Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

The trial had hinged on whether the jury believed that, in absence of any documentary evidence, the dozen meetings between Mr Taubman and his Christie’s counterpart, Sir Anthony Tennant, incriminated both men in a price-fixing conspiracy.

Prosecutor John Green read a passage from the ‘laissez-faire’ economist’s book, Wealth of Nations, in which Smith said: “People in the same trade seldom meet together even for merriment and diversion, but a conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public or in some contrivance to raise prices.” At the time of the trial Mr Taubman’s lawyers objected to the use of the quote on the grounds that Adam Smith was not a witness in the case. The judge overruled the objection.

In seeking a new trial, Mr Taubman’s lawyers have argued that the Smith quotation might have led jurors to assume their client’s guilt from the mere fact of the meetings, rather than their content. They further contend that the jury should have been instructed by the judge that it is lawful for business rivals to meet.