Page last updated at 14:49 GMT, Tuesday, 13 April 2010 15:49 UK

Leonardo da Vinci police operation praised

Clockwise from top left, Robert Graham, John Doyle, Marshall Ronald, David Boyce and Calum Jones
Prosecutors claimed police "turned the tables" on the accused

Prosecutors have praised an undercover police operation which led to five men being charged with conspiring to extort £4.25m for a painting's safe return.

In his closing speech, advocate depute Simon Di Rollo QC said the officers were "brave and honourable men".

He claimed the accused had not simply sought a reward for returning Leonardo da Vinci's Madonna of the Yarnwinder and compared their actions to a kidnap.

All five men deny the charges against them at the High Court in Edinburgh.

Mr Di Rollo said police had "turned the tables" on the accused.

He said one of the first moves of the men on trial had been to produce a video showing the valuable painting alongside a copy of a newspaper.

"This is a hallmark of kidnapping and extortion," he said.

Art experts

He added that the so-called "proof of life" video would not be needed to claim a reward unless there was an extortionate demand for money up front.

During six weeks of evidence, the trial has heard how an approach was made to a loss adjuster about the painting - insured for £15m when it was taken from from the Duke of Buccleuch's Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfriesshire in August 2003.

Discussions then followed but the negotiators, who the alleged plotters thought were art experts working for the duke, were actually undercover detectives.

On trial are solicitor Marshall Ronald, 53, private investigators Robert Graham, 57, and John Doyle, 61, all from Lancashire, along with solicitors Calum Jones, 45, of Renfrewshire, and David Boyce, 63, of Lanarkshire.

They deny conspiring to extort pounds £4.25m between July and October 2007. An alternative charge of attempting to extort the money has been dropped.

The trial continues.

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