New Revelations About Art Adviser Helge Achenbach

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

A trial began yesterday in the lawsuit against the disgraced German art adviser Helge Achenbach. According to a Die Welt report, new information about the case has been revealed as the defendant began to make his case.

Babette Albrecht, the widow of the late Aldi supermarket heir Berthold Albrecht, filed the initial complaint, claiming that the art adviser defrauded the billionaire couple resulting in damages totaling approximately €23 million (see “€18 Million Fraud Claim Against Art Adviser“). As per the complaint, Achenbach allegedly forged purchase invoices for artworks and vintage automobiles to earn higher commissions.

The lawyers of the accused filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit claiming that though the Albrecht family had a contractually guaranteed buy-back clause for the paintings and automobiles. That they chose not to activate the clause is, according to Achenbach’s representatives, further indication that the Albrechts did not lose money in the transactions.

Achenbach’s lawyers also disputed the claim that Achenbach forged the purchase invoices. The defense claims that Berthold Albrecht wanted Achenbach to profit from the transactions that he was mediating and created duplicate documents, one that was the actual document and a second that was intended only for his wife, a manipulated document that hid the fact that Achenbach was making higher commissions.

As per Achenbach’s legal team, Albrecht did not want to involve his wife in his dealings, “which is why in individual cases,” as per the Die Welt article, “copies were made of existing original documents. The copies were then altered so that he [Albrecht] would be able to disguise the the defendant’s true commission from his wife[…]”

However on the first day of the trial at Düsseldorf District Court, the presiding Judge Joachim Matz expressed his doubts about Achenbach’s interpretation of the events, as reported by the Rheinische Post. Judge Matz explained that it was unlikely that Albrecht would have paid more than he needed to, especially since Achenbach has a reputation for being able—due to his extensive contacts, experience, and expertise—to negotiate lower prices for art works.

As the trial continues, we’ll be checking back in.

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