The Iraqi authorities under the Ministry of Interior have assured the state news agency that an original painting by the Spanish painter Pablo Picasso was seized in the province of Diyala on Saturday.
According to the authorities, the painting, valued at several million dollars, was seized from a drug gang in Iraq after a raid was carried out in late July against the criminal group.
The Iraqi news agency has not released any further details, nor has the Interior Ministry, about the artwork, its condition or how it was able to reach Diyala province. The authenticity of the artwork has not yet been proven, nor has the Pablo Picasso Foundation, the main manager of the artist's legacy, issued a statement.
It would not be the first time something like this has happened. In 2009, in the city of Babel, in the south of the country, another painting by the internationally renowned painter from Malaga was found. It was "Nude Woman", allegedly stolen during the Iraqi invasion of neighbouring Kuwait in 1990. At the time it was thought to be worth around 7 million dollars and before it disappeared it was part of the collection of the Qaet al Ahmadi museum.
The thief, a high-ranking member of Hassan Hussein's security forces, intended to sell "Naked Woman" for $300,000, far below its real value. The Turkish authorities had already managed to trace the artwork in 2000, in a case that was linked to members of the Turkish police and parliamentarians of the Grand National Assembly.
In statements made to Iraqi media, the colonel of the anti-drugs office, Bilal Sobhi, said: "The General Anti-Drugs Directorate carried out an operation in Diyala governorate, in which a network of 3 defendants involved in the trade and transport of narcotics was arrested and a painting by the international painter Picasso, estimated at millions of dollars, was seized. This is a major operation calculated for the General Anti-Drugs Directorate".
The Iraqi authorities pay special attention to the fight against drug trafficking. Iraq has always been a hotspot for the production and distribution of opiates, especially after the dismantling of its state.