Panama Papers Shed Light on Missing Art Collections

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Billions in Missing Art Collections, Stolen? Lost?

Read how the Panama Papers Leak is shaking up the world of billionaire art collectors

Dmitry Rybolovlev with stolen Picasso paintings

It is not just politicians who have found themselves embroiled in the scandal caused by the Panama Papers leak. It turns out the leak may reveal how some billionaire art collectors were able to sell and acquire massive art collections, illegally. All in an effort to evade taxes. Or in the case of Dmitry Rybolovlev, pictured above, to avoid having a wife share in the proceeds.

This photo was taken in Paris in September 2015. The paintings are by Pablo Picasso–allegedly stolen–that Rybolovlev reportedly bought from a Swiss art dealer. The paintings are on the left, “Espagnole a l’Eventail” and on the right, “Femme se Coiffant”

The massive art collection of Greek shipping magnate Basil Goulandris, may also be found via the leak. Goulandris died in 1994. His collection included works by Cézanne, Chagall, Giacometti, Kandinksy, Monet, Matisse, Picasso, Pollock, and Renoir. His widow passed away in 2000. Imagine the surprise of their heirs, including niece Aspasia Zaimis, when they discovered the paintings had been “sold” prior to his death–for a paltry sum given the quantify and quality of the works in question.

In 1985, according to Basil’s nephew Peter J. Goulandris, Basil sold the entire collection of 83 paintings for the extraordinarily low price of $31.7 million dollars to Wilton Trading. Despite the sale, the paintings never left the couple’s possession. During this period, Basil and Elise Goulandris lent the artwork to museums and sold pieces to dealers with the provenance listed as if the pieces belonged to them.

The question that arises is whether or not the couple actually sold the paintings–for any price. Lawsuits and criminal investigations are in the works. Wilton Trading, the alleged purchaser of the collection, was created in 1981. At least in theory. It did not have any Directors until 1995. There is no proof that Goulandris or his widow every received any money for the collection. And the “proof” of sale? That appears to be bogus.

According to one Swiss prosecutor, the paper on which the sales agreement is inked “didn’t exist in 1985

Mossack Fonseca, the Panamanian company at the heart of the scandal began setting up shell companies under the Wilton Trading umbrella. Those companies then began to sell of Goulandris’ collection beginning late in 2004.

Reportedly more companies, and individuals involved in fraud, tax evasion, and theft will be revealed shortly. Possibly as soon as May of this year.


Thanks to Eileen Kinsella and ArtNet News for this story, which can be read here and the related story by Ben Davis
Dmitry Rybolovlev Photo credit: PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP/Getty Images.

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