Crying Russian billionaire who spent $2 billion on art tells jurors Sotheby’s defrauded him


NEW YORK (AP) — A Russian billionaire who accused Sotheby's of colluding with a Swiss art dealer to defraud him of millions of dollars broke down in tears while testifying Friday when he learned that he was one such fraudster. Was part of the game which is very common. “The art market needs to be more transparent.”

The emotional moment came as fertilizer magnate Dmitry Rybolovlev, speaking through an interpreter, completed two days of testimony in Manhattan federal court to support his lawsuit against Sotheby's.

Rybolovlev, once worth at least $7 billion, said he trusted his dealer Yves Bouvier.

“So when you trust people, and I'm not a person who trusts easily, but when someone is like a member of your family,” Rybolovlev said, wiping tears from his eyes and continuing. First bowed his head: “There comes a time and you start trusting a person completely.

Rybolovlev is trying to hold Sotheby's responsible for what his lawyers say are more than $160 million in losses. His legal team said Bouvier bought famous artworks from Sotheby's and transferred the money to his own account before selling them to Rybolovlev at set prices. In total, Rybolovlev spent approximately $2 billion on art from 2002 to 2014 as he built a world-class art collection.

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On cross-examination, Sotheby's lawyers asked Rybolovlev to admit that he trusted his advisers and did not insist on seeing documents that could have revealed where his money was going, even when he Sometimes art worth millions of dollars was purchased.

In his testimony, Rybolovlev blamed questionable practices in the blue-chip art world for hurting him financially.

“Because when the largest company in this industry with such an entrenched reputation does these things, it makes it incredibly difficult for clients like me who have experience in the business to understand what's going on,” he argued in his attorneys' case. supporting that Sotheby's either knew – or should have known – that Rybolovlev was being defrauded and informed him.

When asked by his lawyer why he sued Sotheby's, Rybolovlev said: “So it's not a money issue. Well, not just about money. The art market needs to be more transparent. Because... when the biggest company in the industry is involved in these kinds of activities, you know, customers don't stand a chance.

In an opening statement earlier in the week, Sotheby's attorney Sarah Shudofsky said Rybolovlev was "trying to make an innocent party pay for what someone else did to him."

Rybolovlev's lawyer, Daniel Kornstein, said in his opening remarks that Sotheby's had engaged in an elaborate fraud.

"Sotheby's had options, but they chose greed," he said.

Rybolovlev claims that Bouvier and a London-based executive of Sotheby's deliberately defrauded him as he purchased 38 artworks.

Only four are at issue in the lawsuit, including Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi, Latin for "Savior of the World," which Rybolovlev's lawyers say Bouvier bought from Sotheby's for $83 million, it was resold to Rybolovlev just a day later for more than $127 million. In 2017, Rybolovlev sold it through Christie's for a historic $450 million as it became. most expensive painting Sometimes sold at auction.

In December, Bouvier's lawyers announced that Bouvier had reached a settlement with Rybolovlev under undisclosed terms, ensuring that neither would comment on their past disputes.

Bouvier's Swiss lawyers, David Bitton and Yves Klein, said earlier this week that Bouvier "strongly disputes any allegations of fraud."

He said the charges against Bouvier in New York have been dismissed "by authorities around the world", adding that all nine legal cases brought against him in Singapore, Hong Kong, New York, Monaco and Geneva, Switzerland have been closed.

In 2018, Rybolovlev was included in a list that the Trump administration released of 114 Russian politicians and oligarchs that it said were connected to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

However, he was not included in List of Russian oligarchs The clearance came after Russia invaded Ukraine, and Kornstein told jurors that his client, who studied medicine and became a cardiologist before going into business, had not lived in Russia for 30 years.

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