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Iraq pulls off crack intelligence op to save fake Picasso

Iraqi intelligence officials in the Prime Minister’s office quickly took action when they learned a man was trying to sell a painting he claimed was a Picasso looted from Kuwait in the 1990 invasion. Unfortunately, as the London Times‘ Oliver August reports from Baghdad, the painting is probably not authentic: Was it the strange proportions, ...

Iraqi intelligence officials in the Prime Minister’s office quickly took action when they learned a man was trying to sell a painting he claimed was a Picasso looted from Kuwait in the 1990 invasion. Unfortunately, as the London Times‘ Oliver August reports from Baghdad, the painting is probably not authentic:

Was it the strange proportions, the outsize legs? Was it the tag on the back that read “the Louvre; to the museum of kuwait”, even though the Louvre has never had a Picasso in its collection and would not, a spokesman said, have sold one if it did? 

The reality took the gloss off what was otherwise a brilliant operation. The would-be seller, named as Maitham al-Issawi, 33, was given it by his father, a former army officer, just before he died. He had asked for a “down payment” of $450,000.

A security official told The Times: “Two weeks ago we were informed by an intelligence department at the Prime Minister’s office about this matter. The painting was seized along with the suspect and both were taken to the provincial police command.

“The painting was originally inside a house but we didn’t like the idea of a raid because we feared the suspect might burn the painting. An ambush was set up outside and he was lured into the city where he was arrested in the middle of the road." 

Regardless of this painting’s authenticity, the Iraqi government intends to continue going after stolen art and cultural items. It is looking not only for items from Kuwait but also many looted from Saddam’s palaces in 2003. August reports:

The official hinted that the Prime Minister’s office had more information on looted artwork and that it could swoop again soon.

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