Via ArtsJournal, I see that The Art Newspaper is reporting that Christie's "has unlawfully sent a [$6 million] Rubens masterpiece to America, in breach of UK export regulations. In an unprecedented move, Culture Minister Margaret Hodge has deferred an export licence for [the work], despite the fact that the painting is already in New York. UK buyers are now being offered an opportunity to match the price."
Christie's says "a human error led to the accidental shipping of the picture to a client without completion of the appropriate export licensing process." To which Derek Fincham responds:
"Some error. One would think a work of this magnitude would be double checked. Christie's is subject to criminal penalties .... A fundraising effort may now begin. It's uncertain whether the funds can be raised ... or even if the New York buyer would consider selling the work. If she does not, the work will have certainly lost value, and I'd anticipate Christie's would be subject to a civil suit brought by the buyer. Though the work cannot be recovered because the US does not enforce the UK export restrictions, it will not be able to be sold or even travel to Europe in all likelihood."
More from Callen Bair here.