Did Dmitry Rybolovlev Buy Paintings Stolen From Picasso’s Stepdaughter?

Russian billionaire offers to help French authorities investigating Picasso theft.

Dmitry Rybolvelv
Dmitry Rybolvelv. Courtesy of AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau.

The ongoing dramatic international legal battle between Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev and so called “free port king” Yves Bouvier appears to be heating up.

On May 18, artnet News received statements from the attorney for the Ryvbolovlev’s family trust, via email, that suggested Rybolovlev believes the trust is the unwitting buyer of several works that Picasso’s stepdaughter, Catherine Hutin-Blay, alleges were stolen from her (see Dealer Olivier Thomas Detained In France After Theft Accusations By Picasso Heir and Picasso’s Stepdaughter Accuses Paris Dealer and Yves Bouvier Partner of Theft).

Rybolovlev appears more than ready to cooperate with French authorities investigating the alleged theft. In a statement emailed to artnet News, Tetiana Bersheda, the attorney for the Rybolovlev Family Trust, wrote, “The paintings which Mrs Catherine Hutin considers to be stolen from her are at the authorities’ disposal to be identified.”

Anne-Sophie Nardon, the Paris-based attorney for Hutin-Blay, did not have any comment other than acknowledging the ongoing investigation, and adding: “We are waiting for the identification” of the paintings.  (She provided similar information to the Telegraph.)

On May 16, Nardon confirmed to artnet News via email that her client “is a civil party in the context of an investigation opened on introductory submission of the Prosecutor of the Republic of theft, receiving stolen property and fraud.”

According to Bersheda’s statement:  “The French authorities are conducting an investigation concerning artworks by Pablo Picasso that are alleged to have been stolen. Some of these works  were sold to Accent Delight in March 2013 by Mr Yves Bouvier, who has been charged in Monaco with fraud and complicity in money laundering.” (Accent Delight is a company associated with the Rybolovlev family trust.)

The statement from Bersheda continues: “Considering Mr Bouvier’s particularly shocking methods, Accent Delight filed a complaint on April 9th with the Paris police against persons unknown for theft, receipt of stolen property, and fraud.”

As artnet News reported last week: Hutin-Blay, the only daughter of Picasso’s controversial second wife, Jacqueline Roque,  is accusing Olivier Thomas, a Paris art dealer and Bouvier business partner, of stealing artworks from her.

Thomas was detained by French authorities on May 11, as confirmed by a May 15 statement from Le Freeport managing director David Arendt to artnet News. “According to the press, the daughter of the last wife of Pablo Picasso alleged in Paris that works of the artist belonging to her would have been sold without her consent. Our Chairman of the Board, the well-known art consultant Mr Olivier Thomas, has been heard Tuesday and Wednesday in Paris. After the hearings Mr Olivier Thomas has been left free and remains available to cooperate with the judicial authorities.” It is unclear whether Thomas has been formally charged.

We reached out to Arendt for comment on the latest news from Rybolovlev’s attorney as well as to Bouvier’s attorney Luc Brossellet. In a May 19 email, Arendt informed artnet News: “Neither I nor Freeport Luxembourg have anything to to with this case or cases.” (see Steve Cohen’s Modigliani and $75 Million Leonardo At Heart of Bouvier Case and Accused of Art Fraud, Yves Bouvier Steps Down From Le Freeport).


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