Tuesday, September 21, 2010
$1M painting, used in money-laundering scam, sent back to Brazil to reimburse defrauded victims
A Roy Lichtenstein masterpiece worth more than $1 million is going back to Brazil - and the auction block - to help reimburse victims of a Brazilian mini-Madoff.
The Lichtenstein and a second painting were part of a huge art collection used by a South American scammer to launder some of the $1 billion he stole from Bancos Santos.
"Modern Painting with Yellow Interweave" is a typically bright geometric abstract from the American painter.
A second painting by artist Joaquin Torres-Garcia, a Uruguayan artist, will be joining the Lichtenstein on its way to the land of bikinis and soccer.
"They will be sold and the money will be used to help pay the victims of the fraud," said Pedro Vieera Abramovay, Brazil's National Secretary of Justice.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, at a press conference with a slew of Brazilian officials, hailed the process of liberating the paintings from Edemar Cid Ferreira.
Banco Santos's former president was convicted of bank fraud in Brazil and sentenced to 21 years in prison.
"For years, important contemporary art works by Lichtenstein, Basquiat, and others have been held hostage by Ferreira's fraud," Bharara said.
"The return of these paintings to Brazil is especially significant because it highlights how important international cooperation is in the pursuit of justice."
Investigators say the paintings were a way to disguise his hidden loot. Brazilian officials believe he did the same with hundreds of other paintings, the most valuable of which is a $4 million Jean-Michel Basquiat called "Hannibal."
The forfeiture of "Hannibal" is under appeal, as are two other artworks.
The Lichtenstein and the Torres-Garcia, "Figures dans une structure," will be soon headed back to the Contemporary Art Museum of the University of São Paulo, said Abramovay.