Parmalat man’s secret £90m hoard of masterpieces is seized

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The Independent Online

Italian tax investigators have seized works by artists including Van Gogh, Picasso and Cézanne in raids on properties belonging to a disgraced businessman judged to have been largely responsible for Europe's greatest ever corporate bankruptcy.

Police found 19 artworks worth an estimated €100m (£90m) in three apartments in Parma owned by Calisto Tanzi. Tapped phone calls had led them to believe he was about to sell at least one of the works.

The stash included a Degas pen-on-paper portrait of a ballerina, two Van Goghs, including a still life, a Cézanne watercolour and a Modigliani pencil sketch.

The Italian courts have ruled that Tanzi bore the brunt of the responsibility for the collapse in 2003 of Parmalat, the multinational food conglomerate which he had founded years earlier as a small dairy in Parma.

Parmalat went bust with debts of €14bn, leaving 40,000 shareholders empty-handed, including a number of small investors who lost their life savings.

Tanzi was convicted in Milan last year of charges including market-rigging, and is currently on trial for alleged fraudulent bankruptcy.

Tax police in Parma said yesterday that prosecutors were opening an inquiry into allegations of concealing assets involved in Parmalat's bankruptcy. Tanzi has repeatedly denied the existence of a hidden art collection.

Colonel Piero Iovino, of Bologna's tax police, said he believed the entire stash had been up for sale, probably to a Russian living in Italy.

Officers had homed in on Tanzi's son-in-law, Stefano Strini, who told them the artworks belonged to Tanzi and directed them to the apartments, Col Iovino said.

No arrests were made in connection with the raids.