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Monday, 26 March, 2001, 07:43 GMT 08:43 UK
Stolen 'Picassos' found in Turkey
Buste de Femme
Genuine Picasso works fetch millions at auction
Turkish police have arrested four men who allegedly tried to sell two stolen paintings attributed to Pablo Picasso to undercover officers, according to media reports.

The Turkish news agency, Anatolia, said those detained included the nephew and driver of a member of parliament.

Officials think the paintings were stolen from a Kuwaiti palace during the Gulf War in 1991 and smuggled to Turkey via Iraq.

Pablo Picasso
Picasso: a prolific artist, much admired and much copied
The seizures bring to eight the number of paintings believed to be by Picasso recovered in Turkey over the past year.

Police sources, quoted by Anatolia, said the MP, Mustafa Bayram, was in a car outside a house where his nephew was trying to sell the paintings for $1.5m each.

Officers are reported to have let the MP go after he claimed parliamentary immunity.

Genuine or fakes?

One of the paintings is of a clown and the other a naked woman. They both bear the stamp of a Paris art gallery.

Several experts have raised doubts about the authenticity of the supposed Picasso works found in Turkey.

Since the paintings began surfacing last year, no one has claimed ownership.

If genuine, the works would be worth millions of dollars.

The value of paintings by masters such as Picasso means art theft is no longer just an elitist crime funded by unscrupulous collectors, but has become a billion dollar industry linked to drugs cartels and illicit arms dealing.

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See also:

23 Dec 00 | UK
Great heists of our time
09 Nov 00 | Americas
Auction record for Picasso
07 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Picasso's muse fetches 3m
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