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Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs said in a statement they believe the dealer supplied incomplete or false information to the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (the government agency responsible for providing export licences) when negotiating the sale of pictures from the Lord Northbrook collection last year.

Customs officers searched sites in London and in Gloucestershire as part of their investigation, the statement said.

The group of mainly Dutch 17th century pictures – sold as a group to the Prince of Liechtenstein Hans-Adam II – included Michiel van Musscher’s 17th century masterpiece Portrait Of An Artist. It was the subject of a temporary export ban and a £6.6m price tag approved by the Export Reviewing Committee in 2006.

The deal was negotiated through Simon Dickinson in London and Galerie St Lucas in Vienna, and the sale made by Galerie Nissl in Liechtenstein. No British museum was found to match the price before the ban expired in July 2006.