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Cézanne theft lawyer jailed for seven years

05 January 2009Written by ATG Reporter

A retired Massachusetts lawyer found guilty of involvement in a major art theft that extends back three decades has been sentenced to seven years in a Federal prison.

Robert M. Mardirosian, 74, was found guilty in September of possession of goods that he knew were stolen. The goods in question were seven paintings stolen in 1978 from the Stockbridge, Massachusetts home of collector Michael Bakwin.

One of the largest-value art thefts in history, the haul included Bouilloire et fruits by Paul Cézanne which sold for £18m at Sotheby’s in 1999 after its recovery was negotiated.

Mardirosian practised law for many years in Massachusetts and once represented the alleged thief, David Colvin, who was never convicted but was subsequently murdered in 1979 over a gambling debt.

The paintings disappeared but were traced two decades later after attempts were made to sell them. They have since been the subject of lengthy legal action.

Sentencing Mardirosian, US District Court Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf said he acknowledged that Mardirosian has been diagnosed as suffering from early-stage dementia but said it was crucial to send a message to other lawyers to resist the temptations of crime.

One of the principal prosecution witnesses was the chairman of the Art Loss Register, Julian Radcliffe, whose services Michael Bakwin retained to help recover the paintings. The ALR and Mr Bakwin’s lawyers are now pursuing a civil case for the recovery of the costs involved in this case over the last 30 years.

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ATG Reporter

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