Former K-1 stalwart Ruslan Karaev suspected in multi-million dollar art theft

Ruslan Karaev (bottom) in his 2009 K-1 GP match with Badr Hari - Daniel Herbertson, Head Kick Legend

Ruslan Karaev has been named as one of the potential participants in the theft of several pieces from the Kunsthal Gallery, in Rotterdam.

Ruslan Karaev was never what you might call a star in K-1, but he was a name fighter with victories over Kyotaro, Badr Hari, and Stefan Leko. However, after a 2009 loss to Badr Hari at the K-1 World Grand Prix Final, he's been largely inactive. Now he's back in the news, and for all the wrong reasons.

In October of 2012 seven paintings (Pablo Picasso's 1971 "Harlequin Head;" Claude Monet's 1901 "Waterloo Bridge, London" and "Charing Cross Bridge, London;" Matisse's 1919 "Reading Girl in White and Yellow;" Gauguin's 1898 "Girl in Front of Open Window;" Meyer de Haan's "Self-Portrait," around 1890; and Lucian Freud's 2002 work "Woman with Eyes Closed.") were stolen from the Kunsthal Gallery in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Three Romanian men were arrested under suspicion of the theft, and while speaking with prosecutors one of them dropped a very interesting name, Ruslan Karaev.

Radu Dogaru was arrested, after allegedly taking the works to the curator for foreign paintings at the Romanian National Art Museum to be valued. While under questioning he apparently told authorities that he gave four of the paintings to K-1 kickboxer Ruslan Karaev. European coverage of the story suggests that Karaev may have ties to organized crime in Russia, ties which have kept him out of competitive kickboxing.

However, at the moment there is little clarity, as sources have been unable to confirm Dogaru's statements, and Karaev is not currently being held in police custody. We'll be sure to keep you updated as more information becomes available.

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