Art theft victim, Venezuela both claim 'historic documents'

Police: Papers documenting key period in Venezuela's history, stolen from Israeli.

Police are trying to decide what to do with historic Venezuelan documents recovered from art thieves in a Tel Aviv apartment recently - return them to the theft victim or hand them over to Venezuela, a police official said Wednesday. Venezuelan officials assume the documents, connected to the time when the country became independent from Spain, will be sent home, but police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said a decision has not been made. Police discovered the documents in binders along with stolen art when they cracked down on two art thieves. The documents date from an important period in the history of the Republic of Venezuela, said Venezuelan Embassy official Angel Rafael Tortolero. "[Some of] these documents are from a period of the 19th century," said Tortolero. "In that century the Republic of Venezuela became independent." Police said that the documents were stolen from the home of an Israeli businessman. He wants them back. "There is an initial investigation which looks into whether it is private or public property," Rosenfeld said. "If it is necessary for the Foreign Ministry to be involved, they will be used as necessary," he said. Venezuela isn't waiting. It has begun legal procedures to secure return of the documents, Tortolero said. "They will go straight to a national museum of history of Venezuela." Relations between the two countries have recently become strained. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has often expressed sympathy with the Palestinians, and in February the Venezuelan vice president said his country would welcome Hamas leaders "with pleasure" if they decided to visit.