I acted lawfully over stolen Leonardo, says solicitor
The accused clockwise from top: David Boyce, Marshall Ronald, Robert Graham, John Doyle and Calum Jones
A solicitor accused of helping to hold a stolen Leonardo da Vinci painting to ransom has claimed that his law firm was used to give a “cloak of respectability” to a deal intended to return the painting to its aristocratic owner.
Madonna of the Yarnwinder was recovered after the police raided the Glasgow offices of the commercial law firm HBJ Gateley Wareing in October 2007. The painting had been stolen from the Duke of Buccleuch’s home at Drumlanrig Castle, Dumfriesshire, in August 2003. David Boyce, 63, resigned from the law firm after the raid and is now on trial for extortion, along with four other men, at the High Court in Edinburgh. Giving evidence yesterday, he denied that there had been any conspiracy in the “unusual” transaction.
Mr Boyce had been approached by Marshall Ronald, a Lancashire-based solicitor he knew from property dealings who was acting on behalf of two Merseyside private detectives. The clients claimed that they could get their hands on the painting, which was insured for £15 million but worth perhaps three times that figure. Mr Boyce told the court that, at the request of Mr Ronald, the efforts to return the painting had been kept highly confidential, but not secret.
The trial has been told that Mr Boyce’s boss, Malcom McPherson, claimed that he felt entitled to be angry at the way the firm had been let down “specifically by the non-disclosure of such high-risk, high profile activity”.
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“I don’t see it like that,” Mr Boyce told the court.
He said he felt his law firm had been used to give “a cloak of respectability” to dealings aimed at securing the valuable painting’s return. “Things have come out in this trial which have changed my view of Mr Ronald,” he said.
Mr Boyce told advocate depute Simon Di Rollo, for the prosecution: “I have never had any involvement in any criminal transaction in my life. This was something that required to be done lawfully and was done lawfully.”
He said he had not seen an agreement that contained a clause demanding that “law enforcement agencies” should not be told what was happening. He said he had passed matters on to junior partner Calum Jones, another of the men on trial. “I am not a contracts lawyer,” he explained. “I had no reason to look at any of the documents. It was not my job.”
Mr Boyce told his own defence QC, David Burns: “If there was for a moment any doubt about the legality of this, I and my firm would not have been involved.”
Standing trial are Marshall Ronald, 53, from Skelmersdale, Lancashire; Robert Graham, 57, from Ormskirk, Lancashire; John Doyle, 61, also from Ormskirk; Calum Jones, 45, from Kilmacolm, Renfrewshire; and David Boyce, 63, from Airdrie, Lanarkshire. They are accused of plotting to obtain money from the 9th Duke of Buccleuch, his son and their insurers Hiscox UK. They deny conspiring to extort £4,250,000 or, alternatively, attempting to extort the money between July and October 2007.
The trial continues.