Former Collaborators Testify Against Achenbach

The disgraced art advisor's legal saga continues.

Helge Achenbach.
Photo: Andreas Endermann via RP-Online.

The Essen District Court heard a testimony from the Düsseldorf-based art dealer Paul Schönwald, reports Rheinische Post. Disgraced art advisor Helge Achenbach had previously testified that he had shared a portion of an illicit markup on a Richter painting with the dealer. Schönwald strongly denied the accusation.

Achenbach stands accused of defrauding a number of high profile clients by manipulating purchase invoices to pay himself illicit markups (see New Revelations About Art Adviser Helge Achenbach). His victims include the late billionaire and Aldi supermarket heir Berthold Albrecht, resulting in estimated damages of €23 million, and the pharmaceutical entrepreneur Christian Boehringer, resulting in damages of €1.1 million (see Achenbach Gives Surprise Partial-Confession in Fraud Case and Achenbach Confesses to Yet More Fraud).

After selling Berthold Albrecht an Ernst Ludwig Kirchner painting, Schönwald told the court that he offered to share a portion of the commission he earned with Achenbach. He hoped that the “renowned art advisor” would facilitate future sales.

He didn’t have to wait long. Shortly after, Achenbach reserved a Richter painting from Schönwald and promptly sold it to Albrecht. However the dealer insisted that the transaction was a business deal between colleagues and that Achenbach alone was responsible for the subsequent resale. Schönwald added he didn’t receive anything from Achenbach.

Testimony From Jan Böhm

The court also heard a testimony from Jan Böhm, director of the Hamburg branch of the Berenberg Bank, a parent company of Berenberg Art Advice for which Achenbach and co-defendant Stefan Horsthemke served as directors (see Achenbach Associate Reveals Details of Business Deals).

According to Handelsblatt, Böhm told the court that during the liquidation phase of BAA in June 2013, Achenbach had privately admitted to charging some clients illicit hidden premiums—something that Horsthemke denied. In response, the presiding Judge Johannes Hidding read a quote from Achenbach from court documents in which the art advisor declared: “We all know that you got something as well.”

Furthermore, Böhm recounted a transaction in which the Berenberg Bank offered a refund after the inflated price charged by Achenbach had raised suspicions. BAA had charged a collector €875,000 for an early Georg Baselitz work that had previously failed to sell for €200,000.

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