Frank Auerbach's Albert Street 2009

Frank Auerbach's Albert Street 2009, seized by the NCA.

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Following an investigation by the NCA a painting by artist Frank Auerbach (b.1931), Albert Street 2009, will be offered for sale. A decision on the process of the sale is still being decided. The NCA got the go-ahead for the sale following its forfeiture granted at a hearing on April 29.

A large amount of gold bullion was also seized and will also be sold. The NCA said the proceeds will be “returned to the public purse”.

Lenn Mayhew-Lewis (69) of Oxted in Surrey, was caught with eight kilos of gold bars and shavings when he was arrested in 2019 by West Midlands Police officers acting on NCA intelligence.

Mayhew-Lewis, who was last year convicted of money laundering, is being sought by the NCA after he absconded ahead of his sentencing. He was sentenced in his absence to five years in prison.


Some of the gold seized by the NCA.

The property was seized as part of the investigation.

The painting (pictured, top) was purchased in 2017 for £1.6m according to the NCA but Auerbach’s works can fetch as much as £5.5m. The agency believes the Auerbach painting was used by another individual, following its purchase by Mayhew-Lewis, as collateral to secure a £5m loan from a UK auction house.

The forfeiture of Mayhew-Lewis’ assets was possible by the listed assets provision of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

The law was updated in 2017 to add new powers to act which enables the seizure, detention and forfeiture of specific property – known as ‘listed assets’ – where it is believed to be derived from or intended for use in crime, and worth £1000 or more.

Listed assets are defined as precious metal and stones, watches, artistic works, face-value vouchers and postage stamps.

The NCA said the case “shines a light on the abuse of art dealers and auction houses by organised criminals, who use companies to hide and legitimise money from crime”.

The NCA have previously warned the art and finance industry of tactics used by criminals, including employing third parties to secure loans against art and hide true ownership of artwork.

The agency said that auction houses’ ability to provide loans secured against artworks “can be abused by criminals who are able to access millions of pounds while auction houses take care of artwork as it appreciates in value”.