Stolen Nazi Art Case May Move To Austria

Austrian Times 18 November 2013

German prosecutors may be forced to drop the investigation against 80-year-old Cornelius Gurlitt who hoarded thousands of paintings looted by the Nazis in his Munich flat after it was revealed he was technically not in their jurisdiction.

Prosecutors in Augsburg that had been investigating him over tax fraud and embezzlement for allegedly selling off the paintings one at a time to fund his lifestyle have discovered that not only was he officially registered in Salzburg, where he had a home that he never used, but also that he had registered himself there for taxes.

That means that German officials have to hand the entire investigation over to the Austrian colleagues who technically are the ones that will now have to look into whether he properly paid tax on the paintings that he was selling.

Prosecutors admitted that he was officially registered in Austria and therefore the German tax man was not responsible for the case, and therefore it could not be looked at by German prosecutors.

A prosecution spokesman Reinhard Nemetz said: "What is relevant for tax purposes is not where somebody actually lived but rather where they chose to centre their activities. It is very complicated."

The latest twist follows on from a heated row in Germany over which department should have actually dealt with the case in the first instance once it was discovered, and also about the fact that the artworks were kept under lock and key for 20 months without anybody being told they were there, before it was revealed that the 1,400 artworks even existed.

The Germans have already apparently rejected an offer of assistance from the London based Art Loss Register (ALR). With more than 420,000 registered objects the ARL is according to the organisers the largest database of lost or stolen artworks in the world.
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