Vilma Bautista was found guilty of conspiracy today for using her two nephews to conceal the sale of a Monet water lily painting to a London gallery that eventually sold it to macro hedge fund manager Alan Howard.
The works had been bought be Imelda Marcos and are now deemed to be property of the government of the Philippines. No word on whether the sale will be rescinded:
A London gallery, Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox, eventually agreed to sell the most valuable of the paintings, Claude Monet’s “Le Bassin aux Nymphéas” (1899) from his waterlily series, and Alan Howard, a billionaire hedge fund manager in Switzerland, agreed to pay $43 million for the masterpiece.
Ms. Bautista was not present for the verdict, which came after only three hours of deliberations. During the prosecution’s closing arguments on Friday morning, Ms. Bautista was wheeled out of court after experiencing chest pains and nausea.
The news about Alan Howard’s ownership of the disputed painting came out a couple of weeks ago, here’s The Smoking Gun with the fullest details:
According to court testimony and documents, Howard bought the Monet through Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox, a London art dealer. A Howard spokesperson described him as a “good faith purchaser” who relied on a series of representations from Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox that title to the painting was clear. The spokesperson added that Howard knew, prior to the sale, that the Monet had been previously owned by Imelda Marcos, and was being marketed by Bautista, Marcos’s ex-aide.
Howard’s representative also pointed to a letter from the Philippine Presidential Commission on Good Government that reported the Monet was not on a list of missing artwork believed to have been purchased by the Marcos family with government funds. Established in 1986 after President Ferdinand Marcos was deposed, the PCGG is charged with recovering the Marcoses embezzled fortune. It is unclear how the Monet–likely the most valuable artwork in the Marcos collection–was overlooked by Philippine asset hunters.
Howard, his spokesperson told TSG, was unaware that Bautista had, a few months earlier, tried to sell the Monet to a Manhattan art dealer. That $35 million deal collapsed when Acquavella Galleries, the prospective purchaser, backed away over concerns about Bautista’s authority to sell the painting. The spokesperson added that while Howard did not personally examine the Monet prior to purchasing it, his art advisor was shown the painting inside a Manhattan apartment (apparently that of Bautista).
Former Marcos Aide Is Found Guilty of Conspiracy (NYTimes.com)
Billionaire Bought “Hot” Imelda Marcos Monet (The Smoking Gun)