Wednesday 21 April 2010

Five cleared over Leonardo da Vinci plot

Five men accused of conspiring to extort £4.25m for the safe return of a Leonardo da Vinci painting have been cleared at the end of the trial which has kept UK art lovers enthralled for some time. At the centre of the case was a painting attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci the "Madonna of the Yarnwinder" (photo), which was stolen from the Duke of Buccleuch's private collection in Drumlanrig castle, near Dumfries, in 2003. The five men were not accused of having stolen the painting, but between July and October 2007 of plotting to extort £4.25m for the painting's return to its owners. Two of the accused
had been approached in a pub by a man called "J" who knew a man called "Frank" who knew people with possible access to the painting [...] J told them it had been given to someone as security on a £700,000 loan for a property deal which collapsed. The person stuck with it wanted his money back.
So after getting a couple of lawyers involved (the other three accused), the stolen painting was handed over to the owner's lawyers, but the five had been set up and were arrested in a police 'sting'. Obviously there is a price to pay for dealing with criminals and handling stolen goods even if not technically against the law and in good faith. As one of the defendents said, "What we did was to bring back a culturally-significant masterpiece, which is something neither the police nor the insurers could do. We brought it back...". There is a lesson here for antiquity dealers who deal with middlemen with contacts to those in the criminal underworld who illegally dig up and export archaeological artefacts for sale on the indiscriminate global antiquities market.

Charlene Sweeney They called it Stolen Stuff Reunited, but business plan didn’t foresee criminal trial Times 22/4/10.
BBC: Five cleared over Leonardo da Vinci plot 21/4/10
Willie Johnston BBC scotland: Da Vinci case: The proceedings 21/4/10
Both BBC links have other links giving the background in a sidebar.

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