ICE returns stolen Picasso painting valued at $15 million

WASHINGTON – Fourteen years after its reported theft from a Paris museum, a Pablo Picasso painting will be returned to France. The repatriation of “La Coiffeusse” follows an investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) as a part of Operation Toile.

ICE Director Sarah R. Saldaña presided over the official transfer of the painting at a ceremony held at the French Embassy in Washington Aug 13.

“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.”

Pursuant to an investigative lead, HSI and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials conducted an inspection of a targeted shipment in December 2014 in Newark, New Jersey. Upon inspection, the painting was revealed and seized as the shipment contained, in addition to the stolen painting itself, fraudulent statements regarding the shipment’s value, country of origin and description. The shipping label described its contents as a low-value handicraft valued at 30 euros.

In reality, the cargo contained a $15 million painting by Picasso, which has been listed on the Interpol Stolen Works of Art database since it was reported stolen in 2001.

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