How Police Tricked Thieves Into Stealing Copy Of 3-Million Euro Painting

Seventeenth-century Flemish artist Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s famous painting The Crucifixion was donated to the Santa Maria Maddalena church in the small Ligurian town of Castelnuovo Magra more than a century ago. Last month the masterpiece was rem

Police in Italy have been untroubled by the daring robber of a Flemish master's painting, for they have hanged a fake one a month ago.

Police later revealed the painting in the thieves' possession was not "The Crucifixion" by Flemish artist Pieter Bruegel the Younger, but a fake they had replaced it with as part of a sting operation.

Last month, police in Castelnuovo Magra received a tip that a group was planning on making off with Crucifixion, a 17th century painting by Pieter Brueghel the Younger.

On Wednesday, the thieves broke into the display case containing the painting with a hammer and made off with the painting by vehicle - seemingly unaware that their loot was anything but the real deal.

Police had caught wind of the planned robbery a month before it took place, so swapped the painting with a replica and installed CCTV cameras within the church.

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The surveillance footage of the raid is now being carefully studied and investigators are chasing down those responsible.

Officials kept up the ruse in the hours after the theft, telling newspapers the theft was a "hard blow for the community".

But by that evening he dropped the pretence, thanking the police and churchgoers for helping to lay the trap: "Some members of the congregation noticed that the painting on display was not the original, but they didn't give away the secret", Montebello said.

The country is a popular destination for art thieves, with half of the artefacts stolen in 2016 being held in churches. The scene is painted in oil on oak panels and is a copy of Brueghel's famous father's work, though, no version of the original has survived.

Originally bought from Bruegel by an Italian ambassador to the Netherlands, the painting was owned for a while by a family of Italian nobles before being donated to the church in the 19th century.

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