This little bomb has shaken the art world badly. Not everyone knows the name of this discreet art dealer, but the upper echelons have plenty to do with him all the same,since, among other things, he is the Number One tenant in the Geneva Freeports.
In just under 20 years, the Swiss businessman has succeeded in turning a small family storage business into a key player in the art market by creating what is effectively the biggest safety deposit box in the world. Natural Le Coultre is the world’s leading art shipping and storage company. Its flagship centres in Geneva (with close to one million works of art in storage), Luxembourg (Yves Bouvier is the promoter and primary shareholder of the Luxembourg freeport), Singapore (he is also the majority shareholder of the Singapore FreePort), and soon Beijing (Bouvier is the mastermind behind the Chinese plan to build the biggest freeport in the world), Natural Le Coultre sees hundreds of thousands of artworks passing through its stores each year.
The business gives Yves Bouvier “access to the best deals in the art market”, as a source close to the affair was quoted as saying in Le Temps. “The problem is that he is lying to them about the price,” the anonymous informer added.
In a statement also published in the Swiss daily newspaper, the lawyer of Russian billionaire and president of AS Monaco Dmitri Rybolovlev confirmed that “Monaco’s prosecutors are investigating international art celebrity Yves Bouvier (…). After working with Mr Bouvier for more than ten years, the Rybolovlev family recently received information on possible fraud and manipulation of art market prices by Mr Bouvier and his accomplices.” By “possible fraud”, the Rybolovlev family means Mr Bouvier and his accomplices have been overcharging his services in 8-9 figure transactions, thereby siphoning off tens of millions from his client.
In defence of Natural Le Coultre’s owner, it should be said that Mr Rybolovlev is familiar with this kind of procedure since he falsely accused his wife Elena of stealing a ring estimated at $25 million to intimidate her during their divorce battle.
According to AFP, two presumed accomplices, a Swiss couple residing in Monaco, were also arrested. Their detention was extended on Thursday morning.