A random background check designed to expose money-launderers travelling to Switzerland has uncovered a treasure trove of modern art thought to have been destroyed in Nazi Germany.
Customs officials seized the haul of 1,500 works — including masterpieces by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Marc Chagall — from the Munich apartment of an elderly man suspected of hiding his wealth in Swiss banks.
The paintings were found stacked in the apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt, 80, whose father, a prominent Munich art dealer, is believed to have acquired them during the 1930s and 1940s.
“From floor to ceiling, from bedroom to bathroom, were piles and piles of old food in tins and old noodles. Behind it all were these pictures worth tens, hundreds of millions of euros.”