(CN) – U.S. customs officers seized a Pablo Picasso painting stolen from Paris and on its way into New Jersey, Brooklyn’s top federal prosecutor revealed.
U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch brought a federal forfeiture action on Feb. 26 regarding the unsigned oil painting by Picasso known as “La Coiffeuse” (The Hairdresser).
She says the cubist painting was stolen in 2001 from the Paris museum Centre Georges Pompidou, where it was in storage. At that time its estimated value was $2.5 million.
Customs intercepted the painting on Dec. 18, 2014, at the Port of Newark while it was being shipped via FedEx from Belgium, according to the complaint in Brooklyn.
The shipper, identified only as “Robert,” described the painting in customs documents as an art handicraft worth $37. It was destined for a climate-controlled storage facility in Queens, NBC reported .
“La Coiffeuse” was bequeathed to the National Museums of France in 1966. It was discovered stolen when the Centre Pompidou searched for it pursuant to a loan request from India and could not find it.
Lynch’s forfeiture action seeks to return the stolen property to France.
“A lost treasure has been found,” Lynch said in a statement. “Because of the blatant smuggling in this case, this painting is now subject to forfeiture to the United States. Forfeiture of the painting will extract it from the grasp of the black market in stolen art so that it can be returned to its rightful owner.”
Though the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee confirmed Lynch’s nomination last week to replace outgoing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, a vote from the full Senate remains elusive.
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