The Panama Papers scandal has revealed another form of corruption – the illegal trade of art stolen by the Nazis.
Based on the Panama Papers revelations, Geneva prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation linked to an Amedeo Modigliani painting allegedly looted by the Nazis from a Jewish art dealer during World War II.
Prosecutor’s office spokesman Henri Della Casa said Monday that the painting was confiscated last week at special tax zones known as the Geneva free ports. He declined to comment further.
Founder James Palmer of Mondex Corp., a Toronto firm that tracks despoiled artworks, says the Nazis stole the 1918 painting, “Seated Man with a Cane,” from collector Oscar Stettinger who fled Paris as the war began.
Palmer said the painting was estimated to be worth at least $25 million. It was sold at a London auction in 1996 to an offshore company reportedly created by the Mossack Fonseca law firm.
The Nazis organized looting of European countries during the time of the Third Reich. Nazi plundering occurred from 1933 until the end of World War II, particularly by military units known as the Kunstschutz.
In addition to gold, silver and currency, cultural items of great significance were stolen, including paintings, ceramics, books, and religious treasures.
There is an international effort underway to identify Nazi loot that still remains unaccounted for, with the aim of ultimately returning the items to the rightful owners, their families or their respective countries.
Many Jewish families have fought, or are fighting, to reclaim ownership over family heirlooms, which are currently held by museums and other institutions around the world.
By: AP and United with Israel Staff