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British art collector sued by Italian government after taking £10m Giotto painting with her to London
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/06/28/british-art-collector-sued-italian-government-10m-giotto

A British antiques trader accused of spiriting a Giotto painting out of Italy after discovering it was worth £10 million is being sued by the countrys government in the High Court.

Kathleen Simonis said she had every right to remove her painting Madonna and Child by the Medieval master from Italy in 2007.
But the Italian ministry of culture said she had no valid licence to export the painting, dated 1297, which is currently in storage in London.
Ben Jaffey QC, representing the ministry, told Mrs Justice Carr today: Ms Simonis spirited the painting out of 
Italy.
The barrister said Ms Simonis paid a mere 8 million lira (£3,600) for the painting at auction in 1990.
It was then viewed as a 19th century painting by a Giotto imitator and was described as a panel painting from the 1800s.
The painting is currently in storage in London. It is here because Ms Simonis spirited it out of Italy
Ben Jaffey QC, representing the Italian ministry of culture
But, during restoration work in the Nineties, layers of paint were removed to reveal the work of the Florentine master, who died in 1337.
It has since been attributed to Giotto or at least his school and is now valued at around £10 million.
The court heard the painting has made several trips abroad since Ms Simonis bought it. But, on its return to Italy in 1999, an inspection revealed its extraordinary pictorial quality and excellent state of preservation".
Since then the painting has been the subject of extensive litigation in the Italian courts, said Mr Jaffey.
The battle moved to London when, in February 2007, Ms Simoniss lawyers informed the Italian authorities she had dispatched it to the English capital.
Ms Simonis has since applied to Arts Council England for a licence to export the painting out of the EU, but that was refused in 2015.

Mr Jaffey said Ms Simonis had, in 1999, been granted a temporary, five-year licence that allowed her to export the painting, but that expired in 2004.
But Aidan ONeill QC, for Ms Simonis, argued that the fact the licence was no longer valid when she sent the painting to London made no difference to her rights.
He said: She has a right to transfer her property from one member state to another. That is in the very DNA of EU law.
The Italian authorities stance that the export to London on a BA flight was unlawful was incompatible with EU law, he told the judge.
Mr Jaffey responded: The painting is currently in storage in London. It is here because Ms Simonis spirited it out of Italy.
She did not tell the Italian cultural authorities about her plan to remove the painting until after it had arrived in London.
He continued: A reasonable person would have been aware that the removal of the painting from Italy involved considerable legal risk.
He added that Arts Council England only has power to sanction the paintings export outside the EU if it was lawfully despatched from Italy to the UK in the first place.
The hearing continues.



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