Vermeer's The Concert

Vermeer's The Concert

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Greedy Lawyer Collared For Cezanne Ransom Demand

Lawyer arrested in sale of works from 1978 art heist
CBC Canada
A retired lawyer was arrested Tuesday at Logan Airport in Boston in connection with a 29-year-old art heist that included a $29.3-million US Cézanne still life.

Robert Mardirosian, 72, has been charged with possessing, concealing, storing and attempting to sell stolen goods, U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan said.

Authorities alleged in a federal court Tuesday that Mardirosian moved the paintings from his Watertown, Mass., law office into Swiss banks and London auction houses under the cover of a Panamanian shell company he created to sell the works.

'People seem to get away with all kinds of stuff when it comes to art robbery.'
—Michael Bakwin, victim of art heist

He is not suspected in the original theft of the seven paintings, which went missing from a home in the Berkshire mountains in 1978.

"People seem to get away with all kinds of stuff when it comes to art robbery," said Michael Bakwin, the paintings' owner, now living in Suffolk, Va.

Mardirosian told the Boston Globe last year the paintings' alleged thief, David Colvin, left the pieces at his law office in Watertown, N.Y. He was representing Colvin in an unrelated case.

"He was going to bring them to Florida to fence them, but I told him that if he ever got caught with them with the other case hanging over his head, he'd be in real trouble," he told the Globe.

Colvin was killed in Pittsfield, Mass., in 1979 over a gambling debt.

Deal brokered
In an affidavit unsealed Tuesday, the FBI alleges Mardirosian moved the paintings to Monaco in 1988, thinking he might have a legal claim to ownership or to a "finder's fee."

Lloyd's of London was contacted in 1999 by an unknown person about insuring the paintings and discovered they were listed with the database Art Loss Register as having been stolen, the affidavit says.

A Panamanian corporation, Erie International Trading Co., was selling the paintings. Julian Radcliffe of the Art Loss Register brokered a deal with Erie, which agreed to return the Cézanne in exchange for the other six paintings. Julian Radcliffe went on to collect $2.9 million commission when the Cezanne was sold, in fact Bakwin was forced to sell the Cezanne to meet the demands of the Julian Radcliffe.

Bakwin agreed to the deal and auctioned the Cézanne through Sotheby's in London for $29.3 million US.

As part of the contract, the owner of Erie agreed to disclose his identity in a sealed envelope.

A British judge ordered the envelope to be unsealed because Bakwin agreed to the deal "under duress." Erie's owner was revealed as Mardirosian, and the judge ordered him to pay Bakwin $3 million US.

Four paintings, which authorities say Mardirosian tried to sell through Sotheby's in 2004, will be returned to Bakwin in Virginia. He said he plans to display them in his home.

Investigators believe the two remaining paintings, both by Geert Jan Jansen, are being held by a Swiss friend of Mardirosian.

Art Hostage comments:
It is interesting to note that Julian Radcliffe, founder of the Art Loss Register, was paid 10% of the sale proceeds of the Cezanne, $2.9 million on the auction sale price of $29 million.
Sotheby's got their 10% cut, $2.9 million as well, leaving the loser with $23.2 million.
The greedy Boston Lawyer wanted the same thing, 10%, but seems to have ended up as a defendant, rather than a saviour.
This case proves that someone is going to get paid for recovering stolen art the trick is not be the patsy who is left without reward or possibly Liberty.
The Art Loss Register requires losers to pay 10/15% of the market value of recovered stolen artworks, therefore, meaning in most cases, the stolen art is sold to pay the Art Loss Register.
Is this moral, any more moral than the greedy Boston Lawyer seeking his 10%???????

The reason why the Gardner art, and Vermeer in particular, are not registered with the Art Loss Register is because if they are recovered the Gardner Museum would have to pay the Art Loss Register 10/15% of the market value, as demanded in the Art Loss Register's terms and conditions.
Greed gets them in the end, lawyers that is !!


Anonymous said...

Are you kidding me?
Bakwin's family has more than enough money...they didn't sell the Cezanne to pay the ALR bill, they sold it because they couldn't secure the work and didn't want to be theft victims again.
You really shouldn't jump to conclusions.

m0089 said...

I was the P I that Bakwin hired back in 78. He stiffed me out of my fee which was very modest.Just time and expenses.

Anonymous said...

Julian Radcliffe stiffed Bakwin because he already knew of the whereabouts of the Cezanne before he got Bakwin to sign up to the Art Loss Register, which led to the Art Loss register recieving
£1.8 million sterling.

The lawyer got stiffed as well as getting a jail sentence