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Brazil finds artworks smuggled from US worth $4.5M

June 30, 2014

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazilian authorities have discovered a cache of $4.5 million worth of art hidden in moving containers sent from Florida.

The country’s Federal Revenue Service said on Monday that a total of 20 artworks bought in auctions and from galleries abroad were hiding mostly among the belongings of a 75-year-old Brazilian woman. Officials said they suspect a company used her move as a front to evade taxes.

The works are by contemporary artists such as Brazil’s Beatriz Milhazes, as well as Otavio and Gustavo Pandolfo, known as “The Twins.” A second container had a sculpture by acclaimed Sergio de Camargo that is valued at $900,000, said a news statement by the government agency.

Ricardo Lomba, the Revenue Service’s chief inspector for Rio de Janeiro, told broadcaster Globo that officials are investigating whether the apparent smuggling is part of a money-laundering scheme. The agency said artworks can be brought into the country without paying taxes as long as they are declared as baggage. But in this case, the plot was reportedly to hide the actual buyer and the source of funds used to purchase them.

The artworks were temporarily taken to the National Museum of Fine Arts in Rio de Janeiro where they will remain in storage. If the buyer does not claim them and explain how they were purchased, they will be become property of the federal museums.

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