Professor Tido Park and Derek Setz, the attorneys defending Cornelius Gurlitt in his criminal lawsuit, filed an appeal with the Augsburg local court on February 14 this year against the search warrant and seizure order issued by the Augsburg local court on September 23, 2011 (case number 61 Gs 5213/11).
This appeal is linked to a petition to set aside the court order issued at the time and the seizure executed on this basis.
"Mr. Gurlitt and his defense team are well aware of the moral dimension of this case. However, criminal proceedings are not the right place for moral considerations," stressed Tido Park. His colleague Derek Setz added: "Given the huge public interest in this case and the political debate surrounding it, we are rightly concerned that due process should be allowed to prevail in these proceedings."
The seizure order was issued on the grounds of suspected evasion of import VAT, which the defense team does not believe is justified.
The closely argued 45-page appeal is founded, among other things, on procedural flaws in the court order issued at the time and the lack of reasonable grounds for suspicion. The appeal also questions the relevance of the seized pictures as evidence of import VAT evasion, and argues that the seizure of the whole collection is a violation of the principle of proportionality. This is, in the view of the defense team, especially serious.
Although Cornelius Gurlitt personally has in no shape or form been involved in any potentially questionable purchases, he feels a strong sense of moral obligation. He therefore remains committed to voluntarily finding mutually agreeable solutions with individuals claiming artworks whose provenance may be problematic.
"Nonetheless, the court's finding that the Schwabing portion of his collection was unlawfully seized is especially important for Cornelius Gurlitt in particular because criminal proceedings must draw a clear distinction between legality and morality, and criminal proceedings should not be misused for the purpose of settling restitution claims," explained Professor Park.
End of the statement