Thursday, April 08, 2010

Stolen Art Watch, Leonardo Da Vinci Madonna, Not Me Gov !!!!

Da Vinci case lawyer 'left himself open to criminals'

Published Date: 08 April 2010

A SCOTTISH solicitor told the Madonna of the Yarnwinder trial yesterday that he had not taken seriously a scheme suggested by a "Walter Mitty" lawyer for the return of the stolen work of art.

Calum Jones said the plan to retrieve the painting and claim a reward had been outlined to him by Marshall Ronald in melodramatic fashion. As the weeks went on, he feared Ronald's involvement had changed from professional to personal, and that he had left himself open to being conned out of £350,000 by criminals holding the Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece.

"He was putting up his own money and I thought he was missing the woods for the trees. He was becoming involved in something he shouldn't," said Jones.

Jones, 45, of Kilmacolm, Renfrewshire, and Ronald, 53, of Skelmersdale, Lancashire, are accused with Robert Graham, 57, and John Doyle, 61, both of Ormskirk, Lancashire, and David Boyce, 63, of Airdrie, Lanarkshire, of conspiring to extort £4.25 million for the safe return of the painting. It was stolen in 2003 from the Duke of Buccleuch's Drumlanrig Castle, Dumfriesshire.

Reminded that in a police interview he had described Ronald as a Walter Mitty, Jones said: "He had a melodramatic turn of phrase. He clearly had taken the return of this painting to heart."

The trial continues.

Solicitor made stag night quip over da Vinci arrest

A solicitor accused of extortion over a stolen da Vinci made an "inappropriate" quip to colleagues as he was arrested.

As police led him in handcuffs from the boardroom of a prestigious law firm in Glasgow, Calum Jones, 45, said: "This reminds me of my stag night."

He told the High Court in Edinburgh that he was putting on a "brave face".

Mr Jones and four others deny trying to extort £4.25m for the return of the Madonna of the Yarnwinder, which belongs to the Duke of Buccleuch.

The court heard Mr Jones, a solicitor for 23 years, became involved when Lancashire-based solicitor Marshall Ronald approached his firm seeking advice on Scots law.

He said his advice was to get in touch with the loss adjuster handling things on behalf of the painting's insurers and thought that would be the end of his involvement.

He said he did not believe the painting would actually turn up at the Glasgow offices of law firm HBJ Gateley Wareing, where it was seized during a police raid on 4 October 2007.

Questioned by defence QC Jack Davidson, Mr Jones agreed that he had made an "inappropriate" stag night reference as he passed colleagues.

"These were people I had worked with for eight years and I was being taken out in handcuffs," said Mr Jones, who later resigned as a partner.

"It seemed appropriate to be flippant and show I was not taking this as seriously as I was."

He said he thought police just wanted to speak to him about being in the same room as a stolen painting.

'Driving force'

Earlier the trial heard that on his way to the boardroom in the firm's offices in West Regent Street, Jones had told a colleague he expected to make art history or be arrested.

Mr Jones told the court he thought he could be questioned about Mr Ronald, who had paid £350,000 to obtain the painting, being conned.

He said he would have probably called in police himself had he known the cash was taken from funds Mr Ronald was holding in trust for clients.

The court heard Mr Jones knew Mr Ronald only as a contact of senior partner David Boyce, 63, and described Mr Ronald to police as a "Walter Mitty" character.

Mr Jones said: "He had a melodramatic turn of phrase. He clearly had taken the return of this painting, as he saw it, to heart."

Mr Ronald was supposed to be acting as a solicitor for private investigator John Doyle, but seemed to take over as "the driving force behind the transaction", the trial heard.

"I have to say, from the beginning I didn't take it particularly seriously," Mr Jones said. "It seemed an unlikely set of circumstances."

The court also heard Mr Doyle, 61, who is said to have played a key role in the return of the painting stolen in 2003, had chosen not to give evidence.

He heard from a pool player in a Merseyside pub that the masterpiece could be obtained from underworld figures at a price, the trial was told.

At the time Mr Doyle helped run a detective agency called Crown Private Investigations.

Mr Jones, from Renfrewshire, and Mr Ronald and Mr Doyle, 61, both from Lancashire, deny conspiring to extort or attempting to extort £4.25m between July and October 2007.

Also on trial are Robert Graham, 57, from Lancashire and solicitor David Boyce, from Lanarkshire.

They are not accused of the robbery.

The trial continues.

No comments: