6 Dec 2009

Convicted company owner's art seized - Italian police

11:33 am on 6 December 2009

The police in Italy have confiscated art estimated to be worth more than 100m euros, which they believe was owned by the founder of a multinational that collapsed in a massive fraud scandal.

Calisto Tanzi, the former head of Parmalat, was sentenced to 10 years prison for fraud in 2008 but has appealed and is free awaiting trial.

The 19 works include a drawing of a ballerina by Degas, a depiction of a tree trunk by Van Gogh, a Picasso still life, and a self-portrait by Antonio Ligabue, the BBC reports.

The art was found in houses belonging to friends of the family.

Parmalat, once one of Italy's leading companies, collapsed in Europe's biggest bankruptcy case in 2003, with 14 billion euros missing from its accounts.

Officials said they had tracked down the artworks, which were about to be sold, following an investigative TV programme broadcast last weekend.

Investigators tapped phone calls, some of which involved discussions about selling some art to a Russian billionaire, Italy's Ansa news agency said.

Monet's Cliff Walk at Pourville was about to be sold for 10 million euros, the agency said.