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Paris art dealer accused by Picasso stepdaughter of stealing artist’s works

Catherine Hutin-Blay accuses top dealer Oliver Thomas of stealing Picasso paintings he was paid to transport.

Prosecutors are investigating a Paris art dealer after Picasso’s stepdaughter filed charges for allegedly stealing artworks that he was to be transporting and storing on her behalf.

News of Thomas’ arrest came hours after a Picasso masterpiece, Les femmes d’Alger, sold for $179 million in New York.

Thomas is a business partner of a Swiss dealer who was recently charged with defrauding the Russian owner of Monaco football club, in one of the largest cases of fraud to hit the world art market.

Hutin-Blayfiled the legal complaint against Thomas in March as she believes some of the works the art dealer was hired to transport have gone missing.

Prosecutors have opened an inquiry into Thomas for theft, receiving stolen goods and fraud.

The OCBC is leading the investigation and if they find sufficient evidence the next stage will be to charge Thomas.

Hutin-Blay inherited a large collection of Picasso’s work after the death of her mother and still owns the Chateau de Vauvenargues which Picasso bought in 1958.

It is not clear if the lawsuit by Hutin-Blay concerns some of these works, which were transported from the south of France to Paris.

Picasso, who died in 1973, was one of the most famous artists and has the distinction of being the painter who has had the most works stolen.

More than a thousand Picasso paintings are currently registered as stolen or missing.

One of Picasso’s paintings was stolen from the Pompidou Centre in Paris and was recently discovered last December by a US customs official after it was sent by post from Paris to New York disguised as an inexpensive Christmas gift.

Photo by Nathan Laurell

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