BERLIN: German Customs officials have seized the haul of 1,500 works – including masterpieces by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Pierre-and Auguste Renoir – valued at £1 billion from the Munich flat of an elderly man suspected of hiding his wealth in Swiss banks.
Dealer Hildebrandt Gurlitt amassed the collection during the 1930s and 1940s when he bought the art works at ‘shamefully low’ prices from Jews who were desperately trying to fund their escape from Germany. He later claimed the paintings had been lost to Allied bombs but it has now been revealed that his ‘loner’ son, Cornelius, had been hiding them.
A spokesman for German Customs said: ‘This is a sensational find. It’s a true treasure trove. They are worth over €1 billion, we are told but the real worth is inestimable.’
Gurlitt’s son was caught when customs officials stopped him on a train from Switzerland during a routine check. They became suspicious when they found an envelope with £7,600 in cash and realised he had no evidence of having an income.