A stolen painting believed to be a Picasso was seized from an Iraqi drug gang that was arrested on Saturday, the Iraqi News Agency (INA) reported.
The artwork, said to be worth millions of dollars, was confiscated during a raid by the country’s Ministry of Interior.
Three people were reportedly arrested in the central Diliyah Governate in connection with drug dealing and trafficking.
Further details about the supposed Picasso were not released by the ministry.
It is not the first time an alleged Picasso painting has been seized by Iraqi officials.
In 2009, police arrested a man south of Baghdad who was trying to sell what he claimed was a Picasso piece for $450,000, AFP reported.
That painting was reportedly stolen from the National Museum of Kuwait during Saddam Hussein’s invasion of the Gulf state in 1990.
However, officials from the Louvre in Paris and the National Museum later debunked the claim, saying that the painting was a fake.
The National Museum had never housed a Picasso before the invasion, they said, and a claim that the Louvre had sold the painting to the National Museum was also fraudulent.
Saturday’s announcement follows a series of drug raids in Iraq spurred on by tipoffs from members of the public and inspection of public places by sniffer dogs, anti-narcotics spokesman Colonel Bilal Sobhi told the INA.
A total of 1,300 people were arrested in July for dealing, using, and promoting illicit drugs, and 83 kilograms of illegal substances were seized, Sobhi said.
“The drug trade is linked to many crimes, including murder, theft, kidnapping, rape, gang formation, corruption, and family disintegration,” he added.
Iraq hosts a flourishing drug trade, partly due to its location between major heroin producer Iran, and Syria – which is the Middle East’s largest manufacturer of the stimulant Captagon.
In recent years, the production of crystal meth in Iraq has also increased, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
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