Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Stolen Art Watch, Fakes, Fraud & False Rewards !!


Mystery mastermind of Hatton Garden heist 'is an ex-cop'
















The mystery mastermind of the Hatton Garden heist is an ex-policeman, one of the ringleaders has claimed.
Danny Jones made the claim in a letter to Sky News from Belmarsh Prison where he is awaiting sentence for the theft.
Police have previously issued a £20,000 reward for the identification of the jewellery raid mastermind, nick-named Basil, who may have escaped with two-thirds of the £14 million loot.
Mr Jones said: "I can say that someone told me he was an ex-policeman who got into security by the guy who introduced him to me.
"He said Basil heard about me from a close friend on the police force, as I was arrested for a similar raid in Bond Street in 2010.
"Basil was the brains, as I was recruited by him. He let me in on the night of the burglary, he hid keys and codes throughout the building."
Mr Jones, 60, who was described in court as an eccentric who slept in his mother’s dressing gown and a fez hat, has already admitted his role in the raid.
He said: "I saw Basil about four times throughout, he came and went. I don't know nothing about him, where he lives. I wasn't interested.
"I wouldn't give him up as I would grass a grass. It's not a done thing where I come from as (I) fear for family members."


The hit that got Hatton Garden masterminds off the hook: How 'Goldfinger' gangster was gunned down to stop him exposing the Adams crime family - and revealing identity of on-the-run robber 'Basil the Ghost' 
  • Notorious Adams crime family thought to be behind Hatton Garden heist 
  • John 'Goldfinger' Palmer allegedly on verge of exposing the masterminds
  • He was gunned down at his home in remote Essex before the revelation 
By Wensley Clarkson
At first it was claimed that his death was the result of nothing more sinister than a recent bout of gall bladder surgery.
Only after a full post-mortem did the authorities conclude that gangster John ‘Goldfinger’ Palmer had died in circumstances as brutal as they were unexplained – gunned down at his remote Essex cottage with bullets said to have been infused with wires to inflict maximum damage on his internal organs.
That it was the work of a professional assassin would soon become clear, yet the rest remained a mystery with no possible solution – until now. 
And the clue is in the timing, less than two months after the £14 million Hatton Garden raid.
For today The Mail on Sunday can reveal that Palmer, a major underworld figure, may well have been shot dead by a hitman working for one of London’s most feared crime families as, it is suggested, they attempted to prevent him revealing the identity of a leading figure in the audacious safety deposit box burglary – the mysterious figure known as Basil, the only member of the gang still on the run. 
‘The guys were terrified when Palmer copped it,’ explained one gangland figure who was involved in the early stages of the planning of the Hatton Garden job.
 ‘Palmer’s murder was a message to the other gang members not to say a word to the police about “Basil”.’
Last week, the final three members of the gang were found guilty of boring their way into the strong room of Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Ltd and ransacking 56 deposit boxes. 
Four men, including the ringleader, had already pleaded guilty.
Such was the profile of the raid – described as ‘the largest burglary in English legal history’ – that David Cameron took a personal interest in the investigation and, thanks in part to political pressure, the police resorted to state-of-the-art surveillance equipment normally preserved for terrorist investigations.


The Hatton Garden mob have been presented as a bunch of amiable, bumbling old lags who attempted to pull off one last ‘Big Job’ before finally retiring to the Costa del Crime. 
But in researching a new book on the raid, the evidence I have uncovered suggests the real story is rather more chilling. 
My sources tell me the raid went ahead because the Adams family, the most feared criminal gang in North London who once operated from a headquarters just yards away from the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit building, wanted to get their hands on a box locked inside the vault.
They are the most evil b******s you will ever meet, and made it clear that if anything happened to Basil, they’d be dealt with
That box, containing crucial evidence that could have implicated them in a murder of a gangland figure, belonged to John Palmer, who used it as ‘insurance’, threatening to hand the keys to police if he was harmed.
Palmer and the family had been engaged in a 30-year feud, dating back to the Brink’s-Mat bullion robbery.
Indeed, the Adams family have long been linked to the Brink’s-Mat robbery through the team brought in to melt down and sell the gold – including John ‘Goldfinger’ Palmer (this is how he got the nickname); the notorious police killer Kenneth Noye; and Brian Reader, the career criminal who organised the Hatton Garden raid and was once Noye’s chief lieutenant.
Reader, 76, and co-conspirator Terry Perkins, 67, approached the Adams family about their plans for the Hatton Garden raid because they knew of the sensitivity of Palmer’s safety deposit box.
The Adams gang, said to have been involved in up to 25 murders, saw an opportunity. 
They said the raid should go ahead, but insisted they had their own ‘representative’ present. 
Their ‘inside man’ was Basil, who escaped with £20 million and is the only member of the gang still at liberty.
The source told me: ‘Reader and Perkins went to see the family to tell them they were planning to knock off the Hatton Garden vault and that they would be careful not to interfere with any boxes that everyone knew belonged to the family.
‘The family told Reader and Perkins that he had a man who actually had access to the keys to the building and that all they wanted was for their man to grab a specific box that contained something they wanted to get their hands on.’
He continued: ‘Reader and Perkins gave it the nod, but to be honest they didn’t have a choice in the matter.’
One former robber – who knows two of the gang members – told me: ‘You just don’t argue with that crime family. 
'They were told Basil is your lock man and that’s that. If they hadn’t let Basil join them, then the job would never have happened.
‘Basil works for the Adams family. And because of that he is virtually untouchable – he’s protected. He got access to the main building through the family’s contacts.

 ‘And it was agreed that only he and Danny Jones [a 60-year-old career criminal also convicted as part of the Hatton Garden gang] were slender enough to wriggle though the tiny opening in the hole they drilled in the vault’s concrete wall.
‘It was Basil’s job to grab one specific safety deposit box. That metal box contained evidence which would have led to murder charges against the crime family bosses.’
But it can now be revealed for the first time that Basil not only took that all-important box, but two days after the raid he was given the most valuable gems stolen from the vault. 
My source explained: ‘The family told them that Basil should handle the big stuff. No one had the bottle to argue.
 Palmer knew Brian Reader very well and he knew all about Reader being involved in the Hatton Garden job. But Palmer made a huge mistake because of the involvement of the crime family.
‘They were stitched up. They thought they were running the show, but Basil and his boss took it over. 
'The others couldn’t do anything except swallow it. That’s why the police can’t find the most expensive gems. No wonder the police couldn’t get them to help identify who Basil was.’
Another career criminal explained: ‘They all knew that if Basil got arrested then they’d be killed. 
'They are the most evil b******s you will ever meet, and made it clear that if anything happened to Basil, they’d be dealt with.’
In the weeks following the raid, the gang voiced their fears to the crime family who’d installed Basil in their gang that Palmer might tell police about them. 
It was feared he was a police supergrass, co-operating with detectives in an attempt to avoid extradition to Spain where he was wanted for money laundering and fraud in connection with his timeshare holiday business.
A post-mortem examination following the attack on June 24 found Palmer had been shot repeatedly and had wounds to his back, chest and arms – despite a strange initial diagnosis from the emergency services, who concluded he had died from complications following surgery.
My source believes that part of the reason why Hatton Garden gang members broke cover and began openly meeting each other in the aftermath of the raid was because of fears that Palmer was about to inform the police about their identities. 
He said: ‘Palmer knew Brian Reader very well and he knew all about Reader being involved in the Hatton Garden job. 
'But Palmer made a huge mistake because of the involvement of the crime family.
‘He already had them in a corner because of the material he had in that box, so when Palmer was killed it was good news all round.’
They were stitched up. They thought they were running the show, but Basil and his boss took it over.
Ironically, the so-called mastermind Brian Reader came up with the idea for the raid because he lost a fortune trying to emulate his friend Palmer by building a timeshare resort. 
Palmer had been the envy of the London underworld in the late 1980s because he used his Brink’s-Mat money to set up a massive and highly controversial timeshare development in Tenerife which netted him a further £300 million.
When I tried to interview Reader at his timeshare building site in 1997, I was threatened with a beating and told never to return.
For years before Palmer’s death, rumour had circulated that he was being protected by corrupt police officers. 
It later emerged that his house had been bugged by police. 
Many in the London underworld suspect he was a police informant and had negotiated immunity from extradition from Spain in return for help in nailing the Adams gang.
Things gone wrong: Hatton Garden gang members were believed to have broke cover and began openly meeting each other in the aftermath of the raid was because of fears that Palmer was about to inform the police about their identities
My source told me: ‘Palmer was playing everyone off against each other, but in the end the Hatton Garden job played a part in his murder.’
I have also learned that Scotland Yard’s famous Flying Squad – which has been lauded for its investigatory skills in catching the gang – had been tipped off within days that Reader and Perkins were in the Hatton Garden gang.
Scotland Yard’s initial embarrassment, when it was revealed hours after the raid that they had ignored an alarm call from the premises when the gang were in the middle of their raid, sparked a media storm.
I understand Prime Minister David Cameron made a phone call to the head of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe.
Flying Squad sources say that on Sunday, April 12 – a week after the Hatton Garden job – Cameron spoke to the nation’s top policeman from his country residence at Chequers.
The two men had enjoyed a reasonable relationship, despite hefty spending cuts being enforced on the police by the austerity-obsessed Tories and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne.
Alterior motive: According to sources, the raid went ahead because the Adams family, the most feared criminal gang in North London who once operated from a headquarters just yards away from the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit building, wanted to get their hands on a box locked inside the vault
‘Cameron told the commissioner that the world was watching and waiting for arrests on the Hatton Garden case.’
Hogan-Howe is said to have come away from his phone conversation with Cameron ‘very rattled’.
He had never known this level of interference in a case that was unrelated to terrorism, which was top priority for the police at this time.
All but essential leave for senior Scotland Yard officers was immediately cancelled and Hogan-Howe made it clear that heads would roll if arrests were not made quickly.
But he also assured the Flying Squad that all the Yard’s resources would be made available in the hunt for the raiders.
That would include state-of-the-art surveillance equipment usually only used on terrorism enquiries.
It was a risky strategy because suspects might later make entrapment claims, but Hogan-Howe recognised that if the Yard failed to find the raiders then a lot of heads would roll, including even his own.

Picasso Painting Recovered in Istanbul May Be Fake

Turkish police from the Istanbul Police Department Anti-Smuggling and Organized Crime Unit, hold-up an original painting by Pablo Picasso. Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images
The painting recovered in a bust by Turkish undercover police in Istanbul is said to be a fake.
Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images
Doubts have been raised over the authenticity of a Pablo Picasso painting recovered by Turkish undercover police in an elaborate sting operation in Turkey, and presented to the press in Istanbul on Saturday.
At the press conference, Turkish authorities triumphantly unveiled a canvas purported to be Woman Dressing Her Hair (1940) by the legendary Spanish artist.
According to Turkish media, the artwork was stolen from an unnamed New York collector's home. On Friday two men were arrested at a café where the transaction was due to be finalized after officers negotiated a price of $7 million for the disputed artwork.
The painting before the theft. The canvas has suffered significant degradation. Photo: MoMA, New York
According to MoMA the original painting is in New York.
Photo: MoMA, New York
However, by Monday morning various sources including the Art Crime blog expressed doubts over the artwork's authenticity after it was pointed out that the Museum of Modern Art, New York listed the artwork as part of its collection on its website.
In an email to artnet News on Monday afternoon, MoMA director of communications Margaret Doyle clarified “the painting by Picasso in MoMA's collection, Woman Dressing Her Hair, is in New York, and is not the canvas recovered by the Turkish police over the weekend," confirming suspicions over the Turkish canvas' authenticity.
Indeed, the account offered by Turkish media is contrary to the painting's provenance listed on MoMA's online holdings archive. The artwork was bequeathed to the institution by the prominent collector of modern art Louise Reinhardt Smith shortly after her death in 1995.
The incident illustrates the art market's problems with authentication.Photo: via Meltystyle.fr.
The incident illustrates the art market's problems with authentication.
Photo: via Meltystyle.fr.
Since then it was included in various museum shows including "Picasso & Modern British Art" which traveled to TATE Britain and the National Galleries of Scotland in 2012. It hasn't been in private ownership since it was gifted to the MoMA 21 years ago.
The statement was echoed by the Picasso Administration, who are responsible for managing the artist's estate. AFP reported that the organization said on Monday that the painting seized by Turkish police in Istanbul was “a copy."
The canvas recovered in Turkey has already been sent to the Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University in Istanbul for closer examination and authentication. The findings of the art experts in Istanbul must still be awaited before it can be confirmed that the recovered artwork is in fact a fake.

Jewellery and antiques worth £120k stolen in raid

Jewellery and antiques worth £120,000 were stolen during a burglary.
Two men smashed their way into a house on Dean Road in Handforth and used an axel grinder to open a safe.
Inside they stole around 80 items including many irreplaceable family heirlooms from Iraq such as a Delano wrist watch encrusted with fine pearls 18ct gold and diamonds and signed by Kitchener Ski
worth £40,000.
A 24ct gold Arabic coin embossed with Arabic writing believed to be more than 1,000 years old was also taken.
The pair, who wore hooded tops, then fled in a car driven by an accomplice.
The burglary took place on November 21 between 5.30pm and 8.30pm.
If anyone has any information contact 101, quoting crime reference number CC15348974. Alternatively information can be given anonymously by contacting Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Andrew Shannon, aged 51, was accused of illegally handling the books, which originated in the library of Carton House in Kildare, the historical family seat of the FitzGerald family.
The books, including a 1660 edition of the King James Bible, of which only six exist, went missing after they were put in storage during the restoration of the country house. Gardaí say they were later found in the house of Shannon during a search. Shannon told investigators that he bought the books at a fair or feté for about IR£300 and was using them to decorate his house.
Shannon, of Willans Way, Ongar, Dublin, pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of the books at his home while knowing or being reckless as to whether they were stolen on March 3, 2007.
After a five-day trial, the jury returned a unanimous verdict of guilty.
Shannon is on bail on this matter and was remanded on the same conditions. He is in custody in Shelton Abbey prison, where he is serving a prison term after being convicted in December 2014 of criminal damage to a €10m Monet painting in June 2012.

Remarks by Ronald S. Lauder in Zurich: ‘A crime committed 80 years ago continues to stain the world of art today’

Ronald S. Lauder:
Thank you Herbert for your kind words, and your very accurate assessment.
Honored guests, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining me tonight at a location that is so closely related to art, but on a topic that is not easy to discuss.
It is not easy to discuss because of where we are, not easy because it involves Switzerland itself, along with the rest of Europe, which has based its postwar success on upholding the law, following the rules, and moving on from the horrors of World War II.
And it is certainly not easy because a crime committed 80 years ago continues to stain the world of art today. I must confess this talk is unusual for me.
Although I’ve been working on the problem of art restitution for more than a quarter of a-century, since 1990, I’ve only spoken about this topic in public once before.
That’s because I always felt that art restitution should be done quietly.
Tonight is different for two reasons. First, because of the Gurlitt collection, and second, because that collection is coming to Switzerland.
Everyone in the art world and probably everyone in this room was surprised by the discovery of the Gurlitt collection in Munich two years ago.
We all suspected that much of this art was probably stolen from Jews because Cornelius Gurlitt was the son of Hildebrand Gurlitt, one of Hitler’s personally appointed art dealers.
Over a thousand works of art don’t just “show up” in someone’s home, especially someone who never seemed to work a day in his life.
But my surprise turned to shock when I learned that the collection would go to one of the world’s great museums, the fine arts museum in Bern.
This made absolutely no sense to me. Why in the world would the Bern museum want to get anywhere near a collection that was probably stolen from Jewish homes by the Nazis?
You already heard Mr. Winter explain his disappointment that after two years of investigation, a German government task force determined that only five pieces were wrongfully taken from Jewish owners.
The reason for this, I believe, is very simple.
The art in the Gurlitt collection were mainly drawings and prints. There were very few paintings.
The Nazis kept excellent records of the art they stole. The paintings and sculptures were well documented.
But all the rest were usually categorized simply as “10 drawings”, or “5 prints”, nothing specific, making these works hard to trace.
So why, I wondered, would a museum want these works that may very well have been stolen from Jewish homes?
Would people even want to go and see these pieces?
If it had been called the Heinrich Himmler Collection instead of the Hildebrand Gurlitt collection would any museum ever want these works of art?
That may sound harsh but in terms of stolen art there really isn’t much difference between Gurlitt and Himmler.
Hildebrand Gurlitt, along with Alfred Rosenbert, Kajetan Muhlmann and Karl Haberstock, were all indirectly part of the Nazi machine. All four of these men were chosen by Adolf Hitler to steal Europe’s art.
They told the Nazis which homes to go to for the best works of art.
And once taken, they all knew where this art – the ones not taken by Nazi officials – could be resold. These four men – Gurlitt, Rosenberg, Muhlmann and Haberstock - along with a few others, were given a license to steal and then sell works of art owned by Jews.
And although some of this art was labeled “degenerate” by the Nazis and taken from museums, much of it was simply taken from private homes.
Hitler’s art dealers are at the very center of the greatest theft in history.
And they all personally benefitted from the suffering of others.
That is why I make the comparison between Hildebrand Gurlitt and Heinrich Himmler.
Because of the Bern museum’s decision to take Gurlitt’s collection, I started to look at Switzerland’s role in what many people now called “lost art.”
Can we please – once and for all – stop using the term “lost” art? None of this art was “lost.”
It was not lost the way you might lose your wallet, unless your wallet was taken at gunpoint by a robber.
These works were taken from the walls of people’s homes, they were robbed the way robbers take whatever they want.
“Lost art” sanitizes the crime. From now on let’s refer to this as stolen art… not lost art.
These works were stolen by Nazis. But they were also stolen by governments that looked the other way.
There were museums that were all too willing to put these stolen paintings on their walls, and these museums should have known better!
Let me point out the hard truths that no one likes to talk about here.
Shortly after the Nazis took power, they introduced the Nuremburg laws in 1935.
These new laws placed severe racial restrictions on Jews.
Jews were no longer allowed to be citizens of the Reich, and they were denied basic political rights.
30,000 German Jews immediately lost their jobs in government, in universities, in corporations.
Jewish doctors could not treat Aryan patients, Jews who owned newspapers, publishing houses and department stores, lost everything.
That means they had to sell their possessions in order to survive. Everyone knew that the Nuremburg laws forced Jews to sell their furniture, their rugs, and their paintings. Everything for 5 percent of what it was worth.
That is why today Raubkunst and Fluchtgut must be treated the same way.
The literal English translation for Raubkunst is "Nazi plunder" or "Nazi looted art", whereas Fluchtgut deals with art and other items that Jews were forced to sell at low prices in order to survive.
But could it possibly make any difference if a painting was taken off the wall by a Nazi – or if its Jewish owner was forced to sell that same painting to one of Hitler’s art dealers for almost nothing?
Is there any difference in the outcome for the victim’s families?
The director of the federal office of culture, Isabelle Chassot, stated in an interview last fall: “only Switzerland makes the distinction between Raubkunst and Fluchtgut.
The term “art losses that were caused by Nazi-persecution” would be much more precise.”
I fully agree with her. Raubkunst and Fluchtgut are, indeed, the same! But why isn’t this the official policy?
After the Nuremburg laws forced these sales, many countries took advantage, and, yes, that included Americans as well.
But at the very center of it all, Switzerland quickly became a major center for Nazi stolen art.
In 1937 Joseph Goebbels presented the famous Entartete Kunst show. The Nazis pulled the paintings off museum walls by Jewish and modern artists that did not fit their tastes. At the top of their list were the expressionists, the cubists, and Jewish artists like Marc Chagall.
But German officials quickly realized these pieces could be sold for badly needed foreign currency, money that could be used to finance their war effort.
Since many foreigners did not want to buy from them directly because it didn’t look right.
The Nazis just needed a middle-man.
They found the perfect middlemen in people like Theodor Fischer, one of Switzerland’s foremost art auctioneers.
In 1939, Fischer set up the grand hotel auction where he lived in Lucerne, attracting some of the world’s top art dealers, collectors and museum directors.
The 126 paintings on the block included:
Franz Marc’s “Three red horses”, Gauguin’s “Landscape of Tahiti with three female tigers”, Picasso’s “The harlequins”, and works by Beckmann, Heckel, and Kirchner.
Everyone in the art world knew what these paintings were. Everyone knew where the paintings came from and how they got there.
End everyone knew why they were so cheap.
In some cases, this entire pretense of this auction was so transparent, it was downright embarrassing. For his part, Theodor Fischer backed up the Nazi distaste for these artists with his own negative commentaries.
One major collector – Marianne Feilchenfeldt – saw her painting – Cathedral of Bordeaux by Kokoschka – the same painting she had donated to the Nationalgalerie in Berlin, on the auction block.
A large percentage of the works were purchased by Swiss collectors and museums.
The Nazis set up some rather complicated schemes to bypass the laws of propriety, with Switzerland at the center of it.
Many of the great auction houses in Europe had closed during World War II, leaving neutral Switzerland to pick up everything else as Europe’s main auction center.
It was, in fact, not just convenient to be neutral in World War II.
It was very lucrative as well. Make no mistake, Theodor Fischer and Switzerland were not alone.
Much of Europe became a thriving market for stolen art.
But as bad as all of this was, the story gets even worse.
After the war and the unconditional defeat of the Nazis, Swiss banks, museums and private collectors
Conveniently challenged the validity of anyone who tried to retrieve Jewish property. Between 1933 and 1947, Theodor Fischer held 47 auctions, so you see it is quite clear that auctions of this art continued well after the war ended.
However, it seems that Fischer had the Swiss court on his side. In a very strange decision in 1948, the Swiss federal court held that both Fischer and arms merchant and art collector, Emil Buhrle, had acted in good faith in their purchases, but they were still told to return some of their art acquired during the war.
Then the Swiss federation actually reimbursed Fischer for the stolen art he was forced to return.
It has been said that according to the Swiss, “good faith” is when
One closes his eyes and disregards any information that could be troublesome.
In 1997, I was asked to join the Volcker Commission that audited Swiss banks. The commission learned how banks that are the foundation of this country abused every possible tactic to keep the deposits made by desperate Jews before and during the war.
After 1945, if an heir tried to retrieve funds deposited by a dead relative, the banks demanded proof like official death certificates.
How unfortunate that Auschwitz and Treblinka and Theresienstadt did not issue death certificates.
We also know that bank vaults where Jews placed art and jewelry were opened and looted because murdered Jews failed to pay their fees.
Unfortunately, an inventory of the contents of these boxes was difficult to obtain.
We will never know what was in them and what was stolen.
Mahatma Gandhi once said: “There is a higher court than the courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. Conscience supersedes all other courts.”
Keep this quote in mind tonight as I talk about the art that was stolen from Jews by Nazis and remains stolen more than eight decades later.
Yes, humanity seeks justice. But not just the justice the lawyers may give us.
I’m talking about the justice of humanity and fairness.
Here is something I believe strongly: in the back of all of your minds you know that what I am saying is true and you know these paintings should be given back to their rightful owners!!
You know this because if you put yourself in their place.
If something that you cared deeply about was taken from you, you would want it back.
Nazi crimes have always been quite clear.
But for many people and even major museums, when it comes to the question of the art, stolen art, something strange happens. People seem to look the other way.
We are told that, somehow, stolen art is more complicated. Somehow, its victims are not really victims, somehow, it’s ok when world famous museums have Nazi looted art on their walls. Somehow, if it’s in a public museum, the crime is cleansed. Some others say “let’s leave stolen art to the courts and the courts will provide justice based on law.”
Here’s the problem with that: the laws were not drafted with a crime like the Holocaust in mind.
Before 1945, no one could have imagined such a crime. Remember that concept that Gandhi called conscience.
Keep listening to your conscience as I explain why this problem should have been solved decades ago and why individuals and museums and whole countries
Dragged their feet so there would be no resolution. Some museums say they acquired these pictures legally, or they didn’t know.
There are far too many examples of this, but two stand out for me. The Jaffe family owned a large art collection in Nice, France.
In 1943, the Vichy government held what was called a “Jew auction”, which meant that all their paintings were sold for almost nothing.
They were then resold at market value and the officials of the Vichy government put the money directly into their pockets.
The collection eventually spread around the world, and one painting - “Dedham from Langham” by John Constable - was purchased by an art dealer in Switzerland in 1946.
The painting was finally located in 2006 at the fine art museum in La Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland, near the French border in Jura.
The Jaffe family retrieved several of their other paintings from various countries, because the ownership was quite clear. All institutions in various countries cooperated except one: the Chaux-de-Fonds Museum.
Here, the museum suggested that since the claims were against the Vichy government, the family should go to France for their money.
This decision, I believe, shows a troubling lack of shame. As of today, “Dedham from Langham” still hangs in the fine arts museum in La Chaux-de-Fonds.
Remember the question of conscience? Do you think this is right?
In another case, the Meyer family of France lost its art collection in 1941 in a similar theft.
In 1952, their painting “shepherdess bringing in sheep” by Camille Pissarro, was found in the possession of a prominent Basel art dealer, Christoph Bernoulli. When the Meyer family attempted to negotiate its restitution, Mr. Bernoulli, offered to sell it back to them, but at full market price.
Does that sound right to you?
When the Meyer family brought legal action against the dealer, the Basel court held that the Meyer family could not get it back.
Why?
The court said the Meyers could not prove Mr. Bernoulli purchased the painting in bad faith. Case closed.
The painting resurfaced again 60 years later, in 2012, in, of all places, the Fred Jones Museum at the University of Oklahoma, where it was donated as a gift.
The family continues to fight for this stolen painting, a painting that was really stolen twice.
Herbert Winter mentioned the Washington Principles. Let me explain exactly how they came about.
Sixteen years ago, in 1998, Stuart Eizenstat and I knew that one international standard was needed to govern all stolen art: we developed that standard and it’s called the Washington Principles.
Switzerland has endorsed the Washington Principles. The major Swiss museums have endorsed the Washington Principles.
The Washington Principles provide the standard when it comes to stolen art.
Everybody who endorses the Washington Principles commits to find fair and equitable solutions in cases of stolen art.
I strongly believe that because Switzerland signed the Washington Principles, we can all work together and find a fair and equitable way to move forward.
How does a country find fair and equitable solutions?
I believe there are six essential requirements:
First:  stolen art must include all art losses caused by Nazi-persecution. That’s the Raubkunst and Fluchtgut that I spoke about earlier.
All of these losses were caused by the Nazis and they were aided by local governments throughout Europe.
Second: provenance research must be conducted pro-actively. It’s not right that the victims have to prove that they own their paintings…
The museums must be obligated to research their paintings.
Third: sufficient funds must be provided for provenance research.
Every country that endorsed the Washington principles automatically makes the commitment to provide sufficient funding for this research.
The director of the Federal Office of Culture recently announced that an amount of 500,000 Swiss francs will be available for provenance research this year. This is an important step.
It shows that the federal office of culture is committed to this task.
The political decision to support public and private museums with sufficient funding for provenance research must be taken and implemented now.
Fourth: there must be complete transparency on all aspects of provenance research: by means of one centralized internet database. A centralized database should be open for all museums, collectors, art dealers and historians, to publish the results of their provenance research.
This will facilitate the search for stolen art. It will facilitate the exchange of information on stolen art. And it will help victim’s families find the relevant information on stolen art.
Fifth: One independent commission must be established. This commission will provide proposals for fair and equitable solutions in cases of lost art to museums and victim families.
Museums may have conflicts of interests when it comes to decisions on stolen art.
This should be taken to an independent commission and I urge the Swiss museums to create one now.
And finally, the sixth point that cannot be overlooked: too often, auction houses receive pieces they know are stolen art, but they ignore it.
A buyer comes along and spends a great deal of money in good faith that the auction house did its due diligence.
Many citizens of Switzerland purchased art in auction houses not knowing the background and have Jewish art stolen by Nazis on their walls today.
We are now retrieving records from auction houses over the past 20 years, so buyers will be able to check a data base for the history of anything they purchase.
But, honestly, I don’t have an answer for someone who bought a painting in good faith 30 years ago and now finds that it is a stolen piece of art. I do know that in the case of the Bern museum of fine arts they are wrong.
And the actions of many auction houses over the years are wrong as well.
What we need to do now is stop this from happening in the future.
Why is this urgent in 2016?
Remember, for practically every piece of stolen art a murder was committed.
More than 70 years after the end of World War II and the holocaust, an end to this problem is long overdue.
I have laid out six essential requirements that would begin the process of putting these ghosts to rest, once and for all.
People have been told that determining the provenance, checking on the history and ownership of a painting, is a complicated process. That’s not true.
If people are honest, if they really want to solve this issue, if they have a conscience, then they should stop hiding behind excuses.
I know everybody here wants to solve this problem.
I believe all of Switzerland wants to close this chapter.
Switzerland endorsed the Washington Principles.
The Swiss museums endorsed the Washington Principles.
That is a strong statement in favor of the victims of Nazi persecution.
Switzerland has taken an important first step by providing money for research.
This country, among all countries, should make sure this happens.
Switzerland can now set the gold standard for finding fair and equitable solutions for stolen art.
It is time.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We cannot go back and change what has happened. All we can do is stop the continuation of this crime.
No one is telling an individual to give back anything they purchased in good faith.
But they should at least know the history of ownership of anything they have in their homes.
And museums and auction houses must, finally and completely, have the responsibility to do the provenance research on all of their work!!
Art historian holger Klein has said: “The ghosts have come back to haunt us, and they will continue to haunt us until there is restitution.”
After more than 70 years don’t you think it’s time to put these ghosts to rest? I believe it is time.
Ladies and gentlemen: it is, in fact, long past time.
Art World

Trove of Looted Antiquities Belonging to Disgraced Dealer Robin Symes Found in Geneva Freeport


One of the priceless Etruscan sarcophagus found the cache at the Geneva port.<br>Photo: © Ministère Public Genevois.
One of the priceless Etruscan sarcophagus found in the cache at the Geneva Freeport.
Photo: © Ministère Public Genevois.
Forty-five crates containing a trove of Roman and Etruscan antiquities belonging to Robin Symes, a disgraced British art dealer who was sent to prison in 2005, have been found in the Geneva Freeport.
The operation was carried out by the art crime department of Italy's Carabinieri police in collaboration with the Swiss authorities. The antiquities were returned to Rome early last month, according to Le Temps, and are expected to be unveiled at a press conference later this week.
According to the Telegraph, the trove of antiquities had been languishing in the Geneva vault for over 15 years, kept in boxes labeled with the details of an off-shore company, but belonging in fact to Symes, as police confirmed.
The cache includes two life-size Etruscan sarcophaguses, one depicting an elderly man and the second, a young woman. These are extremely rare and priceless items dating from the second century BC, the Telegraph reports.
The second Etruscan sarcophagus found in the cache at the Geneva Freeport.Photo: © Ministère Public Genevois.
The second Etruscan sarcophagus found in the cache at the Geneva Freeport.
Photo: © Ministère Public Genevois.
A priceless assortment of terracotta pots, decorated vases, busts, bas-reliefs, and fragments of frescoes from Pompeii were also found in the trove, thought to include a variety of artifacts looted from the ancient Etruscan city of Tarquinia and other archaeological sites in the Italian areas now known as Umbria and Lazio.
The investigation first began in March 2014, when Italian police suspected the looted antiquities might have been stored in the Swiss vault. The public prosecutor's office of Geneva joined the investigation and located the trove, then linked it to Symes.
Symes, once a successful and reputable antiquities dealer in London, fell from grace when he was accused of belonging to an international network of antiquities looters and traffickers. Symes was convicted for two counts of contempt of court for disregarding orders in relation to the sale of a £3 million Egyptian statue and, in January 2005, was sent to prison for two years. He served only seven months.
To complicate things further, according to the Daily Mail, photographs of the items contained in the Symes cache were located in the possession of an Italian policeman found dead in strange circumstances while under investigation for art trafficking in 1995.
One of the numerous antique terracotta pots found in the cache at the Geneva Freeport.Photo: © Ministère Public Genevois.
One of the numerous antique terracotta pots found in the cache at the Geneva Freeport.
Photo: © Ministère Public Genevois.
Last Friday, The Local reported that the J. Paul Getty Museum had finally returned to Italy a rare terracotta head representing the Greek god of Hades, which was found to have been smuggled from Italy over three decades ago. The museum had initiated the return in 2013.
The precious head had been on display at the LA museum since 1985, when it was purchased for $500,000 from Maurice Tempelsman, the Belgian businessman and long-time companion of former US First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, via Symes.

Police uncovers Paphos burglary ring

Paphos police arrested two men suspected of committing a number of burglaries in the district, after authorities tracked down one of them driving a stolen car with fake license plates.
The two men, one from Paphos aged 35 and another from Bulgaria age 32, are both residents of the town and were remanded for eight days by the Paphos District Court on Sunday.
The 35-year-old had two stolen cars in his possession, one reported stolen in Tala and the other in Paphos, various art paintings, and other items believed by police to be stolen goods from other burglaries that have been reported.
Police then arrested a 32-year-old man, who is connected to the other suspect, and found a laptop computer in his possession which is believed to be stolen.
Police found the other stolen car parked at a property belonging to the 35-year-old, including an aluminium suitcase with a telescope inside, a number of collector’s plates, two walkie-talkie radios, and other items believed to be part of the loot.
Authorities also found 0.5 gram of cannabis inside an apartment at the same property, where the 35-year-old resides. More small traces of cannabis were also found in the residence of the 32-year-old, as well as various electronic devices believed to be stolen.
Police set up the operation late Saturday and believe they have uncovered a burglary ring responsible for a number of reported cases.

Stolen Camille Claudel Bronze Bust of Lover Auguste Rodin Recovered 

Stolen Camille Claudel Bronze Bust of Lover Auguste Rodin Recovered - ArtLyst Article image
A rare bronze bust of Auguste Rodin by his lover the sculptor Camille Claudel has been recovered in a brocante shop near the city of Lyon in France. It was reported stolen 23 years ago from the Gueret museum, in Clermont Ferrand, central France.
Camille Claudel (1864-1943) had a turbulent relationship with François Auguste René Rodin (12 November 1840 – 17 November 1917) the creator of such well known works as The Thinker and the Kiss is widely considered the progenitor of modern sculpture. The bust, which is valued at €1 million ($1.25 million), was discovered during a police investigation into a number of robberies in the region.
Rodin and Claudel had an intense relationship which began in 1884 when she started working in Rodin's workshop. Claudel became a source of inspiration, his model, his confidante and lover. She never lived with Rodin, who was reluctant to end his 20-year relationship with Rose Beuret. The affair displeased her family, especially her mother, who never supported Claudel's involvement in the arts. As a consequence, she left the family house. In 1892, after an abortion, Claudel ended the intimate aspect of her relationship with Rodin, although they saw each other regularly until 1898. A number of sculptures of each other were produced during this period.
In 1905 Claudel became mentally ill. She destroyed a large body of her work and was diagnosed as having schizophrenia. She accused Rodin of stealing her ideas and of leading a conspiracy to kill her. she was admitted to the psychiatric hospital of Ville-Évrard in Neuilly-sur-Marne. The form read that she had been "voluntarily" committed, although her admission was signed by a doctor and her brother. There are records to show that while she did have mental outbursts, she was clear-headed while working on her art. Doctors tried to convince the family that she need not be in the institution, but still they kept her there. She died after 30 years in care.
A case into the discovery of the sculpture has been initiated in the Lyon courts.
Image: L to R Rodin by Claudel Centre Claudel age 19 1884 R. Claudel by Rodin



The Geneva Freeport, which may be the world’s most valuable storage facility, consists of seven beige warehouses and a large grain silo in La Praille, an industrial zone a short tram ride from the city’s lakeside panorama of banks and expensive hotels. One recent morning, rain was falling on the chain-link fence that runs through the property, and snow was visible on the mountains to the south. Iris scanners, magnetic locks, and a security system known as Cerberus guard the freeport’s storerooms, whose contents are said to be insured for a hundred billion dollars, but the facility retains a blue-collar feel. There were signs to the showers. Men stood around in aprons and smoked. Everything about the place tells you to look the other way.
The freeport began, in 1888, as a group of sheds near the waterfront. It was one of countless similar spaces around the world, where customs authorities allow duties and taxes to be suspended until goods reach their final destination. In time, however, the Geneva Freeport became legendary. It grew very large, and its official status—the freeport is eighty-six per cent owned by the local government—and kinship with the opaque traditions of Swiss banking made it a storage facility for the international élite. Under the freeport’s rules, objects could remain in untaxed limbo, in theory, forever. Treasures came and they did not leave. A generation ago, these goods were cars, wine, and gold. More recently, they have been works of art.
Yves Bouvier was among the first to see the potential of the freeport as an adjunct to the art market. A blond, compact man of fifty-two, Bouvier is the owner of Natural Le Coultre, a moving and storage company and the largest tenant in the complex. For more than a hundred years, the firm shipped everything from citrus fruit to industrial machinery; during the First World War, Natural Le Coultre supplied prisoners of war with Red Cross food parcels. Since 1997, however, when Bouvier took over the firm from his father, it has handled only paintings and sculpture. Bouvier refurbished the company’s premises at the freeport, which include two showrooms, and encouraged a framer to open a workshop in the building. Since 2013, Natural Le Coultre has rented more than twenty thousand square metres in storage space and has had well over a million objects in its care.
Every item passes through a single packing room, where it is unwrapped, photographed, and studied for damage. On the morning I visited, a Bob Dylan painting had arrived, along with a Picasso bronze from Greece. There were hammers hanging in order of size, and a stack of crates containing works by Léon Pourtau, a minor Impressionist. Ramon Casais, who has worked in the freeport for the past thirty years, agreed to show me a corridor of locked storeroom doors only after he had gone ahead to make sure there was absolutely nothing to see.
Specialist logistics companies, like Natural Le Coultre, are the quiet butlers of the art world. They operate deep inside it but are not quite of it. When an artist has made a sculpture out of butter, or scalpels, or half a passenger jet, it is up to a shipper to get it from Hong Kong to Miami in the same condition as when it left, and to make no fuss. To do their work, shippers must know many things. They are given records of private sales and the names of collectors, in order to navigate customs. In the course of a typical day, stopping by the homes of dealers and the back rooms of galleries, they learn who answers the door and the phone number of the assistant, and see the other pictures on the walls. The shippers’ professional indifference means that they are often in the room at moments of extreme commercial sensitivity. “Imagine that I am in Basel and I need to show a client a painting,” Thomas Seydoux, a dealer and a former chairman of Impressionist and modern art at Christie’s, told me. “Ninety-nine per cent of the time, you are going to show it with a transit agent.”
This intimacy means that, once you find your shipper, you tend to stick with him. Relationships last for decades, built on trust and a sense, usually unspoken, of absolute limits. In sixteenth-century Venice, diplomats were instructed to employ illiterate valets, who would be unable to read any secret documents they were asked to carry. A transit agent “should by default be a blind man,” Seydoux told me. “That is the very nature of his job.” Everything works fine, as long as people stay within their allotted roles. Seydoux said, “You can’t win somebody’s trust by saying you are blind and then open your eyes.”

Yves Bouvier started handling art in his late teens. He worked at Natural Le Coultre during his vacations, earning money in order to ski. When I asked him recently to describe himself as a child, he replied, “Turbulent.” He grew up in Avully, a small village on the border with France. He had a sister, who was born disabled and later died. As a boy, Bouvier was withdrawn. He spent most of his time outdoors, where he was brave—reckless, almost—when it came to physical activities. “Any kind of sport that was extreme, he liked,” Tony Reynard, a friend of Bouvier’s since he was twelve, told me. He skied like a maniac and raced go-karts on the roads at night. He dreamed of opening a bar and ski shop in the mountains.
Bouvier’s father, Jean-Jacques, started as an apprentice at Natural Le Coultre in 1953. In 1982, he was able to buy the company. Yves, having dropped out of college, joined him, and brought his appetite for risk to the unlikely domain of freight. Bouvier combines a Calvinist reserve with a delight in doing the unthinkable. “If you tell me it is not possible, I will say, O.K., I will do it,” he told me once. He took on spectacular jobs—the transport of an eighty-five-ton industrial furnace, a U.B.S. office move in Geneva—but was also drawn to what was fragile, beautiful, and expensive. Bouvier speaks an imperfect, gestural English, but he explained that becoming a shipper allowed him to immerse himself in “the feeling and the difficulty of art.” He had no formal training, just what passed through his hands. “It started with the touch,” he said. “You have all the panoply: small, huge, it’s with value, with no value. You have everything, so you learn.”
Shipping also introduced Bouvier to the complicated lives of the rich—their taxes and their divorces—and the other ancillary trades that help the art world go around: restorers, framers, hired experts, operators of tiny galleries in Paris clinging on from sale to sale. He realized they all had needs of their own. When he took over the running of Natural Le Coultre from his father, at the age of thirty-four, Bouvier sold off the company’s general moving business and specialized in art. Unlike other shippers, however, he never considered stopping at logistics.
Quietly, he began his own forays into the marketplace. “I was in the shadows,” he said. The first picture that Bouvier bought was a small gouache by Max Ernst from an auction house in Geneva. (He has a collection of twentieth-century furniture and design.) Alongside his work at Natural Le Coultre, he started to dabble, making himself useful to the people he knew. Bouvier financed purchases that dealers couldn’t afford on their own. He sorted out cash flow and bills. He became adept at setting up offshore companies—Diva, Blancaflor, Eagle Overseas—to enable galleries to buy specific works and mask the identity of other investors in a transaction. Bouvier is an opportunist. Pitch him and he will decide if he is in or out. “It is always a question of what I will earn on the deal,” he said.
Within a few years, Bouvier was buying and selling pictures on a serious scale, interacting almost solely with other dealers. “When you buy, it is always to sell,” he said. “You always have the buyer before you have the seller.” On August 16, 2000, he bought a Paul Gauguin landscape, “Paysage aux Trois Arbres,” from Peintures Hermès, a Swiss gallery associated with the Wildenstein family of art dealers, for $9.5 million. Two weeks later, he sold the picture to Mandarin Trading, a Bahamas-based art fund, for $11.3 million, making a profit of sixteen per cent. Mandarin Trading later sued the Wildensteins for fraud, alleging that it was the victim of a scam to inflate the value of the painting. The case was dismissed in 2011. I once asked Bouvier what drew him to particular propositions. “In the mountains, it was the same,” he replied. “I go in the place which is the most complicated, the most risky place.”
Dmitry Rybolovlev, a Russian oligarch, first met Bouvier in August, 2002, during a visit to the Geneva Freeport to pick up a painting by Marc Chagall. Rybolovlev was in his late thirties and worth nearly a billion dollars. He had moved his wife, Elena, and young daughter to Switzerland in 1995, after acquiring control of Uralkali, a state-owned potash-mining company, at the age of twenty-nine. He then went back to Russia, where he spent eleven months in custody after being accused of ordering the contract killing of a rival. (He was later cleared of all charges.)
Rybolovlev spoke no English, no French, and no German. When he and Elena arrived in Geneva, they felt isolated, but they soon befriended a Bulgarian publisher named Tania Rappo, who was the wife of Elena’s dentist. Rappo was fifteen years older than the Rybolovlevs, tall, gregarious, and fun. She was working on an encyclopedia at the time, but she quickly became the Russians’ all-around helper and confidante. She secured access to the city’s sports clubs, introduced them to friends, and helped them to buy an apartment in Paris.

The Rybolovlevs lived in Cologny, one of Geneva’s smartest neighborhoods. Their mansion had picture lights on the walls, which had been installed for the previous owner’s art collection. When the Rybolovlevs decided to buy paintings to go under the lights, Rappo brought them to Christie’s, but they asked her to look for works herself. “I said, ‘Listen, I am not very good,’ ” Rappo told me. “I knew it was quite a tricky world.” Still, after several months of work, Rappo arranged the purchase of the Chagall painting “Le Cirque,” for six million dollars. When the painting arrived at Natural Le Coultre’s facility at the freeport, Rappo went with the Rybolovlevs to see it.
Bouvier was waiting. He introduced himself as the head of Natural Le Coultre and took them to the showroom. The Russians had no idea that, as part of his other dealings, Bouvier had also been an intermediary in the Chagall deal, which had been a messy transaction, involving several middlemen. According to Bouvier, Rybolovlev arrived in a bad temper. The Chagall lacked an authenticity certificate—a document, typically signed by an art scholar, that guarantees that a work is real. Rybolovlev was afraid that he might have been ripped off.

Bouvier tried to calm him down. “I knew this painting,” he told me. “It was a good painting.” Even though he was ostensibly just in charge of the storage facility, he offered to help. “I will find the certificate for you, and I will be quiet,” he said. When the Russians left, Bouvier picked up the phone and called the previous owner of the Chagall. He got the certificate a few days later and called Rappo. He asked her to set up a proper meeting with the Rybolovlevs at their house in Cologny. This time, Bouvier told me, he offered them his services more generally. He could protect them during their adventures in the art market, he promised. And he could also find them art. “I have the information,” he said. “I can sell you paintings.”
According to Bouvier, the nature of his relationship with the Rybolovlevs was clear from the beginning. Although he had seldom worked with private clients before, he would be their dealer. He would also take care of all their art-related logistics. Building a collection involves a thousand small, complex tasks: storage, shipping, condition reports, restoration, making copies, framing, due diligence, insurance. For these services, Bouvier would charge an extra two per cent of the purchase price of any painting he sold them. Privately, he promised Rappo that, if he ever sold Rybolovlev anything, he would give her a commission, for introducing him in the first place.
He was aware that the proposal was audacious. Major buyers typically build collections through several dealers and auction houses, knowing that they will be charged the maximum the market can bear. To protect their interests, many also employ an art adviser or consultant, who works for them and is paid a retainer or a commission—in the region of five per cent—on the works that they acquire. Very rarely are all these roles performed by one person.
“It is not usual,” Bouvier said. “But it is not forbidden.” Other art dealers told me that they have heard of similar arrangements but that they don’t last long. Collectors gossip as much as anyone else, comparing commissions, double-checking prices. The Rybolovlevs, for their part, seemed impressed. According to Rappo, Rybolovlev turned to her outside the freeport after their first meeting and said, “This is the man we need.” (He denies this.) A year later, in August, 2003, the shipper sold the oligarch Vincent van Gogh’s “Paysage Avec un Olivier,” for seventeen million dollars.
The relationship between art dealer and collector is particular and charged. The dealer is mentor and salesman. He informs his client’s desires while subjecting himself to them at the same time. The collector has money, but he is also vulnerable. Relationships start, prosper, and fail for any number of reasons. It is not always obvious where power lies. Over time, each one can convince himself that he has created the other.
The first four paintings that Bouvier sold to Rybolovlev were covered by contracts drawn up by Lenz & Staehelin, one of Switzerland’s largest law firms. The contracts listed Bouvier, through a Hong Kong-based company named M.E.I. Invest, as the “Seller” and Mikhail Sazonov, who was the director of Rybolovlev’s family trusts, as the “Buyer.” Personal invoices from Bouvier, covering what he called his frais habituels—his usual costs—arrived separately.


Yves Bouvier worked in shipping, a field based on trust and unspoken limits.
Yves Bouvier worked in shipping, a field based on trust and unspoken limits. Photograph by Julian Faulhaber for The New Yorker

To Rybolovlev, Bouvier personified the idea of a colorless Swiss professional. “I would not call him a great personality,” Rybolovlev told me. “But he was calm, discreet, and intelligent.” We were speaking on the phone. Rybolovlev was in Miami and his lawyer, Tetiana Bersheda, was in Monaco, translating. Rybolovlev had worked with bankers in Geneva for years, and he projected the same image onto Bouvier. He called him his predstavitel’, Russian for “representative,” in the art world, and thought of him like the other professionals—accountants, boat skippers—whom he employed. Operating through Bouvier and M.E.I. Invest offered the Russian valuable discretion in the art market. Access to the oligarch was strictly controlled. “Besides his lawyer and his hairdresser, I don’t think he sees normal people at all,” Rappo once told me. Rybolovlev assumed that the two-per-cent fee was Bouvier’s commission. He was impressed by Natural Le Coultre’s premises in the freeport, which put Bouvier in contact with the owners of expensive art works. “He had insider information,” Rybolovlev said. “He knew the collectors without intermediaries. He knew what was where.”
Bouvier needed a translator to speak with Rybolovlev, but he had a sense of his personality. “He was a person quick in the decision, I feel that,” Bouvier told me. There were artists the Russian admired, like Modigliani and Monet, and those he could not stand, like Dali. Having a buyer of his magnitude enabled Bouvier to operate at a higher level of the art market, but it did not change the way he did business. “It is not an old man in Russia drinking vodka,” Bouvier said. He set out to make as much money as possible. “For me, I will be clear,” he told me. “If I buy for two and I can sell for eleven, I will sell for eleven.”
He went after sensational paintings. In October, 2004, Bouvier acquired “Les Noces de Pierrette,” by Picasso, which, at $51.3 million, had set a record for the artist when it previously sold, in 1989. The washed-out, Blue Period masterpiece had been bought by a Japanese real-estate developer, who wanted to put it on display at a racetrack. But the developer went bust, and the painting had changed hands several times as collateral for loans, depreciating in value. Bouvier bought the work from the Manhattan art dealer William Acquavella and sold it to Rybolovlev for $43.8 million. His two-per-cent fee would have been nearly nine hundred thousand dollars. Rappo’s cut came to just under $2.5 million.

In his day job, Bouvier remained the president of Natural Le Coultre. Hidden behind company names and, often, dealers working on his behalf, he tended to disguise his role in transactions. “To be invisible is the best way to make business,” he said. Rybolovlev was a huge client, but in the early years his purchases were sporadic. Bouvier works constantly, and he becomes restless unless there is something new to occupy him. “Relaxing is the same as working,” he says.
In 2004, Bouvier launched an art fair in Moscow. The following year, fifty thousand people came, and there was a gala in the Kremlin. Tania Rappo was the fair’s vice-president. The logistics required helicopters and dawn convoys of trucks through Red Square and drew on all of Bouvier’s organizational flair. Friends noticed that he had also sharpened his image. Bouvier never used to wear suits, but now he bore the trappings of an international businessman, wearing tailor-made shirts with his initials, “Y.E.B.,” and numerals on the cuffs showing the year and the season each shirt was made.
The Moscow World Fine Art Fair never turned a profit, but it widened Bouvier’s network, and it impressed Rybolovlev. “The fair was like a brushstroke to his portrait,” the Russian said. “It demonstrated that he had connections.” It also deepened Bouvier’s relationship with Rappo. According to Rybolovlev, Rappo soon became a constant advocate for Bouvier’s services, claiming that he was the best-connected man in the art business. Rappo’s endorsement—she was the godmother of Rybolovlev’s younger daughter, Anna—helped give Bouvier extraordinary access to the family. He joined the board of Elena’s foundation and was invited to birthday parties in Hawaii and the Greek islands. Bouvier, who has a longtime partner in Geneva, usually travelled alone. He paints these occasions as grim, commercial obligations. “If there is a social party of your client, you will go,” he said. Rybolovlev thought that he was doing his staid art adviser a favor. “I thought that he had a rather boring life in Switzerland,” he told me.

The income from his dealing enabled Bouvier to expand his storage facilities. For several years, he had been looking to build a freeport outside Europe similar to the one in Geneva. In 2005, he settled on Singapore. In 2008, Bouvier decided to base himself in the country as well. The Singapore Freeport, which required new legislation to be passed by the national parliament, opened in 2010. Bouvier put Tony Reynard, his childhood friend, in charge. The freeport, which abuts the city’s international airport, is an over-engineered hybrid of vault and temple. It cost Bouvier a hundred million dollars to build. At first, no bank would finance it. “They thought we were loonies,” Reynard said.
A freeport offers few tax advantages and scarcely any security features that a standard bonded warehouse cannot provide. But Bouvier’s development in Singapore carried within it two ideas. The first is that freeports will become hubs in the sixty-billion-dollar international art market, destinations in themselves—places for scholars, restorers, insurers, art-finance specialists, consultants, and dealers. The second idea is that the ultra-rich don’t want just another warehouse. “If you buy a painting for a hundred million, what do you want? You want to feel well,” Bouvier said. “Why else do people travel in first class?”
In Singapore, Bouvier specified each component, from the fire-resistant walls, coiled through with steel, to the height of the doors: three metres, to admit the largest contemporary installations. “I chose everything,” he said. “The door handles. I’m obsessive about that.” He used a lighting artist named Johanna Grawunder, whose work he collects, and commissioned an enormous sculpture, “La Cage sans Frontières,” by the Israeli artist and designer Ron Arad, to stand in the atrium.
The opening of the Singapore Freeport, and its immediate success—Christie’s took a space—brought Bouvier international attention. The facilities tapped into a fascination with the tastes and financial shenanigans of the one per cent. Bouvier opened a second, slightly smaller freeport in Luxembourg, in September, 2014, and The Economist noted his role in the development of “Über warehouses for the ultra-rich.” He made plans to replicate the model in Dubai and to act as a consultant for a vast new project in Beijing.
Bouvier’s rivals in the art-logistics trade watched, fascinated and somewhat bemused. Art shippers are unshowy folk. They didn’t understand why Bouvier and Natural Le Coultre were making such a fuss over their warehouses. One rival, who visited the Singapore Freeport and saw the Arad in the atrium, told me, “If a client of mine walked into my office and saw a five-million-dollar sculpture, he would assume I was charging him too much.” Others couldn’t work out where Bouvier was getting the money. Natural Le Coultre’s profits had historically been a few million dollars a year. “Of course, we wondered,” one told me. “We are not billionaires. And to build freeports you need to be a billionaire.”
Rybolovlev was the billionaire whose money was building the freeports. From 2008 onward, his life and finances became increasingly unsettled, but the net result was that his spending on art dramatically increased. That year, he and Elena separated. According to Bouvier, Elena had always been conservative. With her out of the way, Rybolovlev seemed to have fewer inhibitions. Through a network of trusts, he bought Donald Trump’s mansion in Palm Beach, Sanford Weill’s apartment on Central Park West, and the island of Skorpios, in Greece, which used to belong to Aristotle Onassis. And he pressed forward with his art collection.


Dmitry Rybolovlev, a Russian tycoon, called Bouvier his “representative.”
Dmitry Rybolovlev, a Russian tycoon, called Bouvier his “representative.” Photograph by Julian Faulhaber for The New Yorker

Rybolovlev had other reasons to spread his money around. In late October, 2008, the oligarch was summoned to Moscow, where he was told that a government investigation into an accident at his potash company, Uralkali, was being reopened. Uralkali had previously been cleared of any liability after an incident, in 2006, in which a mine in the Ural Mountains flooded with brine and a huge sinkhole opened in the ground. The fresh investigation caused Uralkali’s stock to plummet. The company paid two hundred and fifty million dollars in compensation, and the inquiry recalled the authorities’ pursuit of other state-owned assets that had been questionably acquired in the nineteen-nineties.
The pressure persuaded Rybolovlev that his assets were no longer safe in Russia. In June, 2010, he sold his controlling stake in Uralkali for an estimated five billion dollars. This sudden influx of cash brought its own complications, however. By this time, every one of Rybolovlev’s financial maneuvers was being scrutinized by his estranged wife and her lawyers. The oligarch instructed Bouvier to find him “mobile assets.”
He went to work. Between 2003 and 2007, Bouvier had sold the Russian six art works. Between 2008 and 2013, he sold him twenty-eight. He summoned every hunch, every contested inheritance, every paid informant, every whispered tax problem gathered from two decades operating inside an art market that had never paid him much attention. “If nobody knows you, you take all the information,” he told me. “It is to be like an octopus.”

Rybolovlev had a taste for Modigliani nudes, for example. Bouvier knew that Steve Cohen, the New York hedge-fund manager, had one of the finest, “Nu Couché au Coussin Bleu,” but also that he had no plans to sell. In November, 2011, however, Bouvier learned through an informant that Cohen had just bought four Matisse bronzes from Sotheby’s in a private sale for more than a hundred million dollars. Approaching Cohen through Lionel Pissarro, a dealer in Paris, Bouvier managed to buy the Modigliani, for $93.5 million.
In 2013, he secured a Gustav Klimt masterpiece, “Wasserschlangen II,” that had been seized by the Nazis. The day after lawyers concluded a lengthy dispute over its ownership, Bouvier sold it to Rybolovlev for a hundred and eighty-three million dollars. He bought a Gauguin that had not been sold since the Second World War and a lost Leonardo da Vinci, “Salvator Mundi,” that had been sensationally rediscovered. On its display at the National Gallery in London, the da Vinci became one of the most talked-about pictures in the world. According to Rappo, Rybolovlev wanted it for the wall of his study. Bouvier brought the painting to the Russian’s apartment in New York, where, Rybolovlev told me, he experienced a profound emotional reaction—“a vibration”—in its presence. He bought the picture for $127.5 million.
Every transaction at the top end of the private art market involves a chain, a cast of characters that stretches from the buyer to the seller: finders, agents, lawyers, lenders. It is rare for the principals to know everyone involved, and it can be improper to ask. Bouvier was a master at making chains—short, long, simple, or twisted, depending on the deal. If he knew that a seller would prefer an approach from an auction house, he would send someone, usually from Sotheby’s. Otherwise, Bouvier would send an intermediary. Often this was a Corsican named Jean-Marc Peretti, who was investigated for running an illegal gambling circle in Paris in 2009. Bouvier is attracted to outsiders in the art world. “The best people are just good businesspeople—they are butchers,” he said. Bouvier helped Peretti open a gallery in the freeport in Geneva and trusted him to carry out the most sensitive transactions. (Peretti declined to speak with me.)
When a deal with the seller was in sight, Bouvier would then agree on his own price with Rybolovlev, which was often tens of millions of dollars higher. He conducted these negotiations via e-mail, in French, with Mikhail Sazonov, Rybolovlev’s adviser. Over the years, these e-mails became increasingly familiar, but Bouvier always maintained a crucial legerdemain—suggesting that he was acting on the Russian’s behalf to secure the best deal possible from the seller, rather than that he was the one selling to Rybolovlev. “I just got a super and last price of 14 million euros, because the seller had an opportunity to invest,” he wrote of a Toulouse-Lautrec that he obtained in February, 2013. “It’s done at 25,” he wrote of a late Picasso, “Joueur de Flûte et Femme Nue,” which he bought in Paris in October of 2010.
Bouvier told me that such blurring of who exactly owns what, and when a transaction occurred, is commonplace in the art market. When you walk into a gallery, you never know what the dealer is selling on consignment, what he owns outright, or how prices have been arrived at. “It is not lying,” he said. “There is always a part of the story which is true.” But Bouvier was ruthless in exploiting what was left unsaid. “Joueur de Flûte et Femme Nue,” which Bouvier sold to Rybolovlev for twenty-five million euros, he had bought the day before for just three and a half million. He made a sixty-million-dollar profit on the Klimt.
Bouvier did not explain to me how he handled the cash flow for his transactions, but dealers often grant clients a few months to settle large invoices. As soon as a sale was agreed with Rybolovlev, an invoice would usually go out from M.E.I. Invest to one of two Rybolovlev family trusts, Accent Delight or Xitrans Finance, both based in the British Virgin Islands. The Russian paid fast. Bouvier insisted that he always bore the financial risk for all his transactions, if only for a short time. “If I can switch it in one minute,” he said, “I am the happiest man in the world.”
He believed that he was building a magnificent collection. Great dealers are judged on the quality and the personality of the works that they acquire. In 2011, as a surprise for Rybolovlev, Bouvier commissioned Joachim Pissarro, a leading scholar of Impressionism and twentieth-century art, and the brother of Lionel, the Paris dealer, to write a catalogue of the collection.

And there were moments of exultation. For years, Bouvier had dreamed of buying Mark Rothko’s “No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red),” an abstract column that the artist painted in 1951, while working at Brooklyn College. The painting was on the cover of the catalogue raisonné, an official inventory of Rothko’s work, and had been owned by the Moueix family, a French wine-producing dynasty, for decades. One day, Rybolovlev saw the image on the catalogue and told Bouvier that he would do anything to acquire the painting. Through Peretti, Bouvier had been quietly cultivating the Moueix family for years, buying their wine and lesser works from their collection, in the hope of one day securing the Rothko.
In early 2014, Bouvier learned that they might be willing to sell. Years earlier, he had flown to the family’s château, in Bordeaux, to view the painting, which was kept in a little-used living room, where the light was blocked out by heavy curtains. In the early nineteen-fifties, Rothko began experimenting with powdered pigments, solvents, and egg to lend extra force to the colors in his canvases. He wanted viewers of his pictures to feel as if they were inside them. When Bouvier drew back the curtains, the painting seemed to explode in front of his eyes.



The Rothko arrived at the Geneva Freeport in June. Bouvier went to see it on his own. He had the painting placed next to a window, to enjoy the natural light. “It is impossible for people to imagine this kind of deal,” he told me. Bouvier had every reason to feel euphoric. The Moueix family had agreed to sell “No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red)” for eighty million dollars. He had sold it Rybolovlev for a hundred and eighty-nine million. There was Peretti’s cut to worry about—some five million—and the usual commission for Rappo, but Bouvier was about to earn a hundred million dollars on a single sale.
Barely anyone knew about Bouvier’s dealings: a handful of gallery owners across Europe, his lawyer, and Sotheby’s private-sales department. His staff at Natural Le Coultre noticed the art works stored on his account but insist that they were never told more. Their boss was rarely in the office; Bouvier travelled constantly, investing. He controls more than forty companies, which cover a bewildering range of interests, from R4, a new complex of galleries on the site of an old Renault factory in Paris, to Smartcopter, an idea for developing a low-cost helicopter. His manner discouraged conversation. Reynard told me that he never inquired where the money for the Singapore Freeport was coming from. “It is a question you don’t ask,” he told me. “Because you know that he will not answer.”
But the transactions that Bouvier was orchestrating were the source of furious gossip in the art world. Rybolovlev had become known as a top buyer, despite his efforts to keep a low profile. Who was helping him, though, was a mystery. Seydoux, the Geneva dealer, met Rybolovlev once but never managed to forge a relationship. “We tried desperately,” he said. “Nobody knew who really had access to him.”
On March 9, 2014, the Times published a piece of industry gossip about the sale of da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” the previous year. Quoting Anthony Crichton-Stuart, a London-based dealer, the article reported that the painting had sold privately for between seventy-five and eighty million dollars. Crichton-Stuart was merely repeating rumors that he had heard, but the article unwittingly revealed the scale of Bouvier’s profit margins: he had sold the da Vinci to Rybolovlev for almost fifty million more.
Bouvier read the article the day that it appeared. No one called from Rybolovlev’s office. He remembered the oligarch’s delighted reaction to the painting, and that he had been willing to pay even more. Bouvier also had other things on his mind. The Luxembourg Freeport was nearing completion, and he was attempting to close the deal on the Rothko. For the first time, Rybolovlev was proving a somewhat awkward client. He paid the first twenty million dollars in cash but wanted to sell other works from his collection to fund the rest of the purchase. The decision dismayed Bouvier. Selling works at the top end of the art market is just as delicate as buying them. He pleaded for patience. During the summer, Rybolovlev fell seriously ill. He was treated for cancer, and suffered post-surgery complications. “I was at a near-unconscious state,” he told me. Bouvier agreed to take a Modigliani sculpture, “Tête,” and to knock sixty million dollars off the price of the Rothko. But it still left him far short of the figure they had agreed on.

Rybolovlev recovered, and, a few months later, on November 22, 2014, he turned forty-eight. He invited Bouvier, as usual, to celebrate his birthday, and during the afternoon, at his penthouse in Monaco, the two men discussed his collection. The price of the da Vinci came up. Rybolovlev asked whether he had paid too much. He didn’t ask about Bouvier’s profit, just whether he had overpaid. Bouvier told me that he offered to ask an expert to appraise the painting’s value. He was confident that it was worth more than a hundred million dollars. Rybolovlev promised to settle up on the Rothko by the end of the year, but he didn’t understand why his middleman seemed unwilling, or unable, to sell works as easily as he bought them. “This made me wonder if everything had been clean,” he said.
That night, Rybolovlev threw a party at the Yacht Club de Monaco. Since 2011, the Russian has been the owner of A.S. Monaco, the local soccer team, and the party began after that evening’s match, a 2–2 draw with Caen. Bouvier was stuck at a table far from the host, who chatted with the Prince. There was bad striptease. (Rybolovlev denies this.) Bouvier stepped out onto the terrace. Rappo was there, and she thought that he seemed upset. Rybolovlev came out as well, and she asked him what had happened. “Tell him not to worry,” the Russian said, indicating Bouvier. “We’re still friends.”

The end of the year came. Bouvier was still waiting for his money. Rybolovlev was on vacation in St. Barts, in the Caribbean. On December 30th, he was at a lunch for around ten people at Eden Rock, a beachside hotel. A mutual friend had invited Sandy Heller, a New York art consultant who was vacationing on the island. Heller’s best-known client is Steve Cohen, the hedge-fund manager and collector. Heller had never met Rybolovlev, but there were rumors that Cohen’s Modigliani nude, which he had sold in 2011, had been bought by the Russian.
By way of conversation—and speaking through Rybolovlev’s girlfriend, who translated—Heller mentioned the purchase. “We miss it to this day,” he said. Rybolovlev was startled to encounter someone on the other end of one of his art transactions. He asked, in front of the table, “How much did you sell it for?”
The question was unusual. Private sales are bound by confidentiality agreements. But Heller seemed moved by the Russian’s unease. A guest at the lunch told me that Rybolovlev was “like a baby standing in traffic” during the conversation. Heller sent a message to Cohen, asking permission to tell Rybolovlev the sale price—$93.5 million—and he relayed it to the Russian the following day. Rybolovlev had bought the painting from Bouvier for a hundred and eighteen million dollars.
Rybolovlev didn’t speak at first. For twelve years, he told me, he had believed that Bouvier was his agent, acting on his behalf in the art market and paid well for his services. Bouvier’s two-per-cent charge on the roughly two billion dollars that Rybolovlev had spent on art since 2003 came to forty million. The idea that Bouvier might be making a huge margin on each and every painting struck him as a breathtaking con. Rybolovlev thought about calling Tania Rappo, but he hesitated, wondering how much she knew. On January 9, 2015, Bersheda, Rybolovlev’s lawyer, filed a criminal complaint in Monaco against Bouvier and “all participants,” accusing the dealer of fraud. The complaint included extracts from Bouvier’s e-mails and cited the sales of the da Vinci and the Modigliani, on which Bouvier was accused of making around seventy million dollars in “undue” profits.
Unaware, Bouvier carried on as before, tracking paintings, trying to close the gap on the Rothko. Joachim Pissarro’s catalogue, prepared in secret, was almost ready. The Russian began to move his collection out of Natural Le Coultre’s storerooms in Singapore and Geneva. Bouvier assumed that this was because of the divorce. On February 21st, he sent Sazonov, Rybolovlev’s adviser, an eight-page e-mail outlining potential sales from the collection, but he demanded full payment for the Rothko by the end of the month. Adopting his habitual language, Bouvier warned that the “seller would be suicidal” if Rybolovlev didn’t pay soon, even though he had settled his own affairs with the Moueix family months earlier. That evening, Rybolovlev and Rappo met at his apartment in Monaco. According to Rappo, he asked for her opinion on what he should do. Bersheda secretly recorded the conversation. A meeting with Bouvier was arranged for the twenty-fifth.
It was a Wednesday. Bouvier flew by private jet from Geneva. The meeting, at the Belle Époque, an apartment block overlooking the water, was at 10 A.M. Bouvier arrived early. It was a beautiful morning, and he walked around the marina, looking at the boats. (Bouvier owns a thirty-five-metre motor yacht, which he sails around the Mediterranean.) When he walked into the lobby of the Belle Époque, there were eight figures dressed in black. One of them showed a Monaco police I.D. and asked if he was Yves Bouvier. When he nodded, another officer put him in handcuffs and led him back outside, into an unmarked car. No one spoke.

Bouvier’s first thought was that he had been caught up in a larger raid on Rybolovlev. He was taken to Monaco’s main police station; he assumed he would be out by lunchtime. At 1:13 P.M., he was led into an interview room for the first time and asked to name his profession. “Businessman,” he replied.
He learned that he was under investigation for fraud and money laundering. In the weeks after Rybolovlev’s complaint, H.S.B.C. had revealed to prosecutors in Monaco that Bouvier and Tania Rappo had a joint bank account in the principality. According to the police, this suggested a possible conspiracy to launder the proceeds of the art sales. Over the years, Rappo’s commissions had amounted to more than a hundred million dollars. H.S.B.C. later admitted that this was a mistake: the name on the account was Jacques Rappo, Tania’s husband, but Tania was drawn into the investigation. She was arrested in her apartment. Two policewomen walked in while she was having a massage.
Rappo saw the name of Rybolovlev’s daughter and trust beneficiary Ekaterina on the warrant. “I had an interior calm,” she told me. A year earlier, almost to the day, Elena Rybolovleva had been arrested in Cyprus for allegedly stealing a diamond ring that Rybolovlev said belonged to him. The charges were dropped, but Rappo had interpreted the incident as an act of intimidation to hasten the completion of the couples’ divorce. (It was settled in October, for an undisclosed sum.) “I don’t know for what reason,” she said. “I just knew he was making some sort of blackmail.”
Bouvier and Rappo were questioned for three days. When Bouvier was confronted by the apparent duplicity in his e-mails, he replied that they were “just a commercial game.” But he began to comprehend the scale of the accusations against him. Based on the margins that they knew about, and a valuation of the collection, Rybolovlev’s lawyers claimed that their client had been ripped off to the tune of $1,049,465,009. That Friday, in a form of confrontation that is standard under French police procedure, Bouvier and Rybolovlev, with their lawyers and translators, came face to face. Rybolovlev repeated his assertion that Bouvier had always presented himself as his agent. He claimed that, when they first met, Bouvier had asked him to invest a few million euros in his businesses. “How could he then buy a painting for twenty million euros?” the Russian asked.

According to Bouvier, Rybolovlev avoided eye contact for the entire conversation, except at one moment. “But, Yves, these markups are worth a Boeing,” he said. Later, Bouvier reflected on this. “I think in his head the problem was not that Bouvier made money—it was that he made too much money,” he told me. He said that, at the end of the confrontation, with the room still crowded, he offered to buy the Modigliani. “I am ready to pay,” he said. “I am still ready to deal.” Rybolovlev walked out.
Bouvier was released on a ten-million-euro bond the following day. He went to a hotel and ordered a bottle of Cos d’Estournel, an expensive Bordeaux. He was convinced that the Russian had not expected him to make bail. Because Monaco is so small, and the risk of flight is so high, suspects in criminal cases are often detained for weeks at a time. Bouvier understood his arrest as a kind of shakedown. “The strategy was to make a trap,” he said, “and then he comes three months later and says, Give me fifty or a hundred million and I do it, to get out.” Like Rappo, he remembered what happened to Rybolovlev’s ex-wife in Cyprus.
Instead, the Russian broadened his legal assault. On March 12th, he sued Bouvier in Singapore, demanding a worldwide freeze on the dealer’s assets, as well as on Rappo’s. The court granted the injunction, and ordered Bouvier to hand over the Rothko. He was hit by a similar suit in Hong Kong. A month later, allegations surfaced in Paris that two Picasso portraits that Bouvier had sold to Rybolovlev in 2013 had been stolen from their previous owner, Catherine Hutin-Blay, the artist’s stepdaughter. Bouvier was hauled to court for that as well. Rybolovlev has since handed the paintings to the French police. Bouvier denies any wrongdoing.

Around this time, I spent a day at the Luxembourg Freeport. The building is made of sixty-five hundred tons of concrete. Heavy doors are locked with six-digit codes. David Arendt, the manager, put a brave face on the trouble massing around his main investor. The chairman of the freeport, an associate of Bouvier’s in Paris named Olivier Thomas, had been questioned a few days earlier about the Picassos. I asked Arendt when he had learned that Bouvier was an art dealer. He replied, “On February 26th, when I read it in the Daily Telegraph.” Alain Mestat, an art-finance specialist based in the freeport, sat stunned in a showroom. “It’s like the black swan,” he told me. “Not expected.” In the bowels of the building, I glanced into one of Natural Le Coultre’s storerooms and saw a heap of crates marked “Fragile” and bound for Singapore. A man inside saw me and closed the door.
Art shippers whom I spoke with for this article were staggered by what Bouvier had done. The idea of using the information they have soaked up over the years, their tactile knowledge, to trade works themselves was anathema. They seemed to enjoy their unthought-of role in the art world, and to be happy to stay there. But they admitted that there was very little to stop Bouvier. In an unregulated market, the only forces holding people back are cultural norms and long-term commercial reason: if I am not trusted by my peers and customers to behave in the way they expect me to, my business will fail. Bouvier’s calculation was different: in a market powered by insider information, the man who knows everything is king. He opened his eyes and saw.
Dealers, in general, have been angrier, and awestruck. The top end of the private art market is a small place, yet Bouvier was almost unknown. When I showed Daniel Katz, a major London dealer, the list of works that Bouvier had sold to Rybolovlev and the prices he got for them, Katz nearly fell off his chair. “The Russian has been tucked up to the eyeballs,” he said. Dealers tend to have two problems with Bouvier. One, he was a shipper, and shippers don’t deal. “I’d consider it a terrible conflict of interest,” Larry Gagosian told the Times in September. A Swiss dealer told me, “I would never, ever show a work at Natural Le Coultre, because I would say, That information is being recorded. How is that going to be used?”
More troubling, Bouvier has also traduced the idea of what an art dealer should be. He exploited every ambiguity of what is supposed to be a gentlemanly trade. Whether his conduct amounts to fraud will likely turn on the opaque phrasing of e-mails and the doubtful credulity of an oligarch, but the damage to the art market lies in Bouvier’s effrontery, the crassness of his gains. One evening in Geneva, I met Marc Blondeau, who used to run Sotheby’s in Paris and helped to build the collection of François Pinault, the luxury-goods magnate. We sat in his office—an early Renoir on an easel behind me—and he told stories of the paintings he had bought and sold. “When you sell to a collection,” he said, “it is like you place your child in a nursery.” Blondeau told me that great dealers leave their mark: they shape taste, influence markets, sell to museums. Bouvier didn’t do that. He didn’t have a gallery. He worked mostly on his BlackBerry. “You cannot call him an art dealer,” Blondeau said. “You call him a trader.”

I went to see Bouvier the following day. We met at the offices of Natural Le Coultre. A painting commissioned for the firm’s hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary, “Transport Through the Ages,” hung above the reception desk. Bouvier insists that he never used confidential information from his logistics business to buy and sell paintings. None of the thirty-five works that he sold Rybolovlev were in storage with Natural Le Coultre. “I have the information not because I am a shipper,” he said. “It is because I am clever.”
I asked if he was upset by the rest of the art market’s disavowal of him since his arrest. “All these people think they are the best one,” he said. “Now they know the small Bouvier is better than them.” With his mastery of hundred-million-dollar private sales, his knowledge of logistics, and his network of freeports, Bouvier sees himself as a truthteller, able to say what others cannot. “I know everything that is good and everything that is bad in the art business, everything that should change,” he told me. “When Mr. Gagosian said there was a conflict—first, I never go inside the safe. And Mr. Gagosian, when he produces an artist, he is an insider like me. The price goes up. It is bullshit. It is a market with no rules. Don’t say that it is Mr. Bouvier with no rules.”

We spent all day talking. Bouvier believes that the lawsuits are beginning to turn his way. Last August, the Court of Appeal in Singapore unfroze his assets, including the Rothko. A court in Hong Kong did the same. The civil suits continue, as does the criminal inquiry in Monaco, but Bouvier is preparing to seek damages for the injury done to his business by Rybolovlev. Rappo has launched suits of her own in Monaco, alleging improprieties in the police investigation. As he spoke, Bouvier kept four Nokias and a BlackBerry within reach at all times. When one of them rang, he would turn it over, to see which realm of his dealings the inquiry was coming from. He reminded me, in a not entirely unlikable way, of an animal busy in carrion, like a jackal.
We went out for lunch. Bouvier put on dark glasses. We ate in a private room at the Hotel Kempinski, one of the fanciest hotels in Geneva. Bouvier ordered a Coke Zero and a dish of grilled venison called “The Hunting Product.” He spoke of Rybolovlev’s paranoia, with its roots in the chaos of post-Soviet Russia, and how he could never have deceived a man like that for more than a decade. “If I tricked him,” he said, “I’m not only the best art dealer in the world, I’m also a genius. I’m Einstein.”
When we got back to the office, someone had brought in folio-size proofs of Joachim Pissarro’s catalogue of the Rybolovlev collection. The chapters were bound in gray boards and tied with black ribbons. It is uncertain that the book will ever be published now, and less likely that Rybolovlev’s masterpieces will ever be shown together. Rybolovlev told me that he feels “a complicated energy” when he thinks about his paintings. He laughed when I asked him where they were.
The catalogue lay on the table. It was going to be the proof of Bouvier’s capacities as an art dealer: his greatest project, realized tirelessly and in the dark, and suddenly presented to the world. Instead, his skill has been revealed at the moment of his undoing. I told Bouvier I had a feeling that he might win his legal battle with Rybolovlev but never recover his good name. He looked at me. “That will be my next challenge,” he said, and he kept staring at me—his eyes are a mixture of blue and dark green—until I dropped my gaze. 
Goodwood House jewellery theft: 'Substantial reward' offered
A "substantial reward" has been offered after heirlooms, including a ring given by Charles II to a mistress, were stolen from a stately home.
A tiara and more than 40 diamond, sapphire and emerald items were stolen during a break-in at Goodwood House, West Sussex, on 13 January.
The jewellery belonging to Lord and Lady March is said to be irreplaceable.
Police have not given a figure for the reward being offered in return for information about the missing items.
Jewellery stolen from Goodwood House
  • Diamond necklace from the first half of the 19th Century worth £200,000
  • Emerald and diamond ring engraved with Duchess's coronet and monogram CL for Louise de Keroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth, the mistress of Charles II
  • Antique Rolex and Girard Perregaux watches
Det Insp Till Sanderson, of Sussex Police, said his team had been working closely with Lord and Lady March and the estate to trace and identify the people responsible for the theft of this "treasured property".
"I hope the offer of a substantial reward by the insurers, for information leading to the recovery of important items of jewellery and personal effects of historical significance, will encourage anyone who knows anything to come forward," he added.
A 26-year-old man from Hampshire who was arrested in connection with the raid has been bailed until leter in February.

Suit Against Knoedler Gallery Over Fake Rothko Continues After a Settlement




The Knoedler & Company gallery on East 70th Street in Manhattan. Credit Tina Fineberg for The New York Times
The civil suit against the Knoedler & Company gallery, which sold an art-collecting couple a fake Rothko, continued on Monday even though the gallery’s co-defendant and former president, Ann Freedman, reached a settlement with the plaintiffs on Sunday.
A federal judge told jurors who have been hearing the fraud suit in Manhattan about the settlement and said that they should not speculate about the details or infer anything about the remaining case before them.
The plaintiffs in the case, Domenico and Eleanore De Sole, paid $8.3 million for the forged painting in 2004, and are seeking $25 million in damages in the suit they filed against the gallery and Ms. Freedman.
Gregory Clarick, a lawyer for the De Soles, said on Monday that his clients were pleased that Ms. Freedman had decided to settle.
“For 15 years, Knoedler ignored the most eminent experts, buried unhelpful research, made up stories about where works came from, earned profit margins that virtually announced the fraud, hid the truth, and lied to collectors,” he added.
The De Soles’ case is in its third week of testimony and is the first of 10 similar lawsuits to go to trial. All stemmed from the sale by Knoedler of more than 30 fake artworks that were said to be by Abstract Expressionist masters, like Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock. The paintings were actually created in a garage in Queens by a Chinese artist, Pei-Shen Qian.
Mr. Qian has been charged criminally but has fled to China. A Long Island dealer, Glafira Rosales, who provided the works to Knoedler has pleaded guilty to criminal charges but has not yet been sentenced.
The De Soles have said that the gallery and Ms. Freedman knew, or should have known, that the works provided by Ms. Rosales were fake. The defendants have countered that they were duped, along with many others in the art world, by skilled forgeries.
The terms of the settlement between Ms. Freedman and the De Soles have not been disclosed.
Because Ms. Freedman’s state of mind during the time of the sale remained relevant, Judge Paul D. Gardephe added, jurors should still expect to hear testimony from her.
Ms. Freedman’s lawyer, Luke Nikas, said that he expected her to testify on Tuesday.


New Revelations in Yves Bouvier art fraud case


The case of Swiss art transporter Yves Bouvier, who is accused of masterminding a multi-million dollar art fraud, continues to fascinate Europe’s media.

Now, the latest spicy revelations from French news magazine Le Point, focus on Bouvier’s co-defendant, Tania Rappo.

Rappo, a former friend of the Rybolovlev family, has been charged by the Monaco authorities with money laundering. The investigation in the Principality has found that she used a web of offshore entities to receive up to 100 million euros in un-authorised commissions from the sales of around 2 billion euros worth of art works to the Rybolovlev family trust.

The magazine identifies nine companies in Panama, another in the Virgin Islands, as well as accounts in Monaco, Singapore, and Hong Kong, “tending to confirm Dmitry Rybolovlev claims of fraud,” Le Point notes.

The Monaco police have identified "a galaxy of microstructures" in the exotic domiciles through which almost 100 million euros in commissions flowed.

At the head of that financial nebula is Rappo, the wife of a Swiss dentist living in Monaco. This Russian speaker of Bulgarian origin, who has no official job, had made the acquaintance of the Rybolovlev family through her husband, at that time the billionaire’s regular dentist. Becoming the friend of Elena, the now-divorced wife of the magnate, the dentist’s wife suggested she could help the couple, who wanted to build a great collection of paintings. To do that, she put them in touch with one of her old Geneva acquaintances, Yves Bouvier, who specialized in the transport and storage of works of art

Bouvier helped the family build a collection of four Modiglianis, two Gauguins, two El Grecos, a Rodin, a Leonardo da Vinci, and a series of Picassos. In total, 38 paintings and sculptures for which the Russian spent some 2 billion euros.

Rappo, the godmother to one of the Rybolovlev’s children, she allegedly concealed her sharing of profits from the sales.

Reporting the new details, Le Point notes: In 2008, when Dmitry Rybolovlev bought a Gauguin for 54 million euros from one of Bouvier’s companies in Hong Kong, Bouvier immediately retroceded 4 million to Anson Finance SA, a Panamanian shell company created by Tania Rappo. This was repeated two months later with a commission of 3 million paid to Anson Finance SA for a sale of a Monet for 46.5 million.

The same scenario was to be repeated for years without arousing anyone’s attention until the episode with a Rothko, in 2014.

Rybolovlev delayed at that time in paying the balance on the painting that he negotiated for 140 million dollars. Tania Rappo then went to the Russian’s house in Monaco to play the peacemaker. But in taking up word for word the gambit already used by Yves Bouvier, she caused Rybolovlev, who was surprised to see his friend’s eagerness to see him pay the bill, to suspect something. The conversation, a purely commercial discussion, was recorded by the billionaire’s lawyer, and has since been entered into the court record. It has triggered a strange complaint from Rappo of “invasion of privacy.”

Meanwhile, the Monaco police, during a search at Bouvier’s house, found documents that give credence to the idea of collusion between Bouvier and Rappo. In a computer file titled, “Comportement [behavior] Rothko 1, 2, 3, 4, 5” are recorded elements of language very close to the ones found in the notorious recorded conversation.

Since then, of course, the media firestorm has hardly ended. Two Picassos purchased by Rybolovlev are now at the heart of a proceeding for “theft” and “possession of stolen goods.” Catherine Hutin-Blay, Jacqueline Picasso’s heir, filed a complaint last March after noting the disappearance of several of the master’s works that belong to her. In the lot appears “Tête de femme, profil” and “Espagnole à l'éventail,” two drawings sold to Rybolovlev by Yves Bouvier for 27 million euros. One transaction resulted in the payment of a commission of 2.9 million to Vitarte SA, another Panamanian entity in the Rappo network.

During his hearing, Yves Bouvier argued that he had bought the canvases in complete good faith, and that he had made the payment for them to a trust established in Liechtenstein that according to him belongs to Catherine Hutin-Blay, which did not prevent the court from putting him under investigation for “possession of stolen goods,” in addition to requiring 27 million euros in bail. As for the dentist’s wife and her husband, they are now also the subject of special attention from the Swiss tax authorities.

Report: Ukraine “doing nothing” to recover stolen Dutch art

The Ukraine is not taking the investigation into Dutch art seriously stolen from the Westfries museum in 2015 seriously. The art, which was discovered to be in the Ukraine last year, is still being offered for sale, according to EenVandaag. Stolen art hunters Arthur Brand and Alex Omhoff are on the track of an Ukrainian in the Netherlands who they believe payed a key part in this case. They tipped off the police about his whereabouts, according to the Telegraaf.
The 24 stolen 17th century paintings surfaced in the Ukraine last year when former militia leader Borys Hoemenjoek tried to sell them back to the Westfries museum for 50 million euros. He broke off contact when Brand, who was hired by the museum to act as intermediary, told him that the paintings are only worth 50 thousand euros.
EenVandaag broadcast an interview with lawyer Yuri Volushin, a friend of Hoemenjoek. In the interview the lawyer admits to a journalist that he is trying to sell one of the paintings – Boerenbruiloft (Country Wedding in English) by Hendrik Bogaert. The painting Keukenstuk (Kitchen Piece) by Floris van Schooten is also still for sale in the illegal circuit.
Brand states that he passed the names of those involved in this art theft on to the Ukrainian authorities, but nothing is being done about it.

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