Angela Gulbenkian, a self-styled art dealer connected by marriage to the super-rich Gulbenkian dynasty, heard this week that she may be freed from a British jail relatively soon.
Extradited under cloak of darkness to the UK last December (click here) accused of pocketing over a million euros destined for the purchase of a gigantic ceramic pumpkin (click here), the wife of Portuguese sports promoter Duarte Gulbenkian has been handed a three-and-a-half year jail term – less time already served – after pleading guilty as charged.
Appearing for sentencing at Southwark Crown Court on Wednesday, she was labelled as someone who initially ‘had honest intentions’ but who fell foul of temptation.
The money was in her account, and she found herself using it to go shopping (spending over £218,000), travelling (£121,000), buying luxury items like a Rolex watch (£25,000), purchasing works of art and hiring a private jet.
Defence counsel David Groome told Southwark Crown Court that the extravagances came because her husband had stopped working for his family’s business and suddenly had no money.
“Overnight, Ms Gulbenkian became the family’s only source of income,” explained Mr Groome – and she wanted to maintain the couple’s lavish lifestyle.
Ms Gulbenkian had also spent the life-savings of a personal trainer she met at a gym in Battersea – but these at least she repaid after a complaint was made to police.
It could be with this sentence that Ms Gulbenkian is already eligible for parole.
The Wandsworth Guardian explains she “has already served the equivalent of a two-year-sentence after having been arrested in Lisbon under a European arrest warrant and remanded in HMP Bronzefield after being extradited”.
This case has caused quite a stir in the exclusive art-collecting world which has always operated on a basis of trust.
The aggrieved party, art advisor Mathieu Ticolat gave evidence to the court via video-link from his home in Hong Kong, saying he had been through “hell” as a result of Ms Gulbenkian’s theft.
“I believed her because she said she was part of the Gulbenkian family. I was deceived”, he said. “I am not a billionaire. I’m an arts advisor, and I am still trying to recover”.
The case was powered by US lawyer Christopher A. Marinello who runs ‘Art Recovery International ’ – a business known for its relentless focus in recovering stolen, looted and/ or missing works of art.
He has since told online Artnet News that he thinks Ms Gulbenkian’s sentence “could have been heavier”.
“In my view, this sends the wrong message to the post-Brexit London art market. It says to me that fraudsters are welcome in London to ply their trade, to spend and hide their ill-gotten gains on property and luxury goods, as long as the [Revenue and Customs department] gets their share.”
Artnet News adds that a further lawsuit in which Ms “Gulbenkian is accused of selling a £115,000 Andy Warhol print on behalf of a London-based dealer and pocketing the money is still pending”.