Refusal to collect $273K from acquitted art expert Basner in favor of collector upheld
ST. PETERSBURG, November 21 (RAPSI, Mikhail Telekhov) – The St. Petersburg City Court has upheld refusal to collect 16.2 million rubles ($273,000 at the current exchange rate) from prominent art expert Yelena Basner on a claim by art collector Andrey Vasilyev, the Unified press service of the St. Petersburg court has told RAPSI.
The ruling has taken effect.
Vasilyev has demanded to recover the money from Basner, who had been earlier acquitted of fraud, for value appraisal of a painting.
Basner, a former employee of the Bukowskis Auction House as well as the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, was investigated over a painting, “In restaurant”, attributed to Boris Grigoryev, a well-known Russian artist of the first half of the 20th century. The painting, which was allegedly examined by Basner in 2009 and sold for $250,000, was proven to be a fake in 2011.
The art expert was arrested on January 31, 2014. She was charged with large-scale fraud. On February 5, 2014, she was placed under house arrest. In January 2015, a court in St. Petersburg released Basner from the house arrest.
According to investigators, in the summer of 2009 Mikhail Aranson, who is now wanted by police, in collaboration with unknown co-conspirators invited Basner to the criminal conspiracy of selling the fake painting. Investigators allege that Basner made up a sham story about the painting’s history and found the buyer, a publisher Leonid Shumakov. He, convinced of the painting’s authenticity, proposed his close friend, St. Petersburg art collector Andrei Vasilyev, to buy the painting.
Eventually, Vasilyev bought the fake painting for €180,000 (11.8 million rubles at the current exchange rate), whereas its real price was 12,000 rubles (€180).
Prosecutors have asked the court to sentence Basner to 4 years in prison, impose a fine of 500,000 rubles (about $8,500 at the current rate) on her and order to pay the collector 16.5 million rubles ($280,000) in compensation.
However, Basner was found not guilty on May 17, 2016. The St. Petersburg City Court upheld her acquittal on August 11.
The art collector in his lawsuit claimed that Basner was a seller of the painting.
Her defense lawyers in turn insisted that the seller was Shumakov. Vasilyev made the deal with the publisher. Basner had exercised mediation functions and was not a party of the transaction, according to her attorneys.
In June 2017, the Dzerzhinsky District Court in St. Petersburg dismissed Vasilyev’s lawsuit.