Yves Bouvier

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Yves Bouvier
Yves Bouvier.jpg
Yves Bouvier
Born (1963-09-08) 8 September 1963 (age 55)
Geneva, Switzerland
OccupationCEO, Natural Le Coultre
Known forBusinessman and art dealer
Parent(s)Jean-Jacques Bouvier

Yves Bouvier (born 8 September 1963) is a Swiss businessman and art dealer best known for his role in the Bouvier Affair. He was the president of Natural Le Coultre, an international company specialized in the transportation, storage, scientific analysis, and conservation of works of art, luxurious goods and other collectibles. In September 2017, it emerged that Bouvier is under criminal investigation by Swiss authorities amid allegations that he may have evaded more than 100 million euros in taxes related to his cross-border art dealings.[1] In February 2018, meanwhile, the Geneva Prosecutor reportedly opened a new criminal investigation into Bouvier relating to an indictment on charges of fraud.[2]

Early life[edit]

Yves Bouvier is the son of Jean-Jacques Bouvier, owner of Natural Le Coultre, a 150-year-old company specialized in moving and storing goods. Yves Bouvier early developed an interest in art, and joined his father's company in the eighties.[3]

Natural Le Coultre[edit]

Natural Transports was formed in 1859 as a moving and furniture storage company. It later became Natural Le Coultre [3] in 1901, when Albert-Maurice Natural joined Emile-Etienne Le Coultre to create A. Natural, Le Coultre & Cie. In 1946, Jean-Jacques Bouvier began an apprenticeship at Natural Le Coultre S.A. In 1983, the Bouvier family acquired Natural Le Coultre. In 1989, Jean-Jacques and Yves Bouvier formed Fine Art Transports Natural Le Coultre SA in Geneva. Yves Bouvier became assistant manager in 1995 and then managing director in 1997,[4] selling the moving and furniture storage activities to a local company to focus the company on storing, moving, and preserving pieces of art.[5] Yves Bouvier moved to Singapore in 2009 where he currently resides.

Freeport facilities[edit]

In 2005, Bouvier expanded his business model abroad[6] by creating "artistic hubs" grouped into freeport facilities that offer services and rental facilities to art collectors, museums and companies,[5] expanding into Singapore in 2010[7] and Luxembourg in 2014.[8] There are plans to open a Shanghai facility in 2017.[9]

The Rybolovlev case[edit]


For many years, Bouvier was known primarily as an art transporter. However, after 2010, he began to be associated with art sales, including some controversial cases involving alleged irregularities. First, in 2012 Bouvier was connected to a legal case involving a Canadian collector named Lorette Shefner. Shefner's family claims that she was the victim of a complex fraud, whereby she was persuaded to sell a Soutine painting at a price far below market value, only to see the work later sold to the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC for a much higher price.[10][11]

In a separate incident, de la Béraudière was linked to the high-profile criminal case of Wolfgang Beltracchi, a German forger convicted in 2011 of defrauding a number of collectors, including Daniel Filipacchi, of millions of dollars.[12] Bouvier's purported connections to Galerie Jacques de la Béraudière and his ownership of an off-shore entity called Diva Fine Arts led to Bouvier being connected to the Beltracchi case. He has denied any connection to Beltracchi and dismissed media coverage as uninformed speculation.[13]

Arrest and litigation[edit]

On 26 February 2015, Yves Bouvier was arrested in Monaco. He was accused by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev of defrauding him of hundreds of millions of dollars through the sale of 37 paintings over a ten-year period.[14][15] Bouvier denied all accusations, argues that he first heard about the complaint was when he was arrested, and that the price of the paintings had been agreed by both parties.[16]

According to Forbes, Rybolovlev spent New Year's Eve with Sandy Heller, art adviser to hedge fund billionaire Steven A. Cohen. Heller mentioned to Rybolovlev that Cohen had sold a Modigliani nude for $93.5 million to a "mystery buyer", alleging he didn't know that the buyer was Bouvier. Rybolvlev had paid Bouvier $118 million. Rybolovlev filed for fraud and money laundering in Monaco nine days later, and persuaded Bouvier to meet him there to discuss payment details for a Mark Rothko painting, at which time he was arrested by eight policemen.[17][18]

On 13 March 2015, Singapore's High Court ordered the global freezing of Bouvier's assets,[19] then lifted this decision 12 days later, ordering Rybolovlev to give a total of $100m guarantee of damages from his action against Bouvier, $20m in cash and an $80m guarantee on the Rothko No. 6 painting.[18] On 21 August 2015, the Singapore Court of Appeal removed the freezing injunction, on the ground that the procedure launched by Rybolovlev amounted to an abuse of procedure.[20] In March 2016, the High Court of Singapore dismissed Bouvier's attempt to suspend the civil suit filed in the territory against him by two companies linked to the Rybolovlev family trust, but the case was transferred to the Singapore International Commercial Court, which deals specifically with cross-border commercial disputes.[21] In May 2016, in an effort to gain a friendlier hearing, Bouvier's lawyers filed an appeal against the High Court's ruling. Bouvier prefers to have the case heard in Switzerland.[22] On 18 April 2017, the Singapore Court of Appeal overturned the High Court's decision, ruling that the case should be heard in Switzerland and ordering the action in Singapore to be stayed.[23]

After Rybolovlev had successfully obtained an injunction from Hong Kong's High Court in July 2015, on 4 September, Bouvier had his assets in Hong Kong unfrozen. High Court recorder Jason Pow Wing-nin SC ordered the injunction against art dealer Bouvier and his Hong Kong company Mei Invest Limited to be lifted.[24]

Irregularities were found in Rybolovlev's complaint against Bouvier: Rybolovlev, who had served eleven months in jail after his involvement in the murder of Evgeny Panteleymonov, was suspected of collusion with several senior Monegasque officials. Some believe he plotted against Bouvier with the help of Philippe Narmino, Minister of Justice, and Jean-Pierre Dreno, Prosecutor of Monaco.[25] French newspapers Mediapart and Libération suggested that during a dinner in Gstaad, Rybolovlev, Narmino and Gérard Cohen may have discussed the details of the plot, only a few weeks before Bouvier was arrested.[25] Additionally, HSBC has been accused of forgery and falsification of records that led to Bouvier's arrest in Monaco.[26] Bouvier's defense has objected to Rybolovlev's lawyer, Tetiana Bersheda, serving as Rybolovlev's translator during questioning while also being the subject of a deposition as a witness in the same case.[27]

A former friend of the Rybolovlev family, Tania Rappo, was also charged alongside Bouvier, in her case with money laundering in relation to the fraud. Rappo later alleged that Tetiana Bersheda, lawyer of Rybolovlev, registered at the bar of Geneva, recorded a private conversation without authorization in order to obtain information that might help secure an indictment. However, Bersheda maintains that the recording was of a professional conversation only and, as such, permitted by Monaco law. In any event, the Monaco Justice has yet to make any decision in relation to Rappo's complaint and the charges against Rappo, based partly on the content of the conversation, remain pending.[28] On 23 February 2016, Bersheda was also charged by Monaco court for violation of the privacy of Rappo.[29] Dmitry Rybolovlev and his lawyer might be sentenced to up to 3 years of imprisonment. The procedure is pending.[30]

On 14 September 2015, Bouvier was indicted on charges of concealed theft of two Picassos belonging to Catherine Hutin-Blay, step-daughter of Picasso, who claims that they were stolen from her collection. However, Bouvier demonstrated she received the amount of 8 million euros through a Liechtensteiner trust for their sales.[31] The prosecution of Liechtenstein closed the case on 1 December 2015.[32]

In September, Bouvier took legal action in New York against the consultant Sandy Heller, asking that he be questioned about his interactions with Rybolovlev.[33] Bouvier wants Heller to reveal the advice he may have provided to Rybolovlev that may have unfairly implicated him in the criminal cases he currently faces in France and Monaco.[34]

A major article about the Bouvier Affair published in the New Yorker in February 2016 alleged that Bouvier was using the profits from his dealings with Rybolovlev to fund his ambitious plans for the Singapore Freeport. The article quotes a colleague of Bouvier as saying, "...to build freeports you need to be a billionaire...Rybolovlev was the billionaire whose money was building the freeports." As to Bouvier's method of marking-up the price of the works he was selling, the article found that "When a deal with the seller was in sight, Bouvier would then agree on his own price with Rybolovlev, which was often tens of millions of dollars higher," and provided the example of the sale of Picasso's Joueur de Flûte et Femme Nue, which Bouvier sold to Rybolovlev for twenty-five million euros after having bought it the day before for just three and a half million euros.[35]

On March 9, 2016, following the lead of European authorities, US Federal prosecutors opened an investigation into Bouvier, whom they described as "one of the art world’s consummate insiders."[36] In April 2016, Bouvier entered a new phase of his campaign to clear his name by hiring global PR group, CNC Communications & Network Consulting, part of French giant Publicis Groupe.[37]

In November 2016, Sotheby's issued a pre-emptive suit in relation to the Salvator Mundi (Leonardo) painting, denying that it had ever been part of a scheme allegedly perpetrated by Bouvier to defraud both the sellers of the painting, and Rybolovlev.[38] The New York Times subsequently published a major investigative report into the sale, asking whether the sellers of the Salvator Mundi "were misled [by Sotheby's] to favor the Swiss dealer, a valued Sotheby’s client named Yves Bouvier."[39]

In February 2017, it emerged in a report carried by Bloomberg that several of the works acquired by Yves Bouvier for the Rybolovlev family trust will likely be sold at substantial losses in auctions at Christie's.[40] Rybolovlev's spokesman said at the time: "The gulf between Christie’s estimates and the original purchase prices of the works is a further illustration of the unprecedented scale and audacity of the fraud that the plaintiffs allege was perpetrated by Mr. Bouvier."

In September 2017 it was reported that Swiss inland revenue blocked assets of Bouvier, as he is believed to owe CHF 165 Million in taxes [1]

Other contributions[edit]

In 2004 Bouvier founded the company Art Culture Studio that organizes cultural events, restores furniture, and provides support to the Renaissance Foundation for Russian Country Homes, a non-profit organization that supports research on the restoration of cultural and historic buildings in rural areas.. He initiated and chaired the Moscow World Fine Art and the Salzburg World Fine Art Fair.[41] In 2008, Bouvier initiated the creation of the Singapore Pinacothèque de Paris, an expansion of Pinacothèque de Paris.[42] According to its website, "The museum in Singapore mirrors that of France, a fine art museum known for its critically acclaimed exhibitions that celebrate transversality and the dialogue between different works of art".

Bouvier was involved with the "pôle R4" project, an artistic "micro-city" on the site of a former Renault factory in Seguin Island, Paris. The project, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, was until September 2016 managed and financed by Bouvier, and was scheduled to open in 2017.[43] In September 2016 it was announced that Bouvier had sold his entire stake to the Emerige Group and its financial partner, Addax and Oryx Group Limited (AOG).[44][45] Artnet noted that the transaction frees the project from its association from Bouvier.[44]


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  2. ^ https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-08/bouvier-questioned-by-geneva-prosecutor-over-russian-art-deals
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