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February 18, 2011

Friday, February 18, 2011 - No comments

Paintings by Rembrandt and Picasso Recovered from Illegal Gambling Den in Moscow

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, A Note from a Curious Editor

Those of us studying art crime have often wondered if stolen art could be owned by Russian outlaws or other businessmen who profit from illegal activities. reported on February 15, 2011 that:
A building in Moscow once used by oligarch-in-exile Boris Berezovsky that housed an illegal gambling syndicate was raided Friday by the Russian Federal Security Service. Along with documents supposedly linked to offshore businesses owned by Berezovsky and his family, investigators discovered artworks by Picasso and Rembrandt said to be worth over $5 million.
Neither ARTINFO, or Bloomberg, or The Moscow Times, the original source of this story, identified the paintings. Investor Brois Berezovsky is an associate of art collector Roman Abramovich. Berezovksy, ARTINFO reports, "no longer uses the Moscow building, however, and hasn't for some time: He fled Russia in 2001 and received political asylum in Britain. Whether the paintings discovered in the illegal den were also being traced back to Berezovsky, or were connected with the gambling operation was not clear from initial reports."
Which paintings were found, where did they come from and how did they get to Moscow? Stolen or purchased? Why would someone leaving the country leave behind a valuable Rembrandt or Picasso artwork? The information here is too vague to make any conclusions but it raises my curiosity.