An Unscrupulous Art Broker Allegedly Ripped Off a Russian Oligarch

March 16, 2015 | Liam Mathews

A Swiss art broker/champion-level swindler allegedly defrauded approximately $70 million from a Russian fertilizer tycoon in two deals, the New York Daily News reports.

Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev alleges that Yves Bouvier, a Swiss art transporter and dealer, took a way bigger cut than his two-percent commission allowed on two deals in 2013 and 2014. Bouvier brokered a deal for Rybolovlev, who agreed to buy Modigliani’s 1916 masterpiece Nude On A Blue Cushion from New York hedge fund manager Steve Cohen for $118 million. Bouvier, however, only paid Cohen $93.5 million, which means that he pocketed about $22 million more than his commission entitled him to. According to the Daily News, Rybolovlev learned of the theft from a comment Cohen’s broker made at a New Year’s Eve party.

Rybolovlev also discovered that Bouvier may have skimmed about $50 million when Rybolovlev bought da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi for $127.5 million in 2013. The sellers say they sold it for close to $80 million.

Bouvier claimed to a Luxembourg newspaper that he acted as a dealer, not a broker, in the Modigliani deal, and thus was entitled to a mark-up. That would still not explain why he didn’t disclose his stake in the deal. He is currently free on an $11 million bail.

In the movie adaptation of this real-life drama, Jeremy Irons should play the haughty Swiss art dealer who bilks the nouveau riche Russian shit salesman, played by Sean Bean, or maybe Vincent Cassel.

(Image: Amedeo Modigliani)