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US Officials Drop Fraud Investigation Surrounding Swiss Art Dealer

A yearlong fraud investigation surrounding Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier has been dropped by US officials after the $450.3 million sale of Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, ca. 1500, at a Christie’s auction in London last November, reports Eileen Kinsella of Artnet.

The probe into Bouvier’s business matters began after Russian art collector Dmitry Rybolovlev accused Bouvier of swindling him out of nearly $1 billion through outrageous markups in art transactions without Rybolovlev’s knowledge; the most notable of these exchanges was Rybolovlev’s purchase of Salvator Mundi about five years ago, which he bought for $128 million. But after Rybolovlev auctioned off the work last fall for a record-setting amount, the investigation was abandoned. “Had the case proceeded,” says Bloomberg, the publication that first reported the story, “Rybolovlev’s windfall could have enabled the defense to claim that he wasn’t a fraud victim because he profited in the end.” Reasons to drop the inquiry had been accumulating for months.

Despite the sale, Rybolovlev asked a judge to make Sotheby’s, from whom the collector originally bought Salvator Mundi, release confidential documents related to Bouvier’s purchase of the work on his behalf, dragging the auction house into his fight with the dealer. When Artnet asked about the ongoing legal conflict with Bouvier, a representative from the Rybolovlev Family Trust said: “Thanks to the professionalism and expertise of Christie’s, the record-breaking sale of da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi has helped restore some of the value of the collection. This is a welcome development for the Rybolovlev family trusts as we undertake legal proceedings to address the shocking alleged fraud committed by Yves Bouvier who deceived the family, all while pretending to be a friend and advisor.” The representative, however, said nothing about the disbanded US investigation.

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