Legal action over stolen artwork

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 November, 2010, 12:00am

Steven Cheung Ng-sheong, the fugitive economist now living on the mainland to avoid prosecution by US authorities on tax evasion and fraud charges, is taking legal action against a local artwork dealer which bought three oil paintings stolen from a gallery he owned.

Cheung has recovered two of the paintings and wants the remaining one back. Alternatively, he is seeking HK$3 million in compensation and damages, according to a High Court writ. Cheung took action after the dealer failed to return the painting despite repeated demands to do so since September, the writ says.

West Coast International, co-owned by Cheung's wife Linda Su Ching-ling, and another company related to the Cheung family submitted the writ yesterday demanding the return of Water Village, an oil painting by Chinese artist Chen Yifei, from Chelesa Art Company in Central.

The painting, valued at HK$3 million, was among three art pieces stolen and sold to Chelesa by one of Cheung's employees at Dandelion Fine Arts, whose parent company is West Coast.

The employee, who made HK$1.4 million from the sale, was jailed for three years in May. The judge in the case affirmed Cheung's ownership of West Coast and Dandelion - two companies at the centre of the 2003 US indictment against Cheung - despite him not being listed as a shareholder, citing the fact that several of his family members were listed as shareholders.

West Coast successfully recovered Wind Blowing Over One's Shoulder by Ai Xuan from auction house Sotheby's, who bought the work from Chelesa. Then in September, West Coast demanded through a lawyer the return of the other two paintings. On Tuesday, Chelesa returned Young Shepherd by Ai Xuan, now valued at HK$5 million.