Russian businessman Dmitry Rybolovlev made $6.5 billion when he sold his stake in potassium fertilizer company Uralkali in 2011, and in 2017 he pocketed another few hundred million by consigning Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi (ca. 1500) to Christie’s, where it sold for $450 million.
Now, he could be coming into another windfall of cash, and this time, it’s money that he claims was swindled from him. In addition to lawsuits in France, Monaco, and Singapore relating to the alleged years-long con perpetrated by advisor Yves Bouvier—whom the Russian collector claimed overcharged him to the tune of $1 billion over the course of 38 deals—last year Rybolovlev filed a suit in New York against Sotheby’s, which facilitated some of the deals. On Tuesday, a federal judge rejected Sotheby’s bid to dismiss the litigation, and said the $380-million suit against the auction house will proceed in New York court.
Many of the lawsuits that are in various stages of progress in courts across the world name Bouvier as a defendant, accusing him of orchestrating the scheme in order to rip off the unwitting Rybolovev. Bouvier has denied all wrongdoing. This particular suit names Sotheby’s because the auction house was involved in 14 of the 38 deals, and the complaint states that it was “the willing auction house that knowingly and intentionally made the fraud possible.”
Sotheby’s attempted to get the case dismissed by claiming litigating in New York was inconvenient for all parties, and that the case was already being hashed out in a Swiss court. But Reuters reported that U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman “found no showing that New York was ‘genuinely inconvenient’ and Switzerland was ‘significantly preferable.’”