Iraq authorities claim to have discovered a Picasso “worth millions of dollars” during a drug raid conducted Saturday in the Diyala, a central province east of Baghdad.
The alleged Picasso was in the possession of three suspects who were arrested for their alleged involvement in the trade and transport of narcotics, authorities said.
“A painting belonging to the international painter Picasso was seized in their possession,” the director of the anti-narcotics media office, Colonel Bilal Sobhi, said in a statement to the Iraqi News Agency.
Sobhi added that the raid was part of a larger crackdown on narcotics trafficking that began in July. Authorities have arrested 1,300 suspects and seized “44kg of narcotic substances” as well as “37kg of stimulants, including crystal” since the operation began, he said.
Images of the artwork and details of its condition have not been disclosed, and according to the National, the painting has yet to be authenticated. The Iraqi Ministry of Interior has also yet to share if any other notable artworks or cultural artifacts were discovered during the raids.
Sobhi said that raids to “curb the trade, promotion and use of drugs” were “ongoing” and are targeting cafes and other locations “where young people gather.”
The drug trade “is linked to many crimes, including murder, theft, kidnapping, rape, gang formation, corruption and family disintegration, until it reaches the antiquities trade,” Sobhi said.