Page last updated at 21:10 GMT, Monday, 8 March 2010

Da Vinci trial hears of '£4m recovery fee'

Madonna of the Yarnwinder
The painting was taken from Drumlanrig Castle in 2003

The Da Vinci painting ransom trial has heard how a lawyer thought he had negotiated payments totalling £4m to get the painting back.

Marshall Ronald conducted a series of phone calls about the deal with an undercover police officer he believed represented the Duke of Buccleuch.

Mr Ronald is one of five men accused of conspiring to extort £4.25m to recover the Madonna of the Yarnwinder.

All five deny the charges they face at the High Court in Edinburgh.

Mr Ronald told a man he believed represented the Duke of Buccleuch that five people wanted a 20% share of any additional payment to bring the Leonardo da Vinci painting back.

The court was played a taped phone call between Mr Ronald and a man calling himself John Craig.

He was an undercover police officer pretending to be working directly for the Duke of Buccleuch.

The painting was taken in a raid on the duke's Dumfriesshire estate in 2003.

Mr Ronald said he had been told the artwork had been stolen by gypsies and at some point was put up as security for a £700,000 loan for a real estate deal which collapsed.

'Professional fees'

He said it would cost that amount to get possession of the painting and five people were to split between them any money paid out on top of that.

There would also be "professional fees".

But in the space of less than six weeks in August and September 2007 the price went up from £700,000 "plus overage" to £4m.

In one communication with the officer, Mr Ronald said: "I have delved into a frightening world of smoke and mirrors and had to challenge some heavyweight individuals whose motivations are very questionable."

Mr Ronald - who is a lawyer in Lancashire - said he was working with two Scottish solicitors, David Boyce and Calum Jones, because he "wanted to do things properly, with integrity".

Mr Craig told him that the duke was interested in what he called a "buyback" and he would be advising the family to "go for this".

On trial along with 53-year-old Mr Ronald are Robert Graham, 57, and John Doyle, 61, all from Lancashire, Calum Jones, 45, from Renfrewshire, and David Boyce, 63, from Lanarkshire.

They have denied conspiring to extort £4.25m and an alternative charge of attempted extortion.

The offence is alleged to have taken place between July and October 2007.

They are not accused of the painting's theft.

The trial continues.



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