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Sotheby’s said the total value of the stolen goods recovered, which included a £60,000 jewelled turban, was “much, much lower” than the £4m reported.

A Sunday newspaper reporter claimed to have been offered a haul of antiques, including rare books and a Dutch Old Master, for £45,000 after infiltrating the gang.

Sotheby’s rejected claims that they had been unaware that the art was missing and said it was “irrelevant” whether or not the material would soon be offered for sale.

The charges were brought against the five men last Monday at a London magistrates court. Joseph Rivas, Azem Krifsha and Rusu Sorin were all charged with stealing and handling a jewelled turban belonging to Sotheby’s. Joseph Rivas was also charged with conspiring to rob a Sotheby’s employee of an unknown amount, as was Adrian Pasareanu and Alin Turcu. All five men have been remanded in custody.