OSLO, Norway (AP) _ Heirs of a millionaire shipowner on Tuesday won back an $8 million art collection previously seized to pay off their father's debts.

Hilmar Reksten was one of Norway's most successful shipowners when he died in 1980. However, in settling his estate, Norwegian authorities discovered that he was legally bankrupt.

Officials spent the next 16 years tracking down the fortune they presumed Reksten had hidden abroad.

During the search for his assets, state-appointed bankruptcy receivers won the rights to an art collection.

However, after years of court battles, Reksten's children successfully argued that a portion of the collection was given to them in 1953, the Norwegian news agency NTB reported.

In its ruling on Tuesday, the Bergen City Court ordered the works returned. NTB said an appeal by the bankruptcy receivers was expected.