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Free port raid Painting seized in Geneva after Panama Papers tip-off

Geneva's free port holds large amounts of valuable art, including a piece seized last week

(Keystone)

Swiss authorities have raided a Geneva free port and confiscated a valuable painting as a result of the recent Panama Papers revelations detailing hidden offshore assets around the world.

The painting in question is believed to be one titled “Seated Man with a Cane” made by the Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani and thought to be worth some $25 million (CHF23.8 million). It is also believed to have been stolen during the Second World War. The Geneva public prosecutor’s office confiscated the painting on April 8 in order to further investigate details brought to light by a massive document leak from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

Some media reports have tied the painting to the Nahmad family, whose large art collection is stored in Geneva’s free port.

Free ports, also referred to as bonded warehouses, are a special section where goods may be unloaded, stored, and shipped without having to pay customs duties. But the intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force reported in 2010external link that the same characteristics that make such free trade zones attractive to legitimate businesses also make them vulnerable to misuse for money laundering and terrorist financing.

Geneva is said to concentrate the greatest amount of art of any storage in the world, much of it of museum quality.

The Geneva public prosecutor has opened several investigations as a result of the Panama Papers, since numerous Geneva-based law firms and banks were named in the leak of 11.5 million documents related to offshore asset storage. 

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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