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Leonardo da Vinci

Jury clears Britons of Da Vinci theft extortion

Three lawyers and two private detectives are now off the hook

After two days of deliberation, a Scottish jury cleared five Britons of an elaborate plot to extort £4.25m for the return of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Madonna of the Yarnwinder. The painting, dating from around 1501-10 and worth an estimated £30m-£50m, was stolen nearly seven years ago during a brazen daytime raid of Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfriesshire—the ancestral home of the Dukes of Buccleuch. It was recovered in 2007 in a police raid of a Glasgow law office. The defendants—three lawyers and two private detectives—were not accused of the work’s theft but of acting as middlemen and demanding a hefty finder’s fee for the safe return of the work. The painting is currently on loan to the National Gallery of Scotland.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 214 June 2010