In an emotional testimony, Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev accused Sotheby’s of collaborating with a Swiss art dealer to cheat him out of tens of millions of dollars. Rybolovlev, who invested $2 billion in art, became tearful while describing his discovery of being part of a common con game prevalent in an “art market that needs to be more transparent.”
Rybolovlev alleged that Sotheby’s and dealer Yves Bouvier were involved in deceptive practices, leading to a loss of over $160 million. He claimed that Bouvier purchased famous artworks from Sotheby’s and sold them to him at marked-up prices. this russian oligarch spent approximately $2 billion on art between 2002 and 2014, building a world-class art collection.
During cross-examination, a Sotheby’s lawyer got Rybolovlev to admit that he trusted his advisers and did not insist on seeing documents that might have revealed where his money was going, even for artworks worth tens of millions of dollars. Rybolovlev blamed murky practices in the art world for his financial losses, emphasizing the need for transparency in the industry.
The trial involves four art pieces, including Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi.” Rybolovlev claims he was deliberately deceived by Bouvier and a Sotheby’s executive, alleging an elaborate fraud. Sotheby’s attorney argued that Russian billionaire was attempting to make an innocent party pay for what someone else did to him, while Rybolovlev’s lawyer accused Sotheby’s of choosing greed and participating in the fraud.
Bouvier settled with Rybolovlev in December under undisclosed terms, and his Swiss lawyers denied the fraud allegations, noting that cases against him worldwide had been discontinued. Rybolovlev, who was included in a list of Russian politicians and oligarchs linked to Vladimir Putin, has not lived in Russia for 30 years.