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    Degas painting, stolen in 2009, found on bus near Paris

    A little over eight years ago, French investigators were stumped after a small painting by impressionist master Edgar Degas was stolen from a museum in the Mediterranean port city of Marseille.
    The painting, a colourful pastel from 1877 depicting singers on a theatre stage, appeared to have been unscrewed from a wall, but there was no sign of a break-in. The police briefly detained a night watchman, but then released him.
    Years went by. The painting, titled The Chorus Singers and thought to be worth nearly $1 million (U.S.), was nowhere to be found.
    Until now.
    In a surprising twist, French authorities confirmed Friday that the painting had been recovered Feb. 16 by customs officers randomly searching the luggage compartment of a bus at a highway stop in Ferrières-en-Brie, about 29 kilometres east of Paris.
    The officers found the signed painting in a suitcase, but none of the passengers on the bus claimed it as their own. A customs spokesperson said Friday that the search had not resulted from a tip, and that authorities did not initially know if the work was authentic.
    Long-distance bus lines are often checked because they are used by criminal networks to convey drugs. The spokesperson said the customs officers did not further question the passengers on the bus, but the investigation would continue.
    Françoise Nyssen, the culture minister, said in a statement that “this fortunate rediscovery of a precious work of art” had reversed what had been a “heavy loss for French impressionist heritage.”

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