RIGA - Fifty-eight of Latvia's most famous paintings were seized by customs officials on Jan. 21 in the south-western Russian province of Omsk.
The paintings, which had been on display at a special exhibition in the Omsk Museum of Fine Arts, were seized after authorities brought an administrative violation against the host museum. Customs officials claimed that the museum had failed to declare the paintings, local new agency "RIA Omskinform" reported on
Latvian government representatives were reluctant to release the total value of the paintings, saying only that they were extremely important works of art.
"They [the paintings] are very [valuable] and very old, and they come from the old masters of Latvian painting," Kristine Zvirbule, head of the Ministry of Culture press division, told The Baltic Times.
The paintings were all privately owned.
A representative from the Omsk Transport Prosecutor's Office told the news agency that any goods brought into the territory should have been declared by the host museum.
The Omsk museum signed a deal with a prominent Latvian art gallery last August, and the paintings were transported to Russia in October. When the Latvian gallery sent a request for customs clearance to have the paintings brought back after the exhibition closed earlier this month, customs officials denied the request and had the artwork seized.
When The Baltic Times went to press, the Latvian gallery that organized the deal had not yet gotten in touch with the state's consular service for assistance in the matter.
It is still unknown what will happen with the prominent paintings, which are now in the hands of a local Omsk court. The court will not be able to rule on the case until an investigation into the violation has been completed.
An official report on the illegal transport of goods was registered with the Omsk customs office. The investigation will take place under the auspices of the St. Petersburg Transport Prosecutor's Office.