Greek billionaire heiress starts court battle over multi-million dollar art collection

19.02.2013. -

Aspasia Zamis, the heiress of Greek billionaire Basil Goulandris has begun a legal battle in Switzerland over the $781 million art collection she claims should have been part of her inheritance.

She blames a management company of fraud which led to the disappearance of 83 paintings, including a Van Gogh, Picasso, Renoir, Monet, Degas and Cezanne. The collection is reported to be worth $781 million.

A Swiss court in the city of Lausanne is studying the case Bloomberg reports.

Oil tycoon Basil Goulandris collected the paintings over decades at the instigation of his wife Elise. He died in 1994 and his wife died 6 years later, leaving the art collection at the disposal of a specially created management company.

According to Elise’s will one sixth of the collection was bequeathed to Aspasia Zamis.

Elise’s will is ambiguous as it states that all her personal property that is not antique and fit for a museum should go to her nieces and nephews, Bloomberg says referring to the people who saw the will.

Zaimis says the paintings aren’t antiques and should be part of her share.

“I am determined to find the paintings which were in the Gstaad home before my aunt’s death,” Zaimis told Bloomberg over the phone. “I believe with all my heart that the paintings were part of my inheritance.”

Zaimis’ quest led to an interesting turn in the case. It turned out that 83 paintings were missing from Goulandris’ collection, including a Van Gogh worth an estimated $120 million.

The management company’s lawyers brought to light a contract signed in 1985, stating that the billionaire sold the paintings to a Panama-based Wilton Trading, belonging to Goulandris’ sister Maria Goulandris. All 83 artworks were reportedly sold for a price far below their value – a total of $31.7 million.

Peter John Goulandris, the son of Basil Goulandris’s brother, told the Swiss court his uncle needed money to repay debts, so the pictures were sold and a knockdown price. 

Zaimis believes the deal cannot be real.

“I do not believe that Basil sold his collection,” 
Zaimis said. “They were so proud of it. I cannot imagine he would have sold it for this price.”

Zaimis claims to have lots of evidence that the deal can’t have been real and legitimate. She says the paintings sold where leased for display at various museums and galleries after 1985, while the Goulandris couple was listed as the owners of the art.

Zaimis also claims that paper used for the contract did not exist before 1988, while the deal had been signed in 1985. She also added that Goulandris couldn’t have signed the paper due to Parkinson’s disease. “He couldn’t lift plates and glasses,” she said.

Source: RT, photo: Coffee Pot by Vincent Van Gogh.    

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