Art CrimeNews

Swiss prosecutors hunt for missing Panama Papers Modigliani painting

Prosecutors in Switzerland have raided a storage facility in Geneva searching for the $25 million 1918 Modigliani painting Seated Man with a Cane that has become a subject of controversy after it was revealed in the Panama Papers that it had be the subject of a Nazi looting-inspired court case.

Prosecutor Claudio Mascotto launched the investigate a unit belonging to art storage company Rodolphe Haller at Ports Francs Geneva.

The search was launched just two days after prosecutors asked for permission to audit the storage firm. It is, however, not know whether or not the painting was recovered.

The painting had been part of a legal battle as records leaked from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca revealed that the painting, once owned by Oscar Stettiner had vanished from Paris during the Second World War and Stettiner’s grandson Philippe Maestracci had been seeking restitution to reclaim the painting.

It emerged that the stated owners were International Art Center (IAC). It later emerged, via the leak, that that IAC had been headed by the Nahmad family for the last 20 years and it was a shell company for their London and New York galleries. IAC purchased the painting at Christie’s London in 1996 for $3.2 million.

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.

ALSO READ: Panama Papers reveal Nazi-looted painting fight

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Mark Banham

Mark Banham