U.S. Returns Stolen Basquiat Work to Brazil

MANHATTAN (CN) – Jean-Michel Basquiat’s iconic “Hannibal” and a Roman Togatus statue, spirited out of Brazil by a disgraced banker, are returning home after a ceremony in New York.
     Both works were formally returned to Brazil during a repatriation ceremony at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan.
     Stretched behind a podium between intersecting metal rods, “Hannibal” was painted by Basquiat the same year that his first one-man gallery exhibition catapulted him to international fame.
     The neoexpressionist portrait of the Carthagian general had been paired at the ceremony with a photograph of the Roman Togutus, a statue depicting a toga-clad civilian.
     Basquiat’s 1981 work now has an estimated value of $8 million, and the Togatus would fetch an estimated $100,000.

     The pieces are but two of 400 works that now-jailed Banco Santos chief Edemar Cid Ferreira smuggled out of Brazil before his sentencing in December 2006, the authorities say.
     Now serving 21 years in prison, Ferreira had been a major patron of the Brazilian art world. An international investigation following his sentencing aimed to recover the art works so that Ferreira’s defrauded customers could be made whole via the proceeds of public auctions.
     Investigators believe the “Hannibal” and Togatus went to the Netherlands before being shipped to a secure storage facility in New York in the summer of 2007.
     Both works’ shipping invoices grossly underestimated their value at $100, prosecutors say.
     Forfeiture litigation in the Southern District of New York stretched years with two federal court appeals, the latest favoring the U.S. government on Sept. 9, 2014.
     U.S. and Brazilian law enforcement celebrated their return at a ceremony inside the law library at 1 St. Andrews Plaza.
     “Art should serve to inspire the mind and nourish the soul, and not be allowed to be a conduit for crime,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.
     Bharara’s office has held repatriation ceremonies like this before in the same investigation, previously returning Roy Lichtenstein’s “Modern Painting with Yellow Interweave,” Joaquin Torres-Garcia’s “Figures dans une structure,” and Serge Poliakoff’s “Composition abstraite.”
     Brazil’s public prosecutor Eronides Aparecido Rodrigues dos Santos estimated that art valued at $30 million had been recovered in total.

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