Paris: A 71-year-old retired electrician is at the centre of a legal battle after coming forward with more than 200 hitherto unknown paintings by Pablo Picasso, a French newspaper reported Monday.
Experts who have examined the collection have estimated it could be worth some 60 million euros (80 million dollars), Liberation reported.
Pierre Le Guennec wrote to Claude Picasso, the artist`s son and the administrator of his estate, in a bid to get the canvases authenticated, and the two finally met in September.
Le Guennec said he had worked installing alarm sytems at a number of Picasso`s residences, including a villa in Cannes in the south of France, during the last three years of Picasso`s life -- he died in 1973.
He said he had had been given the works as presents, either by Picasso`s wife or from the artist himself. The collection included 271 works, Liberation reported.
Once experts had authenticated the works however, Picasso`s heirs filed a complaint alleging receipt of stolen goods.
Claude Picasso dismissed Le Guennec`s claim that he could have received the paintings as gifts, telling Liberation that his father would not have given such a quantity of works to anyone.
"That doesn`t stand up," he insisted. "It was a part of his life.
After Picasso`s heirs filed the complaint in September, officers from the Central Office for the Fight against Traffic in Cultural Goods (OCBC) seized the works from the couple`s home on the Cote d`Azur in southeast France.
Le Guennec himself was taken into custody, the paper reported, although it did not say whether he had since been released.
A spokesman from the OCBC, part of France`s interior ministry, confirmed to AFP the seizure of the paintings.
The haul ranges from notebooks to drawings and completed paintings, including nine cubist works which alone are worth some 40 million euros, according to experts.
Also in the collection was an aquarelle from Picasso`s blue period, portraits of his first wife Olga, as well as a number of gouaches and lithographs, Liberation reported.