the
ground. A third man drove a get-away car which was later found.

Presiding judge Arne Lyng sentenced Petter Tharaldsen to
eight years in prison, Bjoern Hoen to seven years and Petter
Rosenvinge to four years for their part in the robbery.

"The verdict is unanimous," Lyng told the court as the
accused sat stone-faced listening to the judgment.

He said Tharaldsen drove the car, and Rosenvinge sold the
car to Hoen who knew what it would be used for. Rosenvinge had
also been accused of providing weapons for the robbery, but the
court said it could not prove that.

All three said they would lodge appeals.

The court did not identify the two armed men who entered
the museum, threatened museum employees with their weapons,
yanked the pictures off the walls and walked out to the
get-away car.

Lyng ordered Tharaldsen and Hoen to pay the City of Oslo
750 million Norwegian crowns ($122.2 million) in compensation
for the paintings within two weeks.

It did not order Rosenvinge to share in the whopping bill
for damages because it found that he did not know that "The
Scream" and "Madonna" were the targets of the theft.

The city had sought damages of 500 million crowns for "The
Scream" and 250 million for "Madonna," two of Munch's most
famous works.

"The Scream," showing a waif-like figure clutching its head
under a swirling blood-red sky has become an icon of angst in a
world scarred by horrors from the atom bomb to the Holocaust.
"Madonna" shows a bare-breasted woman with long black hair.

In 1994, another version of "The Scream" -- Munch painted
two famous versions of his masterpiece -- was stolen for
several months from Norway's National Gallery by thieves who
broke a window and climbed in with a ladder. It was recovered
by police posing as buyers.

The Munch Museum has since undergone a 40-million crown
security upgrade.