Friday, March 12, 2010

Stolen Art Watch, Leonardo Da Vinci Madonna, Worm Turns !!

Lawyer Wanted £2 million Da Vinci Deal

A SOLICITOR told an undercover cop he personally wanted £2million for the return of a stolen Leonardo Da Vinci masterpiece, a trial heard yesterday.

Marshall Ronald, 53, warned the officer not to mention the legal fees to his clients, it was claimed.

Ronald and the policeman, who used the alias John Craig, had already agreed a price of £2million for Madonna of the Yarnwinder to be brought back safely. But Ronald insisted on a secret "side" deal, the High Court in Edinburgh heard.

Mr Craig - who was posing as an agent of the Duke of Buccleuch, who owned the painting - said Ronald told him: "Nobody knows about it."

The alleged exchange came four years after the art, insured for £15million, was stolen from the Duke's Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfriesshire.

The pair were about to meet Ronald's co-accused Robert Graham at a pub in Euston, North London.

Graham wanted to be convinced that Mr Craig was not "the chief of police", the trial heard.

Mr Craig said bosses told him not to wear a wire for the meet, in case he was searched.

But Graham, who introduced himself as a Liverpool publican with underworld contacts, secretly recorded the encounter.

On the tape, played to the jury, Graham is heard to say: "I am not doing this for the money."

Graham later tells Ronald: "He's convinced me I am 100 per cent safe."

The court also heard Ronald wrote of "heart stopping moments" as he arranged to wire cash between offshore accounts.

His email to HSBC commercial manager Fiona Wilson, 38, came a day before cops seized the painting at Glasgow law firm HBJ Gateley Wareing.

He had told her £2million would be deposited in his client account and she should make up five bundles of cash - but it never arrived, she said.

Ronald, 53, of Upholland, Lancs, Graham, 57, and John Doyle, 61, both of Ormskirk, Lancs, Calum Jones, 45, of Kilmacolm, Renfrewshire, and David Boyce, 63, of Airdrie, deny trying to extort £4.25million for the art's safe return in 2007.

Solicitor in Da Vinci case 'sought £2m'

A solicitor hired to help two private investigators claim a reward for a Leonardo da Vinci painting stolen from the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry secretly negotiated an extra £2 million for himself, a court heard yesterday.

Marshall Ronald, 53, also lied to his clients and described them as “idiots” and “a pain in the ass”.

The Madonna of the Yarnwinder was stolen from Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfriesshire in 2003. Mr Ronald and four others, including his two clients, are on trial at the High Court in Edinburgh for attempting to extort £4.25 million for the painting’s return.

The jury heard details of e-mail and telephone exchanges between Mr Ronald and an undercover officer, using the alias John Craig, who the solicitor thought was working on behalf of the Buccleuch family. The pair had agreed a figure of £2 million for the painting.

Then Mr Ronald asked for another £2 million in legal fees — but insisted that Mr Craig should not mention the figure to the men he was representing.

Mr Craig, questioned by solicitor advocate John Keenan for co-defendant Robert Graham, agreed that Mr Ronald had asked for £2 million and that the solicitor had told him: “That is an agreement on the side. Nobody knows about it except me and you.”

The trial continues.

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