In Its Heart, UBS Is The Descendent Of German Jews Whose Art Was Seized By Nazis

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When Christie’s auctioned off Edgar Degas’s “Danseuses” for nearly $11 million in 2009, the catalog noted that the masterpiece was being sold as part of a restitution agreement with the “heirs of Ludwig and Margret Kainer,” German Jews whose vast art collection was seized by the Nazis in the years leading up to World War II. But now a dozen relatives of the Kainers are stepping forward to object. Not only did they fail to benefit from that sale, they say they were never even told about it, or any other auctions of works once owned by the couple, including pieces by Monet and Renoir. It turns out that the Kainer “heir” that has for years collected proceeds from these sales and other restitutions, including war reparations from the German government, is not a family member but a foundation created by Swiss bank officials. In lawsuits filed in New York and Switzerland, the Kainer relatives contend that officers of the bank — now part of the global banking giant UBS — never made a diligent effort to find them, and worse, used the family name to create a “sham” foundation ostensibly organized to support the health and education of Jewish youth but actually formed, they say, to cheat them out of their inheritance. [NYT via Matt]

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It's Possible A Bunch Of Employees At UBS Deutschland Helped Clients Evade German Taxes

The bank has ran its own internal investigation and found no evidence of wrongdoing but prosecutors are still going to take a look-see themselves. The investigation, being conducted by economic-crimes prosecutors in Mannheim, was started in March against unnamed employees after a tax inquiry in the southwestern state of Baden Wuerttemberg identified suspicious transfers of funds from Germany to Switzerland, allegedly executed by a German taxpayer with the assistance of the Frankfurt-based office of UBS Deutschland AG...In May, prosecutors seized more than 100,000 computer files and other records during a search of the bank's Frankfurt office, Mr. Lintz said. Tax investigators are assessing this material to identify evidence that bank officials acted as accessories to tax evasion, he said. In its statement, UBS Deutschland said that "an internal investigation into the specific allegations has not identified any evidence of misbehavior by UBS Deutschland AG." It said it is cooperating with the criminal investigation. Several investigations of UBS clients in Germany are under way by local prosecutors independent of the Mannheim investigation, Mr. Lintz said. He declined to say how many clients are under investigation. A report in the Thursday edition of German newspaper Stuttgarter Nachrichten said thousands of bank clients are under investigation. Mr. Lintz declined to confirm that figure. Germany Probes UBS Staff on Tax-Evasion Allegations [WSJ]