Part of an art collection confiscated because it may contain pieces looted by the Nazis is being returned to its owner, prosecutors in the German town of Augsburg said Wednesday. Prosecutors said they had returned the seized collection to Cornelius Gurlitt, who inherited the almost priceless artworks from his father, in light of new evidence.
Their statement came two days after news of a deal between Gurlitt, Germany's cultural authorities and the Bavarian Justice Ministryunder which he agreed to allow research into the origins of suspected cases of looted or so-called "degenerate" art.
Under the deal, works owned by Gurlitt which are not under suspicion can be returned to him. Those suspected of being stolen will be held securely while a task force investigates their provenance -- and will be returned to their original Jewish owners or their descendants if a claim is proven.
Works which have not been investigated by the end of a year will be returned to Gurlitt, it says.It's not clear how many pieces may be the subject of claims from those who believe they were looted decades ago.
Prosecutors cite new evidence, objections
It was last May when experts revealed that the artworks -- many long feared lost or destroyed, and some which had never been recorded -- had been discovered in Gurlitt's apartment in the Schwabing area of Munich.
The vast collection, which experts have said has "a value so high it cannot be estimated," was recovered by German tax authorities in connection with an inquiry into tax evasion in February and March 2012.
In its statement, Wednesday, the prosecutor's office defended its decision to seize the cache, now known as the Schwabing art trove, on the grounds it might contain stolen art.