Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Stolen Art Watch, Leonardo Da Vinci Madonna, Donald Findlay QC, Try For Scotland !!!

Da Vinci solicitors plot 'bizarre'

Three lawyers and two private detectives are accused of holding a work of art ransom.

Da Vinci painting: Solicitors accused of ransom plot

A claim that experienced solicitors plotted to hold a stolen work of art to ransom was dismissed as "bizarre" in court.

They would have known the risks, but made no attempt to hide, said defence QC Donald Findlay.

He asked a jury at the High Court in Edinburgh to throw out a charge of conspiring to extort more than £4million, claiming that if true it was the best documented crime in legal history.

Five men - three lawyers and two Merseyside private detectives - are accused of demanding the money for the return of a Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece "Madonna of the Yarnwinder" snatched during an armed raid on the Duke of Buccleuch's stately home at Drumlanrig Castle, Dumfriesshire in August 2003.

But in his closing speech on Wednesday, Mr Findlay - counsel for Lancashire-based solicitor Marshall Ronald - said: "There is something fundamentally bizarre in the notion that three lawyers sat down to conspire to extort money from the Duke of Buccleuch."

Mr Findlay was referring to a meeting in Glasgow in July 2007 which, it alleged, triggered the ransom plot.

He asked: "Is it inherently likely that three lawyers, knowing what they must know about the law and, more importantly, about the way the law works, would actually sit down and conspire - that is agree to defraud a Scottish nobleman or a major insurance company, knowing all the attendant risks, then do so by leaving a paper trail a mile wide?"

Two Scottish solicitors, Calum Jones, 45, and David Boyce, 63, are accused of helping in the ransom plot after private investigators Robert Graham, 57, and John Doyle, 61, approached Ronald to say they could get their hands on the valuable painting.

Mr Findlay pointed out that their firm had just been taken over by "a blue chip, top notch, toffs only, prestige law firm"
He said: "They had made it. Why would they want to blow that to hell and back."

Mr Findlay told the nine woman and six men on the jury that they had seen letters, e-mails and records of meetings documenting the whole process of returning the painting - beginning with a letter from Ronald to a loss adjuster.

"It could not be more open and above board," said Mr Findlay. "This is the best documented crime in the history that I can ever recall."

He denied there had ever been any threats, pressure or intimidation involved.

Sting operation

Earlier the trial heard advocate-depute Simom Di Rollo QC, prosecuting, praise the police sting operation which led to the arrests.

Mr Findlay said on Wednesday that an undercover officer, posing as the Duke of Buccleuch's representative and using the alias "John Craig", had been the one who made all the running in negotiations.

"The person who was governing this from first to last was John Craig and at no time did Marshall Ronald ever say anything that amounted to a threat, real or implied. Marshall Ronald was being strung along."

Mr Craig, he added, "played Mardhall Ronald as Eric Clapton played a guitar, with consumate talent."

Mr Findlay agreed that Ronald had been obsessed by the return of the Leonardo da Vinci painting and it had become a compulsion - possibly because of the payment he hoped for.

But the lawyer said: "He is not on trial for being greedy."

And Mr Findlay pointed out Ronald should be thanked for his efforts: "The person principally responsible for the return of the painting is Marshall Ronald.

On trial are solicitor Marshall Ronald, 53, of 15A Highmeadow, Ravenscroft, Upholland, Skelmersdale; private investigator Robert Graham, 57, of 150 Gawhill Lane, Aughton, Ormskirk, Lancashire, his private eye partner John Doyle, 61, of 36 Summerwood Lane, Halsall, Ormskirk, Lancashire; solicitor Calum Jones, 45, of Kepstorn, Knockbuckle Road, Kilmacolm, Renfrewshire, and solicitor David Boyce, 63, of 103 Clark Street, Airdrie, Lanarkshire.

They deny conspiring to extort £4.25million between July and October 2007. An alternative charge of attempting to extort the money has been dropped.

Art Hostage Comments:

Defence Council Keenan next, then Smythe, then Davidson, then Burns, the Four Men of the Apocalypse will strike down the Crown's case with the clenched fist of God's own thunder.

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