Accused of Art Fraud, Yves Bouvier Steps Down From Le Freeport

Bouvier will focus on mounting his defense against charges of fraud.

Embattled Swiss billionaire Yves Bouvier, accused of defrauding art collectors, has stepped down from his position running Luxembourg’s Le Freeport in order to focus on his defense, reports Art Media Agency.

Bouvier was arrested in February, but has denied accusations from Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev that he overcharged the collector, manipulating the prices on blue-chip works by artists such as Amedeo Modigliani.

Le Freeport expects that Bouvier, the company’s lead investor and founder, will soon resume an active leadership role as soon as his legal issues are cleared up. In the meantime, new management will be appointed in the form of independent directors, who Le Freeport expects to name shortly.

In a statement, Le Freeport distanced itself from the fraud case, insisting the company is not involved and that the accusations are damaging the good name of the “successful Swiss businessman” who “enjoys an excellent reputation.” Le Freeport expressed confidence that Bouvier would soon be cleared, claiming “the judicial tide is now turning in his favor.”

In actuality, the case appears quite complex: last week, Rybolovlev released his e-mail correspondence with Bouvier.

While Bouvier claims to have been working with the Russian as an independent dealer, free to set his own prices, Rybolovlev claims that Bouvier was acting as a broker, and was obligated to arrange the best possible deals for his client. The e-mail correspondence suggests that Bouvier was negotiating with sellers to lower prices, but does not appear to prove that Bouvier inflated the prices as quoted to him by the sellers.

Despite the ongoing scandal, the Le Freeport empire continues to expand, with a Shanghai outpost scheduled to debut in 2017. The Luxembourg outfit opened last year.

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