Saturday, 19. April 2014 - 22:04
06. 11. 12. - 08:00
The court case against the world's most famous violin expert Dietmar Machold continues today with prosecutors widening the charges against him to include an instrument worth 3.6 million euros that belonged to Bank Austria that he sent to Japan where it vanished.
Even prosecutors have accepted that the accused was the most famous stringed instrument expert in the world, but that he used his reputation to fiddle millions from his clients.
The latest allegation to be added to the charge list is that the 62-year-old was under pressure from Japanese dealer at the debts and had allowed the Stradivari with the name Leonardo da Vinci to be sent out of the country where it was used as security on his debts despite the fact that it had been purchased with financial support from Bank Austria that on paper owned the instrument.
It has reportedly been seen in the hands of other dealers since then although prosecutors are unsure of its exact whereabouts.
The court heard how Machold, facing 10 years in jail, married a woman 27-years younger, bought a romantic fairy-tale castle and filled his garage with a fleet of VIP cars to impress his clients - and persuade them to allow him to look after or restore their instruments.
But in reality he had run up massive debts of over 250 million euros because of his jet-set lifestlye, issuing faked certificates of authenticity to say that worthless violins were priceless masterpieces and illegally selling off other instruments that were left in his care.
The total losses from Machold's insolvency are far in excess of the 4.74 million Euros for which he was originally put on trial, and prosecutors have received 46 criminal complaints from Australia, the United States, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, where he is accused of further frauds.
Opening the case on charges of embezzlement, bankruptcy fraud and grand commercial fraud prosecutor Herbert Harammer said: "He lived the life of a rich and successful man. But now with the benefit of hindsight we realise this was just a facade."
The court heard how the accused was part of a family of violin builders from Bremen in Germany and in contrast to his father he had let the violin building side of the business gradually fold while he himself moved into the far more lucrative business of dealing in the sale of violins.
He set up an "empire of music" when he married a 27-year younger woman in 1997 in Austria and purchased a historic castle, Schloss Eichbüchl, in Lower Austria, which he used to entertain customers and reinforce the impression that he was a successful businessman.
But his expenditure did not match his income and by 2006 he could no longer meet his creditors, and decided according to prosecutors to meet the debts by taking the money from elsewhere.
But the prosecution said he then constantly needed to repeat the process with ever bigger frauds in order to cover himself. Machold admitted partial responsibility – in that he admits selling illegally violins belonging to customers that have been entrusted into his care or alternatively to use them as security to borrow large amounts of cash. But nevertheless he pleaded not guilty to the charges.
His reputation meant for example that a German bank loaned him millions of pounds when he provided them with two almost worthless violins and a certificate he had signed himself in which he claimed they were both genuine Stradivari and worth 5.5 million Euros.
When the German bank decided at a later stage to get a second opinion they were shocked to find that the two violins worth little more than 3,000 GBP in total. They filed for a return of the money and Vienna court and Machold's empire began to unravel.
He fled Castle Eichbüchl at Katzelsdorf in Austria to Switzerland after the German bank case caused him to file for bankruptcy, and he was arrested there in 2011 and extradited back to Austria in January of this year where he currently sits in a jail in Vienna.
Machold, who at the height of his fame had stores in Vienna, Zurich, New York City, Aspen, Chicago, Seoul and Tokyo had dealt in one in every two of the Stradivari and del Gesù violins in existence - making million in the process.
Together with his schoolteacher wife Barbara Drews, 37, the pair travelled the world buying up rare violins and then selling them on often for fantastic profits.
Joerg Beirer, the administrator in the bankruptcy proceedings, said he had pieced together a picture of a businessman who was probably cash-strapped for years and sold violins he had taken in commission for millions - often failing to pass on the proceeds to the instruments' owners or to banks, allegedly using the money to pay off other debts instead.
Pink Easter bunny helps Vienna art world pay tribute to DÃ¼rer
The Viennese art world has created its own version of the Easter Bunny â€“ by making a giant sized sculpture of the famous Albrecht DÃ¼rer painting currently on display until 29 June as part of the exhibition "DÃ¼rer, Michelangelo, Rubens"
Property price rise continues
The price of property in Vienna has now spiralled so much that every 4th apartment comes with a price tag of 500,000 or more. And every second flat costs 300,000 or more.
Jetflyers Take The Jet Ski Onto The Road
An Austrian company is making waves after they came up with the idea of taking a jet ski â€“ and fitting it with wheels.
Exploring photography and art through 1960s cult film Blow-Up
Vienna's Albertina is putting on an photography exhibition featuring stills from the cult sixties photography film Blow-Up by Michelangelo Antonioni.
Turtle flies from Vienna to India to try his luck with the ladies
An endangered turtle from Schoenbrunn Zoo is taking a trip across the world to try his luck out with two female turtles in India.
Ricky Martin to perform at Life Ball 2014
In a celebrating of joys of life, sensuousness and a tribute to handsomeness, the Life Ball 2014 has announced that the Latino star Ricky Martin, chosen many times over as Sexiest Man Alive, will perform at the event.
Vienna prosecutors target Ukrainian former government
Austrian officials have announced they are coordinating with Ukraine's public prosecutors over the investigation of former Ukrainian government officials accused of money-laundering and sanctions violations.
Icelandic artist shoots whole film in front of live audience in Vienna
An Icelandic artist is making a film adaptation of the novel World Light in Vienna - but is carrying out the whole project, including filming, in front of a live studio audience.
Free plants and seedlings exchange in Vienna
Green fingered garden growers will have the chance to exchange their plants and seedlings for some new varieties in a plant swap fair taking place in Vienna at the end of April.
Airbus superjet coming to Vienna for one-off visit
The world's largest passenger airliner, the Airbus A380, is coming to Vienna International Airport for a one off visit on 26 May.
The most popular stories –
last 7 days
|Icelandic artist shoots whole film in front of live audience in Vienna|
|Property price rise continues|
|Vienna prosecutors target Ukrainian former government|
|Ricky Martin to perform at Life Ball 2014|
|Turtle flies from Vienna to India to try his luck with the ladies|