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FRANCE: Stolen modern art treasures may have wound up in trash

October 9, 2011 | 12:54 pm

French forensic police remove an empty frame through a window at the Paris Museum of Modern Art

REPORTING FROM PARIS — A man suspected of hiding precious artwork stolen from the Paris Museum of Modern Art last year claims that, in a panic, he threw them in the garbage.

Paintings by Picasso, Braque, Modigliani, Matisse and Leger stolen in May 2010 and worth about $134 million may have been dumped in a garbage bin on a Paris street and destroyed with the rest of that day's garbage, according to the testimony of one of three suspects connected to the theft, a 34-year-old watch repairman, according to the French weekly Journal du Dimanche. The journal published a detailed report on the investigation on Sunday.

Photos: Theft at Paris Museum of Modern Art

Following a brush with authorities, the suspect, who was later arrested, reportedly panicked and trashed Leger's "Still Life with Candlestick," along with Picasso's "Dove with Green Peas" and the three other paintings, according to the report.

Investigators are not ruling out the possibility that the paintings may still be recovered.

-- Devorah Lauter

Photo: Police remove an empty frame through a window at the Paris Museum of Modern Art while investigating the theft in May 2010. Credit: Benoit Tessier / Reuters