Entertainment & Arts

Man charged with stealing Salvador Dali painting

Salvador Dali
Image caption Cartel des Don Juan Tenorio was painted in 1949

A Greek man has pleaded not guilty to stealing a Salvador Dali painting from a gallery in New York.

Phivos Istavrioglou, 29, from Athens, is accused of taking Dali's Cartel des Don Juan Tenorio from the Venus Over Manhattan gallery in June 2012.

Security footage showed a man take the drawing off the wall and place it in a shopping bag.

Valued at $150,000 (£96,000), it was later returned to New York by post from a bogus address in Europe.

According to court papers, Mr Istavrioglou left fingerprints which allowed detectives to track him down.

He was detained at New York's John F Kennedy airport on Saturday.

Court documents said that during questioning, Mr Istavrioglou told detectives that "he knew the theft would catch up with him and wants to make [the] situation right".

Authorities in New York allege he flew back to Athens with the painting after taking it from the Upper East Side Manhattan gallery.

"It was almost surreal how this theft was committed," said District Attorney Cyrus R Vance Jr.

"A thief is accused of putting a valuable Salvador Dali drawing into a shopping bag in the middle of the afternoon, in full view of surveillance cameras."

Prosecutor Jordan Arnold said Mr Istavrioglou took the painting out of its frame, rolled it up in a cardboard tube and posted it back to New York after security images of the theft were distributed around the world.

Police said they tracked him down after lifting fingerprints from the shipment that matched one from a juice bottle they say he shoplifted last year from a supermarket.

An investigator posing as an art gallery owner later tricked Mr Istavrioglou into returning to New York by offering him a possible position as a consultant.

A New York judge set bail at $100,000 (£65,000) during a brief court appearance on Tuesday.

Mr Istavrioglou's legal team made no comment.

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