SAO PAULO, Brazil: Police have arrested a suspect in the heist of two Pablo Picasso prints from a museum in Sao Paulo and recovered one of the works, police and a museum official said Saturday.
Inspector Cesar Carlos Dias said information obtained through wiretaps of gang members involved in unrelated robberies led police to Ueslei Barros, the suspect in the July robbery.
Barros led police to one stolen Picasso print, "The Painter and the Model," hidden in an attic of a building on the outskirts of Sao Paulo, Dias said.
"We were taken by surprise," Dias said. "We were keeping an eye on Barros and two other men because we had information they were planning to steal automatic teller machines and rob banks. In a tapped phone conversation, the Picasso print was mentioned."
Barros and the other two men, who were not involved in the art heist, were arrested Friday night in a parking lot of a shopping mall, Dias said.
Barros, a 30-year-old Sao Paulo resident, was arrested on charges of robbery and had not yet been assigned a court-appointed attorney on Saturday, police said.
Marcelo Araujo, director of the Estacao Pinacoteca Museum, told reporters the print was in its frame and in "perfect condition." Police found the print inside a plastic bag.
On June 12, three robbers also stole Picasso's print "Minotaur, Drinker and Women" and the paintings "Women at the Window" by Emiliano DiCavalcanti and "Couple" by Lasar Segall.
The prints and paintings have a combined estimated value of 1 million Brazilian reals (US$630,000 at current exchange rates), museum officials said previously.
The July robbery was the second high-profile art theft in Sao Paolo in less than a year.
In December, the paintings "Portrait of Suzanne Bloch" by Picasso and "O Lavrador de Cafe" by Candido Portinari, an influential Brazilian artist, were stolen from the Sao Paulo Museum of Art by three men who used a crowbar and car jack to force open a steel door.
The framed paintings later were found in a house on the outskirts of Sao Paulo. One of the suspects in that theft — a former TV chef — turned himself over to police in January, who already had two suspects in custody.
Art Hostage comments:
This is what Art Hostage said hours after the Brazil Heist on June 13th:
Brazil Art Heist Take Two !!
Art Hostage has learnt the latest Brazil Art Heist in Sao Paulo was carried out by friends/guns for hire of the first Heist accused and the Picasso's will be offered back if previous criminal charges are dropped.
Art Hostage is waiting on names and the address where the current stolen art is being held hostage, more to follow.
So, Brazil Police, don't bother looking at the airport, the Picasso's are local and will be offered back soon.
See the robbers on CCTV linked below:
Back-story and timeline:
More to follow.................