Defendants charged by U.S. prosecutors in a $50 million stock scam hoped to use a London art dealer to launder money.
In a recorded conversation, one of the alleged perpetrators in the international securities fraud scheme suggested to an undercover FBI agent that he should use a $9.2 million Pablo Picasso painting to launder illicit profits, boasting that the art market is the “only market that is unregulated,” Bloomberg News reported. According to Bloomberg News, “The alleged perpetrators range from a U.K. stockbroker with hundreds of millions of dollars under management to a bank in Budapest.” The defendants are accused of having “conspired to conceal the ownership and control of publicly traded companies in the U.S. and manipulated the price and trading volume of the stocks,” in what are known as “pump-and-dump” scams. The undercover FBI agent had asked employees of the brokerage firm Beaufort Securities Ltd. to help him launder money from an earlier scam, for which they suggested buying Picasso’s Personnages (1965) through Mayfair Fine Art Ltd., a London dealer. Mayfair’s owner Matthew Green, who was charged in the case, agreed to arrange the sale, which was stopped before its completion. U.S. prosecutors filed the case against six defendants on Friday in a Brooklyn court, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a related civil lawsuit in Brooklyn.