Thursday, March 11, 2010

Stolen Art Watch, Leonardo Da Vinci Madonna Trial , Police Fox V Silver Fox !!!!

Da Vinci negotiations held in London pub

A TRIAL yesterday heard first hints about how a stolen art treasure surfaced more than four years after robbers took it from a Dumfriesshire stately home.

The details emerged at the first face- to-face meeting between an undercover detective, a solicitor who was helping negotiate the return of the Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece and a Liverpool publican known as The Silver Fox.

The undercover detective, using the alias John Craig, said his boss would not allow him to wear a wire for the meeting in a London pub because of fears that he might be taken into the toilets and strip- searched.

Giving evidence at the High Court in Edinburgh Mr Craig told what he remembered of the meeting with Robert Graham, 57, a man he later described as "a loveable rogue".

Silver-haired Graham, together with solicitor Marshall Ronald, 53, and three other men are accused of demanding more than £4 million for the safe return of the painting.

Graham had come to the pub meeting on September 30, 2007, thinking he was meeting a representative of the Duke of Buccleuch, the painting’s owner. Graham appeared terrified that he might be arrested in connection with the stolen painting and wanted to meet Mr Craig to make sure he was not "the chief of police."

Mr Craig said yesterday that he and Graham swapped "personal details". He added: "He was the owner of a number of pubs in the Merseyside area and his nick-name was The Silver Fox.

"Through his background and ownership of these pubs he learned a lot about what was going on in criminal circles. He found out about this painting and that he could retrieve this painting."

The court heard that Graham also brought to the meetings press clippings of himself and associate John Doyle, 61, about their crime-fighting organisation, Stolen Stuff Reunited.

The internet-based company had returned a stolen sword to "the family of a military man".

It had then gone bust, after Graham, who had also worked as a private investigator, had sunk £30,000 into the venture.

Mr Craig said: "Robert Graham told me everything he was doing he was doing out of a sense of decency."

The court heard that to back his own pretence that he was a former insurance expert now working for the Ministry of Culture in Madrid, Mr Craig had arranged a call to his mobile phone – so that he could speak in Spanish.

After the meeting, the trial heard, phone calls between Ronald and Mr Craig continued in an attempt to arrange the handover of the painting.

The picture Madonna of the Yarnwinder was snatched from the wall of Drumlanrig Castle on the Duke of Buccleuch’s Dumfriesshire estate in August 2004. by raiders posing as tourists who then over-powered a tour guide and produced an axe.

The painting - then insured for fifteen million pounds - was recovered when police stormed a meeting in the Glasgow offices of law firm HBJ Gateley Wareing in October, 2007.

On trial are solicitor Marshall Ronald, 53, of 15A Highmeadow, Ravenscroft, Upholland, Skelmersdale; Robert Graham, 57, of Gawhill Lane, Aughton, and John Doyle, 61, of Halsall, both Lancashire; solicitor Calum Jones, 45, Knockbuckle Road, Kilmacolm, and solicitor David Boyce, 63, of Airdrie.

They deny conspiring to extort £4,250,000 or, alternatively, attempting to extort the money.

A second charge alleges that the five accused attempted to defeat the ends of justice.

Officer tells of stolen da Vinci role

By John Robertson
A LAWYER wanted to discuss other works of art after he had helped in the recovery of a stolen £20 million painting, a court has heard.

Marshall Ronald, 53, a solicitor from Skelmersdale, Lancashire, allegedly had negotiated a personal payment of more than £2 million and another £2m to be shared by him and four associates for returning Leonardo da Vinci's Madonna of the Yarnwinder.

The deal had been agreed with "John Craig", a man who posed as a representative of the Duke of Buccleuch, from whom the painting had been stolen, but who was an undercover policeman, the High Court in Edinburgh has heard.

Ronald attended a meeting in the offices of Glasgow law firm HBJ Gateley Wareing, when the painting was produced to "John Craig" and a colleague pretending to be an art expert to verify it.

Giving evidence while the public was screened from seeing him, "John Craig" said that, as part of his pretence, he made a phone call to have money released into bank accounts for which Ronald had supplied the details.

He said: "Marshall Ronald wanted a conversation about other artworks, a Van Gogh and a Rembrandt."

A short time later, the police arrived, seized the painting and detained everyone in the room, including the two officers.

The trial continues.

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