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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 May, 2003, 10:21 GMT 11:21 UK
Dealer held over stolen Picasso
Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso's works are among the most sought after in the world

An art dealer has been arrested in Brazil on suspicion of selling a stolen Picasso painting for $4.5m (2.8m) and trying to sell a Monet painting that belonged to a Holocaust victim.

French-born Michel Cohen, 49, who owned a gallery on Manhattan's Madison Avenue before fleeing the US in 2001, was held while the US began extradition proceedings.

Mr Cohen has been charged with interstate transportation of a Picasso painting he knew was stolen and with wire fraud in connection with the Monet painting.

The details of his charges were revealed when a criminal complaint was made public by a Manhattan court on Tuesday.

Private jet

He is accused of persuading the Richard Gray Gallery in Manhattan to lend him Picasso's Nu Accroupi in December 2000.

It is alleged he said he was going to show it to prospective buyers and return it the next day but instead took it to a private jet at Newark International Airport.

He allegedly arranged to sell it to a buyer in Iowa for $4.5m (2.8m) without the knowledge of the gallery, which received nothing, it is claimed.

The criminal complaint also said he offered a half stake in Monet's Le Repos Dans Le Jardin to the Beadleston Gallery in Manhattan for $2.75m (1.7m).

But the painting, which had been donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was in the process of being returned to the family of a Holocaust victim who lost it during World War II.

'Double deal'

US authorities said the Beadleston Gallery wired $2.5m (1.55m) to Mr Cohen's bank account and he agreed to deliver the painting within 10 days.

But days later, he met a European dealer and allegedly told him he could buy the same painting for $5m (3m) and resell it for $6.8m (4.2m), splitting the profit.

If convicted, Mr Cohen could face 10 years in jail on the stolen property charge and five years on the wire fraud charge.

He could also face millions of dollars in fines.

A spokesman for US Attorney James B Comey said it was unclear whether Mr Cohen had a lawyer.

Stolen paintings can be repaired
28 Apr 03  |  Manchester

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