The Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier faces charges of illicit possession after being questioned by a French judge yesterday, 14 September. Bouvier denies any wrongdoing. The judge in Paris is investigating the case of the alleged theft of 60 works by Picasso. Bouvier's bail has been set at €27m, to be paid in three installments by June 2016.
The judge, Isabelle Rich-Flament, is investigating a complaint filed in March by the daughter of the artist’s wife Jacqueline Picasso. Pablo Picasso’s stepdaughter, Catherine Hutin-Blay, claims the works were stolen from a store in a Paris suburb run by Art Transit, a Bouvier family company.
Bouvier sold the works for €36m to the Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev but the Swiss dealer’s spokesman says that he “never suspected they could have been stolen” and had proceeded with all due diligence, including consulting the Art Loss Register, which indicated the works were not registered as stolen.
The inquiry in Paris was launched in March after Hutin-Blay learned that two portraits of her mother, dated 1957, were in Rybolovlev’s collection. The Art Newspaper can reveal that Bouvier also sold 58 drawings dated 1955. Bouvier’s lawyers and spokesman confirm the sales. Hutin-Blay told French police they disappeared from the same store. The Russian collector’s lawyer tells us he is ready to give everything back, if they were indeed stolen.
Bouvier is co-operating with the French judge having won a judgement in a Singapore court of appeal to unfreeze his assets around the world. Bouvier’s assets had been blocked at the request of Rybolovlev. In an ongoing case in Monaco the Russian collector claims Bouvier took undue commissions on the sale of 50 works the billionaire had bought for $2bn. Bouvier denies that they were undue and says he was acting as a dealer and so free to charge commission at his discretion.
UPDATE AND CORRECTION: This article and headline were updated after Bouvier was formally charged with illicit possession only.