2015-03-11 / Front Page

Stolen Picasso Found In LIC Warehouse

BY LIZ GOFF

Federal agents last week said a Picasso painting stolen from a Paris museum in 2001 was recovered by them inside a warehouse in Long Island City.
Authorities did not reveal the location of the warehouse and said US law enforcement officials have initiated legal forfeiture procedures that will allow the US government to seize the “lost treasure” and return it to French officials.
Loretta Lynch, US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a February 24 statement that La Coiffeuse (The Hairdresser), a cubist oil painting completed by Picasso in 1911, was part of a collection at the Musee National d’Art Moderne in Paris since 1966, and was last on display in Munich.
The painting was stored upon its return to Paris and was still believed to be in storage until 2001, when museum officials received a request to loan it out, staffers went to retrieve the painting and discovered it was missing, Lynch said.
Lynch’s office said it is unclear where the painting was located between 2001, when French police were alerted it was missing and last December 17 when it arrived in the United States.
Federal officials said the painting arrived in the US in a package shipped from Belgium that listed its contents as an “art craft toy” valued at $37. There was no mention of how or why the package was red-flagged by customs and/or federal officials.
Law enforcement sources said the painting was reported to be worth approximately $2.5 million. Lynch’s office refused to speculate how much the painting might be worth on the black market.
Lynch and Anthony Scandiffio, Deputy Special Agent in charge of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigation Unit (HSI) said that in the US La Coiffeuse was intercepted by Customs and Border Patrol officers and was turned over to HSI.
Lynch asserts in the federal complaint that the painting is subject to seizure because it was stolen and illegally smuggled into the US.
“The market to sell stolen antiques in the United States is drying up,” Scandiffio said.
 Scandiffio said HSI is committed to utilizing its resources to investigate acts of smuggling and to “repatriate smuggled antiquities and other protected cultural property to their rightful owners.”
No arrests have been made in the case.

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