tv 60 Minutes CBS July 30, 2017 7:00pm-8:00pm PDT
captioning funded by cbs and ford. we go further, so you can. >> american people believe in justice. and they decided to give me a forum, to give me a voice. >> mohamedou slahi was a sworn member of al qaeda and spent 14 years as prisoner 760 in guantanamo bay. how much english did you speak when you landed in guantanamo? >> almost none. >> improbably, while fighting for his own release, he taught himself english, wrote a best- selling book about his life in american custody and became good friends with some of his guards, one of whom you'll hear from tonight. do you think you might go and visit him now that he's been released? >> i would love to, someday. >> how did 271 pieces by pablo
picasso, worth close to $100 million, end up in his handyman's garage for 40 years? that's what pablo picasso's son is trying to find out. >> the explanations were a bit murky, but i quickly understood that they must have stolen them. >> did you know immediately that they were real? >> yes. >> tonight, the story of the missing picassos, and the only two characters-- and we mean characters-- who know the truth. >> i'm steve kroft. >> i'm lesley stahl. >> i'm bill whitaker. >> i'm anderson cooper. >> i'm holly williams. >> pelley: i'm scott pelley. those stories, tonight on "60 minutes." today, we're out here with some big news about type 2 diabetes. you have type 2 diabetes, right? yes. so let me ask you this... how does diabetes affect your heart? it doesn't, does it? actually, it does.
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>> williams: mohamedou slahi was set free by the united states and sent to his home country of mauritania last october, after 14 years as prisoner 760 in guantanamo bay. improbably, while fighting for his own release, he taught himself english, wrote a best- selling book about his life in american custody, and became good friends with some of his guards, one of whom you'll hear from tonight. as we first reported in march, slahi spent about one-third of his life at guantanamo, and his book offered an unprecedented look inside the prison. though it includes descriptions of torture, it can be funny at times, and we discovered that in person, slahi has a keen sense
of humor. six weeks after he was released from guantanamo, we went to northwest africa to meet him. what's it like losing all control over your life? >> mohamedou slahi: it sucks. ( laughs ) it's very challenging. i don't know how to describe it in words. but you feel like humiliation. you feel self-pity. you feel, like, panic. i didn't have a plan. i was learning as i was going. >> williams: mohamedou slahi is once again adapting to unfamiliar surroundings. this time, home and freedom. to learn how he went from here to guantanamo and back again, we traveled to the islamic republic
of mauritania. it's a tribal and deeply religious nation of nearly four million people, where the sahara desert meets the sea. about the size of texas and new mexico combined, the country is due east of cuba, separated from slahi's old prison home by the width of the atlantic. you know what's there? >> slahi: yes. >> williams: guantanamo. >> slahi: guantanamo bay. >> williams: about 3,800 miles-- >> slahi: yes. >> williams: in that direction? >> slahi: i say, "goodbye. i hope never to see you again." >> williams: before we explain how slahi ended up in guantanamo in the first place, we'll tell you how a talent for languages helped him survive there. how much english did you speak when you landed in guantanamo? >> slahi: almost none. >> williams: in the office of his new apartment in mauritania, mohamedou slahi showed us how he learned english in guantanamo.
he reads and writes his fourth language with some help from the u.s. navy. where did you get those glasses? >> slahi: these glasses i got from navy hospital in guantanamo bay. thank you, doctors. and they had choices. and i took the ugliest one. >> williams: you-- you chose the-- >> slahi: as a sign of protest. >> williams: he was his own teacher in guantanamo, soaking up new vocabulary wherever he could. >> slahi: i'm letting you now into my world. okay, this how i learn the english language. this is the original. >> williams: so-- so you would, what, hear something, and write it down? >> slahi: hear something, write it down, and ask. >> williams: and then ask a guard? >> slahi: yes, a guard, or an interrogator. >> williams: "how do you spell that?" >> slahi: whomever i meet, whomever i meet. >> williams: yeah. "to chortle." >> slahi: "to chortle." >> williams: that's-- that's a very-- that's a very good-- >> slahi: "snorting a joyful laugh." >> williams: "skyscraper." "riot." "suicide." you were just working on building your vocabulary? >> slahi: it's what i do. i take this, and then i just go in myself back and forth, and memorizing everything, every day.
>> williams: "she threaded her fingers through that thick mane of exquisitely dyed hair." >> slahi: yes. >> williams: what were you reading? >> slahi: i think that was "ya- ya sisterhood." >> williams: in 2005, three years after he arrived at guantanamo, slahi used his new language skills to demand his immediate release. he hand-wrote his own petition for a writ of habeus corpus, a legal document challenging the u.s. government's right to imprison him. he also began a correspondence with his american lawyers that became the guantanamo diary. it's been translated into 27 different languages, but it took seven years for his legal team to convince the government to allow its publication, and they only permitted a heavily- censored version. >> slahi: so it's like it was-- i was shouting in the dark for years. then i saw a very small hole that i could shout through-- which was my lawyer. >> williams: i don't know if you've seen this before.
it is the original copy of the review of your book in "the new york times." have you seen it before? >> slahi: never. first time. >> williams: you were locked in a prison, with so little contact with the outside world. and meanwhile, your work was being discussed-- >> slahi: that shows the greatness of american people. not-- my greatness, because american people believe in justice. and they decided to give me a forum, to give me a voice. >> williams: by 2004, the u.s. government regarded him as a cooperative prisoner, so slahi was living in a special segregated hut. he had access to books, movies and his own vegetable garden, but he was still a prisoner, struggling with solitude, 4,000
miles from home. >> slahi: you can bet your bottom dollar that i was lonely. >> williams: i mean, in the book you describe the guards as your family. >> slahi: yes. >> williams: was that true? >> slahi: they really-- a lot of them treated me as one-- as a brother. >> williams: we found one of slahi's former guards, who asked us to disguise his appearance and withhold his name. he had security concerns because of his work at guantanamo. how long did you guard him for? >> guard: ten months. >> williams: and when was that, the first time you met him? >> guard: in july of '04. >> williams: any first impressions? >> guard: just that he wasn't this horrible terrorist that, you know, i-- i was expecting to go guard. you know, that-- i was told it was-- everybody there was the worst of the worst, and this guy comes out, with a smile on his face. >> williams: so straight away you started thinking, "this was not what i was expecting." >> guard: yeah, i felt something was off. definitely. >> williams: you didn't think he was going to harm you? >> guard: no. if he wanted to-- i mean, there were times where we slept--
while he was sleeping, and his door was open. and, like, if-- if he wanted to kill us, he could've. >> williams: but you were pretty sure he wasn't going to do that? >> guard: yeah. i had no issues. >> williams: you trusted him? >> guard: definitely. >> slahi: he was very shocked because, he told me, they told him this is the worst of the worst. and-- i wasn't very open to the guards because i was afraid of them. he kept poking me until we open up to each other-- it was very good time with him. >> guard: we'd play monopoly, a lot of rummy, watch movies, like, over and over. and-- yeah, and just hang out with us. >> williams: we heard there was one film in particular that you guys watched over and over. >> guard: "the big lebowski." like, nonstop. like, he could quote it, like, word for word. like-- a giant por-- portion of the movie. it was hilarious. >> williams: i mean, i was struck by that. what's interesting about "the big lebowski" is they get the wrong guy. >> lebowski: you got the wrong guy.
i'm the dude, man. >> slahi: yes, i-- i am not your guy. ( laughs ) >> williams: you played a role in mohamedou slahi's release. you wrote a letter to the review board that decided on whether he-- he would finally be released. >> guard: uh-huh. >> williams: and i think-- is that the letter, there? >> guard: that is. >> williams: yeah? >> guard: that is. >> williams: i just want to read you a section of it. you said, "based on my interactions with mr. slahi while in guantanamo, i would be pleased to welcome him into my home. based on my interactions, i do not have safety concerns if i were to do so. i would like the opportunity to eventually see him again." >> guard: for sure. that's totally honest. >> williams: last year, when the military's periodic review board finally cleared him to go home, slahi says his guards and interrogators seemed even happier than he was, including the officer in charge. >> slahi: she was smiling the most beautiful smile i ever see in my life.
said, "you know you're leaving?" i said, "no, i-- i-- i didn't know." >> williams: what were you feeling? >> slahi: i was feeling happy. but i-- i always learned not to over-celebrate. because so many people received clearance, but they lingered in prison for so many years, including to this day. >> williams: you didn't want to jinx it. >> slahi: i never heard "jinx it," but i presume it's the right word here. ( laughs ) >> williams: he says he was flown home from guantanamo bay the same way he arrived: shackled and blindfolded. >> slahi: strapped on a chair too. it's very painful. more than ten hours-- in a chair. >> williams: did you ask, "why are you doing this to me?" >> slahi: why in the world should i ask any questions? i didn't want them to change their mind. i said, "do whatever you got to do. i need to go home and go home quick."
>> williams: slahi's long road to guantanamo began not with the war on terror-- --but with another war covered here on "60 minutes." in 1988, correspondent harry reasoner and producer george crile traveled to afghanistan to tell the tale of a congressman from texas named charlie wilson. ( gunfire ) he persuaded the u.s. to arm the mujahideen, a band of holy warriors who were fighting the soviet union and their communist allies. ( explosion ) a few years later, slahi who was studying in germany, decided, along with thousands of other muslim men from around the world, to join the battle against the communists. >> slahi: this was a big coalition, including my country and your country. >> williams: what made you decide to go to afghanistan as a young man? >> slahi: i saw those horrific
pictures of people, children being gassed, and i said, "i want to do something." then that's when i decide to travel, and i took a visa and then i went there, twice. >> williams: you thought you were fighting for a just cause. >> slahi: yes, i was sure then. i did not know. today, i know. >> williams: in afghanistan, slahi was trained to fight, not by the afghans, but by a group of foreign fighters dedicated to the cause. at the time they were led by a young, charismatic leader, called osama bin laden. slahi says he left afghanistan the second time, without ever firing a shot in battle. >> slahi: when i saw that the afghanis were butchering each other-- i was completely disgusted. >> williams: the first time you- - you went to afghanistan, what did your family think? >> slahi: they thought i was a nitwit. >> williams: a nitwit? >> slahi: yes.
i should never have gone to afghanistan. i had a scholarship that many people in the whole world dreamed to have. and what i did, i threw everything away and i went to afghanistan. this is the definition of a nitwit. >> williams: and when you left afghanistan for the second time, did you still consider yourself a member of al qaeda? >> slahi: absolutely not. i cut all my ties with the organization. to me, i joined for the sake of participating in jihad in afghanistan. jihad in afghanistan turned into a quagmire. i did not want to be part of a civil war. and i went back. thank god i resumed my studies. i finished college. and i worked to help my family. >> williams: slahi denies he ever had anything to do with terrorism, but he doesn't deny that some of his friends were
still members of al qaeda. he also had a cousin who was a spiritual advisor to osama bin laden. >> slahi: that was really the trouble. that where the trouble began. >> williams: one day in 1999, he got a phone call from that cousin, a man known as abu hafs. >> williams: and if you had known at the time that he was calling you from bin laden's satellite phone? >> slahi: i would have burned his house down. >> williams: would you have-- -- taken the call? >> slahi: absolutely not. but looking back, it's better than i took it, that the people who were listening s-- know what i was talking about. that where the trouble started-- honestly. >> williams: after 9/11, the united states government made catching slahi a priority and the mauritanians were happy to help their powerful ally. on november 20, 2001, secret police knocked on the door of his mother's house. he followed them back to their station, driving his own car. >> is it over here? that's the car. >> williams: 15 years later, it
still sits in the exact place where he parked it. wow, it's a bit of a wreck. it's the right license plate? >> slahi: yes, it's my license plate. it's caput. >> williams: after eight days in a mauritanian jail, his government handed him over to the c.i.a., who flew him to a prison in jordan where he spent eight months. u.s. agents then took him to bagram airbase near kabul, afghanistan. after two weeks there, he was put on a military transport plane for the long trip to cuba. at what point did it hit you in the stomach-- "i'm really in a jam here"? >> slahi: it doesn't, actually. you would be surprised. we-- if there is no hope, there is no life. >> williams: in guantanamo, mohamedou slahi's special interrogation plan was personally approved by secretary of defense donald rumsfeld. the treatment he received has since been outlawed.
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>> williams: of the nearly 800 men who've been incarcerated at some point in guantanamo bay, prisoner 760, mohamedou slahi, was the only one to detail his treatment there in a book that came out while he was still detained in the prison. as we first reported in march, the book is a unique, first- person account of life in guantanamo and america's now outlawed enhanced interrogation program. when slahi arrived at the prison, his time spent in afghanistan in the early 1990s and connections to al qaeda made
him a top priority for u.s. intelligence. we begin the second part of our story by asking slahi the same questions his interrogators asked him, over and over. did you meet any of the 9/11 hijackers? >> slahi: no. >> williams: did you have any prior knowledge of the 9/11 attacks? >> slahi: absolutely none whatsoever. >> williams: and when you saw on television those attacks, what did you think? >> slahi: it was heartbreaking, you know, knowing that those people, just like my family, children, men, women, just regular people who went to their work. they didn't do anything to anyone. but they were-- yet they were killed in cold blood. >> williams: when you discovered that it was the work of al qaeda, what did you think? >> slahi: i thought, "this is evil. thank god that i left afghanistan so many years. >> williams: living freely in his home country of mauritania,
slahi is working on a new edition of his book, "guantanamo diary," that fills in some of the blanks put in by the u.s. government. slahi arrived in guantanamo in august 2002. for several months, he was interrogated by the f.b.i. in 2003, the military began subjecting him to so-called enhanced interrogation, that included both physical and psychological abuse. his uncensored story, which you're about to hear, is supported by several reports and investigations from congress and the departments of justice and defense. >> slahi: they had plans. very careful-thought plans. >> williams: he says those plans began when he was moved to a special cell in the india block section of the prison-- a place he nicknamed "the fridge." why "the fridge?" >> slahi: yeah, it's a very
small holding cell that is cold. and you don't see anything, you don't see outside. completely cut off. >> williams: no daylight? >> slahi: nothing. i remained there 70 days, continuous interrogation. >> williams: what do you mean by continuous? >> slahi: that mean i had three shifts of interrogators. >> williams: every day? >> slahi: every day. >> williams: were you allowed to sleep at all? >> slahi: there is, between the night shift and the day shift, maybe two hours. i don't know, it's not long. i didn't-- i didn't have any feeling for time really. >> williams: what did it do to you? >> slahi: i lived in a haze. i was very nervous, very angry, very easy to be angry. and i was crying for the simplest reason. >> williams: what else happened? >> slahi: then they brought another marine guy.
he wore marine; it does not mean that he's a marine. i'm just saying this for the record. and then he kept pouring this water on me. then i kept really shaking. >> williams: he was pouring water on you? >> slahi: yes. and then he said, "answer me," but i couldn't talk because-- because my mouth couldn't move because i was very cold. >> williams: you were just too cold to talk. >> slahi: yes, i couldn't move my lips. >> williams: but it was another tactic that brought slahi close to the edge. an interrogator who claimed he'd been dispatched from the white house gave slahi grave news. he was shown a fictitious letter stating that his mother had been detained and might be transferred to gitmo." there was no implication that she'd done anything? >> slahi: no, they said only because i wouldn't-- i wouldn't- - confess. >> williams: the idea that she was going to be held with male prisoners was terrible for you.
>> slahi: that is an understatement. >> williams: what was your fear? >> slahi: i can't even think about it. i don't want to think about it. >> williams: later he was dragged from his cell and put on a boat. >> slahi: they opened my mouth and pouring salt water until i-- start choking. >> williams: they were forcing you to drink salt water? >> slahi: yes. >> williams: what happened next? >> slahi: so they start to-- fill me with ice cube. >> williams: inside your uniform? >> slahi: inside your uniform. ice cube, full. my body was full. and then i was like shaking uncontrollably, like this. they start hitting me everywhere, hitting. >> williams: beating you? >> slahi: yeah, beating me, everywhere. >> williams: for how long? >> slahi: again, i didn't have feeling for time. but it must have been three hours. >> williams: how much pain were you in? >> slahi: i was moaning like a woman giving birth.
>> williams: and what did you decide to do? >> slahi: i decide i will tell them everything they want to know. >> williams: they broke you. >> slahi: absolutely. they broke me. i told the captain, that the boss of my team, "you write anything and i sign it. and if you buy, i'm selling." >> williams: and you were lying to them? >> slahi: not everything i said lie-- my life, i told them my life truthfully. but the crimes, i was lying about. every single crime, i falsely confessed to. >> williams: slahi says he told his interrogators that he was an active recruiter for al qaeda, and was involved in a plan for a bombing in toronto but that plot never actually existed. >> williams: your life got a lot better-- >> slahi: yes. dramatically better. no more beating.
no more-- i was allowed to sleep. i was afraid of conf-- false confessing, but it was a relief because now he-- the captain could not torture me anymore, because i gave him what he wanted. now he had to sell this-- first to the f.b.i., to c.i.a. and then they have to sell this to the prosecution, military prosecution, and those people are intelligent and smart. and then what they-- pretty much told him, "this is a bunch of b.s." >> williams: you told them what they wanted to hear, because you wanted the torture to stop. >> slahi: yes. absolutely. i falsely confessed to crime. it was bad business. bad business. >> williams: in 2004, the military officer chosen to prosecute slahi resigned from the case, saying later that he was "convinced that slahi had been the victim of torture-- not by anything slahi said, but solely from u.s. government documents from the intelligence
databases, detailing, specifically, what had been done to him during the interrogations." in 2010, a federal judge ordered slahi's release and wrote "there is ample evidence that slahi was subjected to extensive and severe mistreatment at guantanamo." evidence gathered through torture has complicated the government's military prosecutions at guantanamo. there have only ever been eight convictions, and three were later over-turned. you were one of the worst tortured in guantanamo, so you're in a unique position to answer this. does torture work? >> slahi: in what way? tha-- it-- if it's-- if working's bringing pain on me, yes. if-- working is-- giving false confessions, yes. if "works"-- is giving good intelligence, no. if it works resulting in my-- in my-- conviction, hello!
i'm here, after 15 years. and not even charged, let alone being convicted. so how can you convince anyone possibly who has a shred of intelligence that it works? >> williams: how did you manage to not lose your sanity? >> slahi: thank you very much, that-- the premise is that i did not lose my sanity. this psychiatrist told me 760, that what they call me. "you are really very sick." >> williams: sick with what? >> slahi: psychologically. i was hearing noises. >> williams: hearing voices? >> slahi: yes. >> williams: what were they saying? >> slahi: it was my family, just talking to me every day and this wouldn't stop. and then he came to me, this doctor, and they help me. they gave medications over many years, heavy medication. and i was helped. >> williams: they gave you
psychiatric medicine-- >> slahi: yes. paxil, klonopin, and-- you see sop-- "the sopranos?" >> williams: yes. >> slahi: yes, that medication he took. prozac. >> slahi: things like that. they gave me a lot of this stuff. >> williams: how's your health today? >> slahi: i don't have time to think about pain, which is good. the pain will go away. >> williams: but you didn't really answer my question, mohamedou. are you dealing with psychological trauma? >> slahi: i'm not a doctor. >> williams: do you sometimes relive the torture in your head? >> slahi: of course. i still have nightmares. i still wake up and i think i'm- - in guantanamo bay. >> williams: at 46 years old, freedom has been a major adjustment. so has fame. he returned to mauritania a national hero. many here are angry about what the u.s., one of their allies, did to slahi, but are also proud
that he's come home with his dignity intact. he's been embraced by a large extended family, including some members who weren't yet born when he disappeared. he's been a new discovery. >> slahi: yeah, many, among many. >> williams: there have also been losses. it's been more than 15 years since he got in his car and headed to the police station on his way to guantanamo. slahi's mother said goodbye that night, but she wasn't there to welcome him home. she passed away in 2013. and you didn't see your mom again? >> slahi: no, i never see her again. it was the last time. it's seared in my memory, that picture frozen in time. >> williams: if you had to sum up the last 15 years of your life, what would you say? >> slahi: pain and suffering is part of growing up, and i grew up.
>> williams: mohamedou slahi says the u.s. government is holding several other books he wrote while in prison: two novels, and a self-help book about staying positive no matter the situation. at times during our trip to mauritania he seemed exhausted, but there was almost always a smile on his face. he told us getting out of guantanamo was like being born again. >> this cbs sports update is brought to you by the ford division. at the rbc canadian open, venezuelan jonathan vegas birdied the first playoff hole to defeat american charlie hoffman. in baseball, the kansas city royals acquired melky cabrera in
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>> whitaker: two years ago, pablo picasso's painting, "the women of algiers," sold at christie's for an art auction record of $179 million. then, in june of last year, one of his cubist works, "femme assise," went for over $63 million. so, when a portfolio of 271 never-before-seen picassos appeared in 2010, the art world was stunned. but the biggest surprise may be where they had been for nearly 40 years. picasso's former electrician, 77-year-old pierre le guennec, and his wife, danielle, kept the art treasures in their garage, works they said were a gift from pablo picasso and his last wife,
jacqueline. the picasso family heirs don't believe it. they suspect theft, but as we first reported last fall, it's a story that has captivated the art world. danielle and pierre le guennec are a retired couple living in the south of france. back in 1971, he was an electrician hired by pablo picasso and his wife, jacqueline, to fix their american-made stove. the picassos were so pleased, they had him to do other odd jobs on their properties, including installing burglar alarms. how would you describe the relationship? was it employee/employer, or did you have a friendship? >> pierre le guennec ( translated ): i believe that monsieur had total trust in me, particularly because of my discretion. >> whitaker: his discretion might be the only thing in this tale that isn't in dispute. as family electrician and handyman, pierre le guennec had
the run of picasso's houses for 15 years, starting before and stretching beyond the artist's death in 1973. one day in the early 1970s, he says, jacqueline picasso surprised him. >> pierre le guennec ( translated ): madame called me into the hallway and said, "come here, this is for you," and she handed me a box. i said, "thank you, madame." i left and brought it back here. >> whitaker: the le guennecs say they opened the box and weren't impressed. they describe the contents as two picasso sketchbooks and sheets of looseleaf paper, all unsigned. >> danielle le guennec ( translated ): there were plenty of drawings that were repeated. for example, there was the body of a horse without the head, and the second part was only a head. >> whitaker: danielle le guennec says, in general, she's not a big fan of picasso's art. >> danielle le guennec ( translated ): there are paintings where i don't know if the character is looking at me, not looking at me; the head is
upside down, it's on the side. and that's what made him famous. i'm not saying it's ugly, but i don't like it. >> whitaker: so, you didn't think much of this box of paintings and sketches, and things that you received? >> pierre le guennec ( translated ): if someone would've told me, "mr. le guennec, go and throw this in the fire, i would have thrown it in the fire." >> whitaker: instead of burning the box, pierre le guennec says it ended up on a shelf in his garage. it lived there undisturbed until 2010, when he says he was ill and facing surgery. that's when he thought he should get his affairs in order and wondered if that picasso gift might be worth something. so, he contacted the picasso administration, run by pablo picasso's son, and described by handwritten letter and photos what he had. the picasso administration is the only place in the world that can certify the artist's work. le guennec wanted his box of art authenticated.
>> pierre le guennec ( translated ): they answered me by telling me that claude picasso wanted to see with his own eyes what it was we had, and he gave us an appointment. so, we went up to paris, my wife and i, by train with a suitcase. >> whitaker: full of artwork? >> pierre le guennec ( translated ): yes. i organized them properly in cardboard folders so it could be presentable. >> whitaker: how were you greeted by claude? >> pierre le guennec ( translated ): he was a bit haughty. >> danielle le guennec ( translated ): impolite. >> pierre le guennec ( translated ): he's a monsieur, and we are little people. >> danielle le guennec ( translated ): he didn't even say hello. >> whitaker: like little people? >> danielle le guennec ( translated ): he looked at me and said, "you, you can sit over there." one cannot say we were welcomed. that's not very polite, considering he's the son of a genius. >> whitaker: kind of snobbish, you say? >> pierre le guennec ( translated ): yes... >> danielle le guennec ( translated ): yes, snob. >> pierre le guennec ( translated ): ...a man who represents wealth. >> whitaker: but claude picasso himself, the artist's third child and one of five living
heirs, remembers the meeting differently. >> claude picasso: i start, you know, asking questions and so on, and they said they were given these things by my father. then, later on, a little bit later on in the conversation, they said that some of them were given to them by my father's widow. >> whitaker: the stash contained works spanning more than 30 years, from 1900 to 1932. some were preliminary sketches of well-known works displayed in museums and galleries around the world, like this one from 1932:" woman seated in red armchair" at the musee picasso in paris. the similarity is striking. and then, there's this one, a never-before-seen portrait of olga, picasso's first wife and constant subject for nearly 20 years. included in the 271 works were six sketches, 28 lithographs and nine cubist collages considered museum quality. there were also those two full
sketch pads with 81 drawings. an art trove later valued at as much at $100 million. claude picasso could not believe his eyes and did not believe the le guennecs. >> claude picasso: the explanations were a bit murky, but i quickly understood that they must have stolen them. >> whitaker: did you know, immediately, that they were real? >> claude picasso: yes, but i didn't tell them that. >> whitaker: you didn't want to give anything away. >> claude picasso: i couldn't because it was so... it was so amazing. and they kept pulling out things. >> whitaker: more and more. >> claude picasso: more and more and more. so, at a certain point, i said, "is that all?" and they said, "no, no, no. we have some more here." and i... i couldn't... i... that's incredible. and... and but i, you know, i didn't say anything at all. >> whitaker: you didn't reveal anything on your face. >> claude picasso: "how nice. how lucky." ( laughs ) whatever, you know. some banality like this. and i had to let them go because there is no system that can make me clamp down on these possessions. >> whitaker: you... you couldn't seize them... >> claude picasso: no, no.
>> whitaker: ...so you had to let them go. >> claude picasso: you have to let that go. i knew what i had to do next. ( laughs ) >> whitaker: you called the police. >> claude picasso: yes. >> whitaker: the police opened an investigation. three weeks later, the gendarmes were at the le guennec door. they seized the works, and they seized the couple. >> pierre le guennec ( translated ): we were taken into custody to nice, my wife in one car and i in another. and i was held there for two days. >> danielle le guennec ( translated ): i spent one day in jail. i was devastated, so devastated that i've been seeing a psychiatrist. i am not over it. i can still see that jail cell. and i'd like to add, if i can use this language, it didn't just smell bad, it stank. >> whitaker: you don't believe they were kept in their garage for 40 years? >> jean-jacques neuer and claudia andrieu: no. ( laughs ) >> whitaker: jean-jacques neuer and claudia andrieu, lawyers representing the picasso administration, say the condition of the art is too
pristine to have been kept on a shelf in a garage for almost 40 years. they don't buy any part the le guennecs' story. why not? >> andrieu: it's impossible. ( laughs ) >> neuer: it's impossible. it's nonsense. and to be very frank with you, we believe that mr. le guennec is a swindler. >> whitaker: the le guennecs say they're honest people caught in a david and goliath battle with the picasso heirs, snooty art moguls who can't handle the idea that a modest family might be worthy of the artist's gift. >> danielle le guennec ( translated ): we are simple people. we love our home and our garden. we've never traveled. >> whitaker: they say that you folks were a little snobbish and perhaps looking down on them because they're just little people. simple people, they call themselves. >> neuer: they play on that. it's pure manipulation, it's fantastic. it's... it's the... the poor... >> whitaker: you don't believe that they are simple people? >> neuer: they are simple people. this is not the problem.
we... we believe that they play on this to try to obtain sympathy from the public. >> whitaker: the family lawyers also question the meticulous language pierre le guennec used to describe the works which they say could only have come from an art expert. but the retired electrician denies the accusation; he says he wrote every word himself. these works by picasso were deemed so valuable, they immediately were seized and brought here for safekeeping, one of the most secure places in the country: the bank of france. this is the fort knox of france; the country's gold reserves are kept here, too. in february 2015, the le guennecs went on trial. there wasn't enough evidence to prove they stole the art, so prosecutors charged them with possessing stolen property. witnesses who knew pablo picasso and his wife, jacqueline, testified it was impossible
anyone would get such a generous gift from the master. maya picasso, the artist's second child, says it's entirely out of character for the father she lived with the first 20 years of her life. >> maya picasso: my father gave... he gave pretty easily, be it money or a sweater if you were cold. but giving away artworks? no! >> whitaker: even more unlikely, she says, was parting with his portraits of his first wife. >> maya picasso: there's a beautiful portrait of olga when she was young, vous savez. you know, love is something beautiful, and when you're living it and decide to draw it, it's more than a picture. jamais. so, he would have never given something like that away. >> whitaker: in his defense, pierre le guennec presented this signed gift as evidence his relationship with the picassos was more than just doing odd jobs. the picasso family says an autographed pamphlet is exactly
the type of small gift he might have received from pablo picasso. >> neuer: it's a little brochure dedicated and signed by picasso. and when he came, he gave this little brochure as a "see, picasso knew me." ( laughs ) and his excuse to have all these works, which were obviously stolen, was that he had this little brochure. >> whitaker: when danielle le guennec took the stand, she insisted she had a close friendship with jacqueline picasso, claiming madame picasso considered the le guennec home a refuge from the pressures of being the wife and widow of the 20th century's best known artist. >> danielle le guennec ( translated ): jacqueline was a wonderful person who taught me a lot. because she spoke so much about her husband, i got to know him. my friendship with jacqueline lasted until the very end, 14 years of loyalty. i accompanied her to her final resting place.
>> whitaker: jacqueline, jacqueline, jacqueline. she wrote to you quite often. danielle le guennec keeps mementos of her relationship with the late mrs. picasso, handwritten postcards she considers more valuable than a picasso itself. >> danielle le guennec ( translated ): as i said in court, they may have taken away the works, but the most beautiful painting i ever had was my friendship with jacqueline, and that is something they will never be able to take away. >> whitaker: the story of how the le guennecs acquired these works remains a mystery. were they a generous gift? were they stolen? much like picasso's art, this tale is intriguing, abstract and ultimately left to each of us to make sense of it all. in court, the le guennecs were found guilty and given a two- year suspended sentence. they are appealing. if you had known then what you know now, would you have taken the artwork to claude?
>> pierre le guennec ( translated ): if this had to be done all over again, well, monsieur, the box would've ended up in the chimney in the room right behind you there. >> whitaker: last fall, the le guennecs appeared before a french appeals court and admitted they had lied. they said jacqueline picasso had asked them to store the art to keep it from french authorities and from her step-children. as you might expect, picasso family members think this latest story also is a lie. the french court upheld the le guennec's two-year sentence, and ordered the art returned to picasso's heirs. >> for a look at how "60 minutes" reports its stories, as well as interviews with correspondents and producers, go to 60minutesovertime.com.
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