The story of the missing artworks at Italy's public broadcaster Rai would make a riveting televised mystery.

But the disappearance of no fewer than 120 paintings, sculptures, lithographs and tapestries from the walls of the broadcaster is fact, not fiction, say authorities.

The art heritage squad within Italy's Carabinieri police has been investigating the missing artwork since March, when Rome prosecutors opened a probe after being alerted by Rai management, according to Italian media. 

Some of the works appear to have disappeared into thin air, while others were removed from walls and replaced by fakes, according to Il Messaggero and La Repubblica dailies. 

Police did not immediately respond to a request for information from AFP.
Among the missing pieces are valuable works by Amedeo Modigliani, Claude Monet, Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, and Giorgio De Chirico –all part of the Rai's collection of about 1,500 works worth an estimated 100 million euros, according to news reports.

The case first came to light when it was discovered that a painting by Florentine painter Ottone Rosai hanging on the walls of the Rai's Rome headquarters was a fake.

The original had been stolen in the 1970s and then sold by a Rai employee whom police have tracked down, media reported.

The man can no longer be charged due to the statute of limitations having expired.  

"We are facing a series of disappearances that seem to be targeted," Rai executive Nicola Sinisi, who is charged with the broadcaster's artistic heritage, told La Repubblica. 

The works, according to news reports, were acquired with proceeds from the television licence fee paid for by Italian households.

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