Geneva Freeport

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Geneva Freeport
Ports Francs et Entrepôts de Genève
Geneva Freeport is located in Switzerland
Geneva Freeport
General information
Town or city Geneva
Country Switzerland
Coordinates 46°11′17″N 6°07′34″E / 46.1881°N 6.1262°E / 46.1881; 6.1262

Geneva Freeport (French: Ports Francs et Entrêpots de Genève SA) is a warehouse complex in Geneva, Switzerland for the storage of art and other valuables and collectibles.

Some say it's the "premier place" to store valuable works of art, and "they come for the security and stay for the tax treatment".[1]

It is the oldest and largest freeport facility, and the one with the most artworks. According to Jean-René Saillard of the British Fine Art Fund, "It would be probably the best museum in the world if it was a museum".[2]

In 2013, the Freeport held about 1.2 million works of art.[3] As well as art and gold bars, there are about three million bottles of wine.[1]

In 2009, the first gallery inside the Freeport was opened by Simon Studer. Other galleries include those run by Sandra Recio.[1] In 2013, it was reported that a 10,000 sq m extension would open in 2014.[2]

The Swiss businessman Yves Bouvier, dubbed the "freeport king", is the majority investor in the Singapore and Luxembourg freeports[4] and has been variously described as the owner of the Geneva Freeport, or its largest shareholder,[3] though in an interview in October 2016 he said he owned only 5% of it, with 85% of it being owned by the Swiss state.[5]

Its use in international art crime[edit]

In 2013 nine antiquities looted from Palmyra in Syria and ancient sites in Libya and Yemen were seized by Swiss authorities after being found during a customs inspection at the Geneva Freeport. The objects had been deposited at the Freeport between 2009 and 2010. Six of the objects are believed to have been transported to Switzerland from Qatar and another from the United Arab Emirates.[6]

In January 2016, officers from the art crimes squad of the Italian Carabinieri, working in collaboration with Swiss authorities, raided a storage unit that the British antiquities dealer Robin Symes rented at the Geneva Freeport. It was found to contain a huge quantity of stolen antiquities, nearly all of which is believed to have been looted by the Medici gang from Etruscan-era and Roman-era archaeological sites in Italy and other locations over a period of at least forty years. Packed inside 45 crates, investigators discovered some 17,000 Greek, Roman and Etruscan artefacts, including two stunning Etruscan terracotta sarcophagi, topped by painted, life-sized reclining figures, hundreds of whole or fragmentary pieces of rare Greek and Roman pottery, statuary and bas-reliefs, fragments of a fresco from Pompeii, and a marble head of Apollo which is thought to have been looted from the Baths of Claudius, near Rome. The artefacts are estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of Pounds, with the head of Apollo alone valued at £30 million (US$44 million). Symes is alleged to have hidden the objects at the Geneva Freeport warehouse soon after his partner's death, in order to conceal them from the executors of his estate and thus keep their huge value out of any settlement.[7][8]

In November 2015 the director of the Louvre, Jean-Luc Martinez, submitted a report on the protection of cultural heritage to UNESCO that denounced the role of the Geneva, Luxembourg and Singapore freeports in the illicit trafficking of stolen cultural goods. However, the European Commission's response to the report, in a meeting chaired by Luxembourg, "took great care not to mention the case of the freeports".[9]

As a result of various cases emerging, and because of the risk of money laundering and tax evasion or avoidance, the Swiss authorities started taking an interest in the art trade for the first time,[10] and customs agents in Geneva now require customers to submit a list of artworks stored in the freeport, and perform random checks.[11]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Segal, David (21 July 2012). "Swiss Freeports Are Home for a Growing Treasury of Art". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 April 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Foulkes, Imogen (2 January 2013). "Geneva's art storage boom in uncertain times". BBC. Retrieved 7 April 2015. 
  3. ^ a b Bradley, Simon (9 July 2014). "The discreet bunkers of the super-rich". Swissinfo. Retrieved 7 April 2015. 
  4. ^ "Change in governance at Luxembourg Freeport after Swiss investor’s arrest" The Art Newspaper [1]
  5. ^ Vincent Noce, "Beleaguered Yves Bouvier defends himself and freeport system" The Art Newspaper 10 October 2016 [2]
  6. ^ Hannah McGivern Palmyra antiquities seized at Geneva Free Port, The Art Newspaper, 5 December 2016, [3]
  7. ^ Squires, Robin (1 February 2016). "Disgraced British art dealer's priceless treasure trove discovered hidden in Geneva". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 16 February 2016. 
  8. ^ Muñoz-Alonso, Lorena (2 February 2016). "Trove of Looted Antiquities Belonging to Disgraced Dealer Robin Symes Found in Geneva Freeport". ArtNet. Retrieved 17 February 2016. 
  9. ^ Vincent Noce, "France builds grand alliance to protect cultural heritage" The Art Newspaper 4 January 2016 [4]
  10. ^ Georgina Adam, "2015's biggest art market developments and what they mean" The Art Newspaper 23 December 2015 [5]
  11. ^ "Experts identify top six scandals amid boom in art crime" The Art Newspaper 1 July 2015 [6]