Monday, May 10, 2010
Stolen Art Watch, Leonardo Da Vinci Madonna, Pen Mightier Than Sword, Well, To Start With !!!
Drugs baron beats rap over stolen Da Vinci painting
May 9 2010 Exclusive by Russell Findlay, Sunday Mail
A COCAINE trafficker once accused of a smuggling scheme with Frank McAvennie was suspected of masterminding the Leonardo Da Vinci extortion plot.
George Allan Short is one of three men whose charges of conspiring to extort £5million for the return of stolen Da Vinci painting The Madonna of the Yarnwinder have been sensationally dropped.
Five other men walked free on not proven verdicts last month.
Short is a former business partner of ex-Celtic star McAvennie, 50.
A judge in Dover seized £200,000 of the pair's cash in 1995 after ruling that it had been destined to fund a drug deal. McAvennie, who said the money was for a sunken treasure hunt, lost a bid to get his half of it back.
Short, of Dullatur, Lanarkshire, was later given a two-year jail term in his absence in Belgium for cocaine smuggling in a separate case. And last year, he was cleared by a London jury of being part of a £2.5million fake money gang.
A source said Short would be "delighted" at the shock collapse of the Da Vinci case, but added: "Has justice been done, given that all eight accused are free men?"
The £20million Madonna of the Yarnwinder was stolen from the Duke of Buccleuch's Drumlanrig Castle near Dumfries seven years ago. The thieves have never been caught.
The painting was on the FBI's most wanted list of art treasures when it was recovered three years ago in a police raid on a Glasgow law firm.
Short, an associate of the Daniel crime clan, had been due in court tomorrow, along with private detective Michael Brown, 48, of Glasgow and James Boyle, 67, of Paisley.
They were accused of conspiring between May 2004 and May 2007 to extort £5million from the Duke, his son and insurers for the painting's return, and of threatening to damage or destroy it if a ransom was not paid.
But the Crown Office revealed on Friday that all charges against the trio would be dropped.
A spokesman said: "Having considered the evidence in light of the jury's decision in the previous related case, Crown counsel have decided it is no longer in the public interest to continue proceedings."
Three lawyers and two private detectives were accused of trying to extort £4.25million for the painting's return, but the charges were found not proven at the High Court.