Russian billionaire who spent $2 billion on art tells jurors Sotheby's defrauded him

NEW YORK (AP) — A Russian billionaire accused of defrauding Sotheby's of tens of millions of dollars along with a Swiss art dealer broke down in tears Friday as he testified he discovered he was part of a con game. “The art market needs to be more transparent.”

A loud emotional moment followed Dmitry RybolovlevSpeaking through an interpreter, he concluded two days of testimony in Manhattan federal court in support of his case against Sotheby's.

Rybolovlev, once worth at least $7 billion, said he trusted his dealer. Yves Bouvier.

“So when you trust people, I'm not a person who trusts easily, but when a person is a member of your family,” Rybolovlev lowered his head briefly before wiping tears from his eyes and continued: “There's a point in time when you start to trust a person completely and utterly.

Rybolovlev is trying to hold Sotheby's responsible for what his lawyers say are more than $160 million in losses. His legal team said Bouvier pocketed the sum before selling the famous artwork from Sotheby's to Rybolovle. In total, Rybolovlev spent about $2 billion on art from 2002 to 2014 as he built a world-class art collection.

Under cross-examination, Sotheby's attorney Rybolovlev admitted that he trusted his advisers and did not insist on seeing documents showing where his money was going, even when he sometimes bought artefacts worth tens of millions of dollars.

In his testimony, Rybolovlev blamed shady practices in the blue-chip art world for damaging him financially.

“Because when the biggest company in the industry with such a deep reputation does these things, it makes it incredibly difficult for clients like me who have experience in the business to know what's going on,” he defended his lawyers' arguments. knew – or should have known and informed Rybolovlev that he was being cheated.

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When asked by his lawyer why he sued Sotheby's, Rybolovlev said: “So it's not a question of money. Well, not just money. It's important that the art market is more transparent. Because… when the biggest company in the industry engages in such activities, customers You know there's no chance.

In an opening statement earlier in the week, Sotheby's attorney Sarah Shudofsky said Rybolovlev was “trying to make an innocent party pay for what someone else did to him.”

Rybolovle's attorney, Daniel Kornstein, said in his opening that Sotheby's was involved in an elaborate fraud.

“Sotheby's had choices, but they chose greed,” he said.

Rybolovlev claims he was deliberately cheated by a London-based executive at Bouvier and Sotheby's when he bought 38 pieces of art.

Only four people, including Leonardo da Vinci's “Salvator Mundi, Latin for “savior of the world,” Rybolovle's lawyers say they bought the Bouvier from Sotheby's for $83 million. In 2017, Rybolovlev sold it through Christie's for $450 million. A very expensive painting Always sold at auction.

In December, Bouvier's lawyers announced that Bouvier had settled with Rybolovlev under undisclosed terms.

Bouvier's Swiss lawyers, David Bitton and Yves Klein, said earlier this week that Bouvier “strongly opposes any accusation of fraud”.

They said the charges against Bouvier in New York had been dismissed by “authorities around the world”, and nine legal cases brought against him in Singapore, Hong Kong, New York, Monaco and Geneva, Switzerland, had been dropped.

In 2018, Rybolovlev was added to a list the Trump administration released of 114 Russian politicians and oligarchs with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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However, he was not included List of Russian oligarchs Admitted after Russia invaded Ukraine, Kornstein told jurors that his client studied medicine and became a cardiologist before moving into business and had not lived in Russia for 30 years.

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