Iraq Ministry of Interior officials say they discovered a stolen Picasso painting “worth millions of dollars” in the course of a raid carried out by the ministry’s anti-narcotics directorate on August 13. The bust, which took place in the country’s central Diyala province, resulted in the arrest of three individuals on charges of trafficking and selling narcotics. “A painting belonging to the international painter Picasso was seized in their possession,” anti-narcotics media office director Colonel Bilal Sobhi told the Iraqi News Agency in a statement.
The raid was part of a broader sweep launched in July that to date has netted 1,300 suspects and resulted in the seizure of roughly 101 pounds of “narcotic substances” and about 82 pounds of “stimulants, including crystal,” according to Sobhi, who drew a direct line from narcotics trafficking to the looting of historically valuable objects. “The drug trade is linked to many crimes, including murder, theft, kidnapping, rape, gang formation, corruption, and family disintegration, until it reaches the antiquities trade,” he noted.
No further details are available regarding the work, which has not yet been authenticated. UAE-based news site The National, which covers events in the Middle East, notes that a work believed to have been by the Spanish master was recovered in 2009 in the Iraqi town of Hillah. The painting was initially believed to have been stolen from the Kuwait National Museum during the 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Titled Naked Woman, the work was labeled “Louvre” and bore stamps of the Paris institution; however, the museum denied ever having owned the painting, and the Art Loss Register in London noted that it had not been reported missing by the Kuwait institution.