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Handling goods Art dealer accused of stealing Picasso paintings

Yves Bouvier, who dealt art from Geneva's free port, is facing new charges

(Keystone)

Yves Bouvier, the owner of a Geneva-based shipping and storage company, is facing fresh accusations in Paris of dealing in stolen goods, months after their Russian buyer accused him of fraud.

Bouvier, whose business, Natural Lecoultre, is predominant at Geneva Free Port and Warehouses, was placed under investigation and forced to put up €27 million (CHF28.5 million) to the Paris court for the alleged “concealed theft” of two paintings by Pablo Picasso owned by the artist’s family.

In March, Catherine Hutin-Blay, the only daughter of Jacqueline Picasso, the Spanish artist’s second wife, filed a legal complaint for the disappearance of two paintings, Tête de Femme. Profil (Woman’s head. Profile) and Espagnole à l’Evantail (Spanish woman with a fan). On Monday Bouvier was formally charged relative to the Hutin-Blay's accusation.

The two pieces had been sold to Dimitri Rybololev, a Russian oligarch, now infamously known for his ongoing, potentially record-breaking divorce.

Shortly before Hutin-Blay’s filing, she was warned by a Brazilian art restorer, who had been contacted to repair paintings by Picasso and mount them on a base. The works were ones that the claimant believed were still at a storage site outside Paris.

The bail sum of €27 million demanded by the Paris court represents the amount Rybolovlev paid for the two works.

Earlier this year, Bouvier was arrested, and held briefly in Monaco, on accusations by Rybololev that he had been overcharged for the sale of works by artists including Rothko, Gaugain, Matisse and Rodin. Assets owned by Bouvier were impounded in Singapore, where he is resident, before being released.

Bouvier continues to face charges of fraud and complicity in money laundering in the Monaco case.

On Monday, Bouvier denied any wrongdoing, saying that he had acquired the Picassos in good faith.
 

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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