Page last updated at 15:06 GMT, Thursday, 11 March 2010

Da Vinci accused was 'not in it for money'

Madonna of the Yarnwinder
Five men deny conspiring to extort money for the painting's return

A trial has heard that a man accused of being part of a conspiracy to extort £4.25m for a stolen painting, said he was not in it for the money or glory.

The High Court in Edinburgh was told that Robert Graham made the comment during a taped conversation with an undercover policeman.

He is one of five men facing charges relating to the Leonardo da Vinci work the Madonna of the Yarnwinder.

It was stolen from the Duke of Buccleuch's estate in Dumfries in 2003.

The court heard that Mr Graham, a 57-year-old Liverpool publican, met with undercover policeman John Craig at a London pub in 2007, believing him to be an agent of the Duke.

'Cloak and dagger'

The trial was told that Mr Graham was seeking assurances from Mr Craig before he went ahead with a plan to retrieve the stolen painting from unnamed intermediaries.

During their conversation, he told Mr Craig: "I don't feel I'm doing anything illegal or wrong. I can see it bothering me for the rest of my life if I don't do this."

Asked what would happen if police found him with the painting, Mr Craig referred to a contract and he told Mr Graham: "There's no cloak and dagger here, no last-minute surprises."

After the meeting, Mr Graham is heard to say that Mr Craig had convinced him he was "100% safe".

"He's working for the Duke and we're working for them. It's as simple as that," he said.

In court, defence QC Donald Findlay put it to Mr Craig, that he made all the running in talks with another accused, Marshall Ronald.

Painting's theft

Suggesting that the Duke was interested in buying back the painting and did not care if the police were involved or not, Mr Craig said he was only playing an agreed and authorised role.

On trial along with Mr Graham are Marshall Ronald, 53, 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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