Thursday, March 11, 2010

Stolen Art Watch, Leonardo Da Vinci Madonna, Scales of Justice !!!

Men accused of extortion over stolen Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece made no demands for money, court told
Mar 11 2010 By Brian Horne

MEN accused of holding a stolen art treasure to ransom made no demands for cash when it was handed over, a trial was told yesterday.

The High Court in Edinburgh watched secretly recorded video footage of a meeting in a Glasgow law office.

An undercover cop, posing as an art expert, confirmed that The Madonna Of The Yarnwinder - stolen four years earlier from the Duke of Buccleuch's Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfriesshire - was genuine.

The detective, known by his alias of David Restor, then began to pack the Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece in a special case.

Police colleague John Craig, pretending to be an agent for the duke, left the room to make a telephone call to him.

But he was really triggering a police raid on the city centre offices of HBJ Gateley Wareing in West Regent Street, Glasgow, the court was told.

Yesterday, Craig, an alias to protect his identity, faced questions from defence QC Donald Findlay about the handover on October 4, 2007.

Mr Findlay pointed out that, although photos were being taken in the room, no one made any attempt to conceal their identity as the world-famous painting passed into the hands of the law.

He said: "Have we heard anybody saying, 'Hang on a minute, lads, what are you doing with the painting?

"We have not had confirmation we have had the money yet. You are not getting the painting until we get the money.'

"Have you heard anything like that?"

Mr Craig, speaking from behind a screen in the courtroom, replied: "Not to my knowledge."

He also confirmed that no attempt had been made to stop him or his colleague taking the picture.

Five men are accused of demanding £4.25million for the safe return of the masterpiece valued at £50million.

English lawyer Marshall Ronald, 53, Liverpudlians Robert Graham, 57, and John Doyle, 61, and Scottish solicitors Calum Jones, 45, and David Boyce, 63, deny attempting to extort £4.25million from the duke and his late father for the return of the painting.

A second charge alleges that the five accused attempted to defeat the ends of justice by getting one of the undercover officers to sign an agreement that police would not be told about what was happening.

The trial continues.

Da Vinci accused was 'not in it for money'

A trial has heard that a man accused of being part of a conspiracy to extort £4.25m for a stolen painting, said he was not in it for the money or glory.

The High Court in Edinburgh was told that Robert Graham made the comment during a taped conversation with an undercover policeman.

He is one of five men facing charges relating to the Leonardo da Vinci work the Madonna of the Yarnwinder.

It was stolen from the Duke of Buccleuch's estate in Dumfries in 2003.

The court heard that Mr Graham, a 57-year-old Liverpool publican, met with undercover policeman John Craig at a London pub in 2007, believing him to be an agent of the Duke.

'Cloak and dagger'

The trial was told that Mr Graham was seeking assurances from Mr Craig before he went ahead with a plan to retrieve the stolen painting from unnamed intermediaries.

During their conversation, he told Mr Craig: "I don't feel I'm doing anything illegal or wrong. I can see it bothering me for the rest of my life if I don't do this."

Asked what would happen if police found him with the painting, Mr Craig referred to a contract and he told Mr Graham: "There's no cloak and dagger here, no last-minute surprises."

After the meeting, Mr Graham is heard to say that Mr Craig had convinced him he was "100% safe".

"He's working for the Duke and we're working for them. It's as simple as that," he said.

In court, defence QC Donald Findlay put it to Mr Craig, that he made all the running in talks with another accused, Marshall Ronald.

Painting's theft

Suggesting that the Duke was interested in buying back the painting and did not care if the police were involved or not, Mr Craig said he was only playing an agreed and authorised role.

On trial along with Mr Graham are Marshall Ronald, 53, and John Doyle, 61, all from Lancashire, Calum Jones, 45, from Renfrewshire, and David Boyce, 63, from Lanarkshire.

They have denied conspiring to extort £4.25m and an alternative charge of attempted extortion.

The offence is alleged to have taken place between July and October 2007.

They are not accused of the painting's theft.

The trial continues.

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