Showing posts with label fraud. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fraud. Show all posts

November 21, 2014

Artnet news highlights report in Le Point about France's anti-fraud brigade raid on the Musée de Lettres et Manuscrits on Nov. 18

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor's headline yesterday: "€500 Million Ponzi Scheme Suspected at Paris Museum pointed to an "exclusive" article in reported by Mélanie DeLattre, Christophe Labbé, and Laure Rougevin-Baville: "Descente de police au musée de Lettres et Manuscrits" (originally published Nov. 18 and updated Nov. 20):
The cosily niche books and manuscripts market may be about to be hit by one its biggest scandals in recent years. And Paris's Musée des Lettres et Manuscrits, as well as its sister organization the Institut des Lettres et Manuscrits, is in the eye of the storm. 
Le Point reported that on November 18, France's anti-fraud brigade raided the museum and the various branches of Aristophil, a company owned by the museum's founder, Gérard Lhéritier. 
The company is suspected by the tax authorities and Tracfin—a public body fighting money laundering and terrorism financing—of “deceptive marketing practices," and “gang fraud." At time of writing, the Aristophil website as well as the websites for the museum and the institute appear to have been taken offline.
The Musée de Lettres et Manuscrits is a small building located at 222 Boulevard Saint-Germain (near Rue du Bac) in the 7th arrondisemont. I have often passed it walking from Cafe de Flore to Musée d'Orsay but in the last 20 years the closest I have come to entering the museum was to grab a pamphlet last January. The entrance itself is off of the street so I always thought the institution was a bit exclusive although according to the brochure, for less than 10 euros you could visit the collection from 10h - 19h every day with the exception of Mondays and three national holidays (Christmas, New Year's Day, and the first of May).

July 4, 2014

Friday, July 04, 2014 - ,, No comments

Criminal complaint in Germany alleges art advisor defrauded client

Julia Michalska reported July 2 for The Art Newspaper "Fraud investigation into German art advisor widens" that a 24-page criminal complaint alleges that Helge Achenbach 'defrauding the late Aldi-supermarket heir [and Trader Joe's] and art collector Berthold Albrecht of €18m'.

Lisa Contag for ArtInfo reported in "German Art Consultant Helge Achenbach Arrested Due to Fraud Allegations" on June 24th that Achenbach's arrest followed allegations by the state attorney of the city of Eissen for 'overpricing art and vintage cars he purchased for collectors':
German newspapers Bild and Die Welt have reported that fraud allegations were made by the heirs of Berthold Albrecht, one of the founders of the German discount supermarket chain Aldi, who was one of Achenbach’s most important clients until his death in 2012.

February 1, 2014

Libération's Vincent Noce Reports on Belgian Heiress' Claim Against Sotheby's for Alleged Fraud Regarding Sale of Stamp Collection

Libération: Among the missing items,
the original design of the envelope
 "BelgianArctic Expedition" of 1957. (Photo CD)
by Isabel Abislaiman

Last December, the newspaper Libération revealed that French authorities are conducting an investigation into a claim brought by a Belgian heiress against Sotheby’s for alleged fraud (Vincent Noce, Libération, Sotheby's et la philatéliste estampée, December 26, 2013). According to Libération, the woman inherited a significant stamp collection from her father in 2009 and contacted Sotheby’s who put her in touch with Sotheby's France Vice President, Alain Renner. According to the claim, Noce reports, Renner, accompanied by expert Grégory Russel, visited the potential client and offered to put the collection up for auction at Sotheby's in Paris, estimating the revenue from sale at auction at 600,000 Euros, which piqued the lady’s interest.

The claimant alleges, according to Noce, that a month later, the two men came back and took the entire collection with them, without doing an inventory. According to the woman, they hurriedly fetched boxes from a grocery store and said it would be best for them to send the inventory once they returned to Paris. Mr. Renner sent her a certificate of deposit describing the lot in a general manner "48 stamp albums Belgium 1892-1970" and "a lot of philately bulk" estimated "500,000 to 750,000 Euros." A sale date was set "after thorough assessment, for December 10, 2009 in Paris.”

According to the claim, Noce reports, time passed and there was no sale because it had never been put on Sotheby’s auction calendar. After further inquiry, Mr. Renner informed the lady that Sotheby's did not have the collection in its custody, but that Mr. Russel was holding possession of the collection, all this allegedly without the lady's knowledge or consent. Likewise, the owner allegedly discovered that the collection had toured to a philatelic exhibit in Monaco and ended up at an auctioneer’s in Toulouse, Marc Labarbe, with whom Mr. Renner was allegedly associated. Turns out, Sotheby's does not auction stamps in Paris, Noce reports.

About a year and a half after the collection had been taken from the lady’s house without an inventory, Mr. Russel allegedly had the lady sign an inventory for the sale to take place in Toulouse. The sale yielded less than expected. Disappointed, the lady discussed it with her son, a philatelist, who asserts rare pieces had disappeared; while on some pages stamps were repositioned to hide the absence of missing stamps.

Sotheby’s position is that the lady had agreed to sell the collection with the auctioneer in Toulouse, and signed all the papers knowingly. The owner claims at all times she relied on Sotheby’s reputation and that by entrusting the collection to Mr. Russel, a third party, Sotheby’s willfully or negligently jeopardized the integrity of her collection. In another case, Mr. Russel is implied in the diversion of a stamp collection belonging to an elderly couple in eastern France. According to Vincent Noce's article published in Libération, Gregory Russel is being investigated for embezzlement, abuse of weakness and concealment in both cases.

Ms. Abislaiman is an attorney and Personal Property Appraiser.

April 21, 2011

Quebec law enforcement uncover case of art stolen from Quebec art galleries through the purchase of fraudulent credit cards

Tumulte 1974, Jean-Paul Riopelle, 9,5 x 6,5 po.
Collaboration between the art crime investigative unit of the Sûreté du Québec and the Montreal police has just solved a series of frauds against several art galleries.

On the evening of April 6, 2011, investigators went to a storage area at a home in Quebec, where they seized artworks stolen between July and October of 2010. Works valued at more than $220,000 include artists such as Jean-Paul Riopelle, Sebastien Larouchelle Martin Beaupré, Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Côté and Joan Dumouchel.

According to the investigation, the suspects used credit cards obtained under false identitites to purchase the artworks from galleries around Montreal, Quebec City, and Baie St.-Paul. They managed to convince the merchants to enter into payment installments, paid the first payment by credit card, left with the artwork, and did not pay the remaining installments.

A suspect was arrested on shoplifting at a business in Montreal on Feb. 25. The arrest and subsequent search led to the discovery of a bronze sculpture by artist Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Côté.

Aissam Freidji, 37, and Margaret Christopoulos, 45, appeared April 7, 2011, at the Montreal courthouse facing charges of fraud and fraudulent use of credit cards. They are accused of using several false identities and may be sought in the United States for similar crimes.

Quebec’s art crime investigation team is composed of officers from the Sûreté du Quebec and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

This information was translated from a press release published by Quebec law enforcement.