Picasso's stepdaughter accuses Paris art dealer Oliver Tomas of stealing artworks he was entrusted to transport and store

The suspect has been detained by French police after authorities began cracking down on an alleged art-trafficking ring.

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The Independent Culture

French prosecutors have begun investigating a Paris art dealer suspected of stealing works from Pablo Picasso’s stepdaughter only hours after the artist's tribute to Henry Matisse, Les Femmes d’Alger (version O), sold for a record breaking $179 million at auction.

The suspect, businessman Olivier Thomas, has been detained by French police as authorities begin to crack down on an alleged art-trafficking ring.

Catherine Hutin-Blay, the painter’s second wife Jacqueline’s only daughter, complained in March this year that pieces had gone missing from her collection, claiming Thomas stole works he was entrusted to transport and store, according to The Telegraph.

Officials have said they have opened a judicial inquiry into Tomas for theft, receiving stolen goods and fraud.

 

Earlier on this year Yves Bouvier, a business partner of Thomas’, was detained on suspicion of fraud, having been suspected of selling dozens of works by the likes of Picasso and Leonardo da Vinci at inflated prices or with false documents.

Thomas had replaced Bouvier on the board of the Luxembourg Freeport, a high security facility that holds a number of expensive works of art.

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Rich store of controversy: the freeport is detested by the Richtung22 collective for keeping art behind closed doors

After the death of her mother in 1986, Ms Huton-Blay inherited a number of Picasso’s works along with Chateau de Vauvenargues, the house where the artist and his second wife are buried.

According to Forbes, the stolen works were being moved from the Chateau's premises to a location in Gennevilliers, on the outskirts of Paris. The transportation company involved is allegedly Art Transit International, which has a 5,000 square metre facility in Gennevilliers.

This is not the first time this year someone has been trouble with authorities over Picasso artwork.

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Pierre Le Guennec,who was accused of receiving stolen goods after being found in possession of paintings by late Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, sits with his wife Danielle in court

In March, French courts ordered the artist’s former electrician to return 271 stolen paintings to Picasso’s family, even though the worker claimed they were gifts. Both the electrician and his wife were given two-year suspended prison sentences.

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