Documents detail Tate gallery's efforts to retrieve stolen paintings

It took the help of a Dean Martin impersonator, code word exchanges with criminal gangs and deposits in a secret bank account, but after an eight-year search &to=' target=_blank>Britain's Tate gallery finally recovered two stolen &to=' target=_blank>Turner paintings.

Now legal papers which offer an extraordinary account of how the world famous institution recovered the prized works have become an exhibit in their own right.

The 19th Century paintings were stolen in 1994 whilst on loan to the Schirn Kunsthalle gallery in Frankfurt, Germany and were recovered separately in 2000 and 2002. Documents released this week by Britain's High Court read like an espionage thriller and reveal how the gallery paid out 3.1 million pounds for information about the theft and instructed a German lawyer to act as an intermediary to criminal gangs.

Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota has denied any money was paid as a ransom and said Wednesday that documents detailing the negotiations were now on display at the Tate Britain gallery in London.

"The documents, which could not be released at the time of the recovery, set out the arrangements and conditions under which the paintings were recovered," said Serota. "They tell the story of a recovery operation which is one of the most extraordinary episodes in Tate's history."

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