Justice has in the sights the auction house thanks to which the Swiss merchant has made certain transactions to the detriment of the Russian collector.
New bounce in the case between collector Dmitry Rybolovlev and Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier, in the UK this time comes. Sotheby’s is trying to prevent the Russian billionaire from using documents that seem to show that the auction house was complicit in Bouvier’s scam against him when he set up his art collection, a scam evaluated by Sotheby’s Rybolovlev to $ 1 billion.
The battle is raging between the lawyers of the Russian billionaire and those of the Swiss merchant, the first having opened a new legal front in a case that already spans three continents.
The auction house claims that the billionaire’s attempt to tie Sotheby’s to fraud is primarily an excuse to open a petition in England, a request that should be heard in Geneva.
Documents “credibility” inflated prices
Rybolovlev, who lives in Monaco, accuses since 2015 Bouvier fraudulently overcharged the prices of Picasso and other Monet acquired for his collection. The Swiss, now based in Singapore, defends itself by claiming to have never been a simple broker just collecting a commission, but an art dealer buying works to resell at a competitive price, but taking a margin in passing.
In a letter to New York Judge Jesse Furman on Oct. 27, one of the lawyers at Rybolovlev, Accent Delight and Xitrans Finance, said he intended to sue Sotheby’s in the UK, suggesting and emails seized by the courts, that the auction house and in particular one of its employees, Samuel Valette, had helped Yves Bouvier to defraud. Sotheby’s has thus helped to create documents giving credibility to the inflated prices offered by Switzerland. The auction house replied on November 17 in Geneva refuting these accusations, stating that it had no knowledge of the prices charged, nor derived any benefit from these transactions.
In this battle, Christie’s auction of “Salvator Mundi” by Leonardo da Vinci, one of the 37 paintings in the heart of the conflict, falls badly for Rybolovlev, as it shakes his demonstration. The table has indeed reached the record of 450 million dollars in New York. But this representation of Christ had been sold in 2013 to Bouvier via an over-the-counter sale organized by Sotheby’s for $ 80 million. The Swiss had immediately sold 127.5 million to Rybolovlev, pocketing a huge surplus value (to the point that the paint sellers had a time complaint against Sotheby’s, accusing him of hiding the final recipient of the painting, before withdrawing their complaint by settling amicably). In the fierce war with her rival Christie’s, Sotheby’s is closely monitoring its reputation.
Ron Soffer, Bouvier’s lawyer in Paris, did not fail to point out that the sale of New York proves that the masterpieces acquired by Rybolovlev thanks to the Swiss merchant were invaluable.