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Justice Department blocks sale of $11.5 million Picasso artwork

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The U.S. Department of Justice blocked the sale of a Pablo Picasso painting worth about $11.5 million as a concession to Italian authorities who are investigating a couple on fraud and embezzlement.

Prosecutors in Italy say Gabriella Amati and her deceased husband, Angelo Maj, embezzled nearly $44 million of Naples tax revenues and used that money to buy the painting, the 1909 "Compotier et tasse," at a private New York sale, CNN reported.

Agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement just discovered the painting in New York again, where it was set for another sale on May 21. Italian officials asked for the U.S. to block the sale in order to assist with the prosecution against Mrs. Amati. And agents complied, obtaining a restraining order on Monday to halt the sale.

"Restraining this valuable artwork is an effort to help recover some of the estimated $44 million that this couple stole from the tax-paying citizens of Naples," said ICE Director John T. Morton in a written statement reported by CNN.

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