judge with DIA; A Van Gogh painting cannot be confiscated

Detroit — A Detroit federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit to forfeit a Vincent Van Gogh painting allegedly stolen from the Detroit Institute of Arts and give the artwork to its alleged owner in Brazil.

U.S. District Judge George Cram-Stee ruled that the CIA did not have to turn over “Liseuse de Roman,” also known as “The Reader Fiction” or “The Reading Lady,” which is temporarily on display in an exhibition that ends Sunday. The judge ruled that the artwork is protected by a federal law that grants immunity to foreign artwork displayed in the United States.

DIA’s lawyers argued that the artwork could not be touched because it was protected by a federal law called the Immunity from Appropriation Act that grants immunity to foreign artwork displayed in the United States.

“The painting is immune from seizure under the law, which prohibits a court from issuing an injunction or entering any other order that would deny the accused custody or control of the painting,” Steh wrote in the 11-page decision. Because the court cannot grant the final relief sought by the plaintiff, the suit will be dismissed.

The painting had been stolen and lost for nearly six years until it was recently discovered on display at Doha International Airport as part of a “van” at the museum’s Gogh in America exhibition, said the alleged owner, Brazilian art collector Gustavo Suter and his art brokerage firm, Brokerarte Capital Partners LLC.

Steh had ordered nine days earlier that the painting not be removed or hidden, and the DIA had posted a security guard near the van Gogh artwork in recent days.

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