LOS ANGELES (CN) – A charitable foundation says it bought a $3.5 million Roy Lichtenstein painting from a Los Angeles that had been smuggled into the United States by a bankrupt Brazilian businessman.
Seth Landsberg, trustee of the Seth Landsberg Family Foundation, says a U.S. government agent told him the painting belongs to the Brazilian government, and that the U.S. government plans to seize it and return it to Brazil.
The 1967 Lichtenstein, “Modern Painting with Yellow Interweave,” is the third missing painting of 29 that authorities say are connected with Brazilian money launderer Edemar Cid Ferreira.
A Brazilian court in 2006 sentenced Cid Ferreira to 21 years in prison for his role in a bank fraud and money laundering scheme that left his company, Banco Santos, $1 billion in debt, according to “The Art Newspaper.”
One of the other two recovered paintings, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Hannibal, worth $8 million, allegedly was smuggled into the U.S. with a claimed value of $100, before it was seized by New York authorities. Landsberg says a government agent told him that a U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York plans to join the Lichtenstein painting to the civil seizure action in the Hannibal case.
According to the complaint, Landsberg and the foundation bought the Lichtenstein from Ace Gallery in Los Angeles for $1.3 million, plus $100,000 in taxes, and intended to sell it through Sotheby’s for its appraised value of $3.5 million.
The foundation is suing Ace Gallery and Pacific Heights, the gallery that sold the Lichtenstein on consignment to Ace, alleging breach of contract, since the consignment agreement allegedly guaranteed that the title of the painting was “free and clear.”
Landsberg and the foundation are represented in Superior Court by James Turken, Amy Rubinfeld and Fawn Wright.