The collapse of the loan deal relates to the incident in September 2007 when leading British art dealer Simon Dickinson was arrested by HM Revenue and Customs in connection with the £17m sale of nine Old Masters to the Prince of Liechtenstein, Hans-Adam II.
Revenue and Customs said in a statement at the time that they believed the dealer supplied incomplete or false information to the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (the government agency responsible for providing export licences) when negotiating the sale of nine pictures from the Lord Northbrook collection.
The deal, headlined by Michiel van Musscher’s 17th century masterpiece Portrait Of An Artist valued at £6.6m, was negotiated through Simon Dickinson in London and Galerie St Lucas in Vienna, and the sale made by Galerie Nissl in Liechtenstein.
In September 2007, after the arrest, Dickinson’s gallery issued a statement, saying that it was “confident that the paintings were exported in accordance with all relevant regulations”.
To the frustration of the parties involved, more than two years later the Revenue and Customs investigation continues.
A matter of particular concern was the decision to impound one of the paintings, Portrait of Don Diego, Son of Philip II of Spain, 1577, by Alonso Sánchez Coello, as part of the investigation.
In November 2009 the picture, valued in 2006 at £2m, was released from custody in a National Gallery store and given to Prince Hans-Adam II’s representative in London. But while it has no export licence it cannot leave the UK to join the collection in either Liechtenstein or Vienna.
The exhibition of 100 highlights from the Liechtenstein Collection (including the possible reappearance in London of the Badminton Cabinet, sold for £17m at Christie’s in 2004) had been scheduled for the RA’s main galleries from September 25 to December 12, 2010.
In a statement from the Liechtenstein Museum, it was announced “with regret” that the exhibition “will now not take place”.