Monday, March 29, 2010

Stolen Art Watch, Leonardo Da Vinci Madonna, Perils of Giving Evidence !!!

Cardinal Sin, Redeemable, Cardinal Law, we'll see ????

A solicitor accused of trying to extort £4.25m from one of Britain's wealthiest peers to recover a missing painting has admitted stealing £350,000 from his own clients' account as well as secretly demanding a £2m reward.

Marshall Ronald admitted in court that he committed the "cardinal sin" of taking his clients' money because he "passionately" wanted to return the masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci to its rightful owners, the Duke of Buccleuch and his family.

The painting, valued at £30m to £50m, was stolen in broad daylight from Drumlanrig castle, in Dumfries and Galloway, in 2003.

Ronald, a lawyer from Skelmersdale in Lancashire, is one of five men, including two other solicitors, accused of plotting to extort money from the duke with a threat that the masterpiece, Madonna of the Yarnwinder, would be destroyed if he failed to comply.

Ronald is jointly accused with Robert Graham and John Doyle, part-time private detectives from Ormskirk, Lancashire; Calum Jones, a corporate lawyer from Kilmacolm, Renfrewshire; and David Boyce of Airdrie, Lanarkshire. They deny all the charges.

Boyce and Doyle ran a website called Stolen Stuff Reunited that claimed to help the owners of stolen property get it back by telling the thieves the property was of great personal value.

Both men were allegedly approached by a mysterious intermediary, known to Ronald only as J, who knew where the Leonardo was.

Ronald, 53, told the high court in Edinburgh that he originally planned to ask the duke to pay £700,000 to buy the painting from J and another associate, whom he called K.

After that was rejected by the duke's representatives, who were in fact undercover detectives, Ronald was able to renegotiate the price with the intermediaries by reducing it to £350,000.

But because the duke refused to pay anything upfront, Ronald had to steal the cash from his clients to pay J and K off, he said.

He agreed with Donald Findlay QC, his advocate, that this was a cardinal sin for a solicitor, which put him in a "parlous position".

Ronald said: "I bitterly regret that." He did it "to keep the deal alive. It wouldn't have happened but for facilitating the payment of that money, which I negotiated to the lowest level I could."

Ronald confirmed in cross-examination that J had given him evidence that the painting was safe and authentic by embedding footage of the Leonardo 15 minutes into a Batman video.

But J had also made clear that if he was not paid he would "stab" the painting or throw it in a river. "He didn't care, to him it was just pure business," Ronald said.

After the intermediaries were paid by Graham and Doyle, the two men brought the painting to the law firm in Glasgow where Boyce and Jones were senior partners, to be handed over to the duke's men on 4 October 2007. Instead, all five men were arrested in a police raid.

Ronald admitted that he tried to broker a private deal with the undercover police officers, who he believed were acting as the duke's personal negotiators.

Ronald, Graham and Doyle had already decided to ask for £2.25m in rewards and fees for the return of the Leonardo. Under the original deal £700,000 would go to the unknown men who were holding the painting, while he, Graham, Doyle, J and K would take £250,000 each.

The lawyers in Glasgow would get £50,000 for their legal advice on making sure the transaction was carried out properly under Scottish law.

But without telling Graham and Doyle, who were his original clients, Ronald secretly demanded an extra £2m from the duke that he admitted he would ask to be put in a private offshore account. "Suddenly I was the one taking all the risks," Ronald said.

He denied that he and his co-defendants were being greedy or publicity-hungry. He said all five of them had become emotionally involved in the case and believed they were acting in the best interests of the duke and the public.

Ronald admitted that he and his clients were very attracted by the "kudos" of being the men who successfully recovered one of the most valuable paintings ever stolen in Britain. It would boost his firm's fame and make the stolen property website famous worldwide.

The trial continues.

I deserved £2m reward, says Leonardo accused

A solicitor hired to help claim a reward for a stolen Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece said he demanded an extra £2 million for himself because he was “taking all the risks”, a court was told yesterday.

Marshall Ronald also told the High Court in Edinburgh that he believed he would become famous for his role in handing back the Madonna of the Yarnwinder, stolen from Drumlanrig Castle, the Duke of Buccleuch’s stately home in Dumfriesshire, in 2003.

Giving evidence for the first time yesterday, Mr Ronald, 53, from Ormskirk, in Lancashire, one of five men accused of attempting to extort £4.25 million for the safe return of the painting, said he had initially hoped for a 20 per cent share of any reward money. However, he argued that two undercover officers, whom he believed to be working for the Duke, had changed a plan to “repatriate” the artwork.

After agreeing a reward of £2 million, he told the trial, the men, known to him as John Craig and David Restor, said they would not issue the money until they had seen and examined the painting. Mr Ronald said this was a “nightmare”. As he and his two clients, private investigators John Doyle, 61, and Robert Graham, 57, had been asked to pay £700,000 to a mysterious figure called ‘J’ in order to obtain the painting, they were now responsible for raising the cash upfront, he said.

Donald Findlay, QC, who is representing Mr Ronald, asked him why he did not walk away at that point. The solicitor said he had already produced proof — a DVD of the painting — that showed he had been in contact with those who held it. “The world and his dog could come after me,” he said. When asked by Mr Findlay why he then demanded an extra £2 million for himself, he replied: “Because I was the one who was suddenly taking all the risks.”

Earlier, Mr Ronald recalled how Mr Doyle and Mr Graham introduced him to ‘J’, a man he described as being of Romany appearance. He said he asked ‘J’ for evidence that he knew of the painting’s whereabouts. But at their next meeting he became “concerned” by J’s attitude. “He was just in it for the money and didn’t give a s**t about what happened — it was pure business,” Mr Ronald told the court.

He later argued it was these comments that had prompted him to tell John Craig that there were “volatile individuals” involved.

The trial continues.

Leonardo da Vinci operation 'hooked' solicitor

A solicitor has told the Leonardo da Vinci extortion trial how he fell "hook, line and sinker" for an undercover police operation.

Marshall Ronald, 53, said he took two officers, one posing as an art expert and another claiming to represent the stolen work's owner, "at face value".

He claimed the police had been "duplicitous and deceptive".

Mr Ronald and four others deny seeking £4.25m for the safe return of the Madonna of the Yarnwinder painting.

The artwork was stolen from the Duke of Buccleuch's Drumlanrig Castle in 2003.

None of the men on trial are accused of the robbery.

Mr Ronald told the High Court in Edinburgh he was put in touch with a man he knew by the alias John Craig by a loss adjuster dealing with the theft of the artwork.

He said Mr Craig claimed to represent the duke.

"I trusted him, I trusted him from the outset," Mr Ronald told the court.

"I genuinely believed they were who they said they were.

"I was taken in hook, line and sinker."

The Lancashire lawyer denied making any threats about the fate of the painting.

He said his one regret was "the cardinal sin" of raiding his law firm's client account for £500,000, which he believed would be repaid when he received his reward for returning the painting.

"I dreamed the dream and took the risk," he told the court.

However, he criticised the police operation which had brought himself and his four co-accused to trial.

"The only people who have shown a lack of trust are the police," he said.

"They have been duplicitous and deceptive.

"They played footloose and fancy free with other people's property."

Mr Ronald told the court that the five men on trial had done what police had been unable to do and recovered the duke's painting.

"I think we did the right thing," he said.

"I am very proud of it and what we have achieved. I think it is very sad that we are standing here today."

On trial along with Mr Ronald are Robert Graham, 57, and John Doyle, 61, all from Lancashire, Calum Jones, 45, from Renfrewshire, and David Boyce, 63, from Lanarkshire.

They deny conspiring to extort £4.25m and an alternative charge of attempting to extort the money.

The trial continues.

Art Hostage Comments:

The Guardian can be relied upon to get the names wrong.

For the record it was Robbie Graham and Jack Doyle who ran the Stolen Stuff Reunited website, not David Boyce as reported above.

"I deserved £2 million" the Times quotes Marshal Ronald as saying.

Yes, you would have deserved and got £2 million if you were an Ex-Policeman, and you would not be facing this trial.

However, as you are a mere mortal you get zero money and find yourself where you are.


Anonymous said...

In he interests of balanced coverage you should publish this BBC report

Anonymous said...

slow down, chill, see the latest post, wow

Anonymous said...

Your obession with priests and catholic confession boxes is your blindspot
Do you think in the lght of thr chid abise scandal within the Catholic church that a priest would be held in any higher esteem that a politicain estate agent police officer or a radical muslem cleric
There is way to behave that is honourable and can achieve the stated objective
Time to put your cards properly on the table and it is not the route of ex police they sre just paracites
Wake up time for the insurance industry

Anonymous said...

i still invite you to publish the BBC post
Go on be transparent
Balance the picture
Do the right thing
What have you got to lose
Surely you can trust a BBC report
Show some bottle and integrity