US blocks Picasso painting sale

Compotier et tasse The painting demonstrates Picasso's transition into a cubist style

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The US has blocked the sale of an $11.5m (£7.4m) Picasso painting at the request of the Italian Government.

The 1909 work Compotier et tasse or "Fruit bowl and cup", had been offered for private sale in New York.

Its owner, Gabriella Amati and her late husband, Angelo Maj have been charged with embezzling $44m (£28.5m) of tax revenues from the city of Naples.

The US Justice department said the work was purchased with money allegedly obtained through criminal activity.

The charges against Ms Amati include avoiding taxes and forging accounting records.

Agents working for US Immigration and Customs (Ice) located and recovered the painting in New York, where it was being offered for sale on 21 May.

The Justice department has assumed control of the painting after US District Judge Victor Marrero signed a restraining order following the formal request from Italy.

Ice director John Morton said: "Restraining this valuable artwork is an effort to help recover some of the estimated $44 million that this couple stole from the tax-paying citizens of Naples."

In 2010, Picasso's Nude, Green Leaves and Bust set a then world record for the most expensive art work sold at auction, fetching $106.5m (£65.5m).

It has since been surpassed by a version of Edvard Munch's The Scream, which sold for $120m (£74m) last year.

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