May 2, 2006

Court orders $122 mln damages in “Scream” theft

By John Acher and Ole Petter Skonnord

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 jailing them for seven and eight years.

The Oslo court also convicted a third man for supplying a
car for the armed robbery, but did not order him to pay

It acquitted three other men, including one who prosecutors
suspected had been one of two robbers who entered Oslo's Munch
Museum on August 22, 2004 and took the artworks in broad

The prosecution was unable to prove who had actually
grabbed the two 1893 paintings, which have not been recovered
despite the offer of a 2 million Norwegian crown ($325,900)

Police attorney Morten Hojem Ervik said police did have
some information and he was hopeful the pictures would be

"We don't think they have been destroyed," Ervik said, and
added there was no evidence the paintings had been smuggled out
of Norway. "We know a lot, but I can't share all of that with
you here now because this work is still going on."

Five of the men had been charged with planning or taking
part in the robbery, and the sixth had been accused of handling
stolen goods. All had pleaded not guilty in February.

Two men wearing black ski masks, one of them waiving a
Smith & Wesson revolver, walked into the Munch Museum 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 said as the accused sat
stone-faced listening to the judgment.

He said Tharaldsen drove the car, a black Audi station
wagon, and Rosenvinge sold the car to Hoen who provided it for
the robbery. Rosenvinge knew it would be used for a heist while
Hoen knew what would be taken.

Rosenvinge had also been accused of supplying guns for the
robbery, but the court said it could not prove it.

All three said they would lodge appeals.

"It is a good judgment and I am pleased that three of the
defendants are now convicted for this crime," prosecutor Terje
Nyboe told Reuters. "These three were the most important." He
said it still could not be proved who had entered the museum.

The court said 8,600 Norwegian crowns was found at
Tharaldsen's home, which it said came from a bank robbery in
the western port of Stavanger in April 2004 when $10 million
was stolen and a police officer shot dead.


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. The city had sought 500
million crowns for "The Scream" and 250 million for "Madonna."

The court did not order Rosenvinge to share in the whopping
bill for damages, which the judge acknowledged the others would
be unable to pay, because it found he did not know "The Scream"
and "Madonna" were the targets of the theft.

"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 like the Holocaust and the atom
bomb. "Madonna" shows a bare-breasted woman with long black

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