Ronald Coles, the Bernie Madoff of Australian Art World Faces up to 10 Years in Prison

Bullet Shih Jan, 2012 0
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Ronald Coles, once one of Australia’s leading art dealers, boasting of annual turnover of over A$ 30 million and seen driving a Bentley with the vanity plates BUY ART was just charged with 77 counts of larceny and 10 charges of defrauding as a director and is facing to up to 10 years in prison.  For 30 years Coles specialized in Australian art and art investment funds, in a special report by the Australian Brodcasting Corporation in 2009, Coles is quoted saying “I don’t mind buying million dollar paintings, but buying shares really worries me. I don’t know shares, I prefer tangible assets.”

Unfortunately, the art turned out ot be a bad investment with almost all of the works exposed as cheap fakes.  AS the structure of the investment funds forbid the personal possession of the works, most of the investors never saw the artwork as the “tangible assets” were held for safekeeping in Coles’s gallery.  However, Coles did not just stop there as he is also charged with double accounting by selling the same work of art to multiple investors.  Like Madoff, Coles promised outsized gains and happily returned sizeable investment gains to early investors as well as repurchasing dubious works from suspicious collectors and reselling them for further gains.  In 2009 it all came tumbling down with Coles owing creditors A$30 million and opting for a life on the lam driving a night taxi.

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