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Police Display Recaptured Paintings; on Trail of Another

December 4, 1987 GMT

PARIS (AP) _ Police displayed four stolen paintings Thursday that were recovered in Japan last month and said they were on the trail of another.

The paintings by Jean Baptiste Camille Corot, which Japanese authorities delivered to the French Embassy on Nov. 27, were arranged atop a marble mantel for a news conference at the Interior Ministry.

Japanese police confiscated them from private collections.

Officials estimated the paintings ″Evening,″ ″An Orchard,″ ″Sunset Semur″ and ″Boy Wearing a Cap″ to be worth a total of about $1 milllion.

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A fifth Corot painting, ″Portrait of Madame Baudot,″ remains in Japan and officials said it could become the subject of a court battle between owners.

The works were reported stolen in 1984 from a museum in Semur-en-Auxois while on loan from the Louvre museum.

French officials did not provide details of the investigation that led to recovery of the works. News reports in Japan said police arrested Shinishi Fujikuma, 47, on charges of stealing expensive fur coats and, during an investigation, found the paintings.

Other Japanese press reports said two paintings by Maurice Utrillo and at least one by Claude Monet have been traced to Japan.

Police said they are tracing the Monet, ″Impression - Sunrise,″ for which the Impressionist school of painting is named. It was among nine Impressionist canvases stolen October 1985 from the Marmottan Museum in Paris.

Time is critical in recovering the Monet. Japanese law allows a good-faith buyer of stolen art to keep it if two years elapse before its return is demanded.

Police commissaire Mireille Balestrazzi said of the Monet: ″We are following several leads, but we have the belief that we will find it.″ She led the French art detectives who went to Tokyo.

In November, a freelance Japanese journalist was quoted as saying he had offered to mediate between the French government and French citizens Philippe Emile Jamin, 31, and Youssef Khimoun, 33, for return of all the paintings.

The journalist, who would not let his name be used, told the newspaper Mainichi Shimbun that Jamin and Khimoun wanted $3.7 million for the works.

Both men are sought for the art thefts and for the robbery of a cash delivery van Nov. 25, 1986, of $2.44 million.

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Mrs. Balestrazzi said police believe several rings of French and Japanese thieves may be involved in the art thefts.

″The art market is becoming more and more important,″ she said, ″and there are many Japanese who have the means to invest.″

Dealers estimate 30 percent of world art sales are to Japanese, often large corporations that buy anonymously for tax-free investment purposes.