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Police find more art hidden by Tanzi

Most works were in ex-Parmalat chief's basement

11 December, 16:49
Police find more art hidden by Tanzi

(ANSA) - Parma, December 11 - Police on Friday said they had found another 16 works of art believed to belong to disgraced Parmalat founder Calisto Tanzi which were allegedly hidden from creditors of the dairy multinational.

Last week police seized 19 paintings and drawings, including works by Van Gogh and Monet, which Tanzi is believed to have stashed with friends and relatives just before Parmalat collapsed at the end of 2003 in Europe's biggest case of corporate fraud.

"The success of last week's operation and reports that many other works were in circulation broke down a wall of silence and a flood of information came in on where the art could be," Parma prosecutor Gerardo Laguardia said in a press conference on Friday.

"Anyone who has any information or is in possession of similar Tanzi assets should come forward before we find about them," he added.

Friday's discovery included paintings by such artists as Bocconi, Segantini, Kandinsky and Chagall.

Police began looking for the hidden art work, said to be worth over 100 million euros, after an investigative TV news program on national broadcaster RAI reported on November 29 that it had discovered that negotiations were in the final stages for the sale of Tanzi's trove of art to an anonymous buyer, believed to be a Russian billionaire.

The former Parmalat boss immediately denied any knowledge of the collection, some of which was found in the home of his son-in-law Stefano Strini, but has since refused to make any statements.

Strini is said to be under investigation for attempting to arrange the illegal sale, which also included paintings by Picasso, Manet, Gauguin and Ligabue and drawings by Degas, Grosz and Modigliani. Twelve of the 16 works found on Friday were hidden in the basement of Tanzi's villa just outside Parma, while the others were in the possession of people close to the disgraced Parmalat founder.

Tanzi is currently appealing a 10-year sentence handed down a year ago by a court in Milan for market rigging, while a second trial continues here where he stands accused of fraudulent bankruptcy, accounting fraud, issuing false financial statements and criminal conspiracy. Parmalat was declared bankrupt in December 2003 after it emerged that four billion euros it supposedly held in an offshore Bank of America account did not in fact exist.

The case escalated, eventually leading to Parmalat's collapse amid debts of some 14.5 billion euros and a fraud scandal which rocked the Italian financial world.

Parmalat has since been put back on its feet by corporate turnaround expert Enrico Bondi who, first as government-appointed administrator and later as official CEO, shed the group's non-core activities, cut foreign activities and reduced staff.

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