Legal Dispute over Looted €10 Million Cypriot Art Collection Ends after 15 Years

Detail from one of the disputed Cypriot frescoes. Photo: Süddeutsche Zeitung
detail from one of the disputed frescos

Detail from one of the disputed Cypriot frescoes.
Photo: Süddeutsche Zeitung

A court in Munich has finally put an end to a 15-year-long legal dispute over a €10 million collection of looted Cypriot art, Süddeutsche Zeitung reports.

The 214 works in the collection were seized from the Munich apartment of a Turkish art dealer in 1997. Investigators suspected that the frescoes, statues, icons, and other artworks were looted during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in the mid-70s.

Following six years of extensive evidence evaluation, provenance research, and negotiations with the Republic of Cyprus and the Greek Orthodox Church, the collection was on its way to being returned to the island nation.

All signs initially pointed towards a speedy resolution. However, in response to the investigator’s decision, the Turkish dealer filed an appeal in 2004 which led to a prolonged legal battle over the valuable artworks. In March 2013 the court ordered the bulk of the works be repatriated to Cyprus, but some pieces remained contested.

The provenance of approximately 30, mostly prehistoric artworks could not be definitively traced. In its latest ruling on Monday the appeal court in Munich ordered the return of the remaining objects to the Turkish dealer.

However it is unclear whether the defendant will be able to keep the pieces as he must make damages payments to the plaintiffs. The Republic of Cyprus and the Greek Orthodox Church could still repossess the items.

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