Following on from the trial of German art dealer Helge Achenbach that began the week before last – after the 62-year-old was accused of defrauding one of the country’s richest families of tens of millions in the sales of paintings and vintage cars – the case has taken another shocking turn. Achenbach, who has been in pre-trial detention for the last six months, previously denied the accusations against him. If found guilty the art dealer could see himself behind bars for a maximum jail term of 10 years.
Now Achenbach claims that British artist Tony Cragg was involved in the fraud, Art Magazine reports. Achenbach, who operates as an art dealer and consultant has had a number of his deals under the spotlight contested;which include deals involving paintings by Pablo Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein and Gerhard Richter, while the vintage car sales were of Ferraris, Bentleys and Jaguars Spiegel Online has reported.
The German art adviser stands accused of defrauding the late billionaire and Aldi supermarket heir Berthold Albrecht on some 23 separate occasions resulting in estimated damages of €23 million or £18.2 million – which Achenbach has now partially confessed to. Now, things have taken another unexpected turn.
Prosecutors have accused Achenbach of doubling the purchase price of a Tony Cragg artwork by illicitly altering the invoice, and selling the artwork to Albrecht for €400,000 or £256,000. According to Achenbach’s testimony last week, the art advisor split the profit with the artist after selling the illicitly marked-up sculpture to Albrecht.
Cragg has stringently denied any involvement with the fraud. On Monday the British artist told DPA, “I had nothing to do with the resale, and don’t know the details of this sale.” He insisted that “It was a normal business transaction with an art dealer.”
On Monday, in an emotional confession, Achenbach spoke to the court of his close friendship to the late billionaire. According to Handelsblatt he told the court that it was “unforgivable” that “the trust placed in me by Berthold Albrecht was not justified.” Achenbach went on to admit marking up purchase invoices to minimise the risk associated with the contractual buy-back clause, which his five percent commission reportedly did not cover.
According to Stern the art adealer also shared the illicit €750,000 (£481,000) ‘profit’ from a €4.5 million (£2.8 million) Gerhard Richter painting with an unnamed gallery.