Swiss art dealer's Hong Kong assets unfrozen amid court battle with Russian tycoon who accused him of swindling

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 September, 2015, 1:15pm
UPDATED : Friday, 04 September, 2015, 2:06pm

A Swiss art dealer accused of pocketing more than US$1 billion in secret profits from the sale of artworks to a Russian billionaire has had his assets in Hong Kong unfrozen, the High Court heard this morning.

High Court recorder Jason Pow Wing-nin SC today ordered the injunction against art dealer Yves Bouvier and his Hong Kong company Mei Invest Limited to be lifted.

Lawyers for Bouvier confirmed that a consent summons had been signed between Bouvier and Accent Delight International Limited and Xitrans Finance Limited, the two companies linked to Dmitry Rybolovlev.

Rybolovlev, who own French top-tier soccer club AS Monaco and built an art collection worth around US$1.49 billion, launched a lawsuit against Bouvier and his company in Singapore in March this year.

He also via his two companies applied for a world-wide injunction to restrict Bouvier from removing up to US$500 million in assets. Rybolovlev obtained an injunction from a Singapore court in March and one from Hong Kong’s High Court in July.

But Singapore’s appeal court discharged Bouvier’s injunction last month as they ruled “there was no real risk of [Bouvier] dissipating his assets”.

Singapore judges wrote in the ruling: “We do not consider that the allegations of dishonesty levelled at Mr Bouvier have a real and material bearing upon the risk of dissipation.”

The dispute between the parties arises out of Bouvier’s acquisition of 38 art masterpieces between 2003 and last year. The masterpieces included works by Da Vinci, Picasso and Van Gogh.

Rybolovlev claimed Bouvier acted as an agent for him and was only entitled to receive 2 per cent of the value of each transaction as his commission.

But Bouvier claimed his role was like that of an independent seller. He was entitled to sell the artworks to the billionaire at the highest price he thought he would pay.