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Panama Papers reveal Nazi-looted painting fight

Mossack Fonseca the legal and financial company that has been making headlines due to the leak of the now-infamous Panama Papers helped a New York art gallery defend a legal challenge over a claim over a painting linked to Nazi-looted artworks. The alleged legal owner had launched a legal battle for its return.
The case involved the 1918 $25m (£18m) Modigliani painting Seated Man With a Cane that was understood to have been taken by Nazi forces during the occupation of French capital city in 1940. The descendant claimed the painting was owned by Oscar Stettiner, a Jewish gallery owner in Paris who fled just weeks before the Nazis entered Paris. He managed to leave with his wife and children to Dordogne but had to leave his collection behind.
In 2008, the painting allegedly turned up at Sotheby’s in New York. It was delivered to the auctioneers by the Helly Nahmad Gallery run by David Nahmad and his brother Ezra who had had handle some of the most impressive paintings in the art world.
Stettiner’s grandson Philippe Maestracci was convinced that the Modigliani being put up for auction was his family’s missing painting.
The gallery said it had never owned the artwork in the first place, instead it claimed that the painting had been bought by the International Art Center SA, a company set up in Panama in 1995, arguing that this meant the gallery could not be sued for the Modigliani’s return in New York.
In a statement regarding the recent media coverage Mossack Fonseca, said: “Recent media reports have portrayed an inaccurate view of the services that we provide and, despite our efforts to correct the record, misrepresented the nature of our work and its role in global financial markets.
“These reports rely on supposition and stereotypes, and play on the public’s lack of familiarity with the work of firms like ours.”
There is no suggestion by Private Art Investor that Mossack Fonseca has acted in any kind of inappropriate way.
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Mark Banham

Mark Banham