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Art collectors' alert – landmark Supreme Court ruling on returning artworks illicitly exported to country of originSwitzerland | 29 August 2019
Estimated at $67.4 billion, the art market has become a global playing field for ultra-high-net-worth and high-net-worth individuals to invest their assets. Yet, lack of harmonisation of national legislations on the protection of cultural property may hamper collectors' pleasure in moving their art around the world. In a recent decision, the Swiss Supreme Court clarified the requirements to be met by countries of origin when requesting the return of artworks allegedly illicitly exported by their legitimate owners, thus absent any issues of ownership.
While trusts have not been incorporated into the Swiss legal system, Switzerland ratified the Hague Trust Convention with effect from 1 July 2007 and adapted its conflict of laws provisions – in particular, Articles 149(a) to 149(e) of the Private International Law Act. As a result, foreign trusts are fully recognised and implemented under Swiss law. Although discussed controversially, legislative initiatives to introduce trusts into the Swiss legal system are ongoing.