Officials in Spain seized a drawing believed to be by Pablo Picasso worth more than $ 460,000 from a passenger who failed to report it to airport customs, Spain’s tax authorities and civil servants said in a statement on Monday.
The traveler, whose name was not released, arrived in Ibiza, Spain, from Switzerland on July 5 and tried to smuggle the 1966 drawing, called “Trois Personnages”, into his luggage, according to Spanish officials.
Spanish authorities said customs officers in Switzerland had tipped them off about a passenger who “carried a work of art under circumstances” that Swiss officials considered “suspicious”. The man told authorities he had nothing to declare when he was questioned after landing at Ibiza airport.
As he tried to pass through a green lane at the airport, customs officers searched his luggage and found the sketch signed by Picasso, authorities said.
The traveler, according to investigators, then claimed that the work was a copy and presented a handwritten invoice of 1500 Swiss francs, or around 1550 dollars.
But during a search of the luggage, investigators found another invoice from an art gallery in Zurich for 450,000 Swiss francs, or about 464,000 dollars, for the sale of “Trois Personnages” (three figures), authorities said.
Born in Málaga, Spain, Picasso became one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, and his works bring in significant sums. In May, Picasso’s “Femme Nue Couchée”, estimated at more than $ 60 million, sold for $ 67.5 million in fees at Sotheby’s.
Imports such as works of art brought to Spain from outside the EU are subject to customs duties.
Spanish authorities said in a statement: “Since this is a property exceeding 150,000 euros and which has been introduced without a customs declaration despite the authorities’ specific questions as to whether the passenger had anything to declare, a suspected crime of smuggled goods would have been committed.”
Following the incident, the sketch was presented for inspection to the director of the Ibiza Museum of Contemporary Arts, who reported that the artwork was an original Picasso and that the market value matched the price of the Swiss gallery invoice.
Spanish authorities said experts would complete a more comprehensive analysis of the artwork to determine the source, and that it would remain under the supervision of a court until the investigation is complete.