BROADCAST DATE : Apr 8, 2016

Stolen Treasures


It’s a painting created by one of the great masters that went missing for over fifty years.  A Modigliani that may have been looted in Paris during the Nazi occupation. Then, it resurfaced at a Christie’s auction in London.

The grandson of a Jewish art dealer from Paris says the painting -- called "Seated Man With a Cane" -- was stolen from his family during the Nazi era and is now in the possession of the influential family of art dealers, who deny the claim. Now the case is before the courts while the masterpiece remains in a Geneva warehouse with other treasures.

Frederic Zalac travels across Europe with some of the greatest art detectives to try to crack an enduring mystery – to whom does the $25 million dollar “Seated Man With a Cane” belong?

  • Seated Man With a Cane was painted by Amadeo Modigliani in 1918, and is estimated to be worth $35M today
  • It was bought at a Christie's auction in London for a reported $3.2M USD by a company called the International Art Center
  • A powerful family of international art dealers may be using the International Art Center, a Panamanian-registered company, to obscure its ownership of the Modigliani painting
  • The painting is currently in the middle of a high-stakes court battle over it's ownership


Meet one of Canada's most prolific art thieves - John Mark Tillmann.

One Mountie calls him “a kleptomaniac with taste”. For decades, Tillmann stole historical artefacts: pieces of art, books and collectibles from museums, universities, and businesses across the east coast. It's estimated he stole 10,000 items in all. Selling these items put hundreds of thousands of dollars in his bank account and even put a couple of luxury cars in his garage. What Tillmann didn't sell he kept on display in his home in Nova Scotia until the Mounties seized it all and put him behind bars.

the fifth estate's Bob McKeown sits down with Tillmann for his first television interview. You'll hear why he did it and how he got caught. McKeown also meets the cops and prosecutors who investigated Tillmann and returned these valuable prices of history to their rightful owners. They reveal Tillmanns dark side: a white supremacist with a long criminal record including a charge of attempted murder of his own mother.

Come behind closed doors with the fifth estate to see these gems up close - including a painting Tillmann took right out of the Nova Scotia legislature.

  • It's estimated that Tillmann stole 10,000 items worth hundreds of thousands of dollars
  • Tillmann stole items from museums and libraries, and he alleges he used elaborate schemes in the process
  • One such item was a first edition of Charles Darwin's 'On the Origin of Species'; the book was valued at up to $50,000.


When antique dealer from Richmond B.C. was caught buying contraband in a New Jersey warehouse, a special unit with Environment Canada swung into action. Wildlife Enforcement officers raided antique store of Tony Guan and seized dozens of items made with coral, ivory, and rhino horn -- and $100,000 worth of ecstasy.

Grainy surveillance video of Guan handling the illicit items-- two rare black rhino horns worth over $400,000 on the black market -- helped convict him. He pleaded guilty to smuggling rhino horn, elephant ivory, and coral. He was sentenced to two and a half years in a U.S. prison.

It’s all part of the little known work by Canada’s wildlife cops - Environment Canada’s Wildlife Enforcement Division. Their director general, Sheldon Jordan, tells the fifth estate in an exclusive interview that wildlife trafficking has increased in Canada,  and is worth $30 billion worldwide from the illegal trafficking of reptiles, plants, birds, narwhal tusks, ivory and rhino. "Wildlife crime because it generates so much money has exploded in the last ten years," he says.