Russian billionaire Dmitri Rybolovlev has returned two Pablo Picasso paintings worth an estimated $30 million to the artist’s step-daughter, who claimed they had been stolen from her.
Rybolovlev traveled to Paris Thursday to hand the paintings over to French authorities for authentication, the New York Times reported.
The two portraits of Catherine Hutin-Blay’s mother, Jacqueline Roque, will remain in the authorities’ care while a judicial inquiry determines what happened to the art and the role of a Swiss businessman, Yves Bouvier, who is the target of an investigation into receiving and selling stolen property. This follows an official complaint by Hutin-Blay made in January for theft in relation to the portraits.
Rybolovlev is also named as a civil plaintiff in the complaint, though there has been no suggestion that he was aware the works might have been stolen. Hutin-Blay said she had entrusted the portraits to an associate of Bouvier to store in a vault outside Paris and had realized they were missing in 2015.
Mr. Rybolovlev purchased the portraits from Mr. Bouvier in 2013.
Bouvier was placed under formal investigation in Paris over the "concealed theft" of the paintings this month, the Telegraph reports. He is also accused by Rybolovlev in a separate case, filed in Monaco. The billionaire insists Bouvier was only supposed to take a two per cent commission on his purchases of works by artists like Matisse and Rodin, and had overcharged him for the works. Bouvier faces charges of fraud and money laundering in the case. A ruling is due on November 12.
Bouvier denies any wrongdoing in either case, and sought to have the theft inquiry dropped on Thursday.