Melbourne-born art dealer Andrew (Andy) Valmorbida, scion of an Italian-imports family dynasty in Australia, reportedly admitted to fraud involving multimillion dollars in artwork last May. A judgment was recently published following the civil case in the offshore tax haven of Jersey, part of the Channel Islands.
Alleged fraudulent deals with artworks by the likes of Francis Bacon and Jean-Michel Basquiat along with "attempts to disguise his tax residence" were first brought up in a civil case. Former hedge fund manager Christian Hore had sued with Valmorbida, 42, over unpaid debts in the now-settled case.
The Age reports in "a ruling delivered on September 30, judges in the Royal Court of Jersey found Mr Valmorbida had admitted during cross-examination to a series of frauds involving multimillion-dollar artworks by Bacon and Basquiat, as well as George Condo and Frank Auerbach."
“When he was cross-examined, he was revealed to be dishonest, evasive and accepted that he had both used and created false documents for the purpose of obtaining loans from four lenders on the footing that he owned artwork which, in each case, was largely not owned by him,” the court found.
"The judges concluded Mr Valmorbida did not own the paintings, but used forged documents to suggest he did, and that he then used the paintings as collateral to get personal loans worth more than $10 million from major international art trading houses including Sotheby’s," reports The Age.
He also "flipped" artworks, allegedly altering invoices "by $200,000 on two occasions to deceive the buyers that they were paying 'cost price' for works worth more than $1 million each, then pocketed the difference."
Noting that some of the art dealer's admissions were "extremely unusual," the court recently released its findings, adding, “it is very much in the public interest for a person with Mr Valmorbida’s profile to have his dealings exposed”.
A socialite and art world figure in New York and now London-based, Valmorbida is known for reviving the career of street artist Richard Hambleton with an exhibition and also for buying the copyright to his work, in a reported $1 million deal negotiated with the artist before his death in 2017.
Just last week, the New York Times touched on Valmorbida's endeavors in a profile of street artist Nullbureau, who has been replicating Hambleton's signature "Shadowman" figures around Manhattan. Some of Nullbureau's Shadowman-like renderings have sported QR stickers directed to a tab on the art dealer's Hambleton site. Valmorbida told The Times he is currently working on “The Hambleton Experience,” an immersive attraction of the artist's work.