US authorities seize $11.5 mn Picasso for Italy
New York: A 1909 Pablo Picasso painting titled "Compotier et tasse," or "Fruit bowl and cup," with an estimated worth of USD 11.5 million will be held by US authorities for the Italian government pending the outcome of criminal proceedings against its owner in Italy, according to the terms of a judge`s order.
Justice Department authorities assumed control of the painting after US District Judge Victor Marrero yesterday signed the order following a formal request by the government of Italy.
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Washington said in a news release that Italian authorities requested the seizure after the painting`s owner was charged with embezzlement and fraudulent bankruptcy offenses in Italy.
The charges allege that the painting`s owner caused the city of Naples to lose USD 44 million through a variety of schemes that avoided taxes, including fraudulent service contracts, forged accounting records and inflated operational expenses.
Homeland Security agents seized the painting May 21, when it was being offered for private sale for USD 11.5 million.
"We are very pleased that our investigation has led to the recovery of this painting that is so significant to the Italian people," ICE Director John Morton said.
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