Here's a new twist in the Elgin/Parthenon Marbles debate ... the incipit of a piece in the Times:

MINISTERS could stop the British Museum returning artworks looted by the Nazis to a Jewish family because of fears that they might pave the way for Greece to make a legally binding claim on the Elgin Marbles.

Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney-General, asked the High Court to clarify whether the museum could exercise a “moral obligation” to return improperly obtained property.

The specific case at issue is a claim by the heirs of Dr Arthur Feldmann for the return of four Old Master drawings taken from the Czech lawyer’s home in Brno by the Gestapo in 1939.

Dr Feldmann was tortured and murdered by the Nazis and his wife, Gisela, died at Auschwitz. The British Museum, which obtained the drawings at auction after the war, wants to return them but cannot do so because of legislation that expressly forbids it to dispose of items from its collections.

Its trustees asked the Attorney-General if they had permission to return the artworks under the terms of the Snowden principle — a legal test that permits charities to give back items that it would be wrong for them to keep.

Lawyers for the museum argue that the case of art looted by the Nazis is highly exceptional and would not create a precedent. But Lord Goldsmith asked the court to rule and expressed concern that returning the Feldmann drawings could lead to claims against the British Museum and other national collections. In papers submitted to Sir Andrew Morritt, the Vice-Chancellor, who is hearing the case, lawyers for the Attorney-General said: “There are other objects to which a moral claim might be made, of which the Elgin Marbles may be the prime example.”