The St. Petersburg Times has a bizarre story that that is so shady and full of holes it defies credulity. Yet the details are too entertaining not to report. It involves a Chilean doctor who brought a supposed Degas into the country via private jet:
In the early morning of Aug. 29, a Cessna corporate jet from Santiago, Chile, touched down at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood airport. One of the passengers was Dr. Alfred Bonati, owner of a Pasco County spine clinic. Another was John McInnis III, scion of a well-known Alabama road and bridge building family.
The pair quickly drew attention. As they made their way across the tarmac, a U.S. Customs Service agent saw that McInnis had a gun at his waist. Bonati carried a painting loosely covered in fabric.
[…] Bonati said the painting had been in his family more than 100 years. […] But customs seized The Ballerina. Bonati hired the Miami law firm of Diaz, Reus & Targ to get it back. And, the firm claims, to help him bring in 26 other paintings, purportedly by such masters as Da Vinci, Rembrandt and Picasso, worth, by Bonati’s estimate, more than $1 billion.
An immediate problem with the story is Bonati’s claim that his 26 paintings are worth an average of $38.5 million even though an antiques dealer is quoted later in the story saying that the Degas is the “jewel of the collection.”
Doctor’s Legal Battle Reveals Potential Art Trove (St. Petersburg Times)