I’m not an extortionist, says accused
Lawyer insists he acted on trust throughout talks to ensure return of Leonardo painting
By Hilary Duncanson
A solicitor insisted yesterday he did the “right thing” in working to secure the return of a stolen Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece.
Marshall Ronald said he was proud of what he achieved and it was sad that he was facing a trial which had “decimated” his life.
The 53-year-old said he acted on trust throughout the negotiations and fell “hook, line and sinker” for an undercover police operation.
He said the police had been deceptive and played footloose and fancy-free with valuable property.
“The fact is, I’m not an extortionist,” he told the High Court in Edinburgh.
Ronald is one of five men accused of demanding £4.25million for the return of the artwork Madonna of the Yarnwinder. The painting was stolen from Drumlanrig Castle, the Dumfriesshire estate of the Duke of Buccleuch, in August 2003.
Ronald has told jurors of an approach made to his law firm in Lancashire by two of his co-accused, Robert Graham, 57, and John Doyle, 61.
He said the pair had heard there was a chance they could return the Leonardo painting to its owner and wanted advice on whether it could be done lawfully.
The painting was taken into police custody in October 2007 after a swoop on a meeting at a lawyers’ office in Glasgow. Ronald was among those at the meeting.
Ronald was asked if there was anything he would like to say to the court, with the benefit of hindsight.
“I feel what we achieved in getting this painting back is something to be proud of,” he said.
“I think we did the right thing. I think we’re very proud of it and we have done something which would not have been achieved but for the effort that we did. The police couldn’t do it.”
Jurors have heard that a police sting to trace the £20million artwork swung into action after Ronald contacted an expert on recovering missing art.
The court has heard he had communications with undercover officers, believing they were working as agents for the duke.
He said: “As an experienced lawyer, I genuinely believed they were who they said they were. I was taken in hook, line and sinker.”
The lawyer told the trial that he operated on trust in the negotiations surrounding the return of the painting.
Ronald, of Skelmersdale; Graham and Doyle, both of Ormskirk, Lancashire; Calum Jones, 45, a solicitor from Kilmacolm, Renfrewshire; and David Boyce, 63, a solicitor from Airdrie, Lanarkshire, deny conspiring to extort £4.25million from the duke and the painting’s insurers. They are not accused of the robbery.
Ronald also told the trial he was threatened by “scary” individuals during a meeting about the painting.
He said he became frightened during the conversation and felt that going to the police would put him in danger.
He said the meeting in a pub had initially involved co-accused Graham and Doyle but that the threats, from men known as “J” and “Frank”, came when his co-accused left.
He told the trial: “They said things to me which actually frightened me.”
The five accused have pleaded not guilty to conspiring to extort £4.25million and an alternative charge of attempted extortion. The offence is alleged to have taken place between July and October 2007.
The trial continues before Lady Dorrian today.
Solicitor denies da Vinci ransom
A solicitor accused of plotting to secure a pay-off for returning a stolen painting has denied demanding a ransom.
Marshall Ronald, 53, told the High Court in Edinburgh, it was a commercial deal between "willing parties".
He is one of five men who deny demanding £4.25m for the safe return of a stolen Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece.
The Madonna of the Yarnwinder painting was snatched from the Duke of Buccleuch's stately home, Drumlanrig Castle, Dumfriesshire, in 2003.
At the end of three days of questioning, Mr Ronald told the court: "I resent the use of the word conspiracy because it is an alien concept to me."
He added: "We have never sought any ransom at all.
"This is plain and simple. It was a commercial deal between willing parties acting with integrity."
The art treasure was seized during a police raid on a Glasgow law office, more than four years after it was stolen.
Mr Ronald, of Skelmersdale, Lancashire, was arrested then.
On trial with him are Robert Graham, 57, and John Doyle, 61, both from Lancashire, Calum Jones, 45, from Renfrewshire and David Boyce, 63, from Lanarkshire.
They are not accused of stealing the painting and deny conspiring to extort £4.25m or attempting to extort the money
The trial continues.
Art Hostage Comments:
Remember Curly bonce Jonathon Powell said back in 2002 at the Labour Party Conference regarding IRA smuggling, emanating from South Armagh
"What harm can a few Uneducated Micks do smuggling a few cigarettes ?"
I'll tell you what, they turned it into a billion dollar portfolio, that's what, and yes the devil finds work for idle hands thus the Brits allowed the Northern Bank job to go ahead, even allowed Bobby Storey to get a political post, perks and car included.
The Brits also turned a blind eye to art theft and the security services/spooks monitored the exchange of monies for the Da Vinci Madonna without stepping in as they wanted to follow the money trail.
MI5/6 don't tell S.O.C.A., S.O.C.A. don't tell Dumfries Police, Dumfries Police don't tell Scottish Drug Police, no-one tells anyone what each agency is up to, therefore each agency was and is working towards their own exclusive agenda.
It wasn't called the "Dirty War" for nothing !!!
The Home fire still burns with patriotic passion at "Home Place" !!!
O'h go on, go on, go on, all together now:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5vsUwts5xk&feature=related