Spanish police have seized 81 works of art attributed to the surrealist master Salvador Dali that were on the point of being auctioned.
The spectacular artworks up for sale included lithographs, textiles, cutlery, sculptures and bas-reliefs. Police detained a Frenchman who had apparently transported the works from France for the sale at a hotel in Estepona, on the Costa del Sol, accusing him of fraud and forgery. His identity was not disclosed.
Police did not vouch for the authenticity of all the pieces seized in the raid but insisted that several of them were genuine works that had been stolen from galleries or private collections. "Interpol archives suggest that at least 12 of the works appear to have been stolen," police said in a statement. "These dozen works are pieces with identifiable serial numbers; that is, identical works have been declared stolen in Spain, Belgium, France and the United States."
Officers from Spain's national heritage brigade, which deals with art thefts, worked with Interpol to track down the stolen art.
The Salvador Dali Gala Foundation, which takes care of Dali's legacy and keeps records of all his works, was studying the serial numbers of the confiscated works to see if they coincided with those already reported stolen. "We are awaiting the foundation's report," police said.
Police also seized about 20 certificates of authenticity of sculptures attributed to the artist. Among the works to have been sold was a three-metre-high figure of an elephant that carried a price tag of €1.2m (£1.12m).