Picasso stolen from Saudi businessman's yacht found 20 years later

'When I had it in my hands, I knew right away: this is real,' said the man who recovered it

This image released on Tuesday March 26, 2019 by Arthur Brand, shows Dutch art detective Arthur Brand with "Buste de Femme", a recovered Picasso painting. The painting was stolen from a wealthy Saudi's yacht 20 years ago. Arthur Brand, whose previous finds include a pair of bronze horses sculpted for Adolf Hitler, said Tuesday that he took possession a couple of weeks ago of the 1938 painting "Buste de Femme" after trailing it for years through the Amsterdam underworld. He has since returned the work, which he estimates to be worth some 25 million euros ($28 million) to an insurance company. (Arthur Brand via AP)
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A prominent Dutch art detective says he has helped recover a painting by Pablo Picasso that was stolen from a private Saudi owner's yacht in France in 1999. In an interview with broadcaster RTL, Arthur Brand said he was given, in confidence, the 1938 Picasso, Buste de Femme, which portrays fellow artist Dora Maar.

"You fear that it will be fake, but when I had it in my hands, I knew right away: this is real," he said.

Having received the painting in black trash bags at his house, Brand said he contacted police and handed it to an insurance company for possible return to its owner.

"I had it hanging in my house for one night," he said, estimating its value at 25 million euros (Dh103 million). "That was exciting ... It's fantastic, so unbelievably beautiful."

Brand said he had first heard the painting was in the Netherlands in 2015. He told the broadcaster he believes it may have been traded back and forth "20 times" in the Amsterdam underworld, used as collateral in drugs and weapons deals.

He said the final owner was a real estate agent who wanted to be rid of it after he realised it was stolen. Brand said two men contacted him and arranged the drop-off at his house.

Dutch police told local media they were not taking further action, as the painting has been returned and the statute of limitations in the 1999 theft has expired.

The rightful owner, identified as Saudi businessman Abdulmohsen Abdulmalik Al al-Sheikh, could not immediately be reached for comment.