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Criminal Charges Filed Against Violin Dealer Dietmar Machold

Alleged to have bilked investors with phoney Strad violins


Violin dealer Dietmar Machold has been charged officially in the criminal case involving his allegedly fraudulent violin deals. According to a recent report in Der Standard, 46 criminal charges have been brought against Machold, one of his ex-business partners, and two associates. According to the published report, one of the charges involves a 1727 Stradivari valued at €1.7 million.

Der Standard cites another instance in which Machold reportedly is pleading partly guilty to have defrauding a client of €1.4 million.

Der Spiegel reported on May 10 that Machold may have defrauded investors into believing that a pair of violins appraised at $2,000 to $3,000 each were in fact priceless Strads.

Austrian news agencies have reported that Machold allegedly had bilked banks and investors out of as much as €155 million (or more than $220 million).

As reported last year in Strings, Machold’s troubles with the law began nearly two years ago. In October 2010, Machold Rare Violins—which at one time or another managed transactions involving nearly half of the 600 known Strad stringed instruments—filed for commercial bankruptcy. Two months later, Austrian courts began liquidating his assets, including his Austrian castle and his collectable cars, carpets, and clocks. Some of his most valuable assets—his rare violins and bows—were nowhere to be found.

Acting on behalf of the Austrian government, Swiss authorities arrested Machold on March 16 on possible charges of aggravated fraud, misappropriation, and fraudulent insolvency, alleging that he cheated the Bank of Austria, BAWAG (the German-based Bank for Labor and Business), and other financial institutions, as well as individual customers, by failing to complete transactions or misrepresenting violins that belonged to others as his own.

After a lengthy stay in a Swiss prison, the 61-year-old Machold, a trained lawyer, was extradited to Austria to face those charges.

According to the Austrian police, at least 17 rare stringed instruments and bows—including five Stradivari and four del Gesù violins that were entrusted to Machold by banks and potential sellers—were reported missing. Interpol, the international police organization, posted the missing fiddles and bows, valued at an estimated $82 million, on its web pages devoted to stolen art treasures.

The FBI had joined the search.

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