Stolen Picasso Painting Returned to France Following ICE Investigation
Fourteen years after it was stolen from a Paris museum, a Pablo Picasso painting valued at $15 million will be returned to France.
The repatriation of the Picasso painting “La Coiffeuse” was the result of Operation Toile which was led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
A lead resulted in HSI and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials to conduct an inspection of a targeted shipment in December 2014 in Newark, New Jersey. The inspection revealed the stolen painting, as well as fraudulent statements on the shipment’s value, country of origin, and description. The shipment’s label presented its contents as low-value handicraft valued at 30 euros.
The valuable Picasso painting had been listed stolen since 2001 on Interpol’s Stolen Works of Art database.
“We are committed to extracting stolen cultural property from the grasp of the black market and restoring to its rightful owners,” said Acting United States Attorney Kelly Currie. “Using the civil forfeiture process, we were able to acquire legal title to ‘La Coiffeuse’ and return it to the people of France. We look forward to seeing this important artwork fully restored and displayed where the public can once again enjoy it.”
Earlier this month, ICE Director Sarah R. Saldaña joined officials at the French Embassy in Washington for a ceremony officially transferring the painting.
“The recovery and return of stolen artwork and other cultural artifacts remains a significant priority for ICE,” said ICE Director Saldaña. “As our world continues to shrink, protecting cultural treasures has become even more important and we are committed to doing everything we can to return them to their rightful owners.”
“Picasso used to say ‘A painting truly exists in the eyes of the beholder,’” remarked Frédéric Doré, Deputy Chief of Mission at the French Embassy. “Returning to the Musée National Museum of Modern Art in Paris, France, [La Coiffeuse] will come back to life and be seen again by the public thanks to this outstanding Franco-American customs cooperation.”
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