Thursday, September 17, 2009

Robin Symes, the furniture collection and the "shady lady"

Mark Townsend ("The dealer, the $10m and the missing art treasures: Family of trader's late partner allege new twist in decade-long fight for control of collection", The Observer September 13, 2009) has provided a fuller account of the furniture collection that was once displayed in the Chelsea home shared by Robin Symes and Christo Michaeilidis. Townsend reports:
Private investigators hired to accrue evidence against Symes now claim to have exposed a fresh trail of duplicity, double-dealing and evidence of money laundering involving the Gray artefacts, a well-known French bank and the transfer of suspicious payments to accounts in London, Liechtenstein and Gibraltar. During the course of their inquiry, detectives examined allegations involving a mystery blaze on a luxury Greek yacht and a fictitious millionairess from the Middle East.
It is reported that the furniture had been bought by the Michailidies family. The article continues:
Investigators for the Michailidis family have now allegedly accumulated evidence that Symes managed to surreptitiously sell the Gray masterpieces through a Parisian art dealer.

London law firm Bird & Bird, which represents the Michailidis family, has obtained details of Symes's bank accounts that it claims reveal a money trail emanating from the secret sale of the Gray collection. They allegedly indicate that Symes received a $10.3m payment for the collection which, it is claimed, he then tried to hide using a sophisticated pan-European laundering scam.

According to the court documents, a major French bank laundered the $10.3m through a Liechtenstein-based "front" company called Lombardi, whose sole beneficiary was Symes. The money was then deposited to an account in Gibraltar and forwarded to Symes in London. Neither the court nor the Michailidis family was informed of the payment to the antiques dealer.
Apparently the appearance of the money in Symes' account was due to a transaction from the so-called "shady lady" based in the Middle East who is said to have asked Symes to sell her jewellery. The woman - whose identity could not be revealed appears to be fictitious.

The furniture collection is now said to be in Qatar.

Townsend also notes:
A court document, dated 9 April 2009, from solicitors representing the Michailidis family accuses Symes of attempting to hide the money trail in a case that throws fresh light on the murky world of antiquities smuggling.
It would be enlightening if this trail came to light - and could indeed provide information about recently-surfaced antiquities.

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