Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Stolen Art Watch, Da Vinci Madonna , Lamb's to the Slaughter !!!

Da Vinci was recovered via 'Stolen Stuff Reunited', court is told

Published Date: 09 March 2010
By John Robertson

A £20 MILLION work of art taken from a castle by "gypsies" resurfaced four years later through a business called Stolen Stuff Reunited, a court has heard.
After the theft, the Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece Madonna of the Yarnwinder had been used in a "dodgy" property deal and the people who had accepted it as security wanted to recoup their money, a jury was told yesterday.

They approached private i nvestigators who ran a company which "repatriated" property to its rightful owners. One contact led to another, and eventually the painting was delivered to a lawyer's office in Glasgow after a covert police operation.

Tapes of calls between an undercover officer and a solicitor as they haggled over a price for the return of the painting were played at the High Court in Edinburgh. The officer's opening gambit of £1.5 million was met with a flat response, he told the court.

"There was no excitement or energy in his voice," said the man, known as "John Craig". The lawyer, he added, then demanded £2m for himself and £2m for others.

The trial has heard that Madonna of the Yarnwinder was stolen in 2003 from the Duke of Buccleuch's Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfries and Galloway.

In August 2007, Marshall Ronald, 53, a solicitor, of Skelmersdale, Lancashire, contacted an insurance loss adjuster, saying he acted for clients who could assist in the painting's return. He was put in touch with "John Craig", an undercover officer he believed to be working for the duke.

The officer said Ronald had told him that some years ago he helped set up a company, Stolen Stuff Reunited, for two "Liverpool lads" who also did private investigation work. They had been approached by clients who had said they had the painting.

"It had been stolen by members of the gypsy or travelling community and had not left Glasgow," the witness said, summarising his first telephone call with Ronald.

"It had been used as collateral in a dodgy £700,000 real estate deal that went wrong."

The officer said he had a series of subsequent phone conversations with Ronald, who had spoken of needing £700,000 for the "first parties" and then "overage", a sum to be shared by five others, including himself.

Mention had been made of £1.5m but Ronald's reaction had been flat. He had stated: "I think they are expecting a bit more."

The figure was increased to £2m, and Ronald then had brought up "legal costs" for the first time. He asked for £2m for himself, which was to be kept secret from the others.

"I have given a stern reality check to the intermediaries and persuaded them to accept the sum (£2m) offered in our last discussion," Ronald had written in an e-mail to "John".

Talking of his own expenses, he had added: "I have delved into a frightening world of smoke and mirrors and had to challenge some heavyweight individuals whose motivations are very questionable. I have been dealing with very volatile people.

"The painting is in the possession of an individual who has gone to extraordinary lengths to protect his or her identity."

Ronald and four others deny conspiring to extort £4.25 million from the duke and the insurer, Hiscox UK, for the safe return of the painting.

The trial continues.

Lawyer 'haggled over price' of Da Vinci stolen from Scots stately home, court told

A LAWYER and an undercover cop haggled about the price of returning an art treasure to a Scottish stately home, a court heard yesterday.

Solicitor Marshall Ronald spoke about clients who had a business called Stolen Stuff Reunited.

Phone conversations between Ronald and a man who used the alias John Craig were played to a jury at the High Court in Edinburgh.

Leonardo da Vinci's Madonna Of The Yarnwinder was stolen from Drumlanrig Castle, Dumfriesshire, in August 2003.

The painting, then insured for £15million, had been stolen to order as collateral in a "dodgy real estate deal".

Craig gave evidence from behind a screen. In the phone calls, Craig claimed to be someone helping the family to get the painting back.

The artwork was eventually seized by police during a raid on the offices of Glasgow law firm HBJ Gateley Wareing on October 4, 2007.

Ronald, 53, of Upholland, Skelmersdale; Robert Graham, 57, of Ormskirk; and John Doyle, 61, of Ormskirk, all Lancashire; solicitor Calum Jones, 45, of Kilmacolm, Renfrewshire, and solicitor David Boyce, 63, of Airdrie, Lanarkshire, deny conspiring to extort £4.25million or, alternatively, attempting to extort the money.

The trial continues.

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