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FBI eyes DNA clues in huge US art theft

March 05, 2010

Twenty years after the world's biggest art theft, the FBI said Thursday it has resubmitted evidence for cutting-edge DNA analysis in hopes of finally finding the culprits.

In March 1990, two men dressed as police officers walked out of the Gardner Museum in Boston with paintings including three Rembrandts and a Vermeer worth between 250 and 300 million dollars.

The thieves vanished and the paintings never resurfaced in what by some measurements was the world's biggest art theft. A five million dollar award remains on offer from the Gardner.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation now hopes that new DNA testing technology at its Quantico, Virginia, lab could provide a breakthrough.

"The lead agent in the case, Geoffrey Kelly, made the decision to send the two-decades-old evidence to the FBI's scientific laboratory for a fresh look, based on current advances in DNA technology," FBI Special Agent Gail Marcinkiewicz told AFP in Boston.

Marcinkiewicz said the FBI was deliberately publicizing the development, but that the investigation itself remained under wraps.

"The FBI will not be releasing the information because this is an ongoing investigation," she said. "But in these historical cases it is appropriate to keep the case alive via the media."

The daring nighttime theft took only 81 minutes after the two security guards were tricked into opening the door to the phony police.

The robbers tied the guards with duct tape and fled with 13 artworks.

"It is amazing that often times the most complex of crimes are pulled off with such a simple execution," Katherine Armstrong, at the Gardner Museum, said.

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